She Wrote an Article About These SEO Tips and You Won’t Believe What Matt Cutts Did Next. Especially After He Saw Tip #5

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She Wrote an Article About These SEO Tips and You Won’t Believe What Matt Cutts Did Next. Especially After He Saw Tip #5

Did you click on a link to this article based on the title? Good. My link bait worked.

Isn’t that the point? To get you here. But there are people who are so concerned with SEO that they’d (almost) do anything to drive traffic to their site. And guess what? It works. Every time I see a title that intrigues me I click on it. I fall for it over and over. Sometimes the click is worth it. Sometimes it’s not.

Link baiting seems to be quite a trendy way these days to attract potential viewers.  It is essentially generating compelling or useful content that will naturally lure people to a website. It can be fun (I know I laughed after I wrote the title for this piece) and has the ability to attract some very big SEO results. Link baiting is not new. Check out this article on CopyBlogger about the history of link baiting. It is, however, getting better and more engaging.

Now lets be clear about why people use link baiting. The main goal is to increase the number of external links and shares, rather than website visits and sales.  The idea is to improve your rankings and hopefully increase your organic search results over a period of time.

Are Link Bait Titles Really All They Are Cracked Up To Be?

Some people like link baiting and some don’t. It’s just another way to get people interested in your story. Ann Simmons says it best in this line from her highly regarded book The Story Factor. The jargon she uses demonstrates link baiting:

“We try to “hook ‘em” and “reel ‘em in.” … Your story is the bait. If a fish doesn’t bite do you blame the fish? Do you call the fish unmotivated, lazy, greedy? No, you look for better bait.

Sites like Upworthy and BuzzFeed thrive on link bait titles in order to draw visitors to its site, which is fine with them because they get paid to sell advertising to its audience.

And while link baiting can bring visitors to your site, many people are growing tired of it. You won’t believe what people are doing it to stop them, and the results will shock you.

Ok, I’m being a bit sarcastic here, but you get my point. In all seriousness though, there are things like a Google Chrome plugin called Downworthy (get it?). In a nutshell, this plugin claims that it will reflect the article story more realistically, instead of showing you hyperbolic headlines. My personal favorite is “go viral” will be replaced with “be overused so much that you’ll silently pray for sweet release of death to make it stop”.  Others include replacing “literally” with “figuratively” and “incredible” into “painfully ordinary”.

This means that instead of being annoyed by these headlines, you’ll find them wildly entertaining. Since you’re going to be bombarded with link baits on a daily basis (remember that part about it being trendy these days?), you might as well try to enjoy them.

Instead of being annoyed, some are actually downright offended by them.

Twitter   cnnbrk  14 year old girl stabbed her ...Back in January, CNN posted a tweet that went viral, but also got a lot of backlash for it. It said “14-year-old girl stabbed her little sister 40 times, police say. The reason why will shock you.”. Many people not only retweeted it, but people responded that they wouldn’t take CNN seriously anymore.

Do you think CNN really thought it through when they thought about how they wanted to drive traffic to their site?

Here Are Some SEO Problems With Link Bait, And The Results Will Make You Cry

As demonstrated with the examples above, not only can bad link bait not be effective, but it can have some very serious consequences down the line for your SEO regarding the relevance of your content, and the kinds of links you earn. Some websites have even suffered Google penalties because of how bad their link bait is.

There isn’t really a benchmark for bad link baiting, but here are some characteristics that help to define what bad link baiting is:

  • Infographics without quality information
  • Creating controversy for the sake of controversy
  • Content that is barely related to topic at hand, or totally off-topic

Link Baiting and ROI

So what does this mean? Is link baiting good for ROI or not? Yes it is, when done right. You just never know what Google has up its sleeves, so what you do today could be penalized down the line. Also, be careful. If people hate your content because they were tricked by the title, what are the chances they will share it? And if they don’t share it, how will the traffic you gain lead to loyal followers and customers?

Isn’t There A Way I Can Still Use Link-Baiting?

Yes, in fact it can be quite easy. Instead of pouring your energy into finding easy solutions, use that time to create one piece of link bait that is not only relevant, but highly valuable for your readers. This is what is known as a linkable asset.

Ask yourself the following questions and see if your linkable asset is actually worth making:

  • Does it help make the viewer’s life easier?
  • Will it be used over and over again?
  • Will it provide value that is actually practical?
  • Will it reveal any new knowledge or insight?
  • Will it get a strong emotional response?

