What is clickbait? It’s usually an extra-attractive title promising some information that plays with a mix of your hedonistic desires to know more and your intellectual curiosity (ex. “These Workers Just Want Money, And You Won’t Believe What They Did To Get Some”). What follows is utter rubbish as the title was devised to simply get you to ‘click’ rather than having to deliver the goods regarding content.
Some sites make money from your click (usually from advertisers), so they try to lure you to read more. But since you’ve already clicked, they have no incentive to deliver. They are quite frustrating to the usual internet wanderer… mainly because they are SO. DARN. EFFECTIVE.
But why? Even though we are aware it’s bait, we often are powerless to its attractiveness and still click. These titles do a great job of activating an emotional response in you – delight, shock, horror. This emotional appeal compels us to click. The more extreme the sentiment, the greater the likelihood of a click. They also arouse our curiosity.
The more we want to know about something we might not know anything about, the more motivated we are to “click here to learn more”, otherwise we face a feeling of deprivation.
Clickbait often use lists, which help us categorize and break down complex issues. They also organize information spatially and in a more easily-digestible way, decreasing the energy required for reading. What’s more, because the click-bait rarely pays out – but OCCASIONALLY it does deliver on some spectacularly cute animal pictures – we’ve just turned click-bait into a form of gambling where the chance at having an occasional reward can become addictive. These variable rewards (where the payout – in this case, something that delights us) happens every now and again can get us hooked.
Clickbait does all this just in one headline.
Here’s the issue: now that nearly everyone uses the internet, pretty much everyone has been annoyed by clickbait. So when they see a very eye-catching title, they might not click out of fear that the content won’t deliver.
Does this put you in a catch-22 as a marketer? You want to create eye-catching titles for your content, but if your titles are TOO GOOD, you might get fewer clicks as the increasingly savvy interneters mistake your link for clickbait.
Here are some tips to avoid the clickbait trap:
1. Deliver on content. Every. Time. Create content that has a purpose, and that aligns with your title. Develop a relationship and a trust with your audience. Don’t invalidate this trust just to get clicks by over-exaggerating.
2. Make sure every post is related back to your website. Clickbait is always linked to an arbitrary, unheard of site. Having your name right in there creates trust.
3. Quality over quantity. Posting gold less frequently evokes the same psychological response as frequent posts but only occasional gold – it is addictive. Imagine getting hooked on a TV show (*ahem*… Riverdale) and having to wait for the next episode. You devour that content when you get it. It also communicates to your audience that you put thought into your output. Don’t let your name be associated with smut.
17. Avoid superlatives and lists in titles. This is the most common ‘tell’ or giveaway that a headline is clickbait. Yes, use language that evokes emotion to get people to click, but saying that an article about your business is “the most extreme ever… 44 reasons why” is a dead giveaway that you can’t deliver on that promise. What’s more, using superlatives decreases your audience’s perceptions of your authenticity in communication, because not everything can be the “cutest ever” or “most disturbing thing you’ll ever see”. Be careful how you craft your message.
18. Know that clickbait is not your competition. Because clicks are essentially free for the internet user, just because someone clicks on clickbait doesn’t mean they won’t click on your link (unless clickbait has frustrated them so much they throw their computer out the window). Utilise your SEO, visuals, and other experiential elements but do so tastefully in a way that demonstrates your company’s legitimacy.
At the end of the day, clickbait works. Don’t get sucked into the trap of using it or else you might alienate your online following.