We all know those articles: “What happened next blew my mind!” or “The secret to losing weight that doctors hate!” Clickbait is common on the internet, often using emotional hooks and enticing headlines to draw in as many readers as possible. But after becoming so common and almost ridiculous, you may wonder why people still use clickbait – that’s because it still works, and is an incredibly effective tool that you should consider using yourself. Here’s why.
Why Does Clickbait Work?
Clickbait is often incredibly easy to identify, and with such a bad reputation, it seems strange to think it’s still widely used – but interaction with clickbait is still incredibly high. What is it about clickbait that people just can’t get enough of? Here’s your answer: curiosity. Economists George Loewenstein and Russel Golman proposed their Information-Gap Theory stating just this – that if readers come across information they don’t already know, they’ll feel uncomfortable. How do they get rid of those feelings? By acquiring that piece of information, and clicking on the article. It may not seem so important on the surface, but there are a few factors that make this so powerful:
Low Ambiguity Tolerance: People dislike ambiguity – but this isn’t just a preference thing. In fact, it’s biological and triggers our limbic system. Our limbic system (a neural network that decides how we feel and controls our basic drives) is always on guard for changes and threats. As this is a biological and unconscious process, we act on limbic responses without thinking. In terms of clickbait, we come across something we don’t know and we feel that biological drive to click on it, just to get the highest level of clarity to prove to ourselves there’s no threat.
The Zeigarnik Effect: This simply states that you’re more likely to remember an unfinished task. When we come across headlines that leave important information out, it stays in our memory – even if we want to move on, we’ll still have that nagging feeling that leaves us wanting to finish the headline.
Fear of Missing Out: This is probably the most effective of the three – humans have a drive to fit in and want to feel like they belong. Offering a title with promises of a payout makes people think if they don’t click, they are missing out. They don’t want to feel left out or regretful, and so will click to avoid this.
All clickbait has implied promises of an emotional payout. But readers need to feel fulfilled and content with what you’ve written, so they’ll come back and won’t just leave. Even if they aren’t interested in a topic, if the curiosity gap is strong enough, they’ll feel compelled to click on it.
Why Should I Use It?
There are loads of reasons why clickbait is something you should try – in fact, in the modern world, coming across a business that doesn’t use clickbait, even if only subtle, is an almost impossible task.
The most obvious reason as to why you should use clickbait is that it gets views. It’s easy to draw people in, and you’ll be able to get much more traffic coming to your website than if you stick with something that’s unlikely to pique your audience’s curiosity.
It’s also a good reason to utilize clickbait in terms of competition. As mentioned before, it’s hard to find someone who doesn’t use clickbait, meaning if you don’t use it, you’re in competition with people who are pulling on an audience’s curiosity and emotions. Not only is it a good idea to do it in order to compete, but it’s also very likely there are plenty in your industry doing it wrong; if you can do it right, you’ll stand above the rest and not only draw people in, but develop trust with your reader.
Clickbait also gets your content noticed. As mentioned before, the Zeigarnik Effect makes your content difficult to forget, and as it’s almost irresistible to click on, you’ll be able to get a much wider audience than without clickbait. If you use it right and follow through on your promises, you’ll also be able to draw people back, too.
How Do I Use Clickbait Effectively?
Clickbait is definitely worth a try, but you don’t want to use it incorrectly or else you’ll develop distrust between you and the reader.
Firstly, you don’t want to make your clickbait too obvious or overexaggerated. The prominence of clickbait titles nowadays means readers can easily identify it, and if they do in your titles, they’ll be likely to ignore your title as they’ll assume the article won’t come through on what it promises. Make sure you follow through on what you promise, too, and keep expectations attainable, or you’re setting readers up for disappointment. You should provide hope to the reader instead, or at least some satisfaction – never lie or swindle. If your product or idea is good, there’s no need.
There are basic elements that should appear in a clickbait article. Firstly, numbers are always good to include – they satisfy our need for order. You should try to use visualization, as painting a picture for the audience can appeal to their emotions and develop more attachment to the headline. People also like to be surprised, so putting some element of shock or surprise in there is a good idea.
There are also some persuasive features you can include to grab your audience. Newsjacking, which is including famous people, controversy, or popular things, is a good idea to not only get included in searches but also to get people interested more easily. If you’re feeling brave, including “hot topics” such as race, politics, sex, or religion grab people’s attention quickly. People love controversy, and this will allow you to cut through the noise, as long as you don’t write anything that will offend. Cliff-hangers are also a great way to build suspense and get readers wanting to know what happens.
Clickbait is certainly worth trying; even if you decide not to use it, knowing about it and how people use it will help you develop other marketing strategies to keep up with the competition.