Link baiting with Linkable Assets

The idea is to merge the idea of link baiting with linkable assets, so you not only draw your visitors in, but with the value you provide them, you get them to stay.

Every day online, both great and not so great articles live or die by the quality of their title.

As content creators, we have just one line of text to include a keyword or phrase that might match a search keyword or engage an audience who will make a final judgment on the quality of the content piece in real-time. As a matter of fact, many usability studies show Internet users generally scan headlines, link lists, or status updates.

Writing titles is a serious matter and the success of your campaign depends on it. Here are some of key factors our Rob Garner tells says you should consider when writing engaging headlines:

  • Write an Engaging Heading That Readers Will Quickly Understand: How would you describe your article or digital asset in seven to 10 words? Be clear and succinct, and cover at least one of the captivating ideas or features of your digital asset.
  • Accurately Describe What the Reader Should Expect to See:  Make your title relevant, because your audience does not like to be tricked. They will appreciate the truthfulness in consistency between the title and actual content. The same goes for search engines—don’t try to stuff irrelevant keywords into your title, because engines’ algorithms can detect this type inconsistency and will ignore your content altogether.
  • Reveal an Outcome of the Article or a Provocative Question That the Article Might Answer:  What thoughts or conclusion would you like your reader or consumer to walk away with after clicking through to read or view your content? Entice your audience by asking a question or providing the answer in the title, and be sure that your content lives up to your title. Sample titles include “How a Graffiti Artist Earned $200 Million on the Facebook IPO” and “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”.
  • Use a Relevant Keyword or Keyword Phrase in the Title:  Keywords are connections to people who use social networks. A good keyword in the title that reflects the literal theme of the article or asset will ultimately determine whether it ranks in search and social. If you are writing a 10,000-word review of the best hotels in New York City, it would be beneficial to include the relevant phrase “New York City Hotels” somewhere in the title to reinforce the main theme for your audience and for search engines. Not all articles have an exact keyword fit, though most should. If you do not place a keyword in this highly competitive spot, don’t expect to automatically rank in search, because search engines still apply heavy weight to this page element.

What if you don’t know how? Start by using a nifty tool called MOZ Worthy to help you come up with some headlines. Just plug-in your link, what kind of response you want to get from viewers, and away you go.


By the way, did you even notice that I did not even mention Matt Cutts. That there is no Tip # 5? Does that piss you off or did you enjoy my article on “To Link Bait or Not to Link Bait?” Let me know. Cheers!


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Bernadette Coleman
Bernadette Coleman is the CEO of Advice Local, an award winning technology and Inc 500 digital agency. Bernadette is passionate about all things digital including... Read Full Bio
Bernadette Coleman
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  • John Smeth

    Very interesting post Bernadette !! Its been very hard to decide this days which things are helpful to promote any online business. But focusing on theme based high quality links is always a good idea. It wont create problems for any website.

    • Bernadette Coleman

      Thanks John – Theme based quality content is the key…

      • Faisal Rehman

        In today’s world trust building is really important and is the 1st step in getting loyal visitors and customers. when a title promises something and doesn’t deliver. People will never re-share the article and eventually will not re-visit author’s site who practice that!

  • Joseph de Souza

    If the title created as a link bait does not match the contents of the article accurately, after a few times no one will click on it

    • Norman

      Hammer, meet head of the nail.

    • Ashutosh Rai

      Yeap so right! 😀

  • jack

    What a stupid title. Cheers for wasting my time

    • chris

      agreed. read the title, scrolled down (TLDNR), and decided this was a waste of time. thanks. Not.

  • Nate Henry Luedtke

    The title worked on me. Link bait effectiveness? Confirmed.

    • Bernadette Coleman

      Thanks Nate! It works every time. Just needs to be done with finesse not lies in the title. Good content rules…

      • Salman Aslam

        The Linkbait Titles, for me, are about to cross a line because the content does not fulfill the promise in most cases however if the asset is worthwhile the results can be spectacular.

  • MSI Sakib

    What I think is, SEO is becoming more complicated day by day. All the time new SEO techniques are created. But I think there are some stable SEO tricks regarding Title, Description, Content and Backlinks. We can’t deny the words of Matt Cutts. We have nothing to do but to make our mind for new SEO strategy.

    • Bernadette Coleman

      Yes there are. Good titles are the key. They are your “Billboard” Just don’t get out of hand.

  • scottmckirahan

    Pisses me off when a title promises something and doesn’t deliver. Will never re-share an article that does that!

    • Bernadette Coleman

      I’m with you Scott!

