Clickbait or linkbait, as its name suggests is a sneaky form of content marketing that gets its hooks into often unsuspecting online users by appealing to their sense of curiosity.

Its main line of attack is a sensationalised headline, for example ‘you won’t believe what happened next’, spinning mundane article content about celebrities or body shockers that promise the world in a concise snippet, but rarely deliver it.

Apparently there’s some specific psychological devilry to this thing! By using appealing numbers (an odd number is better) and specific hyperbolic clickbait words in article headlines, it becomes a perfect recipe for reeling people in.

So why do it?

One purpose of Clickbait is to generate online revenue through sponsored advertising. If creating a catchy title means more clicks and more online traffic to the article site, that also means a bigger audience to advertise to. It's a win-win for everyone but the article’s consumer!

Another draw is that by creating headlines which are marketed as being emotive, shocking or exciting, it’s likely more people share the content, promoting more visitors to the site. Usually bait pages are loaded with social sharing and commenting tools for just this reason.

Unfortunately, it works. For example, Buzzfeed, who have their pages stuffed with clickbait articles, pull in tens of millions of visitors every single day with poor quality content, giving themselves a large consumer platform to advertise to.

Why is bait bad in the end?

Despite its uses, overall, clickbait is a bad marketing tool as it contributes to a poor user experience and a consequential lack of trust. Promising a product and not actually delivering it means you not only have a constantly dissatisfied online user but it’s considered dishonest.

If an online business or social media platform like Facebook is bogged down with annoying clickbait articles, it can reverse any good marketing and good connections with the public that these sites have made.

If people come back to Google after clicking on a clickbait article, Google interprets the first click as a mismatch between what they’re searching for and what they’re finding. In the long run, a high bounce rate will result in lower rankings of your site.

How can we stop the clickbait revolution?

Facebook is going to start penalising Clickbait articles on people’s newsfeeds. Instead, they are choosing to advocate authentic content. It has employed scanning technology, as well as ‘Anti-Clickbait algorithms’, measures put together by a team at Facebook who manually reviewed “thousands of headlines” in order to compile a list of commonly identifiable clickable traits.

Joining Facebook is Google, who have vowed to vet publishers more closely and will cut off some of the money funding these sites. They have also promised more relevant search engine results that are as spam-free and as useful as possible.


By Jennifer Gwinnutt, digital marketing assistant at iWeb

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