What Clickbait Headlines Do and Don’t Do

By on January 8, 2017

When I think of “clickbait” I somehow think of a type of food for fish on a hook, and a fish swimming along and clicking on it. Somewhat of a superimposition of two mental images – real life and rectangular screen life – but that’s what clickbait looks like in my head.

What started off as a strange (slightly uneducated) way of writing article titles a few years ago is now a marketing phenomenon I can’t ignore. When I meet potential clients, many of them, some slightly awkwardly, ask me if I know how to write clickbaity headlines. I didn’t know that that question had any answer other than, “Um, yes. Though I’d rather not. But yes.”

At some point of time in life, you realize that your likes and dislikes count only so much in the landscape of your life plans and you have to do some things to fulfil your life’s purpose, like brushing your teeth even when you are in a rush. That was the point at which I stopped getting edgy about writing clickbaity titles. You just do what you have to do. Because it fits in somewhere, a puzzle piece completing some puzzle which you didn’t design.

The good part of this “you do what you have to do” was that I extensively researched and drilled down exactly when you do do it, and when you don’t do it, and thank Divinity for the latter.

So here I share this list of when you need to do and when you don’t need to do, for the benefit of those who share my views. Or not. The list is useful just the same.

It probably won’t shock you and Number #4 is probably just another point in the list, nothing unbelievable, and it won’t change the way you look at Life, but it will be worth a read on a sunny (or snowy) Sunday.

clickbait: Meh


When You DO Use Clickbait …

#1 When you are aiming for page views, clicks and high traffic to your blog.

Especially when your blog is high on content volume, all with just as clickbaity headlines, so even if the visitor just yawns through one post, you expect him/her to meander around enough on the site just by the power of clickbait++.

#2 When you don’t want to crush SEO (for some strange reason).

It may be that you have given up on SEO in your niche or you are already a master at it, but you have your own reasons for it, and I am no one to question your disinterest in SEO. But when you don’t particularly care about SEO and packing your blog post titles with SEO friendly keywords, you have the freedom to go for clickbaity.

#3 When your writing skills have matured to the level where you can write clickbaity headlines that answer the question “Why should I read this post?” very succinctly, without making it sound cheesy.

#4 Ad copy.

This is obvious. If you are boosting your blog posts or using them as a direct promotion for something with clear CTAs, you need them folks to click and click like there’s no tomorrow. So you go for clickbait.

#5 When you write actual content way, way better than headlines

… and your clickbaity headline will (for once) do real justice to the hype and curiosity cooked & brewed in the headline. Headline is the menu. You are ready to serve.

Clickbait: You are the Man


When You Don’t Use Clickbait …

#1 When you care about branding

… and don’t want your brand personality to be labelled as “trite” & “un-original.” What you say matters. Whether you follow a trend or create one as a brand matters even more.

#2 When SEO is something that figures in your content marketing strategy.

If your content is largely SEO driven, you don’t want to spend 4 word spaces on “this will shock you.”

#3 When the primary goal of your blog or site is not driving traffic but something else

– like getting qualified leads! That’s direct business, potential $$$ in your pocket. Clickbait isn’t what will cut it, writing what gets those potential customers to your blog will.

#4 Just like me, everyone has likes and dislikes.

Marketers build the ability to recognize these like/dislike patterns in a fish market. So, if your target audience group is not going to particularly appreciate clickbaity headlines, you don’t do it.

Clickbait: Please Stop.


Whether clickbait is here to stay or not, is not in the purview of my foresight to declare. If it won’t be clickbait, it will be something else I pucker my nose at. Though I hope not. But as a lifetime learner and inhaler of marketing principles, there are certain places where certain things work, and certain places they don’t. You just figure out the right mix, do the job well, and move on. Sort of.


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