  • Mike

    While big entities can get away with this, I wouldn’t revisit a site after the first 2 – 3 times of using these tactics. I understand that link bait titles can generate a lot of traffic, but it does piss me off when the article does not deliver on its title.

    • Bernadette Coleman

      I agree 100% That’s the whole point of this article. Thanks for responding.

  • Khem Raj

    Crap!! This is not at all link bait. Link bait is something when your title is so very attractive and matches with content as well. No one share or re-share or refer an article that promises something else and deliver something else. Though this article can definitely be quoted among the worst titled articles

    • Bernadette Coleman

      Khem, that’s the point of this whole article. Most titles do not match. I’m glad you took a moment to comment. Have a great day.

  • Lissa Duty

    Love the title – I did click thought because is said Matt Cutts! I have been known to do some link baiting in my titles, however, I always address what the title said in some form or fashion! Perhaps even with a joke or making a point like you do here. Great job reeling us in, Bernadette!

    • Bernadette Coleman

      Thanks Lissa!

  • Dogan Akdag

    I think this kind of titles are working sustainably only for content sites like buzzfeed, upworthy etc. Because they are time-wasting websites when you are bored and want to procastinate.
    Even those websites don’t use misleading titles like you!

    Of course this behaviour makes reader pissed off, don’t you see that I’m leaving comment for the very first time:)

    I don’t suggest that you SEJ crew continue to make that experiment.

    • Bernadette Coleman

      Thanks for your comment Dogan. The purpose of the article is to point out that these types of titles piss us all off! The title was purposely misleading to make a point. Thanks for commenting for the very first time.

  • Tom Coleman

    This is a great story and provides an excellent example of how “shocking headlines” are still able to TRAP readers’ attention and pull them in. It has worked on the front pages of newspapers for centuries, and it still works, now, with electronic social media and news sites. The headline works on the human nature side of the equation that search algorithms just can’t replicate. Our eyes and minds still need that “candy” to force us to click.

    • Bernadette Coleman

      It works Tom, but it still gets our goat everytime we click on a title and we are disappointed with the article content. But you are right, they worked years ago and still work today. Let’s remember that the content still needs to be quality content.

  • cayn0r

    I have to be honest, I’m a bit pissed off! 😀

    • Bernadette Coleman

      Sorry Cayn0r, I get pissed when I see a title like this and get tricked into clicking. That’s why I wrote this article. Thanks for the comment and taking time from your day to read the article. Have a good weekend!

  • Jake J.

    Didn’t know SEJ was still around

    • Kelsey Jones

      Welcome back! Glad to have you as a reader.

  • Takeshi Young

    You use the words link bait and click bait interchangeably in the article, but the two are not really the same. Upworthy/Buzzfeed style titles are “click bait”, they entice users to click on their articles in the Facebook news stream and maybe share it with their friends. “Link bait” is content that is created specifically to attract links, things like expert round-ups or useful resource pages.

    Link bait is often less cringeworthy than click bait because it takes more than just a quick emotional response for people to link to something, it takes time and effort to add a new link to a website vs just clicking on an article.

    • Jesse Aaron (@JesseAarone)

      ^ nailed it.

    • Bernadette Coleman

      Takeshi, you are right. they are not the same. Click bait is probably the right term but the point of the article is don’t lure me with bad titles and unrelated content. Clickable titles are good if I click and get what I expected, which should always be good content.

  • Sandeep Dahiya

    I read the whole article and learned a few things I dint know.
    Confirmed – Link bait works.

  • Bob Jones

    Yep, pissed me off. Skimmed through to see what it was about and did not get what I was promised.
    So to an effect it worked, getting me to the page – but I didn’t read the article. Guess that works for some site who sell CPM advertising.

  • Rajan

    You got me. That title sure did the job. I just wonder if Cutts fell for it too. Maybe he read your post too hehe.

    • David E Carey

      Did I click through to your posting? I certainly did as I love to hear and see MATT CUTTS tells the world. Is this approach an original link bait tactic? doubt it. Does it make me want to leave? Mmm well yes unfortunately it seems to be the case and not bother reading the article.

      In the nicest possible way sorry Bernadette no doubt you had a genuine reason for running the experiment – hope it works out for you.

    • Bernadette Coleman

      He probably would not wast his time with my article, I did tweet him though and let him know it was there to read if he wanted. haha

  • Edward

    Hi Bernadette,

    that was a perfect example of link baiting from you!

