Things That Are, And Things That Are Not, Linkbait

Sometimes, you cannot help but pity the poor people who come up with terrible marketing campaigns. I actually feel pretty bad for the people at Me.dium.com whose promotional video is nothing short of horrifying. Their software doesn’t appear to be bad, but the team in charge of approving that video should be fired. It’s supposed to be a parody and it’s supposed to be corny, but it’s the worst viral fail I’ve seen since P. Diddy thought you had to buy YouTube channels. I warn you: watching the video may induce the need to shoot yourself in the face. Of coure, this horrific car wreck of a campaign did act as linkbait in a way, as so many people linked to its awfulness. Notice that I’ve nofollowed my Me.dium.com link.

Technically, this was a viral marketing failure as opposed to linkbait, but it got me thinking about what does and what does not constitute link-worthy content.

Things That Could Be Linkbait

  1. Sordid email and IM transcripts. Politicians know this quite well. It happens to them all the time, usually involving someone of or under the age of seventeen. It happened to the mayor of the town I lived in in 2005. Nothing so exciting had ever happened to Spokane, Washington and nothing as exciting has happened since. Here is an example of something that would be linkbait were it not for the big black rectangle in the middle of the good bits.

    If you can get your hands on someone’s email exchanges, or care to publish your own, and they’ve talked about anything other than who’s managing the company’s H3 tags or whether the loos on the second floor are still broken, people will love it.

  2. Screenshots of epic stupidity. I’d not recommend adding the picture to StumbleUpon, Reddit, Digg etc as simply a picture. You decrease the likelihood that people will link to it and increase the likelihood that they’ll just steal it. When I had a neat picture to put on Digg, I linked to the post rather than the picture. This way, it received scores of comments and was reproduced less / linked to more. But I digress. Posting pictures (and video, for that matter) of humanity at its worst will always get some attention.
  3. AnonyBlogging. The SEO industry has been catching on to this lately, but it’s been around for a while. It comes in two forms: We have both SEO Hack and Slightly Shady SEO, neither of whom will tell the majority of us who they actually are. Then we have one-off ranters like SEO Bitch on Shoemoney’s blog, and anonymousblogger from today’s helping of YOUmoz. Plenty of people like to speculate who SEO Bitch and anonymousblogger really are, which only adds to the buzz and links. I must, at this point, go on a tangent and point out the funny thing that happened when I was lazy and searched for “SEO Bitch on Shoemoney’s blog” in order to find the post. Yes, I’m aware it wasn’t a good search phrase.

    That is indeed Matt Inman’s SEOmoz member profile. The problem with this approach is that it’s often hard for writers – especially good ones – to disguise their style. It’s almost as hard as faking an accent, and anyone who’s heard my botched up AustrAmeriKiwi voice will attest to how tough that is.

  4. All things really fucking random. This is a perfect example where the bait and switch could be used. For some reason, we like domains with very little content. Silly little sites that usually serve no purpose whatsoever. We love them. We link to them. We Stumble them like they provided valuable content. They inform us of very important information such as whether or not it’s Christmas and show us dumb pictures. No, it’s not funny, is it? Then how in fuck does it have a PageRank of five? Milk it for what it’s worth and 301 it to somewhere else. Keep the cat if you’re concerned about ethics. (There is more content on this domain than just the cat, but the cat alone has 59,425 inlinks.)
  5. Clever Photoshopping. A perfect example of a marriage of three things geeky, this image combines zombies, Twitter and Photoshop. There’s only one thing better than presenting people with one thing they like: cleverly combining multiple elements into one display of awesome.

But you’re SEOs and you knew that. How about some things that are definitively not linkbait?

  1. Long dumb lists of stupid “did you know” facts. What in hell were they thinking? Let me list the fails:
    • White text on black background. I have 20/20 vision and can see from Seattle to Japan and I have trouble reading that.
    • Page as long as The Last Samurai. The last time I read a document that long, it was a text-only paper and it was for a sociology class that I didn’t want to take and which proved to be an utter waste of time.
    • Massive area of white black space at the bottom of the page for no reason.
    • Exists as the dillionth “did you know” list on the Internet. The Internet has had enough.
    • Anti-fail: The last “fact” is lovely, true or not.
  2. Video of other people’s fireworks. Fireworks can be wonderful. The fireworks in Seattle from Gasworks Park this Independence Day were a thoroughly professional work of art. I could feel the sound-waves through my feet on my concrete patio. The way the sound echoed off Capitol Hill was amazing. But on a shitty video, reproduced on YouTube, the noise is fantastically annoying. Exception to the rule: Fireworks fuck-ups. Seattle’s New Year’s Eve display was positively painful. I had the pleasure of watching one of the biggest cockups in fireworks history take place out of both my living room window and on television.
  3. Reproducing this. Again. And again. This too. Although it’s still funny.
  4. Posts bitching about being asked to present a receipt upon leaving Circuit City. I understand. We’re honest adults who bought unnecessary sound-canceling headphones during our lunch break because it finally dawned on us that iPod headphones are crap. The security guard likely saw us at the check out, purchasing said headphones. The security guard may well have even seen the cashier hand us our receipt. But for Christ’s sake, is it really a human rights violation to show the dude the receipt as we walk out? Is it worth giving him the satisfaction of causing us a world of shit? If it is, I seriously suggest getting a hobby aside from blogging. The internet is rife with posts like this. Just show him the fucking piece of paper. He’s a Circuit City security guard, for Christ’s sake. Give him something to do. Surely you have some veal to eat or something.
  5. Everything on this list. This is quite possibly the most wonderful thing Wikipedia has ever done.

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11 Responses to “Things That Are, And Things That Are Not, Linkbait”

  1. MikeTek says:

    That video is awful. I’m ashamed to be of the same species as whoever put their stamp of approval on that one. If only I had a firearm handy…bye bye, face.

  2. Jane says:

    @Mike: As you said on Twitter, the Barry White voice is just wonderful. I can’t think of how they could have put together a worse video.

  3. This is an interesting post! But I don’t know but I just don’t like link baiting.

  4. pat says:

    Of course that would be linknait, I am in it :)

    Superb stuff Jane. Yum.

  5. Ann Smarty says:

    Wow, I wasn’t aware of that wiki post… Real gold…

  6. Jane Copland says:

    You are indeed in it, Pat. In my list of best-profile-pictures, it’s one of my favourites ;)

  7. Mike says:

    Dont make fun of me, but I just got into learning social media, and I still cant understand whats link bait could some one pls explain in plain English what it means to link to the site?, thank you soo much:)

  8. Jane Copland says:

    Hi Mike,

    Basically link bait is any type of content that compels people to link to a site at a higher rate than they would otherwise. A better term might be “link-worthy content”, as linkbait sounds pretty manipulative.

  9. I agree with mike. Though it is not a tactic I use, the name makes it sound worse than it is. Though it makes it compelling to click, I don’t think it is manipulative.

  10. dean says:

    hey,
    thanks for giving me a laugh… I woke up @ 3am from a bad dream, and checked out SEO chicks and saw the cute blond, and then the ad.. wow, great now I can go back to bed with good dreams and a since of laughter.
    Thanks.
    dean

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