Does Clickbait Really Work? The Answer Will Shock You

Ok, that was a bit of a cheap shot: using a clickbait title to get you to read an article on clickbait. We won’t however, pull the typical clickbait trick and make you go all the way through the article to find an answer to the headline question. We’ll admit it right up front: yes, clickbait works.

Does that mean you should use it? Well, maybe … but it’s not necessarily that simple.

To Bait or Not to Bait

There’s no real way to argue that clickbait doesn’t work. There’s an entire psychology built around it. Even when we know better, we still can’t quite help ourselves from tapping the mouse from time to time on those headlines that promise fantastic information … but seldom deliver: “The One Food That Will Stop Cancer” screams the title … but after 27 slides (each one a new page), the reality turns out to be more along the lines of ‘Yeah, this food has been linked to marginal, statistically insignificant increases in survival rates for toenail cancer in vegetarian non-smokers who went through two rounds of chemotherapy …”

That’s an exaggeration, of course. But not by much.

Still, with a clever-enough page title, you can get people to click on YOUR link in the search engine results pages. That means you’ll get more opportunities for users to click on the various calls-to-action on your website, which is ultimately what we’re looking for.

On the other hand …

Clicking on what appears to be an interesting article only to discover it’s mostly smoke-and-mirrors is frustrating and annoying–and frustrated, annoyed users are much less likely to be interested in doing business with you or your sponsors. They’re more apt to be thinking “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.”

Think about it: someone had to click through an entire PowerPoint worth of slides, only to discover that “The Secret No one in Hollywood Ever Knew!” is that Joannie loved Chachi … and then you expect them to believe you when you say “Click here for a great offer”? Good luck with that.

But … You Said It Works!

Indeed, a clever clickbait-ish title can draw users to your post. But that’s really only half the equation. Getting readers to a site is one thing; getting them to stay on the site and bookmark it to return later? That’s another issue entirely. The title might get consumers to the page, but only content will keep them there and keep them engaged.

To put it another way, the secret to successfully using clickbait has less to do with the clickbait title itself, and more about making sure that the content on the other end of the click actually lives up to the title. Otherwise, you’ve not only lost the chance to sell, you’ve also lost credibility.

And credibility really is the name of the game here. If your SERP title claims to have “The Ultimate Guide to SEO,” for example, you’d better have some good SEO information in your content. Obviously, words like “ultimate” can mean different things to different people … but it’s a fair bet that anyone clicking on that link is looking for detailed information on the subject of SEO. Don’t disappoint.

Another good clickbait-ish phrase is “step-by-step” … as in, “The Step-by-step Guide to More Clicks.” People often search the internet for experts who can provide hand-holding through unfamiliar territory. If they’re searching for “how to get more clicks,” this is exactly the kind of help they’re wanting; provide that, and any clickbait trickery at the onset will be quickly forgiven.

Finally, sometimes there is a fine line between being provocative and being clickbait. Something like “Medicaid Cut Will Leave Millions Sick and Dying!” borders on clickbait, but if you follow with a powerful article that supports the title, it can give that title legitimacy.

Here at Spilled Milkshake, our goal is to tie all the pieces of your website design together to create the ultimate user experience, communicating your company’s image effectively and powerfully to reach your desired. We can help you with everything from design a blog to creating posts for that blog on a regular basis. Just contact us to learn more.