Clickbait is a form of content designed to gather clicks on the search engine result pages. With clickbait, companies attempt to generate traffic on their blogs or websites, often relying on sensationalist headlines to attract attention.
The headline is the most critical component in a piece of clickbait content. By exploiting the “curiosity gap” – a human being’s intense desire to know the answer to vague questions or statements, clickbait may earn attention without high-quality content.
Why companies use clickbait
Organizations use clickbait for a variety of reasons. Some businesses have taken advantage of the trend because they need more activity on their websites. Some clickbait articles prove to be very popular and may even lead to social sharing.
Unfortunately, there is a dark side to clickbait articles. Many malicious individuals and groups use this technique to promote links to scams, phishing sites and malware. The rise of clickbait meant that many internet users needed to be more careful about what they clicked.
To help eliminate the rising threat of clickbait, search engines like Google began to write new criteria into their algorithms, designed to penalize fake news, duplicate content and sensationalist pages written specifically for clicks.
Which features define clickbait?
Virtually any kind of content can be packaged as clickbait.
With a sensationalist headline, news stories, interviews, blog posts, infographics, videos and more all become more “clickable.” The defining feature that separates compelling material from a clickbait piece is that clickbait is usually low quality. Features typically include:
- An eye-catching headline
- Very low word count
- Lots of pictures or memes
- Social sharing promotion
It is possible to create content with a compelling and provocative headline without turning to clickbait.
Pros and cons of clickbait
The practice of creating clickbait content has generated a lot of controversy over the years. Many experts are split over whether clickbait should be allowed or not. Clickbait does have its benefits, particularly for marketers, such as:
- The ability to generate more page views and online traffic
- Opportunity to create additional social media shares and boost brand reach
- Potential to drive up advertising revenue
However, if the clickbait content published is low in quality, it often causes a loss of credibility for the company and may make it harder for that business to maintain its reputation. Cons of clickbait include:
- Losing consumer respect or loyalty
- Problems with brand reputation
- Lower search engine rank due to high bounce rate and low-quality content
Does clickbait work?
In some cases, if the title on a piece of clickbait content is catchy and compelling, it will drive people to a website. However, most of the time, clickbait is only successful at driving traffic and it does very little to support conversions.
If a visitor feels as though they’re not getting the solution they wanted from the content after they click on a headline, they will leave the page quickly. This leads to a high bounce rate and a loss of consumer trust. There are much better ways to amplify content than relying on clickbait.