The concepts behind clickbait, linkbait, and viral content are quite similar. In fact, one might even argue that in terms of SEO, all three are dependent on one another. But to properly leverage them—whether as individual or fused marketing strategies—you need to understand the unique properties of each one, and what they can specifically contribute to your SEO campaign.
What is It?
Clickbait is basically a title or headline that is meant to attract visitors and encourage them to click through to a website by appealing to their curiosity. Over-the-top language and sensationalist phrasing are often used—such as “you’ll never guess her reaction!” or “this could happen to you!”—to bait the reader.
If used successfully and sparingly, clickbait can increase click-through rate (CTR), view count, subscriber/follower count, and organic traffic. However, if poorly executed, clickbait can backfire. Given that the term has already garnered an arguably negative connotation in some areas of the internet —particularly YouTube — marketers must tread carefully when employing it.
How Can You Leverage Clickbait?
Leverage clickbait through the concept of pattern interruption and content aggregation.
Pattern interruption is pretty self-explanatory; it’s a marketing strategy that grabs the user’s attention by breaking the mold. In a sea of conservative, politely-worded headlines, something loud and gaudy is sure to jump out. It doesn’t need to be sensationalist, but it should be something that’s considerably out of the norm.
For instance, “How to Optimize Your Website for Maximum Traffic,” sounds like a title we’ve all read a dozen times. On the other hand, “What We Learned About Website Optimization from Analyzing 7,935 High-Performing Pages,” stands out. This is a great example of clickbait; it doesn’t follow a universal template, it’s oddly specific, and it sounds far more personal than the former. It disrupts pattern by deviating from the normal “How-To” headline template.
Content Aggregation basically involves collecting content from other websites and then hosting them on your page via an article or post, and then linking back to the original piece. It isn’t counted as stealing content per se, especially since you’re citing and linking back to the actual creator.
This is a great way to quickly generate a lot of content and traffic since you won’t have to create posts from scratch. For instance, let’s say you wrote a 300-word article about whiteboard animation. You then find a YouTube video about whiteboard animation that’s performing well. By embedding it in your article, you increase the traffic to your website by tapping in to the traffic already generated by the video. The same thing can be done for images, infographics, and other articles.
Handy Tips in Using Clickbait
Do not overuse clickbait and over-exaggerate your titles. Avoid misleading jargon and over-promising. Clickbait is viewed in a negative light when the content fails to deliver the promised hype.
As mentioned, YouTube is rife with videos containing disappointing content but still use sensationalized titles to get views and comments. It’s gotten so bad that some YouTubers specifically tack on a “not clickbait” disclaimer on the end of their titles just to assure their audience of their authenticity.
What Is It?
Linkbait is the process of creating valuable pieces of content for your website, consequently encouraging people to link to or reference your page. This is connected to another SEO strategy called “link building,” wherein you boost your website’s rank on the search engine results page (SERP) by increasing the number of quality, high-ranking sites that provide a link to your webpage.
Linkbait is not as sensationalist as clickbait, but it is a little harder to pull off. Linkable content can be anything from a video to an in-depth research study. The challenge lies in actually guiding people to your work and then earning their backlink. This can be achieved through quality content, but remember that you’re constantly competing for attention in an oversaturated market.
How can you leverage linkbait?
Leverage linkbait through the concept of “share triggers”: a list of psychological principles that prompt internet users to share content. Covered extensively in Jonah Berger’s book, “Contagious” share triggers encourage an emotional response from viewers. To sum it up, people are more likely to share content that:
- Offers something practical/enriching, or can add value to their lives
- Has been liked and shared by hundreds or thousands of others
- Makes them look good (i.e., experienced, creative, fun)
- Relates to causes that they care about
- Keeps them connected or updated about current events
Linkbait is a two-fold strategy in the sense that it requires you to put out highly shareable, highly valuable pieces, thereby attracting more organic traffic. The backlinks you generate from this are also highly critical components that search engine algorithms take into account.
Jeremy Worboys from Warble Media says that ‘the more high-quality, well-ranked websites that backlink to your content, the more you establish your page as a credible source—and yourself as an authority.’
Handy Tips in Using Linkbait
Do not prioritize quantity over quality. Many websites put out multiple pieces of content in the hopes of building more backlinks. Quite a few brands employ this strategy, but it’s only good for short-term gratification. In the long run, churning out semi-quality content by the dozens daily will prove to be impossible.
Stick to creating highly relevant articles, videos, infographics, or case studies that utilize share triggers for a more sustainable strategy.
What Is It?
Viral content refers to any piece of content—an image, an article, or a video—that is rapidly circulated through online social circles. True to its name, the content spreads fast (like a virus). Depending on how “good” it is, it sticks around and is socially referenced for quite a while before gradually dying out.
Some of the share triggers discussed earlier are actually responsible for boosting a piece of content to viral status. Remember that people are more likely to share a video, image, or article that has already been liked and shared by hundreds or thousands of others. In other words, one of the reasons a piece of content goes viral is due to the fact that it already is viral.
As confusing as this might sound, it makes sense. As long as people find the content engaging, they tend to share it as often as possible, generating more traffic with each re-share.
How Can You Leverage Viral Content?
Leverage viral content through the same principles of content aggregation and share triggers. Find posts that are already drawing positive engagement, and then host them on your website. Additionally, you can share or promote it to your followers for more traffic.
If the content is highly shareable, people may start backlinking to your page as the original source (which won’t create problems, as you yourself will backlink to the actual source). Once it’s circulated widely enough to be considered viral, you’ll ideally find yourself with a whole host of organic traffic going through your website to reach the content. And for every high-quality, well-ranked site that links back to your page, you stand to boost your SERP ranking another notch.
Once the content is shared by hundreds, you don’t have to worry about finding new circles to share it to; it will continue to circulate until it’s no longer relevant.
Handy Tips in Using Viral Content
Do not depend on content aggregation too much. If your website is made up of nothing but referenced articles and embedded YouTube videos, the search engine’s algorithm may start to take notice. As with clickbait, use aggregated viral content sparingly, and intersperse it with your own original work. This way, you and your brand will still retain a level of credibility and authority as a source for quality content.