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Is Link-bait Ruining The Web?

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#41 JohnMu


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Posted 10 November 2006 - 07:46 AM

I love it! A flower to attract people to your garden ;)

Could it perhaps be a flower in shop window? Short lived, attracts lots of people, of which perhaps a small percentage actually wants to go look at the rest of your garden?

Maybe we should start a topic on website feng-shui :)


#42 bwelford


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Posted 10 November 2006 - 08:36 AM

Great idea, John.

Sorry this page exceeded its best-before date and has been withdrawn. However if you were looking for that, perhaps one of the following might interest you:
  • Red Roses
  • Pink Carnations
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#43 AlDugan


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Posted 10 November 2006 - 06:51 PM

Seriously, this is one of the best threads I have ever read. I thought it would be pretty funny if this thread got dugg so please Digg it here: http://www.digg.com/...Ruining_The_Web

#44 cre8pc


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Posted 10 November 2006 - 08:22 PM

John wrote that linkbait:

content was only created to cause a temporary stir, a short sensation, a short-term mass of links, a short-term rise in popularity; perhaps in the hope of building a medium- or long-term reputation.

I'm not entirely comfortable with the attention link bait brings, but I can't deny that my recent attempt to cause a stir doubled my blog traffic, and the day isn't over yet.

I've been thinking the web environment is like when I went to high school. There were these groupings of kids and you couldn't associate with someone outside your group unless you were accepted. To get accepted, you might have to do or say something that put your reputation or status at risk.

I couldn't stand that sort of thing and tried hard to avoid being labled and stuck in one group. But, I was still lumped into a few, despite my efforts to avoid the game.

There's divisions now. We sometimes call it the A-list or B-list folks. We might be judged on who our target market is, or our product/service pricing. Or traffic. Rank. Friends. Community. Marketing relies on labels and perception.

Link bait exploits ethics.

Which is why it feels like the web is becoming a free for all. It's too easy to manipulate everything from rank, to thinking, to clicks, to opinions.

Do we want to be herded about like this?

#45 Jozian


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Posted 10 November 2006 - 09:44 PM

Love your Garden analogy, Barry.

Does that make link-bait something like a Venus Fly trap? Tantalize you with something shiny to trap you?

Flowers bloom and then die. Hedges have to be trimmed. Some plants fair better with more rain. And you can bet that weeds grow and predators find their way in if we don't tend the soil and the fences enough.

Is Google/Yahoo/Microsoft gardening correctly or often enough? And how come they wont tell us exactly what kind of fertilizer and pesticides work best? :rolleyes:

Do you feel like a sharecropper working the south forty for Mistuh Google?


Edited by Jozian, 10 November 2006 - 09:46 PM.

#46 rmccarley


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Posted 10 November 2006 - 11:35 PM

Which is why it feels like the web is becoming a free for all.

When did the web stop being a free-for-all? That is the appeal! The more the government and committees try to regulate, refine and reform it the more boring it becomes. The less opportunity is afforded. The fewer fortunes rewarded. The internet is supposed to be a free-for-all. It's where David can b***h-slap Goliath because size is not an indicator of sucess.

As much as we may complain about sites not upholding certain standards or supporting certain people does that mean it should be law? No! At least not at the cost of innovation.

The internet is about communicating ideas. No more or less. Some of us are better at communicating those ideas than others. Some of us are blessed with better ideas. That's all.

Trying to sum up the internet with trends and guidelines is pretty silly when you consider it isn't old enough to know better. There are no institutions online except the preconceived ideas we bring with us. Ideas that should be left at the login script and forgotten until we retun to the offline world.

What we have instead is linkbait. Linkbait identifies what is and is not important in the moment based on how succesful it is. Is it damaging? Sometimes, but it isn't the tool's fault if it isn't used correctly or is abandoned on some shelf.

If we really want to be mad at anyone, get mad at the SEs for giving links so much power. Be mad that links get more valueable over time. Be mad that the internet you see through Google's eyes is not the one supported in today's reality.

Why is this page #1 in Google when the information is so clearly out-of-date? Why do new ideas get sandboxed just because they are wrapped up in a new domain? Is 30 minutes on the frontpage of Digg really an indicator of quality?

If you don't like today's internet build the one you do want to see and share. Ignore the rest. The rest really isn't paying attention to you anyway.

#47 EGOL



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Posted 11 November 2006 - 02:46 AM

Wow.... lots of strong opinions here.

