The derogatory term ‘clickbait’ is what we use to describe manipulatively enticing headlines designed to get attention and clicks.
According to Wikipedia, “Clickbait is a form of fraud… A ‘teaser’ aims to exploit the ‘curiosity gap’, providing just enough information to make readers of news websites curious, but not enough to satisfy their curiosity without clicking through to the linked content.” [Source]
Enticing, intriguing, and alluring titles and headlines for articles, books, ads, or video content are not necessarily fraudulent. The only fraudulent use might be titles that are misleading or inaccurate.
When Clickbait Doesn’t Work
If you write content for the Internet, either as informal blog posts or writing for established online news or magazine agencies, choosing an appropriate title is essential.
Using puns or creative, witty, sarcastic, and humorous, headlines, may attract those who see the title of your writing, but you’ll be wasting a valuable resource.
Search engines give the title of your posts greater weight than what is written in your post. So, ideally you’d want an accurate descriptive title that includes the keywords people might use in a search to find what you’ve written about.
The Original Clickbait Creators
NEWS. An example from television that we are all familiar with are the evening news promotions that have been so common:
- “A tornado may be heading your way now. More at 11.”
- “Is your drinking water safe? Maybe not. Tonight we’ll take an in-depth look.”
- “A tiger escaped from the zoo. Has it been found yet? Find out tonight.”
- “There’s been a recall of dangerous toys. Find out which ones on this evening’s news.”
You get the idea. These are enticements to get viewers to tune into a specific news broadcast. While today we consider such manipulative ads to be unethical, mainstream establishment news outlets have used the same technique for years.
BOOKS. Another example of enticing promotional ads would be self-help, weight loss, and nutrition books that make claims such as:
- “This one trick will help you win every negotiation. See page 57.”
- “Do this exercise each day for 5 minutes to lose weight fast. See page 32.”
- “This common food may be making you sick. See page 89 to learn more.
So, the person is enticed to buy the book in order to find out the secrets in the book.
YOUTUBE ADS. YouTube video ads are another example of enticing content that offers enough information to draw people in. These ads are usually about some money making scheme. You can get all the details if you click the link and signup for the free materials.
The Top 5 Clickbait Tricks
As promised, here are some common clickbait tricks that are used to attract readers.
TRICK #1 – Numbered Lists
Articles or videos containing lists are appealing because they are presumed to be organized, concise, and informative. Short lists are attractive because they give people a quick way to absorb information. Long lists are also attractive because they suggest comprehensive information.
TRICK #2 – Celebrity Scandal
A common trick is to refer to some celebrity scandal in a title. “You won’t believe what happened to Lindsay Lohan this time!”
TRICK #3 – Something Shocking
It seems to be human nature to slow down to gawk at something shocking — a car accident, fire, natural disaster, or similar event. So, having some shocking news is believed to attract people.
TRICK #4 – Current Trending News
Sometimes a current trending news story will be used to attract people to a topic that is highly popular. At a time when people are clicking on just about every story relating to a popular topic, the chances of getting a click are high.
TRICK #5 – Breaking News
People generally like current breaking news. This is why some news organizations will begin just about every story with a big “Breaking” graphic and dramatic soundtrack. Also, breaking news is assumed to be big news that is significant enough to take priority over other news.
TRICK #6 – A Secret
Promises of revealed secrets will attract people wanting to gain new knowledge or secret tricks that will help them get ahead of others. These are used in phrases like: “Here are the 5 secret ways you can attract men/women” or “The simple trick to make you popular with everyone.”
TRICK #7 – Forbidden Knowledge
The forbidden knowledge wording is similar to the revealed secrets mentioned above, but phrased differently. A typical title might read: “Your power company doesn’t want you to know about this trick to lower your electric bill” or “Here’s the trick you banker won’t tell you about.”
Spear Phishing and Clickbait
The combination of spear phishing techniques and clickbait are commonly used. When a product, service, or article are promoted in social media like Facebook, the audience can be specifically crafted and targeted.
For example, ads on Facebook can be targeted to a specific age group. So, an ad might say, “If you’re in your 60s you need to know this now” or “If you’re over 70, this new tax rule could save you a lot.” The only people reading those ads will meet the criteria of what’s stated in the ad and will be more likely to click.
Special interests or geographic location can also be used to target specific groups of people. “If you live in Chicago and like books, you need to see this!” The only people seeing that ad will be those living in Chicago who like books.
Referring to Trusted Sources
An additional trick is to reference a trusted source, such as, “These tips from the CDC will keep you from getting sick.” The link doesn’t go to the CDC website, but goes to a less reputable website with lots of ads and an article that makes some reference to the CDC, but perhaps without linking to sources.
Clickbait and Spam
The methods mentioned above are sometimes used in unsolicited emails. An example would be advertising sent via email to specific interest groups likely to open the email because of a specially crafted subject line. So, these are a kind of email form of clickbait.
Attractive Men or Women
When visuals are used in conjunction with clickbait, it’s common to have attractive men or women featured in the visuals. This is another example of a kind of manipulation that’s been used for decades by advertisers.
Clickbait and Time Wasting Sites
Clickbait is commonly used with time wasting websites such as Bored Panda or tabloids. The enticing articles, photos, GIFs and videos are designed to attract people to click. Once they arrive on that site, they see many ads showing up. The website owner receives revenue for the advertising. So there’s an incentive to draw as many people as possible.
A common technique used on these websites is to offer a list of something, such as the most attractive celebrities, biggest homes in the world, most amazing cars, or some similar topic. The list is not provided on a single page. Instead the reader must click the next button numerous times to go to the next page. Each time a page loads, more advertisements load. So, the advertising revenue is 10X (or more) higher than if it was a single page.
In summary, clickbait and related techniques are usually used by poor quality websites.
What Advertisers Need to Know
Readers and viewers tend to be annoyed by clickbait even if they end up clicking on it. They know they are being manipulated, and give in, but they don’t like it. So, it’s best not to use clickbait because it degrades the trust and respect people have in your brand, company, product, or service.
What Consumers Need to Know
Despite the allure of enticing headlines and titles, consumers should generally be reluctant to click on anything that seems to be manipulatively crafted.
Consider the source of any link you are about to click on. If you’re on Facebook, you should be able to see the website that the link will send you to. Is it a trusted source?
When you see clickbait content, try to avoid it and don’t share it.
Of course, this article is an exception! Please like, share, subscribe, and comment for a chance to win in our next big giveaway!