“A Priest Walks Into A Costco. You Won’t Believe What Happens Next.”
“Wolves Kidnapped His Family. How He Responded Will Bring You To Tears.”
“The One Food Item That Could Vaporize Your Body Fat In 3.2 Seconds.”
If you’ve logged on to Facebook, Twitter or another form of social media in the past 48 hours, chances are you’ve seen at least one headline similar to the above examples in your News Feed. Heck, the title of this blog post is a perfect example.
For the uninitiated, articles or blog posts with this type of headline are what we refer to as “clickbait” — and make no mistake, clickbait is the scourge of the Internet.
Clickbait headlines are reserved for content that, more often than not, can’t stand on its own. These headlines are designed to generate clicks by withholding information from the reader and/or promising that reading their content is akin to a life-changing experience, when in reality the truth is far more mundane.
As a personal purveyor of all things pop culture, I’ve even gone so far as to follow a Twitter account created specifically to cut through the clickbait for film-related articles. The fact that this account is able to reduce full articles to 140 characters or less and not miss a beat should be enough evidence to condemn clickbait to the depths of the abyss.
From the perspective of a content writer, clickbait is a manipulative method that works counter to what content is supposed to do. It doesn’t build trust. You’re not earning your readership — you’re luring it in with bait on a hook. If your content is worthy of the reader, it should be able to stand on its own merits.
I’m not saying that the title of your content shouldn’t leave some mystery to the reader. But don’t be dishonest about it in a bid to generate a few more clicks. Be creative instead.
There is a fine line between creative and clickbait, so be careful. Avoid appealing to the reader’s emotions and be sure that your content lives up to what the title promises.
And don’t spend too much time on the title. I realize that I’ve just devoted an entire blog post to the title, but don’t lose sight of the fact that the content is most important. You have to be able to offer the reader something valuable or insightful. If you can’t do that, you’re never going to build trust with the reader.