I don't begrudge any of the linkbait methods that will attract natural links. I think that they all have their purpose. If they are gathering trash links then the value will not be that high.

However, I think that what was originally described as "When I want information, I want information that is complete. Information that has been worked on - not once, but over and over again. I want information that has value which was not built in a day, not in a week, but built over a long time, by lots of experts. (Hey, that almost sounds like the Wikipedia smile.gif ) "

This stuff is actually a different flavor of linkbait.... and is what I am trying to build... but also using the flash in the pan linkbait to bring in traffic. Because traffic = eyeballs = a few links to the prime quality stuff. And... some of my flash in the pan linkbait actually got links from NPR, lots of .edu... so they are not trashy links. Different people think different things are cool.

#48 DCrx


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Posted 11 November 2006 - 06:41 AM

Digg it here:

So the crux seems to be: Do a "Link Bait Ruining The Web" rant(ish) as linkbait.

That is more clever than A Diggable List of Lists on How to Get Dugg on Digg

Edited by DCrx, 11 November 2006 - 06:43 AM.

#49 esoos


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Posted 11 November 2006 - 05:18 PM

That is more clever than A Diggable List of Lists on How to Get Dugg on Digg

Heh, that "diggable list" didn't get dugg too much, that's for sure. :)

But it did get linked to from a post that was then itself dugg, which sent me some good traffic. And it still builds (a small number of) links on its own.

I think even when your linkbait doesn't score a home run, you still end up creating the kind of content that many people will find useful or enjoyable (at least in the short term, if not the long). I'd say linkbait has mostly had a positive effect on the web, in that it encourages people to create interesting content.

Edited by esoos, 11 November 2006 - 05:19 PM.

#50 A.N.Onym


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Posted 12 November 2006 - 08:01 PM

Off Topic offtopicKim, though, no doubt, your post may be attractive to some humans (and maybe the search engines), how much of that traffic would be interested in other posts on your blog? :)

#51 Brad


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Posted 13 November 2006 - 07:14 AM

If you don't like today's internet build the one you do want to see and share. Ignore the rest.

This is exactly the beauty of the web, everyone can not only follow a "different drummer", heck, they can be the drummer.* Perhaps if more people set a good example we might start an epidemic of thoughtfulness ;-) Most link-bait reminds me of a quick high, like we are all addicts, but if you really believe something is worthwhile, then you will build to last, to be permanent - build a website or virtual space which creates it's own gravity.

Another problem is we all use commercial levels of traffic (and conversions) as our measure of success. Life is about more than just commerce and I don't think content sites can be judged by commercial traffic standards.

*"If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away."
Henry David Thoreau

#52 vangogh


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Posted 14 November 2006 - 01:04 AM

Looks like I'm getting here just as this thread is losing momentum. Maybe I can bait a few more posts and dare I say a few more links.

I've never had a problem with any of the link bait I've seen. I think the points Rudd and Egol made are closest to how I feel. The garbage link bait is going to attract garbage links and the quality link bait will attract quality links. Is that any different than what will happen to quality and garbge sites?

It seems to me the problem most people have with link bait is the name. If we had just said 'creating something of quality that's worthy of being linked to' would anyone have a problem with it. People would still be creating garbage that would be collecting links just as their creating garabge link bait.

What's going on with link bait doesn't strike me as any different than what's gone on with anything else in SEO or life in general. Someone creates a product that people like and buy and very soon others are creating cheap knock offs in the hopes that people will buy from them too. Link bait is the product and links are the currency.

I think link bait will follow a similar eveolutionary path as many things. It's the hot topic now so people are doing anything and everything to create something they can call link bait. The more that's out there the less people are going to be linking to it. People are already getting tired of it and I would suspect are linking to what they think has been done only for the bait less and less. Much of it will get lost in the mass of other link bait ideas. In time the cream will rise to the crop.

At its core link bait is supposed to be something of quality. It may be hard at the moment to seprate the wheat from the chaff with so much garbage, but all that means is that if you want to have some real link bait you're going to have to increase the quality. How else are you going to be able to stand out. In time this should just lead to even better tools and articles. If any sensationalised article you write can gain 100 links then the value of 100 links won't be worth as much. It'll be link inflation. SO tomorrow you'll need to create something better that can bring 1000 links.