  • Gemma

    Hi Bernadette, I have mixes feelings. As long as its related I don’t mind. however I did only Click due to the “Matt Cutts” inclusion. Don’t forget many people still use Google alerts to keep up to speed with industry specific people, so you will be sure to get traffic from there also. ALSO Your link to Mozworthy doesn’t work 🙁

  • Charak Patnaik

    Bernadette, your trick worked. The title did made me click. But, as a author, if someone comes up with such titles…won’t it hamper credibility.

    • Bernadette Coleman

      It will hamper credibility. That’s what this article is about. Thanks for commenting.

  • Praveen Kumar BK (@praveenkumarbk_)

    Yes, i agree. ‘TITLE’ is the first impression you create on any reader. For instance the above post created below interaction and engagement. I am sharing it now ! let me see how many such i can pass-on …

    • Bernadette Coleman

      Thank you Praveen, I appreciate the sharing. Have a good weekend.

  • Sean Kavanaugh

    Well done Bernadette, I’ll admit I did click on it to see what Matt Cutts had to say however once I started reading I didn’t stop.

    • Bernadette Coleman

      Thanks Sean. I’m glad you enjoyed the article.

  • Abhinav Dabas

    Hook, line and sinker!! Totally fell for the headline… But considering the article was on link baiting, I think that drove the point deeper on how it can be more effective…. I wouldn’t have read the article had it been titled ‘To bait or not to Bait’ and would have missed the information it offered all together…. so all in all i think link-baiting is fine as long as you provide value to the reader and keep it relevant….. Interesting article…. Quite informative…. But i was really really hoping to find what #5 was…. 🙂

  • Pawel Kontek

    Great article Bernadette. I like that you presented the concept by using bait title. I am not piss off at all, because you delivered valuable content. Thanks!

    • Bernadette Coleman

      Thanks Pawel, it seems I pissed a few people off but it seems that they just didn’t get the point of the article. Have a great day.

      • chris

        or perhaps you could be wrong? doesn’t seem you are willing to consider that. rather we can just “seem to not get the point” and our opinion that this was a waste of time is irrelevant. Glad to know you are so important.

  • Bernadette Coleman

    Thabnks Sandeep

    • Don

      Enjoyed the article, and the interaction after…I’m a newbie and didn’t know who Matt Cutts is (but I do now) I’m reading up on how to drive traffic as I’m just getting ready to start that process…Did Matt ever check out the post? I’d be curious as to his reaction.

  • Alex Ion

    I get the point of sensationalizing your titles. If done right, it really makes people click. However, mentioning something and not being able to find references to it inside the article, totally breaks it for me. Lies get punished! But you’re getting another chance, Bernadette, for such a great post 😉

    Link bait works. Finesse for it, is the word!

    • Bernadette Coleman

      Finesse is the word! I agree…Thanks Alex.

  • William Forrest

    I agree, I would say that link baiting is one of the effective ways to promote a website or to make a post go viral. I’ve been a victim of these intriguing titles too and my hot little hands just couldn’t resist them…some posts were empty, some were really good and fun to read. Evoking high arousal emotions I think is a big factor too..& intriguing images that spoon-feed the readers will definitely make a post worth it.

    • Bernadette Coleman

      You hit the nail on the head William. Link or click baiting is effective. It just needs to be done right with good quality relevant content. Thanks for the comment.

  • Ayas Mishra

    Damn you are good. I took the bait too many times.

  • My chatmeter

    No matter how hard I try, I always fall for link baiting. The title gets me every time. The interesting thing is, I won’t even be interested in whatever the topic may be about, but i’m so curious about the “you won’t believe why” that I always click on the article. Businesses who want to use this tactic should be very careful because from personal experience, I never take the websites that use link baiting very seriously. It gives me the impressions that their content might not be that good so that’s why they need to use this tactic to bring in traffic.

  • Avinash Kumar

    Totally got us! Bernadette. the name of Matt Cutts was the first thing I tried to find in the whole article since I was quite interested in what did he do actually!! But your experiment here is a good example of a link bait..

  • Will

    Very good…I also read all of the comments and there were some very mixed feelings on “link bait”…

    For the disgruntled….what do they think TV commercials are…how many times while watching commercials are you getting the “best”…Best value….best price….best car….best…well you get the idea….all commercials are “bait”…

    your post was not only enlightening but also informative concerning a persons thought process….our natural curiosity of being inquisitive about something that interests us (Matt Cutts)…

    don’t pay any attention to the “haters” you definitely proved your point…and a point that should be applauded not scolded…they’re just disappointed they didn’t discover what Matt did about tip #5…….