The boy who cried ‘wolf’… what an overdramatic little brat. But thankfully, we can learn important marketing lessons from him, that go beyond teaching children not to tell lies. Like about clickbait.
Have you ever found yourself going from reading an online fajitas recipe to an article on the worst nose jobs ever? Chances are, you’ve clicked on click-bait.
Click-baiting is the toe-curlingly obvious headline promise of something ‘mind-blowing’ or ‘shocking’. Basically, you can’t help but bite (click).
Here are some examples:
“Man tried to hug a wild lion. You won’t believe what happened next?”
“A schoolgirl gave her lunch to a homeless man. What he did next will leave you in tears.”
“Is your boyfriend cheating on you? He is if he does these 5 things!”
Now to get to the bottom of these manipulatively enticing stories, you’ll most likely have to click through a gazillion pages, each with their own titbit (and I mean minuscule) part of the story revealed.
And I’ll tell you one thing…you probably won’t find the ending you’re looking for.
These ‘real life’ stories are generally not that sensationalist.
The lion probably walked away from the man.
The homeless man probably gave the girl a hug.
And the article will confirm everyone’s boyfriend is cheating on them (don’t make any rash decisions though, it might not be true).
The crux of it is, clickbait is a pretty low blow.
When you’re building a blog, you’re building a following of eager, engaged customers who are connecting with your brand.
They need to trust you, which will not happen with over-dramatic clickbait headlines that don’t deliver.
But you also need to get them clicking and engaged in the first place.
So, how do you strike the balance?
Let’s take a peek…
The Curiosity Gap
Put simply, The Curiosity Gap is the space between what we know, and what we want to know. The trick is to give readers a piece of information but leave out an important part that leaves them needing to know the answer.
They want to connect dots.
They want to bridge gaps.
They will want to read more.
Clever copy makes use of this suspense to entice readers. But so does clickbait, as we’ve demonstrated.
How do you use the curiosity gap to your advantage? Where do you draw the line between clever copy and clickbait? How low can you, or should you go?
Clever Copy vs Clickbait
It’s one thing to write great content, but a whole other thing to get your content ranked and read…which is where you have to nail the title.
Think of your title as the salesperson for your blog post content. And if your salesperson is boring, your customers won’t be buying what you’re selling.
If it’s not interesting, they won’t click on it. Simple as.
You can write click-worthy titles without resorting to clickbait. But first, you need to understand the psychology behind why clickbaiting works.
Clickbaiting is psychologically compelling because our brains crave to find out what happens next.
We’re left off-kilter. We want to gain back equilibrium in our minds. And the only way to do that is to find out what happened next.
But the problem with this is that you have to deliver what you promise. Whatever title your blog post uses it has to satisfy that suspense, not leave the reader deflated.
The answer? Focus on the benefits. You can create the same brain craving but you can actually deliver on your promise by talking about real benefits to your post.
Look at this example:
Clever copy: “10 Proven Ways to Boost Online Sales”
Clickbait: “You won’t believe how this man boosted his business’s sales”
The clever copy is still enticing, but still has the edge of curiosity to make readers want to find out more. The reader is asking ‘what are these proven ways?’ and will find out the answer.
The clickbait copy is obviously enticing. But I can promise you now, the reader would believe how the man boosted his business’s sales. And they will be unimpressed because they’re expecting something unbelievable.
Check out How to Write Catchy Headlines and Blog Titles Your Readers Can’t Resist for some more inspiration on writing headlines that are impossible to resist.
Don’t Lose Your ‘Truth’
Truth is your company’s friend. You want people to trust in your brand and believe what you’re telling them, or things are going to speed downhill pretty quickly.
Clickbait copy will rip this trust away as soon as readers see the melodramatic headline, as the more it pervades our lives, the more people are getting wise to it.
When writing your blog post, try to put your journalist hat on. Telling the truth and being accurate are the very foundations of journalism.
They will always help build credibility and a loyal following because people want to trust their source and believe what they’re reading.
Remember that most consumers are skeptical of the content they view online, so writing a headline that shows the value of your content will prove you as a trustworthy source.
Eventually, this will translate into tangible financial value, so it’s a path well worth following.
Clever Copy vs Clickbait
People share content because it says something about them. We want to show the world who we are and we want to encourage relationships through this.
It might be helpful content. It could be emotional/attention grabbing content. It could be opinionated content. Each has its own merits of increasing the quality of relationships.
But one thing people won’t want to share is untruthful content. Social media peeps can’t bear the shame of sharing something that’s publicly held up as being a sham.
We’ve all had that person on your feed (usually a parent), who posts something with a clickbait-y title and image. Something along the lines of ‘This man stood on the end of his fishing boat, but could never have imagined what would happen next’. The man is standing over a photoshopped shark gaping up at him.
The posting is instantly met with ridicule.
“This is obviously fake.”
“No way, they definitely photoshopped that megalodon size shark.”
“Please take that down, Mum”.
You don’t want that for your blog post. Be truthful and bask in the knowledge that your readers will notice and appreciate the transparency.
Be keyword clever
I’ll let you into a secret…clickbait is the worst enemy of SEO.
When you’re writing a clickbait headline it’s unlikely that you’ll be fitting in a solid keyword that’s going to help out your SEO mission.
You could end up getting quality traffic from searches alone, with readers who are already engaged with the topic that you are going to deliver answers on.
The reason is, people are searching for a solution. Clickbait titles are so far away from the solution that it’s a dot to them.
Be focused. It will serve you better in the long run.
Strong, but not too strong
While clickbait-y titles will promise your mind will be blown, by now you know it probably won’t be.
The trick here is to use language with just the right amount of strength so they still create curiosity but don’t overdo it on the hyperbole.
Here are some clever copy examples:
How To Use Canva: An 8-Step Guide To Creating Visual Content
Strong words: visual, how to, creating.
The Introvert’s Guide To Surviving (And Thriving) At A Conference: Five Tips
Strong words: surviving, thriving, tips.
You can see that the titles are engaging and achieve the brain craving that we talked about earlier. But, they’re not over-promising and certainly not over-dramatic.
Here are some shameless click-bait titles:
I left my dog at home and THIS INCREDIBLE thing happened.
Ergh to ‘incredible’. It won’t be, trust me.
Whoa! You won’t believe the shock this woman got when she looked in her shoe.
Note the over the top-ness of ‘shock’ and ‘whoa!’
The rule of thumb? Stick to interesting and exciting words, without sounding like a 14-year-old girl at a Bieber concert.
Takeaway Points on Clickbait
A ton to remember, right? Here it is all pulled together for you to revisit every time you feel the urge to turn to the dark side.
- Remember to focus on the benefits of what you’re posting about.
- Stay true to your brand. Anything that strays from this is going to do damage in the long run.
- Do your keyword research. This should keep you from biting what the clickbait is dangling.
- Be catchy, not clicky. Keep this little motto in your head when you’re writing titles and it will stand you in good stead.
- Go easy on the hyperbole. If you’re finding you’re having to glorify your post with over the top adjectives, it’s probably edging towards clickbait.
Copy it, paste it, pin it to your wall – whatever keeps you focused and on the straight and narrow.
And above all, don’t tell us we don’t believe something.
Konrad & The Creative Copywriter team