You saw the headline of this blog post and thought, “what if I am accidentally writing clickbait?!” Congratulations, the title of this post successfully got you here. Don’t worry, I’m going to actually cover clickbait in full, so I didn’t trick you. You can *phew* now.
If you’ve been on the internet, you’re probably no stranger to clickbait. It’s everywhere, really, since there’s millions of blogs and what-not competing for our attention. When we scroll through Google, the WordPress.com reader, or even our favorite news outlet as we sip tea in the morning, we click on what appeals to us.
And that’s why many writers use catchy headlines to “bait” your attention. They know you’re going to click on “I accidentally died, but I came to life. Here’s my story” rather than “Joe had a near-death experience at the hospital.”
You’ve probably done this if you’re trying to stand out and get clicks, but you also might unintentionally be writing clickbait titles. Here’s how you can identify and prevent yourself from writing misleading headlines.
What is clickbait?
In order to find out if you’ve been accidentally writing clickbait, we need to define it. Clickbait when you publish something (a blog post, video, etc.) with an enticing title.
The purpose of clickbait is to get the user to click on the posting regardless of whether or not the content meets the user’s expectation. The “bait” part is the title that lures people in to click, which is that sensational headline.
Is clickbait bad?
Clickbait usually has a negative connotation associated with it because it refers to articles, videos, and blog posts that don’t offer what their titles promised. As a result, the user feels cheated because they didn’t receive what they wanted. If the user got what the promise delivered, it really wouldn’t be “bait.”
Here’s an example — a blog posts says it will give you the “secret” to saving money. It talks about having more money to do things with your friends, but doesn’t actually give you any applicable ways to save money. Maybe the article says if you want the secret, you have to buy their full e-book. This is clickbait because you thought you were getting ways to save money, but you really received just an ad for a book.
Why does clickbait exist?
Clickbait exists because everything on the internet is competing for the a user’s attention. Every day, millions and millions of videos, articles, stories, etc. are published online.
Websites have an incentive to clickbait because the more page views they get, the more people see their ads. And when people see their ads, they get more money. The simple reason clickbait exists is for people to capitalize on that sweet, sweet ad revenue.
Since people browsing online can’t possibly consume every piece of content, they’ll click on what appeals to them. That means many websites will write headlines to get clicks and views. And when they get their views, the dollar bills roll on in.
However, just because there’s a fancy title doesn’t mean the article gives value to the reader. That’s why readers consider clickbait something that deceives them.
Clickbait can devalue your brand or website over time since people will bounce from your page and won’t stick around for more. That’s why it’s better to focus on building credible, accurate content that delights your readers and moves them through more articles than the one you just published. The goal as a writer is to establish credibility and become a leader in your chosen topic.
The psychology of clickbait
The reason clickbait works is it entices us to want to learn more. Titles such as “this one food can help you lose 10lbs easy” or “My one weird habit made my teeth sparkling” has us asking questions “what” and “how.”
When we click on clickbait, we’re curious to know the story. We wonder if we can use this piece of knowledge and apply it to our own lives to make them better.
How clickbait loses trust
Your audience comes to your blog to receive credible, accurate information. That means if you make a bunch of promises but don’t deliver, you risk losing eyes on your blog due to writing clickbait.
So clickbait can turn people away because readers didn’t get what they were searching for. Clickbait can be seen as manipulative, and people will be less likely to check out the rest of your site since they’ll assume your content’s filled with it (even if it’s not).
Think about this: have you ever watched a Youtube channel with a great title but disappointing content? You probably weren’t eager to check out the rest of the channel after the clickbait video. The same applies to your blog.
Your goal should be preventing yourself from writing clickbait, since you might not even know you’re making it.
How to Identify Clickbait on Your Blog
Okay, so we know clickbait is a misleading title or headline. But now we need to identify the difference between a snazzy, great headline and one that would fall under clickbait.
How to find clickbait
Finding clickbait on your own blog isn’t always easy, but you can identify what articles are clickbait a couple of ways.
- Bounce rate. If you have an analytics tracker, you can see how long people stay on your page. Are they immediately leaving after thirty seconds? Or do they decide to browse the website for more content?
- “Fluffing” up a story. Did you try to make something seem more exciting by telling a white lie in the title? If so, you probably wrote some clickbait.
- Your comments. Are people providing more of an analysis on your topic? Some people might be doing this because you didn’t provide the answer.
- Does the article “fall off.” Did your article no longer receive page views after the week it’s published? Maybe it did extremely well and now there’s crickets. If your article was short, shallow, and didn’t provide much information, it probably fell out of Google’s favor, and might be clickbait.
Take the time to go through your articles and see what ranks. Clickbait probably doesn’t do very well, and you might need to add more to those articles or write entirely new ones.
Ways to avoid clickbait
Here’s some thoughts on avoiding clickbait on your website:
- Ask a friend to read your article and title. Prior to publication, find a friend that’s willing to look over what you wrote. Ask them if the title of the article is something they’d read. After they answer, have them read your article. Ask them if the title suits the article, or if there’s something better that might catch their attention.
- Come up with 5-10 different titles. You can brainstorm more than one title for your blog post. This will help you find different ways to catch reader’s attention and think about the content you’re presenting. Having different options is a good way to evaluate your work and think in-depth what you’re trying to get at.
- Think about the article’s core. What is your article offering once you get down to the meat of it? Whatever it is, it should probably be in your title and keywords, too. This will help you avoid clickbait and stay within the realms of what you’re talking about.
Is clickbait ever good?
So can clickbait ever be good? The answer is simple: it depends.
If you’re out to deceive people for page views and ad revenue with your 500 word article, probably not. Those fake news sites and articles published are looking to take people’s time for their own gain.
But if you’re a blogger and your goal is to deliver quality information to your readers, then I’d say the sensational headline is worth it. After all, it’s perfectly fine to be creative with your titles, so long as your article actually provides what you promise.
It’s important to note we don’t really associate “great headlines” with “clickbait.” When you share an awesome article with a great title, you don’t write on Facebook, “check out this great clickbait article.” Instead, you write, “check out this interesting article about fill-in-the-blank.”
See how that works? We don’t think of content that satisfies our expectations as “clickbait.” That’s why you should strive to write content that matches what you’re offering.
What are your thoughts on clickbait?
There’s a lot of different ways of thinking about clickbait and how people use it on their blogs. What are your thoughts on the topic? Let me know in the comments below.
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