Infographic: You Won't Believe the Power of Clickbait Headlines

October 28, 2015

When you’ve finished crafting your latest article, you’re faced with an even tougher job. Attracting a stranger to click on your article from the title.

This is the stage when you start thing about how to leverage your title for more clicks. How can you grab people’s attention, and get them to click your headline? It’s tough.

A recent Pew Internet study suggests that while students have access to a wealth of information, their attention spans have diminished. This means that you have even less time to capture the younger generation’s attention, both in the headline and the introduction.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m very quick to leave articles that don’t capture my interest. While I know the effort that must’ve been put into the article, if it doesn’t grab me, shock me, insult me or teach me, then I’m gone.

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Let’s dig a little deeper into what clickbait is and why it’s so effective.

Clickbait is a method to attract visitors by leveraging the power of psychology within the headline. It’s all the range at the moment, with major sites utilizing the method to gain clicks. Although the term is relatively new, the method has been used for many years.

In his bulletin from 1994, George Loewenstein explains that advertisers have been harnessing the power of curiosity in television advertisements:

Advertisers have begun to harness the power of curiosity in “mystery” ads that reveal the identity of the product only at the end of the advertisement.

That was over 20 years ago. Nowadays, people are spending more time than ever on social media websites.

Sites like Upworthy and Buzzfeed know this, so they utilize this in their headlines. What do they do? Well they use the same ‘curiosity gap’ effect to gain clicks.

Maybe that’s the best definition then, of clickbait: Did this post need to exist, or did you just make a thing for the sake of making a thing? In which case, BuzzFeed Does Clickbait. So does pretty much everyone.

James Hamblin, The Atlantic

Now I’m not saying clickbait is a worst thing that’s happened to content in recent years, but I do think it’s overused. It’s something that you should use with caution, and sparingly. However, it’s increasingly useful for the smaller blogs that want to increase interest in their content.

You need to make sure you’re pointing readers to valuable content. I often see sites get heavily criticized on their Facebook comments for using clickbait, sometimes with reason and sometimes without. People don’t like being fooled if the content has no benefit to the reader and is a time-waster.

“I’m confused. Where in this video does she say Harry Styles’ name? #ClickBait”

Annoyed clickbait victim

Creating your very own clickbait headline isn’t too difficult. You need to use a mix of emotion, power words and numbers. Here’s our formula for creating an attention grabbing clickbait headline, but use it sparingly, please.

Anatomy of a Successful Blog Headline Infographic

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Before you get too hasty conjuring up that attention grabbing title, it seems like things may be changing for the future of headlines once again. New data from Upworthy suggests that people are now becoming less responsive to clickbait headlines because according to Nitsuh Abebe at Upworthy “everybody does it”.

They basically trademarked what became known as the “curiosity gap” headline. It’s also known as the “Upworthy-style” headline. And now, the site is poised to trend away from using it.

Alexis Madrigal, The Atlantic

What does the future hold for curiosity gap headlines? We’ll have to wait and see, but it does seem that readers are becoming desensitized to the shocking words that once made them click.