Today, I’m here to talk about clickbait.
Hopefully, you (or your kids) are big enough Disney/Pixar fans to understand the reference to the cinematic classic, Finding Nemo. For those that aren’t, I’ll give you a run-down. In the scene where Nemo is christened with the name “Shark Bait,” he first has to pass through the “ring of fire.” Sounds terrifying, right? That’s how all the aquarium fish make it seem. But, it turns out it’s really not that much of a feat to conquer. Nemo passes through the “ring of fire” with ease and the fish begin the celebratory chant, “Shark bait ooh ha ha! Shark bait ooh ha ha!”
The Sliding Definitions of Clickbait
How does this relate to clickbait? Let’s head over to the ever-reliable Wikitionary for an open-sourced definition:
Website content that is aimed at generating advertising revenue, especially at the expense of quality or accuracy, relying on sensationalist headlines to attract click-throughs; such headlines.
Just like Nemo was lead to believe he was about to perform an incredibly dangerous task, readers are lead to believe they’re about to read an earth-shattering piece of news. In reality, what ends up happening is far more anti-climactic.
Now, this is not to say that the amazing piece of accurate, viable content you just created doesn’t deserve to be honored with an attention-grabbing headline. Quite the opposite. What distinguishes clickbait from a dang good headline is that the content itself is obviously sub-par.
Purveyors of Clickbait
In April of this year, Luke O’Neil scored popular sites and their respective clickbait utilization in his article, “Every Major Website Clickbaits, But Not as Much as You’d Assume.” O’Neil and the folks over at Mediaite even put their findings in a nifty visual, pictured below for your enjoyment:
While you’d expect sites like BuzzFeed and Upworthy to be off-the-charts in clickbait use, it just isn’t that widespread. However, just because it isn’t as widespread doesn’t mean those that do occur go unnoticed. Clickbait inspires such a violent distaste in some that The Onion created an entire site, Clickhole, solely filled with clickbait posts. Below is a screen shot showcasing some of Clickhole’s clickbait headlines:
Now, take a look at ViralNova’s site (screenshot below). ViralNova scored a 94/100 on Mediaite’s clickbait scale. Meaning that out of the 100 random articles collected, 94 of them were guilty of clickbaiting. Can you tell the difference between Clickhole’s parody and ViralNova’s reality?
Clickbait’s Ripple Effect
Clicks to your website or blog are typically a go-to analytic for measuring online success. Understandably, this has lead to bevy of online marketers doing just about anything for clicks. Firms churn out content that talks a big headline game, but simply doesn’t deliver when the reader arrives. Not only does this hurt other, arguably more important metrics, it hurts the brand that’s producing the clickbait. A short-term attempt to gain clicks really creates a potentially long-term trust and credibility issue for firms. But, if clicks are how you measure, where can you go from here?
In a recent article in Forbes, Upworthy’s director of business intelligence, Daniel Mintz, spoke on formulating a new metric to measure content impact beyond clicks and page views. “Attention minutes” is a metric that Upworthy just recently began tracking. “If a user isn’t actively scrolling down a page, mousing around it or playing a video for more than a few seconds at a time, she’s no longer considered part of the audience,” explains the article of Mintz’s attention minutes.
While this measurement is far from forgiving, it gives marketers real insight into visitor behavior. Using this data and intelligence can translate into creating content that better resonates with your audience on a more consistent basis.
A Solution to Clickbait?
There will always be members of the online community who perpetrate poor-taste tactics. Furthermore, there will always be an audience present to click blindly on the links. But, that doesn’t mean your brand needs to fall victim to this get-clicks-quick strategy. So, what can you do to get clicks AND gain trust?
Create Quality Content
The most simple manner in which to avoid a piece of content that could be construed as clickbait is to create quality content. This content is NOT driven by a purpose of simply spiking traffic or going “viral.” The content is reliable, accurate, and is of real value to your audience.
Create Quality Content… All The Time
Creating quality content is a lot like bathing. You don’t bath once, then figure your good for months, right? Hopefully not! Each time you create content, it should be of high enough quality that you’re proud of it.
Create Quality Content… All The Time… For Your Audience
The final and vital facet to creating quality content is that it is tailor-made for your audience. Content inspiration should be drawn from one source: your target audience. If it is not useful, or entertaining, to them in any manner, it simply shouldn’t be created.
What are your thoughts? Do you think clickbait is over-mentioned for it’s actual volume of use? Do you think it’s damaging to the blogging community as a whole? Did the aquarium fish clickbait Shark Bait?