Why You Should Never Use Clickbait Titles (This Will Change Your Life!)

Warning: this article won’t actually change your life


When you’re a writer, the title of your book, blog post or article, is important. Actually, it’s not even important — it’s crucial. It’s the first thing a reader sees, and it’s often the very thing that makes them decide whether or not they’re going to read whatever you have to say.

A catchy title will draw readers in for a closer look, but a dull title could turn them away.

That’s a lot of pressure for writers, and it’s one of the reasons that so many bloggers and websites turn to clickbait-y titles that they know will entice readers.

But, while they may appear to be a good idea, clickbait titles are actually a terrible marketing strategy for writers and have served as a destructive force in online journalism for a long time.

What is clickbait?

If you’ve spent any time on the internet, you’ve encountered clickbait. These deceptive articles spread like wildfire across Facebook and Twitter, and you can spot them from a mile away.

These stories dangle a vague title that promises juicy details to readers, but never actually deliver on that promise.

The Surprise That This Man Found In His Garage Changed His Life or How To Make $1,000 in 60 Seconds are just a few examples of what a clickbait title might look like.

Both of these captions rely on mystery and suspense to draw you in. They imply that, behind the intriguing title, is a must-read article that will blow your mind.

I mean, who wouldn’t want to make $1,000 in a minute? Or find out what crazy surprise the suburbian dad uncovered in his garage?

I know I would.

Of course, if you were to actually read these stories, you’d probably find that the article does not live up to the grandiose title.

As it turns out, the suburbian dad really only discovered old, high-quality golf clubs in his garage. They’re definitely going to change his golf game for the better, but they make for a pretty dull headline.

Oh, and the article about the $1,000 is actually a ploy to get you to enter an online raffle. It’s a really great opportunity. All you need to do is follow the link to some shady website, enter in your email address and credit card number, and you’ll have the chance to win a $1,000 (if your bank account gets hacked a week later, it’s probably unrelated).

Sites like Buzzfeed and Upworthy have mastered the art of clickbait titles. They’ll make ordinary events, like a man finding golf clubs in his garage, sound life-changing.

This is the idea behind clickbait: vague, over the top titles that will never actually never deliver what you think they will. If you’re running a website like Buzzfeed, where you really only need people to click on your stories long enough to see the ads that come with them, writing quality content might not be a concern. But, if you’re a serious writer who’s trying to build a brand or market your work, clickbait titles will do you more harm than good.

Clickbait will only ever disappoint people

Clickbait is internet trickery. It tricks people into thinking they’re going to read something amazing and then gives something completely ordinary instead.

It doesn’t matter if you think your article is the greatest thing in the world — when your title promises more than you can give, your readers will be disappointed. They’ll walk away from your article feeling cheated instead of enlightened. If clickbait titles are a continuous trend in your work, people will eventually catch on and maybe stop reading altogether.

I suppose if you’re just after ad revenue, disappointing your readers might not be a major concern. But, if you’re interested in writing insightful, useful content, the last thing you want is for people to feel like you’ve wasted their time.

Clickbait won’t build loyalty, and it may even get fewer clicks

Because clickbait titles rely on secrecy and suspense to lure readers in, people typically only read these articles to solve the mystery. Once they realize the suburbian dad discovered golf clubs, they won’t be sticking around to hear anything else you have to say. They’re not going to read your other stuff, or check out your website, or join your email list.

If you want readers to keep coming back to your work, they have to enjoy it — or, at the very least, they need to respect it.

Clickbait doesn’t exactly warrant respect from most people. It’s an old enough trick that, not only will most readers see through your grandiose title, but they might also think you’re an amateur.

Whenever I see titles like, How To Become a Best-Selling Author in a Month, I’m usually not all that tempted to click on them. Despite what the heading suggests, we all know that the article isn’t going to give me the secret formula to becoming a best-selling author in a month. In my mind, I’ve already disregarded the article as being a waste of time.

Now, had the title said, Tips That Will Improve Your Chances of Becoming a Best-Selling Author, I might click on it. That title is more honest, and it doesn’t try and peddle me a get-rich-quick formula.

If you have the choice between writing a misleading or truthful title for your content, you should pick truthful every time. Readers will return for honesty, but they won’t stick around for deception and disappointment.

It’s 2019, guys — clickbait is outdated, and most people see straight through it anyway. Instead of coming up with crazy clickbait headings, try focusing your energy on a catchy title instead. Catchy titles still capture a reader’s interest, but they don’t mislead them. It’s even okay to have shocking titles as long as they’re shockingly honest.

Keep in mind: if your titles are promising more than you can deliver, you’re just click-baiting people.

When I’m not writing, you can usually find me hanging out with my cats. pricelindy@gmail.com

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