A Cautionary Tale of Clickbait (#5 Might Shock You!)

Business woman holding her head in frustration from falling for clickbait

Have you been tricked with clickbait? While browsing the web or social media, an eye-catching headline causes you to stop scrolling. The title might annoy you, but you still click through anyway. If you recognize this scenario, it’s likely that you’ve seen a clickbait headline. Clickbait ads and titles can be very effective when done correctly, but they can also backfire.

Don't be tricked by clickbait.

What is Clickbait?

Clickbait is a type of misleading advertisement that uses hyperlink text, graphic image or photo devised to attract and entice users to click through.

Why Clickbait is Used?

People can use clickbait techniques for both good and bad purposes. On the good side, you have the promotion of quality content to a large audience. In the middle, you have the viral promotion of average content for the sole purpose of generating revenue.

Clickbait: Never, ever use a tragedy to sell your products. It's a quick way to sour your reputation.

It’s possible to use clickbait ads and attractive headlines to boost your website traffic. Here are five tips that will help you use clickbait-y headlines to your advantage:

1. Clickbait Headlines and Titles: Don’t Be Misleading

One of the biggest reasons why many readers dislike clickbait-y articles is because the headlines often don’t accurately represent the content. When crafting your headline, be sure that your content delivers what the reader expects. Never publish a headline simply to entice readers into clicking through – doing so will foster distrust among those who may be potential customers.

2. Know When to Avoid Using Clickbait

The popularity of social media has made writing interesting headlines even more essential, as many readers will share content without even reading the article. However, it’s not always necessary to use clickbait-y headlines to capture readers’ attention – simple, informative headlines can be just as effective.

When creating headlines, focus on what appeals to your audience. Many clickbait sites use headlines to drive traffic and increase advertising revenue, but your business may not rely on that source of income. If ad revenue isn’t a concern, don’t feel obligated to always use a clickbait-y title. Ultimately, a straightforward title that leads to valuable content will be the most effective.

3. Be Aware of Facebook’s Rules

The largest social media network in the world, Facebook has defined several rules when it comes to using clickbait content. Online marketers should look to Facebook for guidance when crafting headlines as well as blog posts and other content.

In 2016, Facebook introduced new algorithms that would penalize publishers who utilize misleading or vague headlines with the sole purpose of garnering clicks. Posts that are considered too clickbait-oriented will appear less often in News Feed and may even have a lower position.

Facebook currently services almost 1.3 billion users, making it wise to follow its rules. In fact, it’s smart to apply their rules to all your content, not just headlines. Best practices regarding content can be found on the company’s website.

Clickbait: Don't create a purposely misleading or overly complicated title.

4. Don’t Add Call-to-Actions to Headlines

Readers click on headlines when they expect the content to be informative and engaging. While it’s fine to include a call-to-action within your content, a CTA should never be part of a headline. Pitching to potential customers through your headline can greatly decrease the number of clicks your content receives.

5. Avoid Taking Advantage of a Tragedy

When a newsworthy tragedy has just taken place, it’s tempting to use the event to bring more readers to your website. Known as “newsjacking,” this practice involves inserting your brand into the news, which can grab people’s attention while they’re already interested in a story. Newsjacking can reflect poorly on your company and can cause a public backlash.

While newsjacking a tragedy usually is in poor taste, relating your brand to a non-tragic event can be effective. Exciting events like the solar eclipse or an upcoming sporting event are great opportunities to showcase an upcoming sale or promotion.

Final Thoughts

Clickbait titles do have their place, but it’s important to assess your audience’s needs before including them in your marketing strategy. By avoiding the mistakes of the clickbait sites and creating relevant, interesting headlines, you’ll be able to grab readers’ attention and drive additional traffic to your site.

Blog Strategy to Drive Real Traffic

Avatar for Eric Steiner

Eric Steiner

Eric Steiner graduated with an MFA in professional and creative writing from Western Connecticut State University in 2014. He's worked on a number of professional writing projects with clients such as Pearson Education, WatchMojo.com, and Michael Mailer Films. Giving brands a voice is his passion.


Avatar for Eric Steiner

Eric Steiner

Eric Steiner graduated with an MFA in professional and creative writing from Western Connecticut State University in 2014. He's worked on a number of professional writing projects with clients such as Pearson Education, WatchMojo.com, and Michael Mailer Films. Giving brands a voice is his passion.