Why Clickbaity Titles Are More Than What Meets The Eye

Ask any content marketer how they feel about clickbait titles and chances are, the response will range on the continuum of emotions from lowly moans and groans to loud cheers and excitement. Simply put – marketers generally love them or hate them.

Thanks to the listicle format and accompanying “click-worthy” headlines made popular by Buzzfeed (13 Reasons You Know You’re Bat-Shit Crazy), and the teaser headlines often used by news networks (This guy had extreme road rage and yelled at a passerby. You’ll never guess what happened next!), clickbaity headlines are everywhere – everyone wants a click.

If you asked me the clickbaity question a few months ago, I would have told you that I was holding out tooth and nail and not willing to succumb toe  lure of the industry’s latest trend. I would have told you that if writing a ridiculous headline to get someone to click would add to the pressure of writing the world’s most compelling content, then I wasn’t up for the challenge.

I would have explained that if someone clicked on my post because “they wouldn’t believe” whatever I was claiming, then I better damn well deliver on that promise and knock them straight out of their swivel chair as they read the words on the screen. After all, when someone is reading content that I, or my team, has created, it becomes an exchange of the reader’s most valuable commodity – their time.

However, in a recent strategy planning meeting, I took a big step back and focused on how and why companies are using clickbait. To take it further, we explored how some companies are benefitting from this strategy without being as tricky and insincere as I assumed.

We evaluated two types of clickbait titles – those we deemed extreme and mild. The extreme headlines are those that make an extreme claim and set super high expectations. Rarely is your mind ever blown by the content that promises to be mind-blowing, and you often feel a bit let down after taking the time to read the content.

The mild and less extreme examples are the posts that use carefully crafted headlines that have the clickbait lure, but also provide value to the audience. For instance, telling me that a post will change my life is such an extreme claim and I highly doubt it will. But, a headline that reads, “50 Quotes From Entrepreneurs That Will Inspire You,” will most likely bring value and something within that post will inspire me or at least, cause me to think differently. Therefore, it isn’t a waste of my time.

But, more importantly than all of this is that clickbait headlines get clicks.

Sometimes the goal is not to have the reader actually read the post content and evaluate, but to get someone to click the title and/or teaser and drive them to the post and then entice the reader to click somewhere else. That’s right, clickbait articles aren’t always for the read or just the pageview, but instead about where the user will click next.

The successful, more focused sites used the carefully crafted mild clickbait headlines and have strategically placed calls-to-action on the sidebar. That CTA is related to the promised content and may ask the reader to download something useful, educational, or valuable in exchange for their contact information. These sites understand how to deliver on their promise and entice users to click on the other content for lead generation.

And isn’t that what we hope our content initiative will do? Drive leads?

So, from that standpoint, integrating some clickbaity headlines into a content strategy could absolutely be the way to go and maybe it isn’t so sneaky and doesn’t feel so dirty – this is essential to inbound marketing strategies.

But, with that said, clickbait title or not, I will refuse to waver from providing great content. So if I decided to write a title that promised something and it felt a little clickbaity, I will absolutely deliver on the title and ensure my strategy is solid.