How to Avoid Clickbait and Disappointing Your Audience
We've all heard of the term "clickbait" and, for the most part, the trend of using clickbait content to promote businesses or blogs is quite popular. You've seen clickbait in snappy articles with titles such as, "This ONE trick will make you rich" or "You'll Never Guess What Happened When She Did THIS!" and if you've clicked on those articles, you've likely been left feeling disappointed or duped.
That's because clickbait content offers zero value for its readers; it can be defined loosely as content that "intentionally over-promises or misrepresents in order to pull users onto a particular website."
Now, that may not seem so insidious; after all, most content on the web is designed to draw users to a website, and many articles not classified as "clickbait" also often over-promise value - think, Buzzfeed. However, clickbait is placed in its own unique category because it is almost always a total and complete letdown in terms of the value it brings to you as a person, or a reader, or a prospective customer.
If you're wondering whether the use of clickbait can benefit your brand - maybe you're considering using clickbait-type content for your business's blog, for example - there are a few key considerations to keep in mind before you jump on the clickbait wagon.
For starters, it can hurt your SEO efforts
You may assume that clickbait will help you reach audiences and perhaps even rank higher in online searches, but in actuality the reverse is true. People don't typically share clickbait content, for instance, and nor do help promote it by linking to it in their own content or by posting it to other channels, like social media. It can also affect your click-through-rate and often results in little time spent on your website, as people quickly realize the content has little to no value and leave your website.
Considering the goal of your content should be to keep readers on your site and looking for more, clickbait detracts from your authentic SEO efforts!
Clickbait is also manipulative, and readers recognize this
For the most part, clickbait content is created (even unintentionally, at times) under the assumption that readers are "dumb" and will be easily fooled into consuming valueless content. What clickbait essentially seeks to do is manipulate readers into clicking on baited headlines and articles for the sole purpose of generating web traffic for a website. In essence, with clickbait the reader is always being manipulated.
While some blogs, websites, etc. may think readers don't recognize clickbait when they see it, in reality many readers do. Popular sites like The Onion and Buzzfeed excel at clickbait because they know it drives significant traffic to their websites, but both sites have a clickbait reputation, and thus most readers wouldn't consider these sites as reliable sources for real information (even though Buzzfeed does try hard, sometimes, at "investigative reporting"). Once your content has that clickbait rep, there's little likelihood of reader trust. Which brings us to our next point...
It might just destroy your brand's credibility, too
Clickbait may drive more short-term traffic to your website, but eventually your audience will begin to lose faith and trust in your brand when they recognize your content has no value. Most businesses that are serious about developing digital content for their audiences can likely recognize how quickly reader interest can turn, and clickbait ultimately does little for your brand's reputation.
Think of it this way: the goal of solid content is to not only drive web traffic but to also drive long-term readership and audience loyalty. Why bother developing clickbait content that won't achieve that?
And social media? Well, they're not here for the 'bait
Platforms like Facebook and Instagram are meant for sharing, but in the last year or two, various platforms have begun taking a firm stance against clickbait content for the sake of simply driving Likes and traffic. With Facebook in particular, the platform is cracking down on content that is "engagement bait," similar to clickbait, in that it essentially asks people to "Like" or "Comment" on content that has no value for those viewing it.
Why would clickbait affect your social media efforts? Well, for one thing, it detracts from the organic and paid initiatives businesses and brands implement on platforms like Facebook. It's also a clever way of ensuring that content on these platforms that is disingenuous is not given priority over other, organic content.
See, various platforms like Facebook have algorithms which essentially "reward" posts and content that have high engagement; so, clickbait can result in higher, short-term engagement and thus "cheats the system." When social media clamps down on clickbait, it affects the reach of that content. Thus, it doesn't benefit any brand to use clickbait content!
How, then, can you avoid the risky business that is clickbait?
First, don't use misleading or ambiguous titles/headlines
It's important to be transparent with your readers, and thus using headlines or titles which showcase the important information in your article. You don't want to force your readers or audiences to read content that has no value to them, but you also don't want them to feel "put out" by having to dig for the information they want from your content.
Try "How To" articles and instructive content, instead
How-to articles and other content which shows readers how to "do" something, or how to achieve something, are so popular because they give value. Additionally, listicles, questions and beneficial content can all be used to drive traffic without duping your readers. A simple example would be, "How to Use Facebook Ads Manager" or "What's the Most Effective Way to Improve Your Instagram Strategy?"
Always check your headlines for viability
There are plenty of webtools out there which will generate headlines for you, but not all of those headlines are good headlines. That's why we like to use tools such as CoSchedule's Headline Analyzer to carefully analyze our article titles. Why? It's simple: the more effective and transparent our headlines are, the better opportunity we have to engage with our readers. These tools are also a great way to improve on your content in general, because they force you to actually think about the content you're crafting. You can also try Thrive's Headline Optimizer.
Don't make promises you can't keep
We can't tell you the number of times we've read a seemingly transparent article which promises a "free guide" here or a tutorial there, only to realize those free guides are nothing but a recap of the content in the article itself. Some content may promise to show you "hacks" or "tricks" for using social media more effectively, or for boosting engagement with Facebook ads, but ultimately don't delivery any new or unique (read: useful) advice. To ensure your content doesn't fall into this "trap" and thus misleads your readers, don't promise any information or assistance that you can't actually deliver!