Next time you’re online, pay attention to which headlines draw your attention (like the one you clicked on to read this). Chances are you’ve been sucked in by clickbait at some point even if you were annoyed by it – and that’s exactly what it is designed for.
Is this an article on how to perfect your clickbait writing skills? The answer is no. But it is a guide on how publishers can effectively attract readers to click and read their posts without resorting to gimmicky methods.
The Publisher Dilemma
When an article is first published, readers only get a glimpse about the content based on the title and images they first see. With the ever-decreasing attention spans, readers will quickly scan headlines and decide in a split second if it’s worth their time to click.
The trick here is to maintain the right balance between enticement, appeal and ambiguity for readers to click. Reveal too much and you can kill your click rate, reveal too little and readers feel tricked.
Does Clickbait Ever Work?
Well, the name says it all. Clickbait is written with the sole purpose of attracting as many clicks as possible. With the right packaging, you can turn just about any content into clickbait. The main characteristics are:
- Eye-catching, enticing headline
- Easy to read and skim through
- Funny or memorable visual
- Carries an emotional tone – urgency or humor etc.
- Written with an intention to encourage sharing
It is no secret that using these tactics drives up PageViews, CTR and drives brand awareness. But what’s the catch?
People today have become more aware of the practices and tactics used by publishers to encourage clicks, to the point where some have become desensitized to it. Additionally, clickbait, when not backed up with quality content, becomes unsustainable in the long run since it erodes trust, creates high Bounce Rates (especially when the content is irrelevant to the title), damages the brand image, and kills loyalty.
On another hand, more and more publishers are moving away from PageViews as a defining metric. As audiences become more fickle, and the amount of content produced continues to grow, an attention-based model is becoming the norm.
Instead, follow these steps:
- State the benefits and make it useful – what’s in it for the reader?
- Be clear rather than clever – clever is cool but nothing beats clarity
- Ask a question – this creates interest by default
Resist the urge to sensationalize – coming up with witty, sensationalist headlines for clickbait is a lot of fun, and it is always satisfying to see those spikes in PageViews and social shares when content performs well, but you should always remember the cost. The use of emotional language is okay as long as it is accurate, backed with quality content and offers solutions to readers that would build brand loyalty and engagement in return.