Clickbait (© golubovy / Fotolia.com)
Clickbait (© golubovy / Fotolia.com)

Clickbait is a type of content that doesn’t have the very best reputation. Generally, this is considered to be content that has been developed with the sole purpose of getting clicked, with quality be-damned. Worse, clickbait very often actually fails to deliver on its promise. In other words, it has very little to do with the title that was so shocking that it convinced the world-and-his-wife to click on it.

You’ve probably encountered this type of content on social media. These are the blog posts that get shared with titles like:

“A Women Walks Onto a Train Wearing Just a Scarf. You Won’t Believe What Happens Next!”

To a lesser extent:

“10 Ways to Transform Your Health and Your Life – Number 4 Will Shock You!”

These posts use some kind of mystery or suspense in their title in a bid to make them highly clickable. However, the problem is those same posts will very often deliver nothing when you click on them. They might be about something completely different, they might be covered in adverts, or they might be derivative and simply not as good as they sounded.

Why Clickbait is Bad

Clickbait is a bad practice. It has been very successful for a large number of people, for a very long time. As such, it has become overdone and because of that people have largely stopped falling for it.

Not only that, but clickbait is a surefire way to ensure you have zero engagement with your visitors. Remember: it is not simply getting people to your site that matters. What’s far more important is that you are bringing people to your pages who actually want to be there and who might buy from you in future, who might like your page and who might share your content around.

If people click on your site, feel they’ve been tricked or conned into going there and then feel as though they aren’t getting any value from it… Well they’ll leave and they probably won’t come back.

BUT that isn’t to say there’s nothing to be learned here. In fact, if you get this right, there’s lots to take away from clickbait. The key is to see what those titles are doing right to get the clicks and then to make sure your site lives up to its own hype. The risk is that we throw the ‘baby out with the bathwater’ so to speak.

How to Write a Provocative Title

When you run a website, you have lots of goals and these will vary from webmaster to webmaster. Maybe your sole intention is to promote your business, or maybe it's to get clicks on adverts. Then again maybe it's just to get the word out there and to share your interests. Whatever your purpose though, one thing is crucial to achieve any of it – and that's traffic.

In short you need to bring people to your site, and then you need to hold their attention for long enough to keep them there so that you can send them your message or tempt them with a product or service. The question is – how do you do that? There are lots of ways of course, but one that's particularly effective is to use controversial and provocative titles, and that's what we'll be looking at here... How can you bring more traffic to your site through the use of clickbait-esque practices?

Adding Details to Titles

So, let's say that you have an article on how to lose weight. If you were to call it 'How to Lose Weight' then you would have done nothing to help it get read because it wouldn't stand out in any way from the hundreds of other articles out there. You need to think of the people who will be seeing your article, and about what is more likely to grab their attention.

One tip right away then is to be more specific and unique. To achieve this, you should simply summarize what's in your article, or pick out and describe a key interesting point or even your conclusion – and don't worry if the title is quite long. So, for instance you can have 'How to Lose Weight in 12 Steps' or 'How to Lose Weight by Having Less Sugar in Your Tea' or 'How to Lose Weight by Eating More Fiber'. Immediately then your title stands out more and is more descriptive and it tells the person whether they might be interested.

Secondly, don't be afraid to exaggerate – but not mislead -  in your title. So if your article was on losing weight by eating fiber, then you could make the title something like 'Lose Weight by Eating More'. Or 'How a Surprising Food Will Help You Shed Pounds'. This instantly grabs attention and again makes sure that your article stands out from the crowd. You can also ask questions in your title (that will be answered in the article) which is a great way to get the reader interacting and thinking.

 It’s a fine line between clickbait and just good tactics. Ask yourself: if someone clicks on that title, will they feel as though your content delivered? And will it be mistaken for clickbait and thus actually turn off potential visitors?

OpenPR tip: The key here is to think in terms of USP. Your article is a product. Your title is your ‘packaging’. What makes this article stand out? Why is it worth the reader’s time?

You can even go as far as to emphasize how quick and easy a read your post is!

We Need a Little Controversy

The other way to make your articles really grab attention is to make them controversial. Making short sharp sentences for your titles is a punchy way to get someone curious, and if these statements are controversial, or seem unbelievable then that's even better.

The statement you use for the title doesn't have to concur with the conclusion of your article – again as long as it isn’t misleading. For instance, then if you were to write an article on how to lose weight, you could put a very controversial spin on that by stating 'No More Excuses for Not Losing Weight?', or 'Is It Your Own Fault You're Overweight?'. In the article you would then point out that of course there are many more factors and in fact that people are often overweight for reasons outside of their control – but by using the controversial statement you get people to read.

Even if the reason those people read is because they are angry or because they don't believe what you've written is true – they're still reading and that's all you need to put your real message across. Any emotional response, and anything that gets them to stop in their tracks, will be far more likely to be read when they stumble across your site or see a link on a social networking site.

OpenPR tip: And note that controversial content is prime for sharing, prime for generating discussion and prime for massive engagement.

Clickbait – It’s Not All About the Title

Note as well that the success of clickbait isn’t always just to do with the title. What can often be just as important, is the role of the images you use and the description.

The title is what will initially grab attention. But from there, you also need to make sure that your description backs it up and explains why precisely anyone thinking about clicking should go ahead and click. What will they learn? What is your hypothesis? What is your controversial conclusion?

The image is even more important. As they say: an image can tell a thousand words!

Like your title, your image can intentionally leave out details in order to incite curiosity. That is often the case with true click bait, where you will see the top half of an image that looks interesting… then often the full image is never in the final content! You can do something similar by having an image of something that looks interesting – as long as you do show what that image is and explain in the post.

Note that certain images are also more likely to grab attention and turn heads. For instance: human faces have been demonstrated on numerous occasions to be among the most effective images for increasing engagement. This is especially true if the person is attractive, but that’s not even a necessity.

Likewise, think about the emotional hook and the value proposition. Why are people going to read this article? Is it to live a better lifestyle of travel and fun? In that case: show that in the image! Is it to get incredible abs? Then show that in the image.

Likewise, think about your target audience. Who is this for? And how can your title and your image communicate that? Again, it’s more important that the right person clicks your content than it is that lots of people click your content. Try to attract that ‘right person’ (Mr and Mrs Right if you will!) by ensuring the image explains the entire ‘vibe’ and ‘concept’ of your post.

 


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