Whenever you share one of these articles, you’re telling Google that it’s good, and that more people should read it. Social shares are part of Google’s algorithm, so when you click that “Tweet” button on a story about a Z-list celebrity saying something offensive, you’re helping to improve its search ranking.
And, when you link to it on your website or blog, there’s a good chance you’re giving it link juice. The default setting for links you create on your Wordpress blog is “dofollow.” When you create a dofollow link, the site you link to gets a small SEO boost (side note: this is one reason why guest-blogging is worth doing).
The other type of link is “nofollow”. These links don’t boost PageRank and don’t affect SERP ranking — so, if you’re linking to a trashy or offensive article, or trying to warn friends about an online scam you’ve discovered, this is the best option (although the links you post on social media are nofollow anyway).
So, what can you do? Well, you can not acknowledge the article or website at all, but that’s not much fun.
You can use the donotlink URL shortener to prevent the site from getting a search boost from your social share — but you can achieve the same result by making a plain text (non-hyperlink) link.
If you’re linking on your website, you can just create a nofollow link (although you’d have to be using HTML rather than the rich text editor).
But neither of those really solve the problem. When your friends click your link, the website is still getting ad revenue. Their search position might not improve, but they’re getting revenue, so they probably don’t care all that much (and you’re only one person. One less social share is not going to make a big difference anyway).
Take a screenshot, though, and the website gets no Google juice, no extra hits, and no ad revenue. And you still get to laugh at it with your friends (or rant about how much you hate it). Yay!
Do you share click-bait responsibly? Let us know your preferred method in the comments!