When it comes to finding information online of offline most of the responsibilty of finding the good stuff falls on each of us. Sure there's a lot of bad information online. There's bad information offline to it. It easier to put it up online so there's more of it there, but there's always been a mix of good and bad. I know when I read anything I make up my own mind about it's worth. I don't expect that any one source will ever tell me everything about a subject. Even if it's the encyclodedia I'm reading it's still not all inclusive.

When I want information about any subject I take some time to gather some basic information about it and read through. I immediately start forming my own opinions and let them guide where I want to go next. I'm sure I gather some misinformation along with the the good, but I consider it my responsibility to determing which is which. We all have our own truths.

When it comes to going back and editing blog posts I don't do it often if at all. I may go in to improve a more popular post, but I'm like Joe in that I consider my posts a moment in time. I meant what I said when I wrote it and I like to leave it alone. I'd sooner go back and write a new post on the subject and maybe add a note in the old post with a link to the new one. Maybe it's the historian in me, but I like to leave things as they were for the historical accuracy. It's true someone in time may find some bad advice that once was true, but again I think it's our own responsibility to decide what advice we should take.

If I'm going to edit all my old posts that may fall out of date should I also go back into every forum post I've made and edit those as well? Many of them are more likely to be found and read than my blog posts.

Sure there's a lot of clutter online and there always will be. It's part of the medium, because content is so easy to publish. That means there will more garbage online and more garbage link bait ideas. But that ease in publishing means there will also be a lot more quality online, because it will give people who might never have made their ideas known beyond a few people the ability to put it in front of a much larger audience.

#53 lori


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Posted 23 November 2006 - 06:47 PM

I hope none of you mind a comment from a totally non-SEO type person. I have a webstore where I sell educational materials, which Miriam of Solas Web Design helped me with (thanks, Miriam!). Through her I found 14th Colony, which led to SEOmoz, which led me here. Not a bad pathway to take me through the ins-and-outs of SEO, I think!

As I've been trying to learn more about promoting my business, I have done tons of searching on the web for sites that rank highly that have items similar to mine. I noticed that one site that pops up near the top of searches is a poorly designed site that hasn't been updated in years - but it offers free educational materials to the same audience I do. Much poorer quality than mine, but free. I can only imagine how many times it's been linked to - I know I've seen links to it many times.

I decided to make a page at my store offering free educational materials as downloads. I've been adding one new item a week for a couple of months now. It's totally "link bait", at least as I understand the term, but it hopefully offers my customers (and anyone else who finds my site) as much value as I might get in return.

This thread mentions posts, lists, and articles as link bait, all of which can become outdated. Maybe there are ways of quality link baiting, like vangogh says (could that be a new SEO term?), where the content stays valuable over time. That's what I'm hoping to do, at least.

Thanks to everyone here - I've learned so much from you all, whether you intended it as link bait or not! I hope I don't seem too clueless :P

Edited by lori, 23 November 2006 - 07:00 PM.

#54 bwelford


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Posted 23 November 2006 - 09:05 PM

Hi Lori. Welcome to the Forums. :wave:

You certainly don't seem clueless. Your questions are very much to the point. My reaction is that web pages last for ever on the Internet if you keep them live. So provided they have timeless usefullness, then they can only get stronger. That's true particularly if you can get some buzz going via blogs on some of the goodies you're giving away. As inlinks develop, then Google will rate them higher and higher.

#55 tinkerbellchime


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Posted 23 December 2006 - 09:10 PM

I joined SEOmoz about two weeks ago and just started posting comments. Earlier today, before I discovered this website on Kim's bio page at SEOmoz, I posted a comment about how useful Randís Beginnerís Guide is. As a newbie, I find it relevant, useful, and practical. It is a 'how-to' article meant to attract links the good old fashioned way. Itís too link worthy to be linkbait.

Edited by tinkerbellchime, 23 December 2006 - 10:27 PM.

#56 BillSlawski


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Posted 24 December 2006 - 01:19 AM

Hi tinkerbellchime

Welcome to Cre8asite. We're glad that you found us.

There is a lot of value in the SEO beginner's guide, and I'm not fully convinced that the concept of linkbait really is all that new, maybe just the name. It maybe has more people talking about it now than it may have in the past.

#57 NameCritic


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Posted 26 December 2006 - 09:11 AM

Great Thread. I believe in good original content, that is why I'm in the business of providing that content.

I also hate "grabage" websites", however, I also have to realize that what is garbage to me may not be garbage to someone else and have to live with it.

