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Link Bait Headlines

by Randall Craig on December 4, 2015

Filed in: Blog, Communication, Content, Make It Happen Tipsheet

Tagged as: ,

Have you ever been “gulled” into reading an article, blog post, or viewing a video because of the headline?  Not the descriptive type of headline (such as Link Bait Headlines), but the kind that reels you in, like a helpless fish on a line. 

If you’re not sure you’ve seen this type of approach, some examples:

  • One Touching Detail You Probably Missed On This Week’s “Game Of Thrones”
  • 23 Awkward Movie Mistakes That’ll Make You Say, “Wow, Really?”
  • See how a group of Swedish police officers responded when a fight broke out on the New York subway.
  • Barbara was hired at a top-notch design firm at 91. Here are 5 amazing things she’s done so far.

The primary reason for this type of headline is to gull the reader to click the link – and then expose them to the ads that wrap the article.  Unfortunately, most feel used by the approach, resulting in lost trust.  Interestingly, while people continue to click these highly addictive links, they wouldn’t be caught dead buying a supermarket tabloid, which is where these types of headlines first made their appearance.  

If Link Bait is inappropriate, then what should the goal of writing headlines be?  Yes, it is absolutely to attract the reader to the underlying content.  But it is also an implicit promise to the reader that what will follow will actually deliver.  It builds trust, not erodes it.

There is one thing that can be learned from Link Bait headlines:  they strongly connect to the reader’s emotional center, and drive action.   Two more business-focused examples, one more emotionally-loaded than the other:

  • 12 ways to use headlines to improve readership.
  • No one had read his blog until he tried this one technique.  Then 8 million did.

In both cases, the article still needs to deliver – but because the second one sets such high expectations, it must deliver commensurately.  (What differentiates these headlines from pure Link Bait  is that they both contain a value-adding Content Preview statement.) 

This week’s action plan:  Re-look at your blog posts, memos, and even your email subject lines.  This week, try adding a bit of Link Bait – or at least a bit more emotional connection. You’ll find that more people will click through – and your writing will necessarily “reach up” to meet their expectations. 

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to to register.

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)



Randall has been advising on Digital Strategy since 1994 when he put the Toronto Star online, the Globe and Mail's GlobeInvestor/Globefund, several financial institutions, and about 100+ other major organizations. He is the author of eight books, including Digital Transformation for Associations, the Everything Guide to Starting an Online Business, and Social Media for Business. He speaks and advises on Digital Transformation, Digital Trust, and Social Media. More at

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