We all hate clickbait. It’s an insidious presence in our online feeds, daring us to waste our precious time on meaningless sensationalist drivel and valueless sales pitches. Clickbait is the bottom of the barrel for consumer marketing. So why should B2B technology marketers care about it? Human psychology. Clickbait has a lot to teach us about how to properly market our companies and our products. In fact, properly harnessing the power of clickbait can become a cornerstone to your marketing presence.
Clickbait is unreasonably effective
I regularly watch the YouTube channel Veritasium – it’s got a lot of great educational science, math, and engineering content presented by Dr Derek Muller. When his video with the title “Clickbait is Unreasonably Effective” popped up in my feed, I just had to watch. (The irony of this clickbait title isn’t lost on me.) In it, Dr Muller describes how he started being terrible at creating interesting titles and thumbnails for his videos. YouTube’s analytics along with a lot of his own experimentation and research has made him much better. He now embraces the concept of clickbait because it helps him get his educational content out to a broader audience and increases the value of what he does.
By carefully crafting titles that play on innate human curiosity – without going overboard – you can really improve how many people view your content.
A split personality
Wait – a scientific educator embracing clickbait? Well, yes and no. As Dr Muller explains, Clickbait actually has a split personality: there is good clickbait and bad clickbait. Veritasium defines these as Clickbait Type I and ClickBait Type II. In more self-explanatory terms, Legitbait and Clicktraps.
Legitbait are titles (and images) intended to attract attention and encourage visitors, and they deliver on what they promise.
Clicktraps are the titles (and images) designed to just make readers click a link, even though that link leads to content of dubious value or interest to the reader.
By carefully crafting titles that play on innate human curiosity – without going overboard – you can really improve how many people view your content. When Veritasium focused on publishing their videos using titles and thumbnails that were Legitbait (the good kind), they got exponentially more views and shares: exactly what’s needed to grow the channel.
Clickbait for content marketing
The revelation behind this Veritasium video gave me a moment of doubt – have we been doing things all wrong at Third Law?
Growing a YouTube channel has exactly the same problem as content marketing. We both need to get as many people as possible exposed to our content. Yet at Third Law, while we may intensely focus on creating great content, we admittedly are often a bit hasty in creating the all-important title and thumbnail. But those 8-12 words are the first moments of customer interaction, and they carry an oversized importance.
Maybe our titles are a bit too factual. Sometimes the images aren’t interesting enough. That’s unfortunate, because the most amazing content in the world doesn’t matter if nobody reads it. You really do need to have some Legitbait, or you can’t entice people to start reading in the first place.
The more time you’ve invested in your content, the more time you should spend on coming up with an appropriate title and thumbnail.
Clickbait verus SEO
What about applying search engine optimization (SEO) to your headlines? Shouldn’t your titles include keywords that direct search engines to your content?
Yes, but in moderation. Packing too many keywords into your titles make them hard to read as well as less enticing. If you listen to SEO experts at Yoast, they’d tell you never to write clickbait in your blog headlines. However, they’re really talking about the Clicktrap-type titles that don’t deliver on promises. I’m sure they’re not against writing more engaging titles that garner more reads.
We agree with Yoast in that nobody wants to create titles that just end up bouncing the reader back out moments after they click. But if you create headlines that encourage users to read content you know they’ll find interesting, you can’t go wrong.
The four Cs
How do you write great headlines and use alluring images that entice the reader to click, but don’t put them off with overpromises or sensationalism? Here are the four Cs of good, respectable clickbait:
- Curious. Make your readers curious with a bit of mystery. Deliver half of a story, but not the punchline. Suggest at something where they’ll just need to find out more. (Note that this is the only attribute that Legitbait shares with Clicktraps.)
- Convincing. Give your reader reason to believe your headlines. Talk about things in your wheelhouse. Don’t talk down to your reader, and don’t be misleading.
- Considerate. Make sure your headline or image are interesting, but not over-the-top. Stay away from the controversy of clickbait – no taboo or offensive headlines, even mildly so. Don’t damage your brand with excessive “mojo”.
- Contentful. Know your audience. Make sure your content delivers on the promise of your headline. Provide quality content that’s valuable.
A good gut feel on clickability needs to be developed but even experienced writers get it wrong.
Harnessing the power of clickbait
Okay – you have your content in hand, now what do you do?
Keeping in mind the four Cs of good clickbait above, start brainstorming titles and images. Plan to spend a disproportionate amount of time on that all-important headline. The more time you’ve invested in your content, the more time you should spend on coming up with an appropriate title and thumbnail. Here are the options we created for this blog, and given the subject, we purposefully leaned a bit harder into real clickbait territory than we normally would. (Sidenote: it was actually quite fun.)
- This Marketer Went 100% Clickbait – Jaws Dropped at What Happened Next
- Your Marketing Isn’t Working – Why You’re Doing It All Wrong
- This One Marketing Trick Will Get You the Most Views
- This Is the Most Surprising Thing That Keeps Customers Away
- One Shocking Way Your Blog Is Failing – And How to Fix It
- Two Kinds of Clickbait – One Will Save You, One Will Sink You
- Marketers Hate Him – Man Reveals Shocking Secret Behind Clickbait
Most people recommend writing at least five titles, but some suggest far more – even 20 or 30. Pick what you think is the best and lead with that. But here’s the really important part: track how successful that title is and then switch it out. What you think is the best is probably not what’s going to garner the most readership. You must test several titles to see which works the best.
If you have millions of people subscribing to your blog/channel/social media, this process might take minutes. If you’re like us with a significantly more boutique readership, it’ll probably take several days. Running a few A/B tests on social media is probably the most accessible way that most of us have to see which headlines resonate better.
Testing is the only way to really know which titles work well and which don’t. A good gut feel on clickability needs to be developed but even experienced writers get it wrong. People who are good at creating highly clickable titles rely on testing – and so should you.
Rethinking your approach
Bad clickbait is on the way out. But if you give your headlines and lead images the love they need, you’re on your way to embracing the good kind of clickbait. As marketers, that’s what we need to ensure more people read our content, so we can attract more potential customers.
With the need to up our game on our titles and images, we’re in the same boat! You can be sure we’ll now be spending more time on harnessing the power of positive clickbait.