Lately, the era of content marketing has given a rise to clickbait. What is clickbait? It’s the use of a hyperlink, thumbnail, or headline that’s misleading or sensationalized just for the sake of grabbing people’s attention and make them click on that content and watch that video or read that article. It’s basically a way to deceive a person into coming to your website or account and engaging with your content.
Websites like BuzzFeed and even creators on YouTube use clickbait as an art form. But even with this popularity, experts have been questioning the existence of clickbait and whether it has a future in the industry. So why do creators and publishers use clickbait? And what are its pros and cons? You can make quite an argument when it comes down to these questions, and this blog discusses just that.
The What Behind Clickbait
Clickbait is sensationalizing content for the sole purpose of gaining people’s attention. This content can be anything e.g. news headlines, blogs, videos, interviews, infographics, etc. They’re written just to make you click on a specific webpage and view its contents. In a way, it’s an attempt to prey on our curiosity, and how do they do it? By giving us the relatable content piece we’ve been searching for.
Think about it, if you came across a title that says “Watch how this man became a billionaire in just three months after beginning his start-up” who wouldn’t want to watch it? Don’t we all thrive to become successful immediately after beginning on a new path? And a video promising to tell us exactly how we can do that is the guide every one of us needs.
In the above image, the only thing Ronaldo had said was “It’s sad to see Messi go”, which wasn’t much of a shock, to begin with. But that’s the thing about clickbait; only because it promised to show us something doesn’t mean that it will show us exactly that. Clickbait uses a few characteristics to entice the audience to click on a particular piece of content, these include an eye-catching headline, the easily skimmable content piece, funny and relatable videos or pictures, etc. BuzzFeed attracts more than 5 billion page views per month, 10 million views per day, just with the use of clickbait.
The Why Behind Clickbait
The one reason publishers and content creators use clickbait is to get more views on their website. Since Google and every other platform’s search algorithms encourage more and more page views, clickbait is one way owners can bring traffic and views to their page. The goal is to create an emotional appeal through the content which will lead to a person wanting to know what that content is all about.
Clickbait relies on our anticipation and also provides with a list that we can rely on because we know it will end, e.g. titles as ‘10 Things You Need to Be Happy’ or ‘5 Facts You Never Knew About Soft Drinks’ you become inclined to click on those headlines to read what it’s all about, and because they provided you with a number, you know the content will end sooner than later and hence you don’t see any harm checking it out.
More Social Shares:
We’ve already discussed that Clickbait leads to more page views, another benefit of clickbait is that it leads to a number of social shares. How does that happen? By appealing to people’s emotions. The stronger the emotional appeal, the more social shares it can result in. Which emotion to target, though, can be the question where most brands can get stuck. But most experts suggest there are 6 strong emotions that can be targeted through clickbait. These are anger, sadness, disgust, joy, surprise, fear.
Creating a clickbait targeting one or multiple of these emotions can lead to your next viral post.
Once you start getting more page views and social shares, it’s a given that more people are going to be hearing about your brand and visit your page. This will lead to people knowing more about your brand. Brand awareness is a priority for content marketing and clickbait is a good way to reach this goal.
More than half of clickbait content is misleading. They promise one thing, but once you open the article or video, you find details of something either irrelevant or you already knew. Take a look at this screenshot as an example.
The article only discusses how masks were going out-of-stock in the U.S. back in the early days of the pandemic when the virus hadn’t actually travelled globally but people were starting to get anxious. It doesn’t discuss too much about anything clearly, but the heading misleads you into thinking there is something wrong with masks.
That’s the problem with most clickbait content. You’re given a headline so misleading that it actually rouses your uncertainties. But upon opening the article, the truth seems to be something entirely different.
Back when BuzzFeed first began, clickbait was their personal strategy of luring the audience to the website. And it worked because not many brands were aware of the effects such a strategy could have when it came to their page’s traffic. Now, almost every other website tries using clickbait to appeal to the audience.
In the above example, the article seems to talk about the disadvantages of drinking milk. So anyone who does drink it will immediately click on the article to find out what’s it all about. But in reality, the only thing they discuss is how calcium isn’t as vital for adults as it is for children. Nothing dangerous, nothing threatening, just a fact that anyone who keeps up with their health would already be aware of.
Should You Use Clickbait or Not?
There is no doubt that clickbait can be dangerous with its use of misinformation. It’s also one of the fastest ways for an editor to lose trust over their audience. Being a marketer, your job isn’t to only go viral. It’s to provide value to your audience too. You can’t use clickbait as the only strategy to drive traffic. You need to provide quality content to go with it. This is especially important in today’s world where every algorithm is prioritizing quality-based content.
Have you ever heard the term “here for a good time, not a long time”? That rings true when it comes to clickbait. The goal isn’t to have a higher SEO ranking, it’s to drive as many people as possible to their site and have them engage in the content without actually providing anything valuable.
All we can say is that with the ever-changing algorithms of huge platforms, the technique of clickbait might change but it won’t necessarily go away. But, if used correctly, a brand can actually gain valuable customers through this tactic, while also providing quality content. Coming up with sensational and witty content can be a good creative exercising that can lead to developing your skills on a long-term. You just need to decide what you want your brand to represent when creating a clickbait strategy for you to follow.