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You’ll never guess why click bait headers drive me crazy – this is epic!

I’m all for a good story. Don’t get me wrong – I’m probably the first to click on things like “epic cats fails you won’t believe happened” or “17 things all 30 year olds are getting wrong”, but 99% of the time I’m left feeling incredibly disappointed after I’ve read it…

Click bait headers tend to be used by platforms that want to generate lots of traffic (and ad revenue) fast – so in theory, once you’ve clicked on the heading, the content below it has essentially already served its purpose.

But what does this mean for the content itself? If the main objective of the platform is to get a ‘click’, then surely the content suffers due to the objective being achieved before the content has even been read.

This is the opposite of what content marketing should be.

Content marketing should concern itself with what the readers do once they’ve engaged with the content – therefore achieving the objective after the content has been consumed.

I like to distinguish this difference as ‘top of page’ and ‘bottom of page’ objectives.

The objectives of content marketing are to achieve a long-term relationship with a potential customer, to build brand awareness and sentiment and to ultimately make sales due to increased engagement and trust – which you do not do by placing emphasis on the click alone.

What click bait content does to the wider digital landscape is also an issue.

Since click bait tends to work very well, more and more businesses feel compelled to drive people to their site using sensationalised headlines. The argument is that if readers are rewarded with good content then there’s no problem and we should all just get on with it.

The issue though is that ‘top of page objectives’ place far less emphasis on the actual content, which results in quality standards dropping.

It’s also becoming increasingly competitive for brands to get the attention they crave, which creates even more click bait content as a result. This makes it harder for the readers to distinguish between the good content and the bad and generally creates a lot of browsing frustration.

On top of this, it just feels a little patronising, right?

I mean, imagine if our most-loved movies had click bait headers…

The Great Gatsby:

You’ll never believe what this millionaire did to win her back!

The Titanic:

Epic sailing fail they never saw coming…

Jaws:

Five unbelievable reasons they needed a bigger boat

Good Will Hunting:

We can’t believe what this genius janitor did!

I would like to see one of two things happen:

  • Either click bait headers live up to what they promise and put more effort into the quality of the content or,
  • The industry as a whole focuses on creativity and transparency over clickability and sensationalism and stops feeling pressurised to go down this path.

After all, good content will rise to the surface – it will get shared and gain traction. It does not need to be demeaned with a spammy looking header.

If this doesn’t happen, then surely it’s just a matter of time before Google releases a new anti-click-bait algorithm… surely…

What are your thoughts on click bait?

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