FLUID CREATIVITY IN KITTEN GIVEAWAY SHOCKER: Or The Benefits and Dangers of Click-Bait Headlines

Copywriters are taught from a young age that the most important part of anything they do, be it writing a blog post, writing an ad or going for a pint with their mates after work, is the headline. It’s what draws in readers. Master the headline, and you can write complete nonsense for the next 500 words. Well, not quite. But it’s still important.

A great headline is the surest way to get someone to click on, engage with or generally cast their eyeballs towards your latest piece of content. What makes for a great headline is debatable (although the ever-reliable Copyblogger have had a pretty comprehensive crack at it) but one commonly-cited route is to devise a click/link bait headline.

A clickbait headline is essentially an attention-seeking headline. Taking a particular aspect of the content, whether it be a statistic, a quote or something else entirely, and massively exaggerating it, a clickbait headline uses shock, disgust and intrigue and hopes to induce enough of it in an unsuspecting internet user to force them to click through.

The most successful purveyors of this particular brand of headline are undoubtedly the Daily Mail, which has become less of a newspaper and more a prolonged online cry for attention. Most of the Mail’s ridiculous headlines (of which there are too many to list) draws thousands of links and generate a jaw-dropping level of social media chatter, flying in the face of Google’s assertion that only quality content draws links.

Another enduring example of the clickbait headline is ‘SEO is Dead’. We all know it isn’t, of course, but the phrase is commonly trotted out along with the latest words to spill out of Matt Cutt’s mouth. The power of ‘SEO is Dead’ has evolved somewhat as it’s become more and more prevalent; whereas once the bulk of clicks may have come from SEOs terrified they’re about to lose their job, the headline now mainly draws the ire of a community tired of hearing that the industry they still work in has died. But still, it’s engagement, right?

Clickbait Headlines and Content Marketing

All of which would make drawing up a few of your own clickbait headlines for a content marketing campaign seem like a very good idea indeed. And on the face of it, you’d be right.

Writing a headline that encourages people to click through to your content means that you’ve won half the battle of content marketing – actually getting people to engage with your content. If you happen to have done this by claiming that the Queen kills ducks for fun (and have a particularly strong legal team), then so be it.

The amount of links you may garner from such a headline would also give your SEO a mighty boost too. Rather than spending hours hunting for outreach opportunities, you can simply make an outlandish claim, push it out through social media and watch the links roll in.

Engagement through social media is also another reason to consider opting for the clickbait headline; a headline that stirs some kind of emotion in someone (usually irritation or anger in the case of clickbait) will usually lead to content being shared and discussion being generated.

The Dangers of Clickbait

Unfortunately, the power of clickbait can fall flat when you look at it from a non-SEO and levels of engagement perspective. Consider the kind of reaction the Daily Mail gets when one of it’s stories goes viral – it’s fair to say that the word ‘quality’ is sparse.

The average clickbait headline gets people to click through by enticing the user; it’s provocative. Which is fine when you write for a newspaper with a dedicated reader base but not so great for your company. Making an outlandish and anger-inducing statement, while drawing clicks, may not endear potential customers and clientele to your brand.

Similarly, clickbait headlines rely on a degree of deception, promising you the details of an outlandish claim but only delivering a mild version of it. This deception is the surest way to irritate readers, and irritation isn’t the kind of emotion generally associated with conversion unless it’s to sell sensitive skin shaving foam.

In short, clickbait headlines can be a very effective tool – if deployed correctly. Think carefully about how people will react to the headline, question whether you are actually fulfilling the promise of the headline and monitor social media like a hawk once the content has gone live to gauge the mood and you should be fine. Antagonise people just for the sake of clicks and things might not go so swimmingly!

  • Written by on 3rd April 2013 at 08:57
  • “Fluid Creativity is an award-winning, multi-service digital agency based in Manchester.”
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