If you’re in the digital marketing business, staying on top of the latest marketing, media, and social trends is considered paramount to survival. Knowing and adopting the latest trends shows that you know what you’re doing, that you refuse to be left behind, that you’re in the know, and that you’re connected.
However, while staying on top of trends is generally a good idea, not every trend should be followed.
Clickbait is lazy
The definition of clickbait makes it sound innocent enough and as a writer, I get it. Writing good articles with catchy headlines that entice someone to read is kind of an artform. It’s a balancing act between communicating what your article is about, and using the right keywords to make the reader feel compelled to click.
The competition for ever-shorter attention spans continues to grow, making this progressively harder. But the answer isn’t to throwing a “You’ll Never Guess…” in front of whatever your subject is. That’s just plain lazy.
What’s even lazier is letting a third-party populate the bottom of your website with irrelevant, clickbait-y content. You know that I’m talking about; the misleadingly titled “related links” section, often sites and sources you’ve never heard of, served up by clickbait factories like Outbrain or TK.
The recipe is simple: use a picture of a celebrity or something risque, be salacious, promise a fixed number of things -- “10 Celebrity Plastic Surgery Disasters” is a classic -- and you get the picture.
These pretty much never have anything to do with the article they are attached to and often the same ones appear on multiple news sites.
Here’s an example of what Revcontent puts at the bottom of a Newsweek article titled “Inside the ‘Triumph and Tragedy’ of Smithsonian’s New African-American Museum”
Another example is what I’ll call email subject line trickery. In lieu of the “You Won’t Believe…”, clickbaiters will use something more person like “RE: Your Vacation Plans” to get you to open their email. Ask yourself: Are you sure you should be using tactics usually reserved for spammers and scammers?
Clickbait is insulting
(The following section contains spoilers for Game of Thrones season six)
I might be getting a little too personal here, but I find clickbait to not just be lazy but insulting. Whenever I see a “You Won’t Believe…” or “You’ll Never Guess…” I feel like I’m being talked down to by the author because chances are, yes I can.
I can almost guarantee whatever revelation your article has uncovered, I can wrap my head around. It shows very little confidence in your audience.