CLICKBAIT: 6 Amazing Ways to Become a Master Baiter

A shot of truth right in your listicles. What happens next will blow your mind.

You clicked. We win.

It’s almost that simple. Almost.

Admittedly, the goal of clickbait is to lure poor, unsuspecting web denizens with some content, and then hammer them with more ads than even broadband can handle until you become rich, their device explodes, or the world ends in a fiery ball. Of course, we’re not serving you ads here, but we could if we wanted. So you’d better behave.

No, we are not advocating on behalf of buzzfeed or any of the other content marketing outfits that live and die by the click. However, as a professional, full-service marketing and advertising agency, understanding what prompts that click is key. In fact, it’s rapidly becoming a science all its own. 

So let’s get this listicle going, mmkay?

NUMBER 1: Make your content a listicle

Don’t worry, if you don’t know what a “listicle” is, we won’t leave you hanging. The word is actually a portmanteau (let me Google that for you) of “list” and “article.” Think of it as a list with a whole lot of extra words thrown in to unsimplify it. “Unsimplify” isn’t a word, but it should be. Just for this.

Turns out that human beings LOVE lists the way that cats love things that dangle. We can’t get enough of them. So any time you can present your content in list form, you’re pretty much assured that some poor slob is gonna click on it. If you don’t believe me, read on, because I’ve still got 5 more to go.

Just remember to put numbers in your title. Numbers are like adding catnip to the dangly thing you torture your cat with.

NUMBER 2: Feel free to insult your audience

It’s not every day that you get to make your audience feel bad for being ignorant. But it’s surprisingly effective.

You’ve probably even clicked on something like this: “12 things you didn’t know will fit inside your nostrils” or “the 4 sure-fire embalming techniques you should already be using,” or “only really smart people can answer these 7 questions about rice pudding.”

Apparently, nobody wants to read about what they already know, but if you tell them they don’t know it, they will click until their index finger falls off in order to prove you wrong. “Oh yeah, Internet? We’ll I’ll show you! I know EVERYTHING there is to know about rice pudding!”

NUMBER 3: Say something outrageous

The key to clickbaiting is capturing attention that doesn’t want to be captured. After all, your audience is not coming to the Internet for you, but for something they actually want to see instead. So challenging them with a bold headline like “YOUR DOG HATES YOU: What that tail wag REALLY means” is bound to make them completely forget what they were doing and instead fill them with a burning need to know whether their pooch is likely to murder them in their sleep.

It’s important to remember that you are trying to feed someone content against their will, and that they must be complicit in your attempt to distract them. Your audience will likely be familiar with clickbait, and thus somewhat aware of your assault on their curiosity. Expect that they will actively resist the urge to click.

Fortunately, even the most steadfast resolve cannot resist a headline like “4 FOODS THAT WILL KILL YOU IF YOU EVEN THINK ABOUT THEM,” so you actually have the upper hand in this struggle.

NUMBER 4: Connect to an emotion

Emotions are powerful things, and your audience definitely has them. So you should consider them fair game for your baiting.

Consider all the reasons why people go online. Chances are, they are there to look up the latest sports scores or to search for a good recipe for lentil soup. These things don’t really get the emotions flowing.

Therefore, it’s not difficult to tempt them from their real purpose with headlines like “The 10 most adorable chinchilla photos ranked,” or “Hitler is alive and working at the IRS!” If your headline can rouse an emotion, you can bet your audience will opt to click on it and forego their intended activity simply because it’s less boring.

NUMBER 5: Work in images

It’s a fact that people respond better to images than text. Not only are words kind of boring to look at, but our brains are really designed to process visual data. So, we can more quickly gather what’s happening in an image than we can a headline.

However, it is the interplay between text and graphic that really makes it impossible to resist clicking.
For example, a headline like “25 Historical Figures You Never Knew Were Gay” may be pretty alluring, but when you add a photo like this, you’re basically assured that everyone is going to click:

Now, of course, you don’t actually have to claim Einstein was gay anywhere within your actual content. Your bait is really only selling the promise, and nothing more. Think of it like this: If you were fishing for actual fish, you might bait your hook with a worm in order to entice a fish to bite. But once you’ve caught that fish, you’re not going to worry about actually feeding it. Clickbait is like that. Once you’re caught, you’re caught.

Which brings us to our final item.

NUMBER 6: Ethics schmethics

Once again, the point of clickbait is to get clicks. It’s not to inform or change the world, just to get people like you to click on it. There will be no Nobel Prize for your clickbait. So, it’s probably best to relax your morals if you want to reap the eyeballs.

Of course, this flies in the face of actual marketing, where we seek to develop long-term relationships with customers, promote brand value and loyalty, and craft content that delivers effective SEO. We are not ever going to suggest that clickbait is an effective marketing technique. It’s just a tool for content aggregators to inflate their ad revenues. However, understanding how and why it works is still relevant to the kind of work we do here at DAMN GOOD.

For example, email marketing campaigns face a similar challenge to the content of a clickbait article. We can create the greatest email in the universe, but if people don’t click and open it, then the message may as well have not been delivered at all. Therefore, we need to implement a certain “clickbaityness” (yes, we just made up that word-deal with it) to the email’s subject line to help incite recipients to open it.

This same strategy can also be applied to other marketing channels as well. Digital display banners, paid social media ads, SEM, and virtually any other medium where clicks must be earned can benefit from an understanding of clickbait techniques, and the psychology behind them. Even if the resemblance to actual clickbait is only passing at most.

Does that statement intrigue you? Does it make you wonder what kind of irresistible creative this agency is capable of? Give us a call and see for yourself. Because what happens next will blow your mind.

4 Comments
  • Justine Tullier
    Posted at 14:21h, 01 August Reply

    Good article! I hate click baiters… especially when they pose as reliable content sources. I’m constantly fighting the pregnant moms who go to click bait pregnancy websites for information that is not qualified by a birth expert. Grrr.

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