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What is clickbait?

Clickbait refers to the advertising/marketing tactic of writing sensationalized headlines, images, or captions to grab a user’s attention and encourage clicks on a piece of content.

The main aim is often to make the content seem more enticing than it might actually be.

Mostly, clickbait is used in a dismissive sense by exaggerating claims and leaving out important information playing on reader emotions just to encourage traffic to a website.

Nevertheless, clickbait can be used positively if the content provided is worthy of benefitting the users. In such cases, there is no harm in crafting enticing headlines or captions.

Clickbait content usually contains:

  • A catchy or fascinating headline
  • A strong bid to emotion
  • Scanned content optimized for reading on the web
  • Amusing/funny copy
  • Content intended for sharing on social media

Clicks are important for expanding your reach to a larger audience. To get more clicks, a strategic approach can play a significant role. In the following sections, we will learn how to do so.

Why is clickbait effective?

Clickbait works by tapping into genuine human emotion and curiosity and piques your interest in topics or news. It is so powerful in nature that we end up clicking content even when we know the writer has used clickbait techniques to grab our attention. Some of the traits of headlines that make clickbait effective are:

  1. Regardless of the product, headlines with suspenseful language and storytelling effects attract the audience. Eg: “you can’t believe what happened next…”
  2. When using empty and unresolved pronouns, there is an information gap that plays on the reader’s curiosity and the psychological feeling of wanting to know more. Eg: “that’s all you need…..” 
  3. Action-based headlines encourage the readers to act on the call of action. Eg: “look, watch, find out, see, etc.”
  4. The reverse narrative technique convinces the reader of the question. Eg: “experts believe this shampoo helps in hair growth. Is it true?”

When to avoid it?

Google’s Advertising policy, in order to provide a trustworthy platform for users, prohibits the below:

  1. Ads using clickbait tactics or sensationalist text or imagery to drive traffic. Examples are:
  • Ads claiming to reveal secrets, scandals about a product or service.
  • Ads using phrases such as ‘‘Click here to find out”, “You won’t believe what happened”.
  • Ads using altered images of body parts, real-life accidents, or disaster images to promote products.
  • Ads using “before and after” images to promote alterations to the human body.
  1. Ads that use negative life events such as death, illness, and accidents to induce feelings of fear, guilt, etc to take immediate action.

Effects of a bad clickbait

A bad form of clickbait content can affect the below:

  • Digital PR: If a website frequently uses outrageous clickbait tactics to lure traffic, the brand’s reputation may suffer in the long run.
  • Bounce rate: When a click through a clickbait heading results in some useless or irrelevant content, users are more likely to “bounce” away from the site, raising the website’s overall bounce rate.
  • Backlinks: Earning links from less credible or untrustworthy sites can reduce the page authority scoring hence lowering the page’s rank. 

The right way to use clickbait

When done in the right manner, clickbait can be one of the most effective ways to grab readers’ attention and drive traffic towards your content. When using clickbait strategies:

  • Focus on the customer’s issues and create content that educates and delights them.
  • Provide real value content to the readers rather than a misleading headline just to capture page traffic.
  • Provide practical information within linked pages to help readers achieve their goals.

Ultimately, success depends on two things:

  1. Creating bait in the form of compelling, honest, and engaging headlines.
  2. Delivering on promised content to satisfy your audience.

Here are some effective strategies to use clickbait wisely:

  1. Craft SEO-friendly titles and headings: Make sure the headlines and titles accurately represent the website content. Google’s most recent Page Title Update enables the search engine to replace any titles not matching the content.
  2. Relevance to the user’s search intent: Just like keywords, the available content should be relevant to the user’s search intent. VWO Insights provide data to determine the user’s behaviour.  
  3. Show links to other articles: Clickbait is not just for headlines, it can be used in different parts of a website. For example: showing a “recommended reads” section with catchy headlines at the bottom of blogs, or articles can increase the readers’ average visit time.
  4. Avoid extremity: Keep the headlines professional and crisp rather than exaggerated. For example:
    • Appropriate: 9 amazing ways to use coconut oil
    • Inappropriate: 9 crazy and UNBELIEVABLE ways to use coconut oil EVERY DAY!!!!

How to create clickbait headlines

  1. Use Google alerts for popular trends – Leverage on latest trends and news to engage with readers. Combine it with relevant keywords to boost your SEO.
  2. Use numbers – Numbers in content titles provide users with quick and efficient information in an easily accessible manner.
  3. Offer value to readers – Avoid being misleading and complete the headline promise through the content. 
  4. Include a teaser: A teaser in the headline suggests to the reader to expect something unknown. This curiosity leads to immediate audience engagement.

The above tips can be further tested, enhanced, and fixed with A/B testing. Read here about how VWO Testing can help identify gaps and update websites for better conversions.

Clickbait example

The smartwatch brand Blocks used clickbait headlines in its Kickstarter campaign.

By using numbers, Blocks exhibits the high value of its product, public faith in the campaign, and its shortage. 

The users reading this headline will not only be confident in the large community that supports Blocks but they will also be motivated to take immediate action before the campaign ends.

Kickstarter campaign
Image source: Neil Patel

To summarize, clickbait is neither bad nor good. If correctly used it can do wonders as a marketing strategy. As long as you provide your audience with value beyond the headline, there’s nothing wrong with encouraging clicks on posts.