The Art of Misleading Your Readers – Clickbait Headlines

Don’t Use Clickbait for Your Web Content

In the simplest of terms, clickbait is the type of online promotion that essentially attempts to deceive visitors to produce more “clicks” to their websites.

When reading that statement, it comes across as ludicrous to believe that any company would use this as their marketing strategy. But many do, in increasing numbers actually.

I’m sure the majority of you have experienced the following types of clickbait, some of you will have seen some of these *exact ads:

Web Content Trends Clickbait Example

Is This How You Want to Attract Visitors to Your Website?

In some cases, it can be difficult to discern what/where the actual article is, and how to navigate through it, often by design.

Why are these types of ads become so grating? There are a number of reasons.

First, they over-promise and under-deliver

Remember in one of most recent posts, where we talk about titles, headers and subheaders making good on the promises they make to increase visitor engagement and willingness to read your content? These marketers throw that concept completely out the window.

“If you live in Missouri, you need to read this right away!” which features someone sitting in the backseat of a police car under arrest, and then the content it leads to is….how this company’s car insurance policies are so great, that having a ticket in the last 3 years won’t affect your rate.

Does that image and urgent message match up with the content? Does a traffic ticket equate to someone in the back of a police car, (presumably) because of an alcohol-related offense?

There was a time when Facebook featured a flood of webpages like these, but self-regulation finally won out (probably with some serious behind-the-scenes prodding by FB). The platform has other issues now that are equally serious, but these types of clickbait articles aren’t it.

Other titles include “22 Historical Photos You Won’t Believe. I Just About Died Seeing #7!”, and when you click on the article none of the photos are really that compelling, and #7 certainly wasn’t anything special.

The same holds true for all these bold claims, that don’t follow through with their promise.

Then play with our emotions

Emotions, both positive and negative, are key to get us to click and share in many cases. Amping emotions up for topics that clearly don’t warrant them is a key goal; they only have to persuade you for a few seconds to get you to pass the page or link along. Or wait through a commercial to see what happens* to our beloved protagonist whom we met a mere 15 seconds ago (my have attention spans waned).

SPOILER: There will be a feel-good ending to the commercial, often with an attempt to make you either laugh or cry, unless this happens to be a political ad, where the other candidate joins a cult.

Many “news sites” (which feature what are more accurately termed *advertorials) and other outrageous, shocking, apocalyptic or conspiracy theory vids and sites can get lots of traffic using this tactic of overly strong emotion. But that doesn’t mean you should. And what is the quality of this traffic to begin with?

And living in a state of anxiety, anticipation, disgust continually can be crippling. Mind numbing. Headlines and copy can do that to people.

People Have Started to Rebel Against Clickbait

Thankfully as with any Internet trend, if it creates enough of a annoyance and point of pain to users it will eventually disappear. And search engines like Google will find a way to punish these sites into submission. Until then though, we will have to suffer through these.

Web Content Link Best Practices Example of Clickbait Ads

How Much of this Page is Dedicated to the Article?

But in almost every industry, the confidence your customers have in you, the quality of your products and services, and your reputation, is worth FAR more than any benefit you could gain by using disingenuous or misleading headlines.

Think to yourself, is that really how you want to treat your readers, or have them perceive your company? More importantly…

Is burning your reader’s trust really worth that extra click?


Consistent blogging or article development is one of the most important things that you can do to increase the strength and impact of your website. Well-researched and written content supports your SEO (search engine optimization) efforts, and persuades your visitors to take action in an honest way.

If you’d like to learn more about the right way to write for your website, or could use help creating a plan you can follow going forward please contact me today or shoot me an email at

Jim Haynes – Owner | Best Online Writer


*Use of the word “advertorial” is not necessary a negative one if done properly; actually it’s key to most press releases that you read. Intent is what matters, as with most things.

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