Clickbait has undoubtedly gotten all of us. Whether you admit it or not, anyone who has ever found themselves scrolling through Facebook has, at one time or another, fallen victim to yet another dreaded clickbait article.
The internet is awash with headlines that send us spiralling down a digital rabbit hole. And yet, every single time, we fall for it.
We find ourselves thinking that this time will be different. As our thumb hovers over the title, we think maybe this link really does feature the CUTEST dog picture of all time. Or that we couldn’t possibly live another second on this earth without knowing which ice-cream flavour we’d be.
If we didn’t click, it would simply keep us up at night (Buzzfeed, we’re looking at you).
But don’t worry, even us professionals aren’t safe from it either. Our content team is no stranger to pulling a clickbait stunt; most recently, we became victims of the Taylor Swift scandal of 2021 – thanks again, Aimee! Rest assured, Taylor Swift is alive and well (we checked), but we can confirm that we’ve never opened an email faster.
And that’s what clickbait does. It reduces concepts to basic emotional draws, grabbing you, the readers, attention through sheer curiosity. Despite its bad reputation and all of its flaws, clickbait can actually be used for good.
It’s become a fine line to walk on for us digital marketers to navigate. How do we ethically use clickbait curiosity? With this in mind, we decided to look at why clickbait works and how to utilise its benefits for good.
What is clickbait?
We’ll start with the basics. In case you aren’t already familiar, clickbait is a type of content – mainly in the form of headlines. Its primary focus is to drive up link clicks, and page views to a particular website and to capture people’s attention.
Different techniques such as a ‘call to action’ and eye-catching images are used by everyone across the internet – from scammers to mainstream headlines. Pretty straight forward, right?
Don’t overdo it!
Everything has a downfall, even clickbait. Much like Superman has kryptonite, clickbait has cliches and overuse.
It becomes a cyclical problem. People will click on a link, realise it’s clickbait. Then swiftly close it, swearing to never again fall for it. The more this happens, the more people lose interest and patience with clickbait – making it ineffective, and for the most part, extremely annoying. Kind of like the age-old tale of “the boy who cried wolf”, the more clickbait is used, the fewer people care about it. Or in this instance, the boy who cried, “what kind of bread are you? Take the quiz”.
People will often go out of their way to avoid clickbait – there’s even a Twitter account called ‘Saved You A Click’ (with over 265k followers) dedicated to preventing clickbait articles and ads!
To avoid this happening, using clickbait in moderation is the way to go. Encouraging your audience to view content should be done without sacrificing your brands’ reputation. When it comes to your brand, content is always king. Capturing your audience’s attention is one thing, but holding their attention and keeping them engaged is what matters. In a study, Chartbeat found that “55% spent fewer than 15 seconds actively on a page”, which is why focusing on more than just a headline is essential.
Using clickbait too often can negatively impact your brands’ credibility in the long run. In terms of email marketing, too much clickbait can actually hinder your click-through rate (CTR). Certain words and phrases such as “shocking”, “secrets”, and “you won’t believe” can reduce your CTR on average by 9% when used too often!
Even platforms such as Facebook, for example, have started the process of eliminating clickbait from its news feeds. They do this through algorithms – which prioritise the content that people would like to see. Going forward, using clickbait techniques sparingly is always the best option.
Make it stand out
The key aspects of making your clickbait stand out from the others are to make it funny, original and relatable.
For example, in marketing, using a phrase such as, ‘5 Problems Only Writers Will Understand’ is relatable and a definite way to attract writers’ attention (we’d most likely click on it). And for the most part, relatable content equals shareable content. So, creating relatable content will naturally result in more organic shares and impressions – a win-win situation, really.
In terms of standing out, humour is also a great way to make your link more clickable. In a survey, 70% of consumers said they find companies who use humour a lot more relatable and would be more inclined to view their content!
More recently, when we look into clickbait humour, a pattern or trend is usually followed. Lately, there’s been an influx of fashion brands who promote outlandish products with the sole reason of attracting attention.
Instagram account Asbos Sos (@Asbos_SOS) has made a name for themselves by taking product images from the ASOS website and posting them on social media. In fact, over the past few years, it has become somewhat of a viral trend among fashion sites.
Zara has become a clickbait phenomenon with their model’s bizarre poses, making some hilarious memes and content that the internet eats up every time. And do they do it on purpose? Probably – you’ll find that many people visit their website intending to find content for social media. The likes of Topshop and Balenciaga have also gotten involved with the satirical clickbait.
Another of our favourite stand out clickbait trends was during the American election. Many people would publish dramatic headlines with a link that directed you to the voter registration website – pretty genius in our opinion.
If you’re looking for ways to be original with your clickbait, definitely consider following these fashion brands by example and start thinking outside the box.
Look at language
When we look into how clickbait works, the recurring theme is the language used. In fact, there’s a psychology behind it. Unresolved pronouns, suspenseful language and action words are the main attributes for catching the viewers attention.
The language you use concerning clickbait will determine whether your content will be clicked on or scrolled past and ignored. The trick is to use engaging language, which will draw the attention of the reader. As an American journalist, Otto Fredrich nicely put it, clickbait is “the art of exaggerating without actually lying”.
In the world of clickbait, “need to know”, “look”, and suspenseful language such as “you’ll never guess…” will become your best friend. Adding this phrase to anything will instantly make your headline more clickable. As well as using specific language, having variety in your content is also essential.
Nowadays, two-thirds of Americans prefer to source news from social media, so using clickbait the right way is more important than ever. Adapting different tones, such as informal and formal, and trialling different techniques will help you to understand what your audience is more interested in.
Deliver on promises
Finally, one of the most effective things you can do in relation to clickbait is to deliver on your promises. Don’t put all the attention on your headline and neglect your content. Focus on the curiosity gap in your headline but make sure your content keeps your audience’s attention.
When it comes to your main content, make sure it is clear and precise. The majority of those who click on a link prefer the information to be skimmable – so make sure your content is tailored to that!