Emotionally Engage or Enrage

I just got done talking with a pretty sharp reporter about some SEO stuff. He had done far more research than most reporters I talk to, but still had one big misconception about the field of SEO...thinking it was largely about mechanical processes, hidden text, and other such tricks.

Market research, site structure, and on page optimization are important. Doing them well can double or triple the earnings of a site, but when you get into the big fields where people are deeply passionate or interested links are needed to win. And those links are often a reflection of our emotions.

When you look at your site do you find anything that is emotionally engaging? enraging?

As the web gets more efficient and search engines gather more data, those who evoke emotional responses will keep gaining marketshare while bland webmasters fall quietly into the abyss.

Published: August 12, 2008 by Aaron Wall in internet


August 12, 2008 - 10:39pm

This is a great point... it makes sense that those people who are inciting emotions are getting more traffic... likely getting emotion-infused comments... and possibly even cooled-down apology posts too!

The whole "I can't believe I just read this" forwarded email is one I've gotten and it's sure to get people talking.

... Makes it kind of tough when my blog is largely about starting to get back in to working out and about my soon-to-be-born twins. I've tried to supplement with additional content, but I don't want to drive away regular readers from those two initial niches.

August 12, 2008 - 11:21pm

Those niches are so different from one another that they might be better served as 2 different blogs? Unless the blog is about you more than about either topic.

August 13, 2008 - 9:18am

I think the goal of a website should be to keep the user at the level of strong interest. If you don't provide a means of keeping a user interested in your site their not going to be looking at your site for long.

Keeping that interest level there can be done in many fashions including getting them enraged or engaged about a particular topic.

yet another ben
August 13, 2008 - 4:56pm

A while ago I was overcome with the desire to 'revamp' a site that I was working on - the background colour, buttons, etc, were 'so 1990's', and as tempted I was to rehaul it, CSS it, web 2.0 style it, etc, I was won over by the quirkiness of the site in the end and kept alot of it's trademark characteristics.

I went with the a redesign, css-ing it to cut down on code, but the reality of it is that if somebody came back to the site the next day they would still feel that they were on the same site.

A css quirky, interesting and distinctive site is what we went with in the end, rather than a table-based quirky interesting and distinctive site, meaning that we kept our regulars happy and leapt in visitors.

Smiles all round :) - I'm pleased we kept the character.

August 14, 2008 - 4:50pm

Well, sometimes the way to be a leader is to be the one person in the room who stays calm.

Personally, I'm entirely burned out by the emotional style of politics: "Send us money, or they'll kill a baby!" or "Send us money, or they'll ban abortion!" Right or left, we're all victims of that stuff. I'll tune out anybody who's working on that wavelength, no matter what they're selling.

I'm working on one project which is taking the high road, focusing on a primarily seo-based strategy of being useful and "free" rather than "cool" or "funny" based on social media.

Early on I was looking at the compete and quantcast numbers of my "cool" and "funny" competitors and felt really intimidated by the traffic they were getting. Six months in, I'm now getting as much traffic on an average month that they got on a good month. I've found that search traffic makes me about 5x the revenue per visitor. Most of my competitors gave up in two or three months because they weren't making money. Meanwhile, I've got a growing income stream that will keep coming even if I walk away from the site for awhile.

August 14, 2008 - 4:52pm

Congrats on the success. How saturated is the market you are in?

August 15, 2008 - 2:45pm

@CureDream, my sentiments too. It's harder to be useful than it is to be dramatic, so most people take the path of least resistance and post controversial opinions on something, or hype themselves to a ridiculous level.

Like you, I am burnt out by this - it's way more noise than it is signal. Quality content/services will attract discerning people, always - without the hype too. Bloggers like to link to useful stuff. If you want noise, there's always Digg or 4chan anyway.

August 15, 2008 - 7:13pm

Hi Aaron,

I find myself with a slightly unusual problem. I'm quietly building a cool, calm, collected and hopefully useful not for profit website about a variety of global issues (so I guess it counts as politics) when something that enrages me happens. Lots of innocent people start getting killed in the Caucasus. For reasons connected with what I'm already blogging about.

How enraged should my writing become in order to engage my audience. Should I aim my writing only at those who are already as enraged as I am, or should I aim to convert those who are currently just sat on the fence?


August 15, 2008 - 11:55pm

Hi Jim
Hard for me to suggest a specific limit for you...but it helps if you get people to spread the word beyond the current circle if you want to help cause change.

August 18, 2008 - 11:29am

Thanks for the suggestion Aaron.

Sticking with SEM for the moment, how relevant are Google's results these days? This morning I Googled "georgis poland" (without the quotes). Number 2 out of 72,000,000 was this Yahoo! answer. Even after I added my 2 cents worth I fail to see why Google's bots figure this should be anywhere in the top 1,000, let alone on the first page.

August 18, 2008 - 4:52pm

Yahoo! Answers has a lot of domain level PageRank and authority.

August 18, 2008 - 4:16pm

P.S. Actually I Googled "georgia poland". TyposRUs!

If I really do Google "georgis poland" the same answer is currently number 2 out of 200,000,000.

August 18, 2008 - 6:21pm


It's easy to be a drama queen, but to consistently emotionally connect to people is harder than most people think. I know so many people who want to make the next cracked.com. That's a site which is connected with a magazine, can hire writers, and has a community around it. If you want to make "that" kind of a site, it's more realistic to try to make the next icanhazcheezburger.com. Then you realize that real innovation in commedy takes a combination of genius and luck that few people are going to have.

My favorite example of linkbait today is


It's a pretty crappy site with very little content, but it ranks for a term with a lot of volume and has accumulated quite a volume of inlinks and pagerank.

I think a lot of people are intimidated by "useful" and think it's easier to be "cool" or "funny", but they're wrong.

August 18, 2008 - 6:35pm

There are a tons of PageRank to be had for sites like that ascii table. I have seen some sites in that area that ended up having the pages they linked at be strong PR7 and sometimes PR8

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