By Mihaela Lica

SEO Fishing with an Empty Hook

By Mihaela Lica

Link Baiting.Link baiting is a relatively new term in the SEO industry, coined for the first time by Aaron Wall in his SEO Book Nick Wilson (update: who personally confirmed in a LinkedIn message exchange that he coined the term in 2004, I asked Nick after my SU friend Lyndoman sent me a message about the mistake. Thank you, Lyndon.) – but the technique of “hooking” the readers is definitely as old as the first printed publication. There was always a need to grab the readers’ attention, and the savvy writers always knew what to say, when to say it, and how to say it to get their work in front of their audience.

The problem with the SEO “link bait” strategy is that it often uses “tricks” to generate incoming links to a site from other sites, but also to attract traffic. As we know however, tricks are not always the best strategies.

Types of Link Bait

Link baiting is a technique that does just that: it hooks the readers; it attracts them to your content. If they “bite” they might as well link back to whatever it is you want them to link at; and that’s how you know that your “bait” was successful: the content is the bait, the “back- link” is the catch.

There are different strategies to “bait” you can use, from “quality content” to content that has not so much to do with your site’s actual niche (the “empty hook”), from images to video and sound, and from badges and widgets to useful resources and etc – in the end how you attract readers to your site has a lot to do with your creativity and ingenuity.

Types of Link Bait.

There are seven main types of link bait: attack hook, humor hook, contrary hook, incentive hook, news hook, ego hook and resource hook. For each of these you can use different strategies and techniques: call out a famous blogger, make someone famous, give something away, give an award, etc. A very popular link baiting technique in the blogosphere for example is the “meme” – if the subject “catches” the initiator gets tons of links (all participants are required to link to the original entry – we will discuss this another time).

How to Bait? The Emotional Marketing Value of a Title

It’s not the content that hooks, it’s the title. You have two seconds to attract the readers’ attention, that’s why writing a “killer headline” is a skill any publisher should master.

The title needs to carry an emotional marketing value that is high enough to persuade the audience. Titles with poor EMV don’t hook; and they are often ignored by the reader. If the title is ignored, the content has little chance of being read.

My headline today has an emotional marketing value of over 33% (tested with the Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer from the Advanced Marketing Institute).

According to the Advanced Marketing Institute, the English language contains 20 % EMV (emotional marketing value) words and most professional copywriters will have 30%-40% EMV words in their titles, while the most gifted will have 50%-75%. The ideal is 100% – very rare unless the headline is less than five words.

In comparison, a title like “Link Baiting Tips for Beginners” has an EMV of 0%, while “SEO Link Baiting Advice” scored 25%. Lisa Barone’s “Can Link Baiting Mature? Yes, It Has To” scored 12.5%, Brian Clark’s “The History of Link Bait” scored 40%, and Chris Brogan’s “The Subtle Art of Linkbaiting” scored 20%.

How to Bait? The Emotional Impact of a Title

The Advanced Marketing Institute identifies three emotional impact groups: intellectual, empathetic and spiritual.

Depending on the audience you want to attract, each group appeals to different aspects of an individual.

The headline “SEO Fishing with an Empty Hook” is classified by the Advanced Marketing Institute as “Intellectual.” Intellectual titles are effective to arouse curiosity and attract readers interested in topics that require reasoning and careful evaluation. Obviously my intent was to “hook” the intellectual readers to start a meaningful conversation about link baiting as an SEO technique.

In comparison, Lisa Barone’s “Can Link Baiting Mature? Yes, It Has To” has been categorized as “Spiritual.” Spiritual titles carry the strongest potential for influence and are often making the most powerful presentation in the marketplace (note that “spiritual” is not restricted to religion specifically).

Chris Brogan’s “The Subtle Art of Linkbaiting” has been classified as empathetic. This is not very common in the SEO industry – empathetic titles are mostly used by people involved in the care giving industry. However, the purpose of an empathetic title is to bring out strong positive reactions in people, so if this is what you aim for, write empathetically.

Other aspects of link baiting will be discussed in a future article, but an initial understanding of how link baiting works, and how the title plays such a key role, is sufficient for building a basic strategy. The thing to remember is, great SEO benefits can be derived by publishers if the methods are performed ethically. Like other SEO strategies, link baiting is just part of a much broader strategy for impressing Google and other search engines. While my title was the “hook”, it was definitely not “empty”, as I think anyone can benefit from these helpful tidbits, which have never been covered in a similar link baiting article, anywhere else.

Types of Link Bait graphic courtesy Elliance.

  • A great topic and an interesting tool, although I reckon the AMI could put some more smarts behind it than at present — some of the boring headlines I threw at it reportedly had a high EMV but clearly did not (“Semi Conductor Tutorial for Beginners”, anyone? :-).

    There’s obviously a lot more art to determining what makes a good headline than there is science — thank goodness for that! It therefore means that content generation remains a decidedly human task … for the time-being. ;-)

    Thanks for highlighting the importance of a good headline Mihaela.

  • Yes I agree that tittle beside good for SEO also become main factor to attract visitor to read the rest of the post or ad.

  • LOL Matt, 60% for that title is a huge score indeed. I guess the tool could be refined more. I read how they calculate scores, and it makes sense. But for me the emotional impact is more valuable than the so-called emotional marketing value. They pretty much categorized the three examples in the article correctly – so the analyzer has, at least from this perspective, a good use. I think the emotional impact is precisely what you emphasized: the art to create a headline that attracts the readers. Honestly, I don’t think we need a headline analyzer to know what a good title is. Our readers will definitely let us know. :)

  • GS

    Very interesting indeed
    As a believer in that the only way forward is through good writing do you have tip on a book I can read on blog writing with compilation of ideas similar as to the one forwarded here
    Thank you!

  • stk

    Concurring with Matthew about high-scoring gibberish titles.

    I notice also that the AMI analyzer doesn’t register titles containing fewer than – looks like 4 – words? (Doesn’t “do” anything … doesn’t even spit back a “Ha ha … is that really a title?” message).

    This is an interesting topic and a semi-useful tool, but the heuristics could be improved. ;-)

  • @GS – there are a few good books, I will suggest them in a future article (thank you for the idea, come back next week for my SEO piece and you will see my recommendations).

  • @stk – yeah, I noticed that too, and the strangest thing is that they suggest that if a headline has less than 5 words it might score 100%. Maybe this is what happens? Short headlines score a perfect 100% which the tool was not “trained” to display? Do you remember the Nadia Comaneci issue? LOL

  • Reasonable Robinson

    RR says:
    Global Warming means the Inuit have lost 7% of their words for Snow!!

    This is all beautifully explained by so called ‘Dual Process’ Theories of information processing. The most notable being The Elaboration Liklihood Model(Eagely and Chaiken) Essentially they claim that we operate in two brain states a)Systematic which involves ‘effortful’ thinking and b) Cue which is rather lazy and only responds to salient and ego involving messages. 95% of the time we are in Cue mode. Only when our attention is grabbed is their any chance of us engaging in deeper more complex and extended information, and only then if we feel we have the capability and concern to take the interest further.

  • Of course the headline analyzing tool itself is a great example of link bait. :)

    It’s no surpise to me that Brian Clark’s headline performed well. His blog, Copyblogger, is a great resource to learn better writing skills for the web. He’s got a whole series of posts on writing compelling headlines under the “Resources” section of his sidebar.

  • Anonymous

    This EMV “research” with no single reference to any empirical findings sounds like premium BS to me.

  • @Anonymous Define empirical findings ;)

    Update: oops, forgot to give you the link: http://www.aminstitute.com/headline/about.htm

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