Miriam posted earlier in this thread, "Unfortunately, 'gaming' the search engines has made the Internet a commercial venue, where profit is what drives most of the ventures going today. Macy's Department Store will spend x-millions of dollars to sell the public a pair of 'cool' jeans that are so poorly made, they will have fallen apart by next year. Macy's motivation is not to benefit mankind..it's to make money, and though one does frequently see SEOs claim that their aim is to build a web of better content, the skeptic in me makes me question whether they would continue to be committed to this if their clients weren't paying them. Some might, but probably not all...."

This is the statement many people have to get their minds wrapped around. There was a time and there are still people who believe the net should be purely about information. That time has passed. While there is still great information to be had, the Internet has become another advertising medium like television. The difference being that when a tv commercial is over, it goes away. The "commercial" content on the web sticks around forever in many cases.

Anyway, just my two cents worth. Great thread.

#58 bwelford


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Posted 26 December 2006 - 09:43 AM

Welcome to the Forums, NameCritic. :wave:

I think the other element in all this is freedom of choice. We don't have to look at anything. You can have pop-up blockers since usually that isn't what you want to see. Just as an illustration my son was a little surprised to see a pop-up on my screen when he visited. He said he had pop-ups blocked on his machine since the sites he visited were infested with pop-ups. I don't have pop-ups blocked since the sites I visit rarely have pop-ups. That's just two different slices of the Internet.

OK poor quality material can stick around but it will eventually die. You just have to be selective on where you go.

#59 SEOigloo


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Posted 26 December 2006 - 05:55 PM

Welcome to all the new folks! :wave:
And a special welcome to Lori. It's great to see you here!

Namecritic - How do you feel about this change from the Internet being thought of as an 'information highway', so to speak, to being thought of as TV? I think your point is very interesting, and would like to hear your further thoughts on this. Also, further thoughts from anyone on this topic - are you glad to see the Internet becoming more like television?


#60 JohnMu


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Posted 26 December 2006 - 06:41 PM

I think it's a natural and welcome development. Turning the web commercial can "drown" non-commercial content, but on a whole it will bring advances which we have never imagined before -- and the non-commercial content will still be there for those who bother to look.

Since starting this thread I have changed my opinion a bit -- yes, bad "link-bait" can be a pain when it gets in the way of legitimate content - IF you want legitimate content. Just like on TV, most of the programs are made for the masses, those who like to sit back and consume. Some link-bait plays the same game -- "look at this neat link, pass it on". Like Barry said, you don't have to consume the content for average consumers if you don't want to -- you can go out and get your "legitimate content fix" any time you want it.

I think there are different kinds of link-bait, just like there are different types of news-stories or TV shows. Some of it you'd like to record and keep to watch again, some you want to record and keep it because it's funny, some of it is just part of the zeitgeist which you want to save for your kids. Some of it you just watch, laugh and tell your friends about it, but never watch it again.

The commercial part of TV is really what got it moving - why do we have so many channels? Because it makes them money. The web is growing and the driving force has been money - commercial exploits. And with that growth come more possibilities than ever before -- even for non-commercial sites.

Just think about bandwidth. We would be stuck with 14.4kbps modems if there was no commercial reason and a large enough scale to allow ISPs to offer connectivity to the current prices. Sure, you could pay for movies, buy music from iTunes, etc (and many do) -- but you could also take that bandwidth to watch a clip from some underground movie-maker who would never be known and would certainly never have had a chance to show you his movie - without enough bandwidth.

Commercialism in all it's forms brings growth, more possibilities, which are in turn usable by everyone.

Bring on the link-bait, all of it. I'll ignore it :), but seeing the web being used by all those new people, all those new sites who can link, tells me that it's growing -- in the end, letting me do more and more, regardless of the commercial intent.


#61 A.N.Onym


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Posted 26 December 2006 - 08:45 PM

Off Topic offtopicChris (welcome :wave: to the forums), I have to disagree on judging SEOs by how they'd advise their clients, if they are paid any money or not. I'd probably just spend less time on a website, if I am not getting paid for it (unless there are other reasons for me to work on the site, of course). The same concerns other people.

It is not a matter of a being paid or not, it is a matter of the service quality. You either advise on improving the quality of the site, paid or not, or not. Some people are being paid for providing average, years old advice (such as search engine submission) and get away with it.

