Anyone who has clicked this far has probably already figured out the answer.
But what combination of factors brought you here? When you boil it down, the most basic ingredient is curiosity. We will explore why it works, why it’s generally hated by everyone, and how to use it without being annoying.
When most people think of clickbait they think of spammers, scammers, and annoying or trashy websites. Polluting your search results and precious screen-space, they also often come with false or exaggerated claims.
It’s design is to compel the reader to take some kind of action to learn more, and it’s often targeted at a specific group of people. They exploit your curiosity to get something out of you, but it isn’t just a toxic tool for making money. If the content has value, it can leave you feeling glad you clicked.
Clickbait is always going to be the first step in a chain of things, leading eventually to a sale.
So here’s the question;
The intention is to have the target buy something, but this is the same across our culture even when money isn’t involved. It could be good, bad, great or awful, but even a billboard on the side of the road will first begin with grabbing the attention of a potential customer.
If it’s just a tool used throughout human culture for us to get what we want, why is it so universally hated?
The reason is because there is a saturation of lower-effort headlines drawing you in so you can see their bundled advertisements. Many times you will have been lured by a distasteful title meant only to distract and derail your mind from whatever it is you actually wanted to do.
When done properly, the author provides worthwhile content in exchange for the money they earn.
If you don’t want to anger your audience, the techniques below should be used in moderation and you can ensure mutually beneficial relationship.
7. Sure-fire Ways to Get Clicks Every Time:
1. Know your audience
Who are your customers and who do you want to see your content? If you’re writing an article and your goal is to rake in those sweet clapbucks, maybe you could write something that will benefit other writers on the platform?
2. Front-load the important words
People are very used to skimming a page and subconsciously looking for interesting content. Using buzzwords or hyperbole helps, but putting them at the start of your headline could have their attention before they reach the
3. Include a call to action
Imperatives are effective. More easily provoke emotion or enthusiasm a with certain words and phrases from ‘BUY NOW’ to ‘Find out why…’. These often work better when you include a reason; “The attitude you must embrace to succeed on Medium” has both ‘you must’ and ‘to succeed’.
4. Pose a question
Asking questions has people’s subconscious mind trying to look for an answer before they even realise. They didn’t figure it out before it hit the ‘main brain’ so now they want to know the answer and this is before they even know if your content holds the answer. “What do bananas teach us about investing?”
5. Withhold information
You can use pronouns (this, it, she, you,) to leave the reader having to click into the content before they know what the heck you’re talking about. “This is why you have no money”, “How I Earn $1000 an hour”. Lists also leave people wanting to know more. See: the title of this section. This is curiosity exploited.
6. Use an eye-catching thumbnail
Great photography or illustration can instantly have an emotional impact on the viewer. Bright colours, emotive faces, or even just confusing subjects can command the attention of anyone with eyeballs. Different platforms have different standards e.g. Medium loves well-composed art, and YouTube users love big red arrows. Both of these styles can work and that takes you back to the first point of knowing your audience. It also takes us to the final point:
7. Edit and re-write
To tie off these strategies, you definitely want to read through them again. Don’t be afraid to go through several drafts or get help from someone and their fresh-pair of eyes. Successful writers and marketers will often go through 10+ versions of the same headline. Take some time out and come back to it for a rework so your hard work gets the viewership it deserves.
There are a number of other tips and tricks you can employ just to craft the perfect headline, but since keeping it snappy is one of them, I’ll not list any more today.
Clickbait really works, and a true master will gain a following by consistently building upon a symbiotic relationship with their audience without breaking trust.
After all, headlines are made to catch our attention. The content behind them is where both parties can find the real value.