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What Is Clickbait and Why Does It Work so Well?

You may have heard the term clickbait before, but if you’ve been on the internet within the past 10 years or so, you’ve undoubtedly been exposed to it. For the most part, clickbait is considered only an annoyance, but it can also sometimes lead to some rather negative consequences. In fact, the world of clickbait itself, isn’t as cut and dry as it may seem.

Using clickbait headlines is a tactic used all over the internet, from news publications to small business website blogs, it’s ever-present. Even at the risk of annoying and alienating readers, the use of clickbait has anything but waned.

What is clickbait, why does it work so well, and should you employ this method? Below, we’re going to lay it all out for you so you can make an informed decision for yourself.

What is clickbait?

By definition, clickbait is a form of false advertisement online. It comes in the form of a link you can find on a website, usually accompanied by a sensationalist headlines and photos. While one could argue that that’s most of the internet, clickbait fails when you finally arrive at the page it sends you to. The quality of content is subpar, and if the headline poses a question, the article itself may not even answer it, or provide an unsatisfying conclusion. There may not be a better example of the term “overpromise and underdeliver” than clickbait.

History of clickbait

Clickbait itself comes from the term yellow journalism, which pertains to newspapers that show little or no concern for accuracy or research, and offer up eye-catching headlines in order to sell more papers. This term came from a comic strip that ran in the late 1890s, called The Yellow Kid. Another, more familiar form of this type of sensationalist news comes from tabloid journalism, which have been around for ages and include publications like everyone’s favorite supermarket tabloid, Weekly World News, and it’s hilariously ridiculous hunt for Bat Boy.

Bat Boy’s awesomeness aside, clickbait and both yellow and tabloid journalism use the outlandish, sensationalist headlines and content matter because of one reason. Sensationalism sells. The ultimate goal behind clickbait ads or articles are to generate online advertising revenue, which is another reason it’s so prevalent. You can consider it the weeds of the internet — Not necessarily bad, but not pretty, and hard to get rid of!

Why does clickbait work so well on us?

It’s not uncommon for advertising to pull on heartstrings or emotions. It’s quite effective! Guerilla marketing is used to shock, intrigue, or induce other emotions like disgust, fear, or guilt, often with a rather elaborate or clever delivery in the real world. In a way, clickbait is similar and the opposite of guerilla marketing.

Clickbait also plays on emotions, but in a different way than guerilla marketing. The over the top headlines from clickbait are intended to trigger FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) within an individual — presented in a very, “you won’t believe this!” type of format. This is a powerful anxiety that we experience and one of the biggest reasons we’re so glued to social media.

Above, you see how clickbait is similar to something like guerilla marketing, but how is it similar and also quite the opposite? Well, take into account how each marketing method is deployed. Guerilla marketing is in your face and can be shocking immediately, where clickbait headlines or photos promise a shock (or answer) that will never come.

Clickbait is structured in such a way that the title is essentially telling you that it knows something that you don’t know, and all you have to do is click to find the answer. In this respect, clickbait requires one to indulge in their curiosity. It’s actually quite funny to think about: clickbait wouldn’t be anything if we as humans weren’t naturally indulgent, gullible, or curious creatures.

Luckily, it’s pretty easy to spot clickbait. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. The telltale signs of a clickbait article are obvious, but that most definitely doesn’t prevent us from indulging. We still give into clickbait even if we know it’s clickbait. Sometimes, the title is too good to pass up on, and it struck a chord that itched your FOMO [FEAR OF MISSING OUT] bone that you have to scratch.

Good clickbait vs bad clickbait

While it’s easy to assume that all clickbait is bad, it isn’t. It’s mostly harmless, and at worst, you’ll walk away underwhelmed and with a few minutes of time you’ll never get back in your life. Before we dive into the differences between good and bad clickbait, it may be apropos to sort of redefine, or at the very least get another perspective on what clickbait is and isn’t, and where other to get such an answer than from a site that is nothing but clickbait?…

FINISH READING: What Is Clickbait and Why Does It Work so Well?