As for link bait, the most important factor in this is human reviews. While some learn to manipulate people to review (link) their content, there should be a new way to organize human reviews so that they can not be manipulated - so that any artificial control is detected and disregarded immediately (like it happens on the forums).

#62 Brad


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Posted 27 December 2006 - 07:37 AM

Good point that there are different types of link bait. Some are fine and even useful: Top Ten lists might fall into this. You even see this in the print world - here in the US Cosmopolitan magazine always has a teaser on the cover usually about some Top Ten list article to get women to buy the magazine. No difference between that and online Top Tens.

The link bait that disturbs me is what I might refer too as the call out or trash talk article where you purposely attack someone well known to gain attention. For example, in the SEO world attacking Mike Grehan or something he says is so common it's almost become a cliche. I mean sometimes you do need to disagree with someone but I think it gets over done just to gain attention.

#63 SEOigloo


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Posted 27 December 2006 - 10:46 PM

John - Your points, as ever, are excellent ones. Commercial backing has resulted in more power that can be used for many purposes.

For me, this seems to bring up a question...your example of watching a small budget film indicates = Internet as Entertainment. As a vehicle for entertainment, we are certainly seeing huge technological strides over the past five years.

But, what about Internet as a Reference Tool? Like most of the folks here, most of my time on-line is spent working for clients....but I think I may be in a minority in that the rest of my Internet time is spent researching things. I want facts....not entertainment, 99% of the time. What I love about the Internet is the opportunity it affords me to study various subjects of interest to me. My husband and I don't watch TV, and because of this, the in-your-face flashiness that is emerging in many areas of the Internet is peculiar and unappealing to us.

So, my question is, do folks think that the more TV-like the Internet becomes, the less emphasis we will see on documents of educational value? I hope this isn't too off topic and that it ties in with the linkbait question.

#64 NameCritic


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Posted 20 August 2007 - 03:40 AM

To SEOigloo. Sorry about just now responding to your post above. Didn't know there were replies.

To your question. 2 answers.

One side of me loves how the Internet was in 1995. A lot less commercial, but even then, the handwriting was on the wall.

Yes, I believe the Internet will kill TV as much as TV killed radio. Radio isn't dead, but you get the idea.

When people advertised in print only, no one saw the radio as being a good place to advertise as first. Then they went for it like gangbusters. Then when tv came out, radio advertisers were reluctant to adopt it as well. Now look at them. Commerical interests were again slow to adopt the Internet as the next medium.

It's inevitable.

Edited by NameCritic, 20 August 2007 - 03:41 AM.

#65 A.N.Onym


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Posted 24 February 2010 - 08:29 AM

Bumping up the thread, because it's the classic type that was discussed here.

I especially liked this comment.

#66 jonbey


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Posted 24 February 2010 - 02:22 PM

Funny, as many times people have told me to write something with "linkbait" in mind, and whenever I try, I come up with nothing. But writing relevant content seems to attract enough attention by itself. Maybe it is a niche thing. The techy niche is a funny one in my opinion. People often do not like linking to others, maybe because they are all concerned about "page rank leak" and other silly things. Instead they write controversial things specifically to get links. I know a guy, who has always loved Apple /Macs, that bought a domain with the idea of taking the p*** out of Apple and criticising it, just because he felt it was the sort of thing that people would get heated up about and talk about, and hopefully link to. A completely wacky idea, to be critical of something you actually like, just to get some attention.

But then, what is "link bait". Or, when people are not writing something with "link bait" in mind, what are they writing for? Write for the people, and if the people like it, they may link to it, or email it to a friend, or print it and give it to their mum etc.

Maybe I am just not inventive enough to trick people into linking to my sites. I dunno. Link bait. Hmmm.

#67 RisaBB


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Posted 24 February 2010 - 08:44 PM

That was an awesome response by Ammon. He's a classic.

#68 DonnaFontenot


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Posted 24 February 2010 - 10:29 PM

Link bait isn't just trickery (though that can certainly be one type). I was sitting here stumbling, and stumbledupon this just now - http://royal.pingdom...ve-infographic/

That is a perfect example of non-trickery linkbait. That beautiful infographic was no doubt created with the express purpose in mind of attracting lots of links (and it likely will). Of course, it may not, but it will still be linkbait if it doesn't - just not very smelly, link-attracting bait. :)

Sure, all content should be written well - with the hopes of attracting links - but it's this kind of BIG effort that I think qualifies for the title of linkbait.

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