How to write clickbait-free headlines

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October 13, 2016
How to write clickbait-free headlines.
Content is design, and our content is full of clickbait, these days. Sadly, there are many sites that are still using this technique to draw traffic to their pages. That should bother you. At the very least least, the recent decision by Facebook to update their algorithm such that it can filter out the sensational content should be a wake-up call. This was not their first backlash at such content. A 2014 update of their algorithm had the same purpose.

What’s the fuss about clickbait, anyway?

There are various concerns aroused by this kind of internet marketing trick. Basically, the reader is looking for value any time they visit a website. Understanding this, major search engines and internet platforms are looking for ways to improve the quality of content they avail to users. This is why they are continuously improving the search algorithms or news feeds to make sure they respond with search results that suit the reader best. Why doesn’t clickbait meet this criteria?

A clickbait headline is manipulative

[pullquote]By merely reading a title, you cannot decide it is clickbait outright.[/pullquote] This kind of content thrives on manipulating the psychology of the reader. This is by using titles that give readers very little information (if any) about the content of the post just to spark their curiosity. For instance, a YouTube video title reading: “This blind, autistic boy enters the stage- what happens next shocks everyone.” Of course, everyone wants to empathize with the physically challenged in the society. So, that portion alone plays with the emotions of the reader. However, the title goes further to suggest, “What happens next shocks everyone.” Many will definitely want to click. It makes you curious to find out what the boy did to shock the audience. Other examples of clickbait titles include;
  • You Won’t Believe How This Company Changed the Game
  • 7 signs you’re not as ethical as you think
  • 4 signs you are a terrible communicator
By merely reading a title, you cannot decide it is clickbait outright. This is because some catchy titles are actually followed by some meaningful content. This brings us to other factors that point out clickbait from a valuable title.

Clickbait is likely to exaggerate

When you read the title in the example given above, your mind is already expecting something shocking. Unfortunately, not a lot of content lives up to that excitement. Perhaps, for example, what the boy in the example above does isn’t shocking to a person who has lived with an autistic person before. Basically, most of the clickbait is prone to messages that are misleading. They will cause you to expect something, but the content doesn’t live up to your expectations. You will end up being disappointed.

They are sensational but lack value

[pullquote]It will drive traffic to your website. Unfortunately, your success is likely to be short-lived.[/pullquote] Most clickbait headlines are created to attract attention. The way they are pushed on to the reader is also uncalled for. Ever noticed those links that pop up when browsing some websites almost every minute? You can hardly navigate the pages without being annoyed by them. Unfortunately, the suggested topics are totally unrelated to what you are looking for. Also, they can be vague, just like, “You Won’t Believe How This Company Changed the Game.” The title doesn’t give you an idea of what information the post contains. In this case, you are pushed to imagine the value you might gain once you click it. In an internet environment where search engines want to improve the user-experience, such content can be detrimental to your website. Also, people take note of such websites or titles very fast. They are likely to avoid them in future. They will gain you visitors, but not buyers In other words, this point is partly agreeing with the presumption that clickbait works. It will drive traffic to your website. Unfortunately, your success is likely to be short-lived. The visitors may not stick long enough for you to turn them into buyers. Why? This is because the content doesn’t match their expectations. Soon they will realize the hype behind your work is empty. Such content makes you appear suspicious or unreliable. Who wants to stick around or buy from such a seller?

Clickbait isn’t good SEO

It is a rule of the thumb that one should use SEO phrases in titles that are descriptive of the content. As mentioned earlier, clickbait lacks the information required to show what the reader expects to get from the content. In this case, you can hardly adhere to SEO rules when focused on clickbait.

How to make better headlines that still grab attention but aren't clickbait

[pullquote]It tends to focus on getting people to the site, and doesn’t focus at all on what happens next.[/pullquote] The reader of today is thirsty for genuine posts, and headlines. Once they click and read through, they need to have their curiosity satisfied. They need to get what they clicked for. But, it is vital to get people clicking your titles in the first place. Otherwise, you won’t have enough traffic to your site. However, that doesn’t mean you concentrate on getting readers’ attention and fail to fulfill their expectations. This is the major problem with clickbait. It tends to focus on getting people to the site, and doesn’t focus at all on what happens next. So, how can you break the bad habit and still catch their attention with your titles?

Tone the sensationalism down, build your authority

Be professional, be relevant. This is how you quench the curiosity of your readers. Also, work on establishing your voice or authority in the specific field. It builds confidence in the minds of readers, that you can meet their expectation every time they visit your website looking for some information related to what you offer.

Create honest and informative titles

What do your readers expect from your post? Let the title capture that. It is alright to put some energy in your titles. Every good title arouses some level of curiosity. Otherwise, how would they notice it or want to click it? In this case, you won’t give everything your content contains in the title. That notwithstanding, let it be as clear as possible. Capture the information the readers can expect to find once they click. Then, make sure the content matches that.

Inspire them to learn

Do not write titles that are too obvious. People are attracted to unique rationale, and value propositions, as long as you can back it up. People love to learn tricks, see reasons, find ways, discover facts, and so forth. Tweak the obvious subjects to include such words in your titles. Include trigger words such as how, when, why and what. Such words can inspire people to want to discover, and learn. Human beings are curious to learn something new each day. When you structure your titles to suggest that you are offering answers or lessons, they are likely to attract people’s attention. The key to having loyal readers lies in providing value to your readers in your content. Value supersedes catchy headlines. Make readers feel that your content was worth their while. While you’re at it, remember that not all catchy headlines are clickbait. Use the above tips to create attention-grabbing headlines, without resorting to outdated Internet marketing tricks.

Anita Sambol

Anita is a young content marketing specialist and blogger, writing about all things online marketing at several websites. She's currently occupied with UnGagged Conference project. She loves everything about SEO, online marketing and social media, both at work and in her free time.

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