Clickbait has become a dirty word in the digital world. With social sites making moves to combat clickbait, it’s important for marketers to be sure they are writing compelling headlines, rather than headlines that could be classified as clickbait.
Here are some examples of clickbait headlines. Have you clicked on them? Were any of them helpful? Most likely, they weren’t.
- The Hot New Designer Everybody Is Talking About
- Car Insurance Companies HATE This New Trick
- This Video Shows You How To Master Relationships
- You Won’t Believe What Happens Next
- Learn How One Man Made $$$$ In His Bathroom
As you can gather from these headlines, elements of clickbait include:
- Vague language
Clickbait links are also notorious for not being what they purport to be and often lead the user to a site filled with ads or more clickbait headlines.
Why You Want to Avoid “Clickbait” Headlines
You might be saying to yourself “But if people are actually clicking on these headlines, they must be working!” There is an element of truth to that, but consumers are becoming savvier. They simply aren’t willing to put up with content that they find irrelevant or misleading. Competitor sites are just a click away.
Social media companies are also working hard to combat clickbait because users don’t want to be deluged with non-useful information. After all, the reason that people use social media is to connect with people and to enjoy themselves. No one is enjoying themselves when they feel like they’re being misled. Minimizing clickbait is taking on the same kind of importance that reducing spam once took.
How can sites tell when a story is clickbait? The most significant strategy right now is that social sites measure how long a user is on a site. If users are constantly bouncing from a given site, then it’s a sure bet that whatever content is on the other side of that isn’t meaningful, which means that the link that got them there wasn’t true to the information promised. Recently, there’s been a move to have users rate headlines that pop up to the top of their feeds, giving social media sites even more information about content quality.
Write Compelling Headlines
In the quest to get more eyes on your content, it might be tempting to try some of the tricks or language associated with clickbait, but it’s not necessary. Plus, with social sites actively combating clickbait, it could actually harm your brand. If you have great content to share, a compelling headline that is honest about what is on the other side of that link will appeal to your audience. Here are some tips for creating the click-worthy headlines that still have serious integrity.
Respect Grammatical Conventions
The first thing to note here is that compelling headlines follow grammatical conventions. You don’t need to rely on capital letters, symbols, or excessive punctuation to attract attention.
Be Clear & Specific
While a bit of a tease is ok, it’s best to be as straightforward as you possibly can be. People want transparency, not tricks. Let the reader know what your piece is about. If you find yourself having to spin headlines to draw in readers, then it’s time to rethink your content strategy.
Imagine someone reading the headline aloud to a friend as they’re scrolling through their social media feed. Does it sound awkward or conversational? Keeping your headlines readable and natural prevents them from feeling like a sales pitch to readers.
Use Details Appropriately
Only use details that are representative of the story. The big reason people hate clickbait is they feel betrayed when they click on a story that’s not about what the headline said it was about.
Offer Useful Content
This means genuine usefulness. The difference between clickbait headlines and compelling headlines is again (and yes this point continues to be reiterated) that clickbait does not deliver on its promises. Highlight actionable steps that readers can take from the content, but be careful not to stretch in an attempt to get them to bite.
Honesty is the Best Policy
It is better to be honest with readers than to betray their trust with misleading titles. Clickbait might work in the short-term, but it doesn’t build trust or long-time loyalty among consumers.
Featured Image: Image by Imaginovation. Used with permission.
In-post Image: Image by Imaginovation. Used with permission.
Subscribe to SEJ
Get our daily newsletter from SEJ's Founder Loren Baker about the latest news in the industry!