Young Woman Counting Money, by Sharon McCutcheon

It’s time to confess—I lied. I don’t have 5 amazing tips to make you rich ?. I don’t know if they exist either, but if they do, I doubt marketing experts would keep them secret instead of charging for sharing them, right? ? So why does this post have the title it has? ? Well, it’s a clickbait, of course.

Chris rock what
Click-what? Source: Giphy.

Clickbait Titles

The amount of information that is generated nowadays, minute by minute, is incredible. Videos, news, blog posts… it’s just overwhelming! To give you an idea of the magnitude of the tragedy, just look at the stats: 500 hours of video are uploaded on YouTube every minute. ? And more than 83.6 million posts are published every month on alone. That’s 2,000 posts per minute!  ? So it’s normal content creators are looking for new ways to capture the attention of their audience. One of these formulas is the use of the famous clickbait titles. And they’re an epidemic. But like it or not, clickbait titles work, especially when it comes to sharing content: “59% of people who share articles on social networks have not read them.”

Writing is not easy—you’ll have to invest a lot of time. Source: Giphy.

As we can read in Forbes, the titles that are considered clickbait are those that promise more than what they actually offer with the intention of getting lots of clicks. For example, if you see a tweet sharing a post with the title “The 5 Most Surprising Tricks for Blogging” and when you get to said post, the tricks aren’t there or are just plain stupid… well, I guess you’d be a little disappointed, right? (I hope you noticed the irony in the post you’re reading right now ?). These types of titles can be good for attracting traffic, but if you don’t meet expectations they are a disaster in terms of keeping that visitor on your website.

Some Clickbait Examples

Like I was saying, clickbaits are an epidemic. Open almost any website and you’ll find promoted posts using them:

Examples of Clickbait Titles from Buzzfeed
Examples of Clickbait Titles from Buzzfeed.

Come on! “Pick A French Dessert, And We’ll Reveal What You’re Like In Bed.” ? This is clearly a stupid thing… but it has something that’s luring our mouse, right? Click on that link and you’ll find this:

Example of the content behind a clickbait title
Example of the content behind a clickbait title. Click, click, click! Keep clicking, goddammit!

A stupid list of French pastries. That’s it. That’s all there is. Or, wait, can I click one of those pastries? Of course I can! Sites using clickbait titles want to keep you engaged for as long as possible, so they’ll apply this tricks to retain your attention. Well, I’m afraid I’m not interested in this… so “Hasta la vista, baby.”

Oh! And in case you’re wondering… I clicked on éclair and you won’t believe what I got (clickbait style):

The results of a stupid test
This is what you might get when you take that stupid test… ?

How to Spot Clickbait Titles

Clickbaits are somewhat similar to what the U.S. Supreme Court did in 1964 when it defined what pornography is: “You know when you see it.” Clickbait titles are exactly the same—they’re difficult to describe, but when you see one, it’s obvious what its intentions are. In Buzzsumo they analyzed the most (and least) shared articles on social media and came to several interesting conclusions:

  • The most successful combination of words that received likes on Facebook was “will make you”, getting more than twice as many clicks as the second one on the list. Headlines with this formula tell the reader why they should be interested in the article and try to create an emotional response before they read it. For example, here are titles like “13 Travel Tips to Make You Feel Smarter” or “Who Looks Better? Pictures that will make you laugh your head off.”
  • Formulas that appeal to feelings work better than others. “Tears of happiness”, “goose bumps”, “a cutie”,  or “‘you can’t stop laughing” are some of the examples we find in this category.
  • Any combination that arouses our curiosity and voyeurism is also a good way to get the desired click. “What happened next”, “Twitter reacts to”, or “What everyone says about” are strategies that tell you just enough to trigger your curiosity.
Cry crying
Appeal to feelings and you’ll probably succeed. Source: Giphy.

Considering all this information, I think the line between a clickbait title and a title with the potential to become viral is very thin. In principle, using these formulas to get more visits doesn’t have to be wrong, as long as the article then meets expectations, right?

In Summary

As we have seen in today’s post, most clickbait formulas appeal to people’s most basic instincts: joy, sorrow, curiosity, morbidity… and that’s not necessarily bad. If we want to arouse the interest of our readers we have to use formulas that we know work. But it is also our responsibility as content creators to create quality articles that truly meet the needs of our readers.

Now, tell me, what do you think? Do you use clickbait formulas? Is this what the Internet will look like from now on? Anything goes to get readers? Leave your opinion in the comments and we will discuss it ?

Featured Image by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash.

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