Is clickbait good or bad? 

Over the years, clickbait has built a bad name and reputation for itself. More people are aware of the potential risks of fake news and disinformation, with 55% of US adults saying their government should take steps to reduce the amount of false information on the internet. 

However, the amount of clickbait continues to grow. This isn’t just causing problems for consumers but for marketers too. A report by media analysis company Ebiquity found that clickbait sites were having a significant effect on ad spend ROI, with $115 million taken up by this type of content. 

So it’s not surprising that most marketers don’t want to consider including clickbait in their strategy. However, there’s something to be said for creating content that can attract so much engagement. 

Read on to find the arguments for and against using clickbait as a marketing tactic. 

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What counts as clickbait?

Clickbait is any content that’s been created solely for the purpose of attracting click-throughs. It can include a range of media formats including blogs, videos or news articles. However, it’s mainly defined by the use of a headline or short statement that captures attention and hooks a visitor in to click and find out more. 

Examples of clickbait content titles include:

  • Earn $100,000 in these five steps
  • How doom-scrolling can shorten your life
  • Beauty products celebs can’t do without
  • Entrepreneur’s No.1 secret for success
  • The must-visit bars in London

Why does clickbait work?

As you can see from the examples above, clickbait works by using psychological tricks to persuade a person to click through and find out more information. They’re short pieces of copy crafted to attract someone’s attention and intrigue them enough to take action. 

There are a range of ways clickbait plays on people’s emotions to increase click-throughs: 

  • Addressing the reader directly using ‘you’ and ‘yours’
  • Appealing to individuals’ curiosity or sense of intrigue
  • Generate a feeling of FOMO (fear of missing out) 
  • Make them feel like they’ll gain valuable insights
  • Exciting them with gossip or exclusive knowledge

By taking advantage of human psychology, clickbait content makes people feel like they’d be losing out if they don’t go through to find out more information. 

It’s important to note that a key difference between clickbait and sales messaging is that it doesn’t directly ‘sell’ to the reader. Though clickbait content may play on the same psychology, it will provide the information, insights or stories promised in the headline. 

What are the downsides of clickbait?

There is a brand risk of doing advertising that feels very cheap.  It may generate clicks and traffic which can lead to sales or an increased valuation of your business, but it can also make you look cheap, spammy and untrustworthy.

Clicks don’t mean engagement

Clicks are just one metric of content performance. Although a visitor may come through to the page, it doesn’t mean they stay long enough to engage with your content. This will be indicated by a high bounce rate on these pages. 

If this is happening, your visitors aren’t fully interacting with your brand or being persuaded to take further steps to find out more. In turn, this means the content won’t return on the investment you’ve put into creating it. 

Clicks don’t mean quality

A lot of clickbait doesn’t deliver what it promises in the headline in its content. This leads to disappointment and dissatisfaction. If you don’t give your reader what you hinted at in the title, then at best you’ll come across as dishonest. At worst, you could be liable for defamation or disinformation claims. 

Plus, if you misrepresent facts or sensationalise a story, this could also be subject to legal action. This will do huge damage to your brand and make potential customers a lot less likely to engage with your content (never mind your products or services) in the future. 

Clicks don’t mean conversions

If your content is being clicked on but isn’t engaging people or offering them value, then they are unlikely to take further steps towards conversion. Also, many of the visitors who come through clickbait content won’t be aware of or engaged with your brand. 

Instead, you may find you get a more effective return on investing in content that nurtures already engaged leads through the buying journey. Or you might find that putting this spend into ads is more effective at generating growth. So clickbait should always be considered as just one tactic in many. 

How can you take advantage of clickbait?

To make the most of clickbait’s performance without putting people off your brand, you can use a few key tactics. 

Identify key trends

Clickbait takes advantage of hot topics to drive its performance. Keeping an eye on what’s trending in your industry will help you do the same. Use social listening tools, set up Google Search Alerts for key topics or join relevant online community groups to keep in touch with what’s going on. Then you’ll be ready to jump on any trends that pop up. 

Appeal to customers’ emotions

The key to clickbait’s success is the way it plays on peoples’ psychology. Curiosity, intrigue or just the desire to fulfil a need are all emotions clickbait leverages to get people to take action. Taking this approach when writing your content headlines, copy or calls to action will mean you can enjoy similar success without risking your brand reputation. 

Don’t fall into fake news

Sensationalism, misrepresenting statistics or data and unbacked claims will all be grounds for your audience to mistrust you. In some cases, they could also result in lawsuits against your brand. To avoid this, make sure any sources are accurately cited and that you only use trusted and original authorities to gather information. 

Make your content valuable

The reason clickbait works effectively is that it promises audiences some form of fulfilment or resolution if they click through. Your content needs to be valuable and in-depth enough to meet this need. This will help you build trust with your prospects, view your brand in a positive light and make them more likely to engage with you again in the future. 

Track other key metrics

As mentioned above, clicks are only one metric that indicates content success. Depending on your particular marketing objectives, you will need to look at a variety of KPIs. Focusing on growth? Look at impressions and reach. Want to see if your content is engaging and converting? Look at your user journeys and heatmaps. 

Clicks are just one part of the bigger picture in your content strategy and performance. 

Clickbait vs. quality content: can you use both?

Many people see clickbait and quality content at the opposite ends of the scale. Yet it is possible to use some of the persuasive techniques of clickbait while giving audiences helpful, informative and entertaining content. 

As seen above, clickbait can be a useful marketing tool if used ethically. However, catchy headlines that play on readers’ curiosity or intrigue need to be backed up by quality, valuable content. Otherwise, your audiences could start to lose trust in your brand and your clickbait will do more harm than good to your marketing. 

If you’re looking for advice on how to create content that balances must-click engagement with quality, then feel free to get in touch so we can talk through your needs. 

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