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Linkbaiting with Attack

Nick writes an interesting post on The Art of Linkbaiting or on getting other sites to link to your blog – a necessary part of building traffic on your blog (both in getting direct traffic from the links and in building search engine ranking). Nick writes:

‘In order to bait a link, you need a hook. Hooks come in variety of flavors, some of the more popular would include:

* News hook
* Contrary Hook
* Attack Hook
* Resource Hook
* Humour Hook’

He goes on later in the post to expand upon each of them – with some excellent advice. I’ve especially found the ‘resource’ and ‘news’ hooks to be very powerful in the building of my own blogs.

I would give a word of warning though with the ‘attack’ hook (and even the ‘contrary’ one).

Over my time of blogging I’ve noticed a lot of blogs attempt to build their profile through ‘contrary’ and ‘attack’ posts. The strategy can work well at getting attention of others in your niche if you write in this way in the short term – but in my experience this approach can have some pretty negative consequences if you’re not careful.

While it may well bring you links (both from those you attack and others in your niche) it can also bring down your own reputation unless you either:

• are a brilliant writer who knows what you’re talking about
• already have a profile and the respect of others in your niche
• have the ability to not only attack the weaknesses of others but the ability to provide positive and constructive alternatives

It is this last point that I feel is most crucial. It is pretty easy to attack another blogger’s opinions and ideas – but it’s another matter to provide an valid alternative. If you’re trying to build your profile in an industry the last thing you’ll want to be known as is ‘the grump’ who is always tearing down others and their ideas. When I look at most industry leaders I see that most of them tend to be visionary types who are often extreme optimists, dreamers and visionaries. While they have a healthy view of what doesn’t work in their industry they are always pushing the boundaries and are more known for what they’ve built than what they’ve torn down.

I think it’s very dangerous to build a blog solely upon a negative vibe. While a few bloggers do the angry cynical thing quite well – it’s difficult to build a popular and sustainable blog on this type of approach. I’ve seen quite a few of these blogs come and go and suspect that they don’t tend to last for one of two reasons (or some combination of the two).

Firstly I suspect that most people just don’t like to hang around with (in the long term) angry, negative and bitter people. I know people in real life like this and while I appreciate their honesty and ‘what you see is what you get’ type attitude I don’t gravitate towards them on a regular basis. Life’s too short to hang around with grumps. Most blog readers seem to get a bit over the negative approach of the attacking blogger if this is all they do and will move on.

Secondly I suspect that most bloggers themselves don’t have what it takes to always be negative. While the initial exhilaration of writing something that gets others stirred up and brings some traffic might be fun – I’m not sure how many people are wired in a way that allows them to always be negative and at the centre of controversy. Perhaps it’s just me – but I find even after 24 hours of getting into a ‘blog fight’ (I rarely allow myself to be drawn into one these days) I’m ready to move on to something else – I don’t like what it does to me and think it would take it’s toll on my emotional well being to be that way all the time.

So if you’re considering using the ‘attack hook’ approach to build your blog (and I do think there are valid times and places for these types of posts) I would always advise considering how to balance it. You might want to do this through providing a positive alternative, attempting to attack in a dialogical /conversational way with the one you’re critiquing or by balancing it with other posts of a more positive nature. I personally keep ‘attack’ posts to a minimum – they are something to season your blog with rather than dominate it with – but then again I’m constantly told I’m ‘too nice’ so what would I know?

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Patrick says:

    No, you’re right on.

    I’m inclined to simply ignore someone who is always negative/contrary. Controversy for the sake of controversy is a waste of my time.

  2. Chris Bailey says:

    I agree with you and Patrick. Simply trying to be controversial without any substance behind your argument will quickly become transparent. And can you be constantly controversial and still maintain your authenticity, which is such a crucial currency in the blogworld?

  3. I’ve tried that “controversy/attack” road a few times with my blogging – sometimes intentionally, sometimes without knowing it.

    I might have even rubbed Darren up the wrong way a few times with things I’ve said.

    The thing is you have to be really careful how you approach the whole “art” of controversy posting. Because, right or wrong, controversy does work. Going too far with it could damage your credibility – but I believe that if there’s merit in it an “attack/controversial” post is fair game, but you have to back it up.

    I try and limit my controversy post to about 1 in every 10 posts :-)

    I guess I’ll never stop learning about the art of blogging, hence why ProB is my first read every 2 hours.

  4. IO ERROR says:

    Darren, I’ve built quite the following by blogging about “homeland stupidity” in the U.S. (Google it.) A lot of what I write could be considered cynical, and it probably is. But people keep coming back, and the site’s growing steadily with almost no advertising or outside promotion.

    It ranks in the top 50 “Politics” blogs at Technorati. :)

    Now, I just have to get my other blogs ranked as highly…

  5. Hone says:

    “have the ability to not only attack the weaknesses of others but the ability to provide positive and constructive alternatives”

    Agree completely. This is in fact key to solving problems fast. Having constructive alternatives.

  6. Mike says:

    I think the ” Attack ” & the ” Contrary ” appeals only work if you’re truly a miserable SOB and are always in that frame of mind anyway.

    I’m glad we don’t have to read that crap here.

    As for those of you that use this tone, as your basic theme ( not you Martin ), I don’t and won’t read your blog.

    Keep the tone educational, informational and professional and you’ll go far.

