This post originally appeared on NewsCred.
Admit it: You’ve been hooked by clickbait headlines. They appear in our newsfeeds, Google searches, Twitter streams or in forwarded emails from our moms. At first, they seem enticing. But once you click, you’re let down by the lack of valuable content you’ve been given.
However, clickable headlines in and of themselves aren’t dishonest. It’s not unethical for content creators to include the phrases “You won’t believe it” or “This one video will change your life,” as long as they can deliver on what they’ve guaranteed up front.
NewsCred spoke with a few content marketers about clickbait headlines to find out where they thought the ethical line became blurred.
Beware: They might change the way you see clickbait headlines—forever.
Should content marketers use clickbait headlines?
Barry Feldman, Feldman Creative:
“No. Clickbait headlines to me highlight the word ‘bait.’ As a result, the reader will end up with a sharp piece of metal in his or her mouth, yanked out of the water and suffocated. Bait usually has unhappy endings. If you write a headline whose function is to get people to read something and they are unpleasantly surprised by what they read or you let them down because your article stinks or it fails to deliver, then you committed a crime of journalism.”
Brian Honigman, marketing consultant:
“I don’t think clickbait headlines are innately bad, but they can be used in a bad context. The bad name they get is from people take advantage of the tactic and getting people to get clicking for the sake of clicking. The article may not relate to the headline. The point is to entice and get someone to read an article with a headline. If the expectation isn’t matched, that’s a bad experience for a reader. It’s not advantageous to the reader and the marketer.”
Joe Pulizzi, Content Marketing Institute:
“The purpose of a headline is the same as the purpose of a magazine cover: to get opened (or clicked). I would stay away from sensational headlines, but provocative and compelling headlines are a must.”
What are some other reasons not to use clickbait?
Honigman: “People will begin to view your content as low quality and deceptive. If they are avid followers of your Facebook page, they will look at [a piece of] content after clicking the headline because it sounded interesting and [relatable] to their hobbies or what have you. If the content is not good or interesting or doesn’t deliver what was promised on Facebook, that can lead to a distrust in the type of content you’re putting out and in the company as a whole. That’s the exact opposite of what you want. The whole point of content marketing is to build a positive memory and relationship with people overtime. It’s to build trust between a company and its customer base. [By using] clickbait that’s not delivering, it’s likely that people will begin to distrust the articles.”
When, if ever, is it acceptable to use clickbait headlines?
Adarsh Thampy of ConversionChamp.com:
“If you are creating content for your business that aims at educating customers, it’s fine to use clickbait once in a while to surprise your customers. Imagine a scenario: Your company completed 10 years, and you are going to surprise your customers with a $20 discount if they have a small kid accompanying them [to your celebration]. It’s perfectly acceptable to use a title like ‘Here’s what we did on our 10th anniversary that put a smile on this cute three-year-old girl.’ As with everything, if you overuse this strategy, people will see right through you and stop clicking on your links.”
Why does clickbait even exist at this point?
Feldman: “We’re using old metrics like page views. Advertising is still based on that. We’re stuck in that. It doesn’t matter. Page views [can happen in] one second. What matters more is how much time people spend on the site and commentary that’s shared. You should look at the number of people that read the last line of your piece, not the first line.”
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