Link Bait Sucks – People Are Not Fish


Are you trying to hook people to make them link to your site? You suck! OK, link bait sucks predominantly as a term but not completely as a tactic.

Nonetheless there are certain aspects of link bait that really make this technique obnoxious in some cases. No wonder then, that

people on social media sites like Reddit often hate link bait although they fall for it again and again.

Therefore I will introduce new terms for the concept of link baiting, without treating users like fish. Let me explain first what the problem with link bait is.


What is link bait?

The concept of link bait is, if you don’t like it:

“manipulating people to link to you against their will”.

If you like the concept you probably will explain it along the line

“creating killer content so people link to you”.

Of course the truth lies in-between. It’s more or less 50/50.


Respect the people

When you create killer content link bait people will link to you but if you or someone else refers to it as link bait you might get downvoted on Reddit or even blacklisted.

People do not like being treated as fish you want to eat for lunch.

Respect your audience and create killer content! In order not to fool users to link to you you have to change your frame of mind. Do not solely aim for the links. Try to make people happy as well.


Better link bait approaches

Drop the bait concept and replace it with one of the following:

  • link incentive
  • link stimulus
  • link incitement

The last two might sound strange at first in English, nevertheless there are shades of grey that differentiate those three.

A link incentive is easily explained: It’s anything you do right away and directly to get links, for instance

  • “win an iPod
  • “the first 5 bloggers who trackback me will get a free ebook
  • “those who link to me, get reviewed in my blog”.

The last one got penalized by Google on a side note. The legendary John Chow tried it and failed.

A link stimulus sounds very frivolous and indeed it is, link stimulus might be for example a headline like

  • “female SEO consultants naked”
  • “How I earned 1 million with Adsense in two weeks”
  • “be forever young with this new revolutionary method”.

Link stimuli stir positive emotions, they make you crave something.

A link incitement is the next logical step, something that makes others disagree, is controversial or so innovative people feel as if they fall behind you.

As you might suspect “SEO 2.0 will kill SEO as you know it” is such a link incitement, but even my former headlines like

stir incitement.

It’s because they voice new opinions, debunk myths or are contrary to the main stream. Do not mistake link incitement with flaming or pure provocation though.

Moreover, it’s not provocation for provocations or the links sake. It’s about being yourself and voicing your own opinions.


Link incitement is for insiders

Link incitement means always at least 50% agreeing with the status quo and changing it from within. I agree that link bait is the most important white hat SEO tactic to get links nowadays.

I agree that link bait works in many if not most cases. So I want to optimize the concept of link bait and diversify it with new and better terms.

You might argue that out of my many link incitements few have worked out.

I was just exercising and filling my empty new blog. I wanted to get noticed. The three new terms and concepts have one thing in common:

you do not manipulate anybody and you do not treat humans like fish. You can make people link to you without tricking them!


You’re not fooling anybody

Link incentives are so straightforward that people of course notice what you are up to and they decide consciously whether they support you or not.

With link stimuli you meet people’s demand for things they really want. Thus they are thankful that they get them.

Link incitement is all about being yourself and not just following the leaders.

Nobody likes people that just parrot the elite without adding any new thoughts or value. By being yourself with everything that annoys you, you will reach people.

Many of them will dislike you for not agreeing with them and their idols. Many other people will like and support you realizing that you are yourself and thus authentic.


Making people link ethically

Now you might argue: this article just rephrases what link bait is about anyway replacing the term with three new ones.

No, that’s not really true. I’m not just nitpicking. My concept also does not fool anybody into linking to me.

  • Either the people receive a present (link incentive)
  • or I fulfill their dreams (link stimulus)
  • or I just say what I want to say without flattering people just for the sake of being friends with everybody (link incitement).

At the end of the day the main difference may be the ethics, link bait is grey hat SEO while link incentive, link stimulus and link incitement are about respect for the users.

Last updated: April 11th, 2018.

Updated: July 3rd, 2015: added white space, text decoration, subheadlines, image.


* (CC BY 2.0) Creative Commons image by Damian Gadal