  7. Darren Rowse says:

    I think attack/controversy posts need to also come out of genuine situations. I think some people do it just for the sake of it. I’ve seen a few blogs start up recently that are obviously just trying to stir up trouble for the sake of it. They’re inconsistant in what they write and are never going to be taken seriously for this reason.

    You also need to consider the impact that a critique has upon other blogs in your niche that you might actually want to work with later. If you’re going to critique someone I try to do it in a more gracious and contructive manner that keeps the conversation alive.

    No point in attacking one day and then a month later asking for help on getting the word out later. Do so and you might just be burning a bridge that you’ll need later.

  8. Isn’t the question more about what kind of traffic you’ll get?

    I will read attack/controversy blog posts, but rarely will I end up back at that blog again if that’s all they’re about. So while an attack post might stir up a few hundred or so hits, and some links, how many of those will become regular readers?

    My most returned-to blogs are those that offer me constructive information, with occasional commentary.

  9. I think you can use an attack or critical point-of-view as a means of gaining some attention. But people return to you when they see you’re offering something unique- a different perspective, something beyond a “me too” blog.

    But I don’t think the attack mode is sustainable- so should be “reserved” for special occassions. Martin mentions above a 1 in 10 count for critical posts and I believe the point of attack needs to be assessed for a while and more carefully executed than other types of posts.

  10. Dave Starr says:

    I think Mark has the most cogent point here. Noting basically wrong with raking in some traffic with negative posts … if that’s what you feel like and you can do it well, but the ‘fish’ that you hook are likely to be negative, sarcastic and shallow. Not the types that will hang with you long enough to build community, recommend you to friends and (basic need here), click on paying links.

    Definitely an asset that must be used with the utmost discretion.

  11. Lei says:

    I used to wonder if being snarky was a requirement for popular/successful blogs. But I couldn’t be that way even if I tried. Sure, I can be sarcastic and poke fun at things (and myself!), but I’d rather be critical and analytical, basing my opinion on facts. For the kinds of blogs I write, information and intelligent (!) commentary is what people are after.

  12. TLB says:

    I’ve been in angry/cynical mode on the linked site for over three years, and before that I was in angry/cynical mode on Usenet. Bearing in mind that the world of political blogs is quite a different beast than tech, business, etc. blogs, here’s an example. Last year the Dems and the Repubs invited several bloggers to attend their conventions, choosing blogs from their respective sides. The other Dem-oriented bloggers supported the Dem bloggers who blogged from the Dem convention, and vice versa.

    The only problem was that in both cases it was like the Politburo inviting Komsomol members to attend a convention, and the coverage was basically just fawning, “hey look at me” BS. And, no one except for me (AFAIK) pointed that out. Some people feel the need to do things like that, almost everyone else has a more get-along-go-along hope-I-get-Instalanched kinda way of looking at things. Needless to say, doing things like that doesn’t generate the links, but someone has to do it.

  13. This is complete and utter bunk!!

    Problogger is a fraud!

    -there, I was negative and contrary. ;^)

  14. I’ve seen some of the opposite — rather than being snarky, you find a popular blogger and stroke their ego. An interview, a product mention, complements on how great their hair looks — whatever it is, as long as it’s ego stroking and original. Then the blogger goes “blah blah blah has noticed that my hair is most perfectly manicured over at blahblabhlbha.com”.

    Personally, I’m a sucker for people that stroke my ego! And I’m sure there are many more narcissists out there…

  15. Just wondering, isn’t this post a subtle attack post?

  16. allan says:

    I might counter attack, once.

    I might even attack general stupidity, occasionally.

    But I agree – life is too short to spend it angry at people, or to spend it with angry people.

    Enjoy

  17. Fatih says:

    Mostly agree with Darren. Assertive approach certainly would earn you a sustained readers. And I come here over and over because of that kind of approach of yours beside many others. Your easy English also motivate non-English speakers enjoy the reading.

    And last but not least, in case you’re not aware of, your smiley friendly picture add to the aura of your blog. Readers tend to symphatize with you from the first impression..

  18. Penny says:

    I blog for my business – there’s no way we’ll do negative or attack topics. That’s not just because its risky. Even more important, we want to maintain our ‘image’ of providing great information and service in our sector. I would think this would apply to all blogs, even though I think businesses are much more aware of the ‘brand’ thing.

  19. I think this a great point of discussion for those of us just getting into blogging. The number of feeds I read keeps growing greater and greater, however this also increases the noise to signal ratio. In other words, with all these people posting just to be posting content is really starting to make it difficult to weed out the REAL tasty bits of information on the Internet. What worries me is the ethics of some who just link bait just to obtain traffic and not to contribute anything of value.

  20. Vessel Sinks says:

    Attack posts… sounds scary. I guess it just proves the fact that any publicity is good publicity (except if you are paris hilton :-P)

  21. This one still works to perfection…your blog rocks…

  22. chinastone says:

    Mostly agree with Darren. Your easy English also motivate non-English speakers enjoy the reading.

  23. Darren, this is the dumbest article you’ve ever written. Your mother was a hamster and your father smells of elderberries.

    Is that a good attack comment? I would never actually attack you. You’re my hero. ;-)

    Thanks for another useful article

  24. Um, even though I didn’t mean what I said in my jest attack, I’m feeling rather badly already. I’m just not cut out for the attack link-bait method. Please forgive me.