He pressed “publish” on the blog post. What happened next will shock you.
In an age where attention is a valuable commodity, clickbait is the currency of the internet. You’ve certainly seen clickbait titles while scrolling through Facebook:
“Can we guess what [Character From Popular TV Show] you are based on you order at [Fast Casual Restaurant Popular with Millennials]?”
“[Popular Actor/Actress] had the best response to [Controversial Topic]”
“10 Secret Menu Items [Popular Coffee Chain] doesn’t want you to know”
You likely have succumbed to a clickbait headline and clicked, and then almost immediately felt duped when reading the actual article and it didn’t stack up.
You aren’t alone. Clickbait has (deservedly) gotten a bad rap for being misleading and disingenuous. But despite its negative connotations, clickbait titles still get clicks.
Why Clickbait Works
The science behind clickbait is really rather simple. The reason why people engage with clickbait isn’t all that surprising – clickbait is driven by emotion. It works by tapping into strong emotions like humor, sadness or shock. They work by luring you in with the promise of a strong reaction. Despite its prevalence online, clickbait is nothing new. It traces its origins all the way back to the 1920s with advertisement headlines like, “They Laughed When I Sat Down at the Piano But When I Started to Play! -”
How to Use Clickbait
While clickbait does work, you want to tread carefully. Clickbait may get you the page clicks, but misleading titles or disappointing content will send viewers scrambling. When you use clickbait in your titles, follow these best practices to keep your visitors engaged instead of turning them away:
1. Use Ambiguity Deliberately
One of the reasons why clickbait works so well is because it seizes on curiosity, exclusivity and challenge. In my examples back in the first paragraph, you can see this in action:
- “Can we guess what [Character From Popular TV Show] you are based on you order at [Fast Casual Restaurant Popular with Millennials]?” = Challenge
- “[Popular Actor/Actress] had the best response to [Controversial Topic]” = Curiosity
- “10 Secret Menu Items [Popular Coffee Chain] doesn’t want you to know” = Exclusivity
You can carry these principles into your own content by creating suspense in your titles (“10 Words Marketers Need to Stop Using” or “Marketing Secrets Your Agency Doesn’t Want You To Know”.) Once you drum up emotion you can set yourself apart from deceptive clickbait by following the next two tips.
2. Provide Information Upfront
One way to capitalize on strong emotions without manipulating them is by stripping away some suspense right away. Many clickbait articles deliberately take their time getting to their point so they can increase the reading time or squeeze in some strategically-placed ads. Instead of waxing poetic and repeating the same three phrases, make the true point of your article clear right in the first paragraph. People will feel less duped when they can see that you have a purpose and aren’t just trying to get empty clicks.
3. Walk the Walk
Avoid sour feelings by backing up your sensational title with sensational content. If your content can measure up to your title, viewers are more likely to forgive a little good-natured clickbait push to read it. Make sure the content of your blog post is reflective of the title and provides actual value to your readers. If they can walk away having learned something new or with a thought-provoking reaction, then your content delivered.
Clickbait is a tactic for getting more readers, but if you understand why it works you can use its power without misleading your readers. That way, what happens next won’t shock you.
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