The art of clickbait: 7 good ways to use clickbait—must read!

Your attention is the hottest commodity in the modern world of technology — it’s called Attention Economy for a reason. However, while retaining it is important, getting it is even more important. You need to click on that youtube video! You need to open that article!

“You won’t believe…”, “What happened next will shock you…,” “Guess what happened…”, “…Number five will shock you”, “I made 1million dollars with this simple trick”, etc.

Examples of clickbait

As Derek Muller explained in a video about clickbait, platforms such as youtube needed a way to get their users to discover new videos outside of their subscribed channels without relying on external sources. This created a battle for attention and the challenge to be clicked by the content creators. Shady practices such as clickbait thumbnails and titles began to be used to beat the algorithm and get better Click-through rates (CTR).

What is Clickbait?

Clickbait is any content (video thumbnails, article headlines, etc.) designed to capitalize on our curiosity gap and attract internet users (viewers and readers) to click on web content from news articles to blog posts, infographics, videos, and more. Links that lead to content of uncertain value or interest are usually called clickbait. The content is often misrepresented or overpromised, leading readers to expect more than they will receive.

Why???

Youtubers are particularly notorious for using clickbait as it has proven to be one of the ways to beat the algorithm and grow their channels. Other notable clickbait practitioners are Buzzfeed, Upworthy, and The Huffington Post. Newspapers have been using clickbait as early as the 19th century when they discovered catchy headlines were the best way to attract new readers.

We cannot make up for the few minutes we wasted while waiting for the video about aliens to include the specific alien we saw in the thumbnail, nor can we be more upset about how insignificant “…number eleven will surprise you” is. Clickbait tends to damage the reputation of brands in the long run, so it is only effective for short-term boosts in clicks for those who use it.

No one can deny the effectiveness of clickbait at getting readers’ attention, but failing to satisfy their curiosity will lead you to lose the reader’s interest. This has a long-lasting effect as the user is less likely to click on other content from the same creator.

Several social media sites and search engines have added rules to their policies to discourage the use of sensationalist or misleading content. Google has specifically added policies that prohibit clickbait tactics or the use of sensationalist images or text to drive traffic with ads.

If the content underdelivers when compared to the title, it is clickbait. We can’t have an overarching judgment that all good titles that generate clicks are click baits, as what makes a title a clickbait shouldn’t be judged by the title alone. That leads to…

Legitbait

Legitbait is seen as clickbait that is enticing, but does not mislead the user. It is legitimate and delivers on what it promises to show. Also known as Type I clickbait, the term was originally suggested by Brady Haran (Numberphile on YouTube).

Using clickbait for the good of your growth and legitimately satisfying the readers’ or viewers’ expectations should be our target.

How to Legitbait

  1. Don’t lie. Provide your audience with the truth, and avoid misinformation.
  2. Exploit the curiosity gap. Provide just enough information to pique your audience’s interest and make them click.
  3. Deliver on your promise. Clickbait’s biggest problem is the content doesn’t always live up to the promises made in the title. Your audience will stop interacting with your brand if they feel they can’t trust your claims.
  4. Use numbers in your headlines. Numbers give your audience a sense of progress and actionable steps to achieve the goal of learning from your content. Additionally, numbered lists make it easier for readers to scan content and digest it.
  5. Test and analyze. Pay attention to your data. Test your clickbait headlines against other headlines to see which ones perform better. Don’t waste your time and energy on a strategy that won’t work.
  6. Write for more than clicks. The headline is just the beginning. What matters most is the quality of your content as a whole. The headline may attract readers, but the content will keep them on your page — it’s all about the attention economy.
  7. Provide more direct, plain, and descriptive information. Attention is more fragile than ever. The majority of readers skim, and most viewers skip your video if it is dull for the first few minutes (or seconds).

The video below is an example of what click-baiting titles content will look like if they have to deliver on their promises.

Sources:
Veritasium: Clickbait is unreasonably effective
5 Ways To Use Clickbait And Not Be Evil
Why Clickbait Works (And Why You Should Do More of It)

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Ahmed Arigbabu

Developer and user experience designer with a keen interest in cognitive and behavioral sciences, philosophy, and how things work. https://www.wonu.design