Why LinkBait Doesn’t Translate To Dollars

October 18, 2010
By Lisa Barone in Online Marketing

Hey. It’s been a sluggish morning as I try and recover from running around BlogWorldExpo this past weekend. But I couldn’t help but perk up and pull my chair a little closer when I stumbled upon a post from the New York Times. The headline? Traffic Bait Doesn’t Bring Ad Clicks. Well, duh, but let’s go there.

The New York Times is referring to analysis from Perfect Market, a company that helps publishers monetize their content, which analyzed more 15 million articles from 21 news sites like the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, etc. What they found was that the most profitable articles weren’t the linkbaity ones that attracted a lot of clicks, but the useful articles that readers engaged with. While endless articles about Lindsay Lohan’s latest stint in rehab brought the clicks, the meaty stuff about unemployment, mortgage rates and the egg recall brought the dollars. Because Perfect Market is all about monetizing content they tied this back to better contextual ads, however, let’s be narcissistic and make this about us.

As a business owner on the Web, you are both publisher and advertiser. In case you’re sitting there whining that I’m wrong because you don’t have ads on your site or because you don’t (in your mind) make a living off your content, let’s just settle this now:

  • Do you have content on your Web site? Do you have a blog? Do you have a Twitter account? Do you have an email newsletter? Do you have a brochure/pamphlet/card with your name on it? Say yes to one of the above? Cool, you’re a publisher.
  • Do you have ads on your Web site? Do you use calls to action on your site? Are you using your Web site to sell yourself, your product or your expertise? Say yes to one of the above? Cool, you’re an advertiser.

Now that we’ve settled that, we can start thinking like both advertiser and publisher to make serious money.

As both an advertiser and a publisher, your job isn’t to attract wandering, gossip-loving eyes. Your job is to create something of value and match up the right content with the right call to action. You must have something in mind for users to do, as well as a way to compel them to do that. Whether it’s to click on an ad, to call you, to get off their computer and visit you in store, it doesn’t matter. You have a decision to make: Are you going to do that through flashy, mindless, distracting content or are you going to do it with content that educates, connects and causes people to engage with you?

At Outspoken Media we believe it’s better achieved through the latter. And that’s probably your thinking too, unless you’ve ever been to a marketing conference or read anything on the Internet.

Marketing conferences are great for spewing crap that people actually believe. They get otherwise intelligent business owners in the room and profess that linkbait is key. Linkbait content is what brings the eyes, brings the links, and what gets you attention. And it can do that if the content is valuable. But if all you’re creating is flashy linkbait to the tune of mindless infographic, fake controversy, and Justin Beibers, then you shouldn’t be too surprised that that content doesn’t convert. For people to click, they have to care. You have to MAKE them care.  Like the high school class clown, just because someone is looking at you doesn’t mean they give a damn.

You have to use marketing hooks (as opposed to emotional whoring) to make them want to engage with the content. That’s why so many social media marketers talk about engagement these days. It’s not because they care about their customers or want to hold customer’s hands. It’s because engaged people buy stuff. Engaged people open their wallets and purchase things. It’s that simple.

Trafficbait doesn’t work as a marketing strategy. What does work is creating content customers can engage with.

Where do you start?

To engage with content, users have to care about it. It has to make them feeling something – whether it’s smarter, overwhelmed, scared, in love, disgusted, anything. No one shares meh. We don’t feel anything when we see Lindsay Lohan in handcuffs. That’s why we read it why trapped at our day job staring at the clock. We don’t want to feel anything.  You want to avoid that.

As a marketer, trafficbait is the opposite of what you want to be creating because the goal of your site is NOT to increase traffic. The goal of your site is to convert. And you do that when you pair engaging content with matched calls to action. So focus on that, not traffic bait. If you can’t do it yourself, consider hiring a content creation company to help. We’ll leave the light on for you. Save the flashy, vapid stuff for Vegas.

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