You Can’t Grow a Blog On Negative Linkbait Alone

April 22, 2011
By Lisa Barone in Content Strategy

Planning on launching your blogging career by playing the role of That Guy, the one who yells, screams and insults his way to attracting eyes? If so, do us a favor, would you?

Kick yourself now.


I don’t know Kris Roadruck on a personal level, but I’m inclined to really like him. He’s got an opinion, some snark and he doesn’t appear to take things too seriously – all attributes I look for in a guy a person. Kris wrote a post recently that got a lot of people up in arms by poking at a well-known (and well-argued) SEO industry hot topic; he called white hat SEO a joke. Clever, right? Naturally, people ran to Kris’ blog to tell him he was wrong, right, and to link to him nearly 300 times. Earlier this week Kris followed up that post with one titled the Efficacy of Negative-Emotion Link Bait. Here, Kris talks about the benefits of writing posts that intentionally piss people off, citing it as an effective blog-building strategy.

And it is. Unless that’s all you’re bringing.

Kris is right that negativity will almost always get people’s attention faster and more violently than something about hugs and puppies. If mainstream media and/or politics has taught us anything, it’s that nothing brings people together quite like sitting around and griping over a common enemy. You probably even have a friend or two in your life that you made solely because you both hated the same person or thing. Hate and violence brings people together almost as well as a yummy meal you didn’t have to make yourself.

Unless the purpose of your blog is to attract people to your business. If that’s the case, putting a heavy focus on negative linkbait pieces can kill your credibility before you even get off the ground.

Kris’ advice of using negativity to win eyes isn’t new. Plenty of new and legacy bloggers have made a career of it – people like Robert Scoble, Jason Calacanis, Michael Gray, Darren Slatten. They’re all known for being harsh critics of the world around them. The difference is, they also bring a hell of a lot of value to their non-rant conversations. That’s the key. And if you forget that very crucial part of the pie in your quest to piss off people (which is often what happens when you adopt a negativity link-building strategy), you’re going to fall on your face. You’re also going to isolate a whole segment of the population.

Negative attention may have gotten you friends in high school. In business, it just makes you the person no one wants to play with in the sandbox.

Being a yelling Negative Nancy all the time doesn’t work for a few reasons.

  • It gets old to your readers.
  • It’s hard for the writer to sustain that level of anger. (You’ll notice many people who market themselves on ‘negativity’ burn out and disappear quickly’)
  • It doesn’t convert when you make that all you’re about.
  • It’s distracting and takes your attention away from creating real, authoritative content.

Yes, yelling will make people take a look back to see what you’re yelling about, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to jump on your team. They’re going to use you for their amusement and then go to your competitor when they want serious work done. Do not confuse eyes with customers, nor yelling with value.

Instead of attracting people who can help grow your brand and your business, you attract the drama-hungry, the rubbernecks, the people who thrive on flame wars, the morons, the loudmouths, the people who had no friends in high school, folks who get their human contact solely via the Internet, etc.

Who you don’t attract is anyone with a budget they want to spend with you. Earning eyes is pretty easy on the Internet. It’s earning trust and authority that is not. Earning respect for your craft and what you bring.

Is there a place for using negativity and rants as part of your blog arsenal? Absolutely. Leverage negative press, flame wars and attacks when they come your way. Be controversial. But don’t make that all you are. Make your negative posts the exception, not the rule, and pick your battles wisely. You want to pick the fights that will help you to best attract new eyes and get people passing around your content (which is what Kris did). But there has to be something there to back it up – something that adds way more value than just a person being mad at one more thing. Because that’s too easy, there’s too much of it out there, and your negative posts are bringing people down and pushing people away.

Remember that your corporate blog is about building trust and lowering the bar needed for someone to do business with you. It’s hard to do that when you’re the guy standing on the corner screaming. Yes, people are more engaged when you take a strong stance, but what’s behind it?

Like I said up above, I’m inclined to like Kris Roadruck. I like him because he’s smart on Twitter, because he shares some good stuff and because of everything I mentioned above. That’s your meat and what will define you. Everything else about your blog is just seasoning and should be used as such.

I couldn’t publish this post without directing you to read Kathy Sierra’s post on angry/negative people, which shows how constantly dealing with negative people actually changes our brains to make us more negative in return. Just something else to think about on your Friday.

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