Clickbait techniques are used in posts, articles, banners and practically anything written of a “sensational or provocative nature, whose main purpose is to attract attention and draw visitors to a particular web page.” (James Hamblin)
Dr. Hamblin also states, “Maybe that’s the best definition then, of clickbait: Did this post need to exist, or did you just make a thing for the sake of making a thing?”
OK, Dr. James. I admit: I just did what I don’t like others to do. But this is not meant to be a clickbait article.
Some argue that on the internet, the only and best reason to “make a thing” is for click baiting readers into your ranking ploy. According to Rand Fishkin, the more clicks, the better for SEO (search engine optimization), right, so let’s do anything that will get more clicks than the next website, including using clickbait titles.
We all want top ranking search engine optimization (SEO),as well as stellar click-through rates (CTR), but think twice before you use old and tired click-bait techniques because they are fading. It angers many readers, so much so that click bait headlines can become click-repellant , as it has for me.
What About RankBrain
Furthermore, RankBrain and its kin are smarter than that, especially if you want solid search engine optimization (SEO) that ranks your website in top pages. Search engines are getting wise to baited click traps.
The two (2) clickbait techniques in common and popular use that I am particularly fed-up with are Numbered Lists and Emotional Hooks. Many SEO and CTR writers/bloggers actually state that you can’t get readers to consider your content unless you use these techniques.
- “5 Moral Ways To Seduce Your Mother-in-law and Save Your Marriage”
- “11 Ways to Raise Your SEO Click-through Rate (infographic)”
- “10 SEO Wizards Who Rock At Personal Branding”
- “Say Good-by To Google” 14 Alternative Search Engines”
Or my own title:
“2 Clickbait Techniques I’m Fed-up With: Numbered Lists and Emotional Hooks”
You can see the numbers in these titles. They are overt and obvious, as in I,2,3,4…and so on. The emotional hooks, on the other hand are usually more subtle. “Hooks” words and phrases grab our attention on a gut level: “moral, seduce, fantastic inforgraphic, say goodbye, rock-solid, fed-up,” etc. and elicit emotional responses or reactions such as curiosity, anger, humor, disgust, desire, etc. The writer wants us to respond emotionally and click-through before we give it a second thought.
Clickbait authors are quick to quote sources and research claiming that this approach works. However, most of these proof or validation links refer to other articles by the same authors or their companions, all thinking the same way and thus validating each other.
Just because a bunch of people agree that something is real doesn’t make it fact. Human beings are easily convinced by other human beings, especially if the subtle, implied message is, “Don’t rock the boat. Play along and things will be fine.”
Sure, and I have bridge to sell and we all agree the Emperor is wearing new clothes, well, all except the naive little boy in the crowd.
Where are the contrarians? Let me tell you: no word is magical. No amount of numbers makes people click-through, open an article or buy a product. The moment I see a title that has a number in it, I am already suspicious the author has little to offer and therefore has to revert to clickbait. Clickbait writing may even repel your readers.
I don’t like to be baited or pimped. I feel insulted that the author doesn’t lay his or her stuff out there, say what they have to say, then let me decide if I want to read it, count the number of valuable points they offer and have some feelings about it all, or not.
Dull and Boring
Repeatedly I waste my time reading an article that promises 11 of this or seven of that and two things happened:
- I find dull and boring filler content; and
- I rush through the article even though I’m not learning anything because once I start counting, my compulsivity pushes me to finish. When I hit the last point, I’m finished because I did the numbers, not because I had a quality experience reading something valuable the author shared with me. Often, I forget what I have just read.
I think what works better is a solid well-crafted title or headline that represents good journalism more than wacky stage hypnosis. Let the author unburden him or herself with their valuable content. That’s what will remain with me, not self-congratulations that I read through all the numbered points the author said were awesome, powerful or shocking.
Good quality content does not treat me like a dolt. The writer addresses me as a person who is able to account for myself. Don’t tell me that something is a must read. Just tell me what great points you have to share. Do it with good writing style and you will have my admiration. Write well about evergreen topics and all will be well for your blog and search engine optimized website.