Whether you’re on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, or just about anywhere else on the Internet, chances are you’ve been duped by a misleading yet alluring clickbait headline. To be fair, not all clickbait is misleading, and many marketers view it as another technique to drive traffic to their pages. On the other hand, some marketers advise abandoning the practice completely, lest you risk offending and irritating your audience.
To clickbait or not to clickbait? It’s a fierce debate, so let’s break down the pros and cons of this infamous marketing tool so you can make an informed decision before using it in your own content and posts.
I did also want to take a moment to define clickbait. Generally, it’s a headline or image that’s extremely appealing and fosters intrigue, and can be posed as a question. It can often be misleading or an outright lie.
Some examples of clickbait headlines include the following:
- This one weird trick obliterates belly fat.
- Incredible! What was he thinking?
- I can’t even right now, I just can’t. This can’t be real.
- Baby panda meets her mother for the first time. Can you believe what she does?
There are many other types and genres of clickbait headlines, but most of them seem to follow the same patterns.
Pro: More Traffic
The first and most obvious benefit of clickbait is, if you do it correctly, it’s going to help drive a lot more traffic to your pages, especially if you weren’t writing compelling headlines to begin with. Whether you’re posting on Facebook or YouTube, clickbait headlines help attract more eyeballs to your post. In fact, the primary reason you see a Facebook feed running rampant with clickbait is that marketers know it works.
It’s a proven strategy to get more engagement, likes, and comments on your content, which in turn helps fuel the social media engine to drive more leads to your page.
Con: Misleading Headlines
If it’s misleading, a bad clickbait headline could increase a page’s bounce rate. A higher volume of clicks isn’t necessarily better than a lower volume of high-quality leads. There’s no worse feeling after discovering you’ve been duped or scammed by someone on the Internet. Furthermore, bad clickbait headlines can fill a visitor with a sense of disappointment.
For example, if you really hype up a video you just posted and use words like “amazing, incredible, or unbelievable” and the video is really none of these things, you’re going to have one bored, unhappy visitor who’s much more likely to bounce. Even if they stay on your page to riffle through some of your content, do you think they’re in any mood to take action? Do you think they’re going to trust you? Hmm, probably not.
Pro: Greater Chance of Shares and Viral Content
Because clickbait headlines are so magnetic and enticing, you not only have a greater chance of driving more traffic to your site but also stand a better chance of that content going viral. The more people that see your link, click on it, and like the content (assuming you didn’t mislead or annoy them), the chance of users sharing it with their friends is much greater.
Again, the lead volume isn’t always superior to lead quality, but by and large, having a post go viral is obviously a dream come true. The key to producing content and headlines that people want to share is truthfulness. Sure, with regards to clickbait, you can lead them on a little. But make absolutely sure you don’t lie to them or warp their expectations. It’s a fine line to be sure, but so long as your headline doesn’t irk your audience, you can get residual traffic from shares and hopefully go viral.
Con: Visitors Are Privy to Clickbait, and They’re Tired of It
Buzzfeed, if not the initial purveyors of clickbait, certainly have used it far more often than the average marketing entity. The problem is sensational headlines have some of their potency because users have been down the clickbait rabbit hole too many times. They know what to expect, and whether or not to trust a link based on the title. If they get too many clickbait vibes, the sensational headline can actually be a turn-off.
Pro: Opportunity to Showcase Other Content
You’ll notice than any clickbait pages you visit almost always have links (with high-quality images, of course) to related posts. Sometimes I see people insert questionable affiliate marketing links on their pages, but you can certainly use your clickbait posts as a way to drive traffic to other pages via internal links. If you can entice readers to browse through your content, the chances of getting them to take action are higher.
Placement is certainly key as well. Take a look at a Buzzfeed post (or most other clickbait producers) and notice where the links and images are located. Typically I see a bar at the top with 5-10 quality images, and then more on-site links farther down at the bottom of the page.
Con: Poor Readership
Just because someone clicked on your link doesn’t mean they’re going to read your content. Just think how many times you’ve scanned a clickbait article to see if it was legitimate. If a user doesn’t get the content they were seeking within a few seconds, they’ll bounce. And there are plenty of visitors who are only interested in video and image content.
They don’t want to sift through paragraph after paragraph to find the piece of digital eye candy they were promised. So even though clickbait may be an effective way to drive traffic to a video, it isn’t necessarily the best means of communicating through long-winded textual posts.
Personally, as the leading specialist in running SEO and SEM for window treatment and awning companies, I think the overuse and abuse of clickbait is a bad thing and would recommend that you only use it sparingly or not at all. There’s a fine line between clickbait headlines and compelling headlines, but I think most people can identify clickbait when they see it. Try to engage and compel your leads without tricking them.