How Content Marketers Can Use the Power of Clickbait for Good

“I have lost respect for Rahul Dravid”.

This article appeared at the bottom of another article I was reading on my iPad on a Sunday morning. I waited 3 seconds before I gave into the temptation of reading about what had the former Indian cricketing captain, known for being generally a good guy, done enough to lose the respect of a fellow countrymen.

Image Source: Outlook

As I landed on the page, I realized fast enough that this was just a clickbait headline that had worked so well. I felt irritated at haven fallen victim to such a headline but then thought of how much the copyeditor must have worked to get that headline to work. That sort of cut down my irritation.

Turns out Rahul Dravid had not done much to lose respect. He had just not disclosed about his wedding to the media and the writer’s wife was making the above statement because of that.

AND to top it all, I was reading an article written in 2003. No idea how I had landed there.

In short, I was forced to read what I didn’t want to read.

But again, did anyone force me? No. I was simply tempted. I found that headlines irresistible.

So the question now is “do clickbait work”?

Successful but clickbait aren’t as popular

Let’s understand one thing. Clickbait is not valued much and there are many experts, who advise against using them. Brands like Google and Facebook are fighting to get the online world rid of clickbait titles. But why?

Well, that’s because clickbait titles, in general, don’t aim to provide you genuinely valuable content. Their purpose lies more in simply bringing in more clicks and thus, advertising revenue. As long as they are successful in getting you to click, they don’t care if you are left disappointed by what was served to you.

The fault in our psyche

But before training our guns at content creators, we have ourselves to blame. The answer to why we feel so compelled to click a clickbait, lies in our psyche. The headlines provoke us with suspense like ‘If you haven’t seen this’ or challenge us like ‘It’s beyond your imagination’ and we take the bait. We want to know what is it that we have not seen or what we can’t imagine. Sometimes the tone is commanding or confusing and thus, we are enticed to follow the command or solve the riddle. It’s our psyche that makes clickbait so effective.

A visual content and digital marketing specialist assessed the top performing articles over three months that were featured on 24 high-traffic sites known for their clickbait titles and found out that 17% were listicles and 29% titles mentioned “you”, “I” or hinted at a personal story.

While only 8% mentioned an animal, 63% made a pop-culture reference, trending news or mentioned food. 79% of the articles contained an element of shock.

How to use clickbait, ethically

But as time passed, consumers got tired of this trope and began to avoid websites that bank on clickbait content. Clickbait gradually lost its credibility. The content creators then found themselves asking —what’s more important: revenue or reputation? For long-term loyalty from consumers and for emboldening the brand image, content creators and marketers began thinking about using clickbait as ethically as possible.

Following are some of the possible ways of doing that

  • Use clickbait titles but also make sure the content, you are promising, lives up to the hype to a large extent. Don’t dupe the consumer. He may not be fully satisfied but don’t let him go away vowing never to come back. Bounce rate is never good for a website.
  • Write headlines that are high on SEO.
  • Use clickbait to lure in the consumer but once he visits, he should find a world of relevant content. Link the ‘bait’ article with other articles that have sensible and direct headlines within your own website.
  • The language plays a huge role. In titles, use positive connotations instead of challenging or insulting the visitors. ‘Check out 21 Messi facts about your favourite footballer’ is more professional than ‘21 things, we bet you didn’t know about Messi

Now imagine what if the visitor knew 15 of them. In the first case, he will feel proud of knowing them, while in the second, he will be judging the intellect of the content creator. Also, the tone of the article is important. If you know the content is not good, at least make it interesting. If you can’t engage with them at the intellectual level because the article is not that informative, then use the tool of humour or pathos to engage them emotionally.

Even though BuzzFeed and Upworthy have made a fortune out of it, clickbait is seen by experts only as a passing fad. There’s a huge difference between good content and content designed to manipulate. Let’s make a better choice.

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