The Battle of Buzzwords

Last month, Brian Clark over at Copyblogger, questioned the value of the term “linkbait“. Linkbait started out as a marketing term to describe “any content or feature within a website that somehow baits viewers to place links to it from other websites.” The benefit of getting links from other websites is to increase your website’s rank in search engines.

The term has since taken on an almost derogatory connotation, in some people’s eyes. At the same time, a whole niche market as arisen to service this desire.

So Clark asked:

Link attraction is crucial. But is “linkbaiting” bad branding for an important skill? I prefer to call what I do viral copywriting, but linkbaiting goes well beyond the written word and can include blog themes, widgets and web applications.

It may be too late to change the tide, but let’s take a vote anyway. Let the people speak.

Leave a comment to this post with either:

  • Yes, I think the term linkbaiting is OK; or
  • No, I think the term linkbaiting is bad.

I saw this as a battle of semantics and buzzwords. The negative connotations of linkbaiting is certainly bad for copywriters and SEO specialists. It’s like being known as a “spammer” instead of an “email marketer.”

But as a buzzword to help describe it to people outside of the industry? It’s potentially good that way. I wrote as much in Copyblogger’s comments:

While buzzwords can be annoying, I think they actually can be a helpful semantic platform for describing concepts to people not familiar with the industry.

For example, I was a web developer and have been using a technique called remote scripting since 2001. Then the term “Ajax” was coined, which basically meant the same thing.

Scores of web developers were endlessly annoyed at the popularity of this buzz term. Everyone seemed to be using the term “Ajax” – and many times, inappropriately too.

But then I became an engineering manager and began working with product managers, marketers, and designers who were unfamiliar with this technology. And suddenly, “Ajax” became a useful term. I would correct inappropriate uses and wield it as a tool to help them understand how we could build better web products.

So I think linkbait, while annoying, is a useful buzz word. (But for professionals in the industry, “viral copywriting” is a much better term – just like “remote scripting” is a better term than “Ajax” in the web development industry.)

However, after reading Clark’s conclusions, I’ve changed my mind. Especially for a copywriter or SEO specialist. Or, as Clark phrased it, a social media marketer.

The disadvantages of having a negative connotation outweigh the advantages of having a buzzword that many people loosely understand. Since the majority aren’t familiar with, or may misuse the term, why keep it? Why not replace it with a more descriptive and positive term? It’s fortunate that this market is still relatively young; such changes in the lexicon hopefully won’t be that painful.

Linkbaiter vs social media marketer? Hmmm. Spammer vs email marketer? No contest there. Down with derogatory buzzwords!

Author: Mike Lee

An idealistic realist, humanistic technologist & constant student.

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