I for one am too tired of “linkbaiting” titles (ala “XX lists”, rants or how-tos). In an effort to find examples of some creative titles I’ve been browsing hot Digg posts and the most viral celebrity blog I am aware of – Perez Hilton – to spot some linguistic and semantic tactics behind linkbait:

1. Abbreviations – using popular abbreviation reflecting either slang or professional jargon vocabulary:



slang abbreviations

2. Playing with antonyms (words with opposite semantic meanings), e.g. substituting a word in a well known (or set) phrases with its antonym:


3. Playing with well-known quotes:

“Ain’t it the Truth?” is actually a quote – The Cowardly Lion from “The Wizard of Oz”

4. Using oxymoron – combining what normally cannot be combined (e.g. poor and rich):


5. Playing with homophones (words with a different origin and meaning but having the same pronunciation) or using “pun” – deliberately mixing two similar-sounding words:



6. Incomplete sentence (i.e. “you guess what should follow“):

Incomplete sentence

7. Lexical “distortion” – often used in slang – creating new words by intentionally incorrect word spelling:

Lexical Distortion

8. Semantic “distortion” (somewhat related to #2) – substituting one word in a set phrase with any other word for comic / unexpected meaning:


9. Playing with neologisms (i.e. creating new words):



10. Creating words that have two meanings and can be interpreted in two (often opposing) ways:

two meanings

11. Question-answer play: asking and instantly answering a question:

question answer

12. Repetition: intentional usage of one and the same word twice:



Post image: fish cartoon

The following two tabs change content below.
I am the owner of this blog as well as Brand and Community Manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas and Founder of MyBlogGuest, MyBlogU and

Similar Posts


  1. This is a great list to use for brainstorming titles even if you content wasn’t intended as linkbait. Thanks Ann!

  2. David LaFerney says:

    Good analysis. Titles are hard. “Ain’t it the Truth?” is actually a quote – The Cowardly Lion from “The Wizard of Oz”

  3. SEO Training says:

    Thanks for some great ideas. I Stumble you 🙂

  4. Florida SEO says:

    LinkBait Acronym …

    RTFM …


  5. @David, thank you! I didn’t know that! Citing is another good linkbaiting tactic by the way…

  6. Arnold - Mr.Gadget says:

    Good take on other link title strategies. Thanks for putting together and sharing 🙂

  7. This is a rather exhaustive list. Very well done and well researched.

    Of course, now that you’ve done it you’re going to see a lot more people starting to use these kinds of title tactics for future link baiting articles.

  8. Wow, some of the vocab brought me back to college. Nice list to keep handy when clients ask for suggestions on building titles.

  9. Nice post Ann.. Very fun.. Neologisms are my favorite!

  10. Isaac D. Van Wesep says:

    Like everyone’s been saying – what a great set of title ideas. If you hate this stuff you should take a look at one of your local newspapers: the Boston Herald. The headlines will make you crazy.


    Smart girl excellent observation
    Great post see you around

  12. Great post Ann. I’ll add one to your list – BREVITY.

    A tactic used by the NY Post, whose best headlines are often one or two words that capture an event.

  13. Really nice article…The points made by and the photos are really excellent…
    Thanks for sharing with us..

  14. Flug Australien says:

    cool, I’ve never seen a linguistic analysis of linkbaits, but it’s really interesting. I especially like neologisms, but never seem to come up with good ones myself 😉

  15. What do you call linkbait about linkbait? Is it meta-linkbait? Thanks for the post. I’m thinking about writing a post titled: The Best 10 lists of linkbait on the internet.

  16. I like the incomplete sentence hook. And now for something completely different we have …

  17. really cool tips … very creative
    playing with titles is very important to get the attention
    sometimes I leave blanks in my titles or wrong sequence
    very effective way to grab the attention


  18. HR Software says:

    We tried a question answer play – aimed at our predominantly female audience we’re targetting – “need a new pair of shoes? Get a new HR system to save you time to shop”. It worked much better than the ususal deal sentence we had used prior. Even our male viewers found it caught their attention as their response rate hit higher,

  19. lusty trailers says:

    My favourite is the incomplete sentence. I was saying the other day to my girlfriend, why do you wear that? It makes you look

  20. Thanks for all the great ideas, i kind like the Question-answer play and will use it on my social media post,


  21. Almost exhaustive list. Which one do you think works best?

  22. Groovy Tube says:

    @SEO firm to be honest I think each works just as well as each other pretty much, as long as they are creative enough.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.