Clickbait is a buzzword that many people know, but few can define. Simply put, clickbait is something designed to make readers click on a link that leads to content. In the past decade or so, it has exploded in popularity and become an everyday occurrence for online publishers.
This article explores what it means when someone says they’ve been “clicked,” why this phenomenon became popular in the first place, its benefits and drawbacks, as well as some examples of how you might spot one piece of bait-y content from another.
What is clickbait?
The term “clickbait” can be used to describe any number of things, but in this context it is usually applied to something designed to get readers to click on a link that leads them away from the content they are currently viewing. The goal – whether or not the publisher has achieved it with their bait-y post – is typically to drive traffic and thus advertising revenue to their site.
Clickbait can come in different flavors, but the most common two are “headline bait” (a phrase that’s designed to be sensationalistic), misleading content or a promise of exclusivity for readers who click on it from where they currently are browsing online; and “link bait” (a link to an external website, usually with a title designed to be sensationalistic).
- Headline bait: One of the most common clickbait tactics is called “headline bait.” This technique relies on using words that are eye catching and/or alliterative in order to get readers’ attention. For example, “You won’t believe what happens next” or “You’ll be surprised by this one weird trick.”
- Link bait: Link bait is a phrase that’s designed to entice readers into clicking on the link, such as “X celebrity tried something crazy for their latest photo shoot and you don’t want to miss it.” It might also be something like, “You won’t believe what this guy found in the middle of nowhere!”
Other forms of clickbait include:
- Teaser content: This is a type of clickbait that leaves the reader hanging and wanting more. For example, “In this episode we find out what happened when someone tried to . . .” or “This woman was in labor for 48 hours,” but never says who she is.
- Fake news articles: These are false articles that are meant to look like real news stories. For example, “Pope Francis Shocks World” or “Donald Trump Refuses Press Credentials.”
- Listicles: These articles use memes and catchy headlines to entice readers into clicking on them for the list of ways they can do something better than someone else (i.e., “These things will make you happier than . . .”).
- Faux science: These articles are disguised as science, but they use false information to prove their point. For example, “The Scientific Method Proves That The Earth Is Flat.”
- Infographics: These are graphics that summarize a lot of data in one image. Their goal is to make information easy for people who don’t have the time or interest in reading it.
- Clickbait phrases: The most common clickbait phrases are “You’ll never believe what happens next,” and “Can you guess where this is?”
- Scandalous stories: These articles use shocking headlines about scandal, crime, and tragedy to get readers interested.
- Fake celebrity news: Fake stories about celebrities are designed to make people angry, sad, or worried for the star’s well-being.
- False sense of urgency: These posts use phrases like “Hurry before it sells out!” and “Today only” to convince you that you need something quickly.”
How do you know when something is clickbait?
There are several ways to recognize clickbait:
- A headline that withholds information: This includes phrases like “You’ll never believe what happens next” and “Can you guess where this is?”
- A curveball image or video with no context given: These images are designed to make people want to click in order to see the content. They might be stock photos, webcam footage, or a screenshot from a video game.
- A shocking headline: These articles are designed to get your attention with phrases like “You won’t believe what happened next” and “Older woman gets revenge.”
Best practices for recognizing clickbait include looking at headlines and pictures on a website or social media account before clicking through. If you are hesitant about whether an article is clickbait, it might be best to save it for later and try again another time.
A clickbait headline might be designed to create curiosity or raise suspicion. In the case of a celebrity death, for example, an article may use phrases like “You won’t believe what happened next” in order to get your attention and compel you into viewing more content. Clickbait can also dispense with any of its promise by failing to deliver on the headline’s promise. For example, they may use phrases like “you won’t believe what happened next” but actually show a picture of an empty car seat after claiming that your favorite celebrity has died in a tragic accident.”
Why do publishers use clickbait?
Publishers use clickbait because it works. The average user spends 92% of their time on a site they clicked through from another link, and publishers are well aware that people will not wait long before moving on to the next article if something catches their attention. With so many sources competing for your attention or limited amount of space available, publishers need to get your attention quickly.
This is what creates the troublesome feedback loop: Publishers use clickbait headlines because they work, which makes people more likely to fall for them and share articles on social media or with friends who are also seeking entertainment or their daily dose of news. This increased viewership inevitably leads publishers back to using clickbait headlines.
Typically, clickbait headlines are over-the-top and often include a lot of hyperbole or exaggeration in order to entice the reader into clicking on them. They also tend to be vague about what they offer (in other words, you need to click for more information). Clickbaits take advantage of emotional buttons that are meant to capture a reader’s attention.
What are some benefits of clickbait?
- Clickbait can be used to increase page views. One of the main benefits is increased revenue from ads on a website, which means more money for publishers. Clickbaits tend to attract readers because they typically share controversial topics and have sensational headlines that pique people’s interests.
- It is easier than ever before for advertisers to target their ads to the right people.
- Clickbait can increase a website’s ranking on search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo! And it increases traffic from social media sites like Facebook.
- The risks of clickbaits are outweighed by its benefits for publishers because this type of content is meant to be shared with others so it can reach a wider audience.
What are the downsides of clickbait?
The drawbacks of clickbaits are that they give readers mediocre content in return for high traffic. Another downside is that clickbaits are often constructed to trick people, and this deceives them into clicking on links they otherwise would not have clicked on. Clickbait articles should be treated with skepticism by readers who are more than likely in for a disappointment when they finally read the article after all the hype has died down.
How did clickbait get started?
Clickbait got its start in the early 2000s when web publishers began to realize that their websites were not getting as much traffic from search engines because of how Google had changed up its algorithm. Publishers resorted to using different tactics, such as including more sensational headlines and pictures with links for readers to click on if they wanted more information about a story.
There are two main reasons why clickbait articles became so popular: storytelling and money. Publishers realized that they were able to make more money off of advertisements on their sites if readers clicked through, which would lead them to a website the publisher was affiliated with where there could be affiliate links or ads for products that the reader might want to buy. Not only that, but the publishers could make more money off of sponsorships by companies who wanted to be associated with high-traffic articles.
Michael Blakey thrives on YouTube by using clickbait
Market research shows that people are far more likely to click on a headline if it was sensational, enticing or controversial. This led publishers of articles in every industry from comedy and movies to politics to routinely use these types of headlines as the foundation for their content.
One example is how Michael Blakey thrives on YouTube by using clickbait. This includes titles that are both controversial and sensational.
Right now, Blakey has more than 400 videos on his channel. The top video is titled "How to Get Rid of Acne Overnight." It was viewed more than a million times in two days after being uploaded, which shows the effectiveness of clickbait when it can be used in the right way.
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