What is Clickbait & How to Use it Correctly

Have you ever been tricked by a clickbait headline or clicked an ad you knew smelled fishy while browsing the web or social media?

You may have seen those annoying or shocking ads that cause you to stop scrolling and find the click through irresistible. If you recognize this scenario, it’s likely that you’ve seen a clickbait headline.

FREE GUIDE - Grow your Business Better with Digital Marketing. Grab your Copy  Now.

What is Clickbait?

Clickbait is a misleading or false advertisement that uses hyperlink text, a graphic image or photo devised to attract attention and entice users to click through to a specific web page.

What is the definition of clickbait?

Clickbait Ads and Titles

Clickbait has become infamous in digital marketing. However, clickbait ads and titles can be very effective when done correctly, but they can also backfire if you're not truthful.

So, when done without the intent to deceive, it can be one of the best tactics to get people's valuable attention.

Examples of Clickbait


Here are 3 clickbait examples that had shocking and amazing results. Let's examine how the trap works. Typically, clickbait headlines work in two parts. 

The first part reveals the plot and is very catchy. The second part then says there's more to the plot, and the outcome is shocking. So, the bait lies in the second part as it challenges your imagination by using terms like:

  • "you won’t believe..."
  • "shocking result"
  • "X things yould never..."
  • "too good to be true"
  • "[trusted authority person] reveals brilliant tip..."

Clickbait Example 1

1st clickbait example shows a shocking image with a call to action

Ad Example Synopsis
If this story was at all true, the man is an expert trainer otherwise it would have end badly for the man or the lion. However, the clickbait ad doesn’t allow you to think that way - it makes you wanting to know the outcome.

Part 1: Why would a man try to hug a lion - that's crazy!
Part 2: You won't believe what happens next - I've got to know [click].

Clickbait Example 2

2nd clickbait example shows a common item that challenges your curiosity

Ad Example Synopsis
We all most likely have many things other than leftovers in our freezer. So, the clickbait ad makes it seem like I'm an offender and you've just got to know.

Part 1: Wow there are things that you can never put in the freezer!
Part 2: And, I probably have #5 in my freezer right now! - I've got to know [click].

Clickbait Example 3

3rd clickbait example shows a simple concept with a huge mortgage payoff tip

Ad Example Synopsis
Barbara Corcoran, the millionaire realestate guru from Shark Tank says she's revealing a tip to payoff my mortgage. So, the clickbait ad targets all us homeowners that would love her insider tip. 

Part 1: Say that an authority figure has "revealed" an insider tip for homeowners.
Part 2: You can payoff your mortgage ASAP. Barbara's a realestate expert so she must know the insider secret - I've got to know [click].

How to Use Clickbait Correctly

People can use clickbait techniques for both good and bad purposes. On the good side, you have the promotion of quality content to a large audience. In the middle, you have the viral promotion of average content for the sole purpose of generating revenue.

It’s possible to use clickbait ads and attractive headlines to boost your website traffic. Here are five tips that will help you use clickbait-y headlines to your advantage:

1. Clickbait Headlines and Titles: Don’t Be Misleading

One of the biggest reasons why many readers dislike clickbait-y articles is because the headlines often don’t accurately represent the content. When crafting your headline, be sure that your content delivers what the reader expects. Never publish a headline simply to entice readers into clicking through – doing so will foster distrust among those who may be potential customers.

2. Know When to Avoid Using Clickbait

The popularity of social media has made writing interesting headlines even more essential, as many readers will share content without even reading the article. However, it’s not always necessary to use clickbait-y headlines to capture readers’ attention – simple, informative headlines can be just as effective.

When creating headlines, focus on what appeals to your audience. Many clickbait sites use headlines to drive traffic and increase advertising revenue, but your business may not rely on that source of income.

If ad revenue isn’t a concern, don’t feel obligated to always use a clickbait-y title. Ultimately, a straightforward title that leads to valuable content will be the most effective.

3. Be Aware of Facebook’s Rules

The largest social media network in the world, Facebook has defined several rules with using clickbait content. Online marketers should look to Facebook for guidance when crafting headlines as well as blog posts and other content.

In 2017, Facebook introduced new algorithms that would penalize publishers who use misleading or vague headlines with the sole purpose of garnering clicks. Posts considered too clickbait-oriented will appear less often in News Feed and may even have a lower position.

Facebook currently services almost 1.3 billion users, making it wise to follow its rules. In fact, it’s smart to apply their rules to all your content, not just headlines. Best practices regarding content can be found on the company’s website.

Clickbait: Don't create a purposely misleading or overly complicated title that gets you banned from Facebook.

4. Don’t Add Call-to-Actions to Headlines

Readers click on headlines when they expect the content to be informative and engaging. While it’s fine to include a call-to-action within your content, a CTA should never be part of a headline.

Pitching to potential customers through your headline can greatly decrease the number of clicks your content receives.

5. Avoid Taking Advantage of a Tragedy

When a newsworthy tragedy has just taken place, it’s tempting to use the event to bring more readers to your website. Known as “newsjacking,” this practice involves inserting your brand into the news, which can grab people’s attention while they’re already interested in a story. Newsjacking can reflect poorly on your company and can cause a public backlash.

While newsjacking a tragedy usually is in poor taste, relating your brand to a non-tragic event can be effective. Exciting events like the solar eclipse or an upcoming sporting event are great opportunities to showcase an upcoming sale or promotion.

Clickbait: Never, ever use a tragedy to benefit your marketing. It's a quick way to hurt your reputation.

Final Thoughts

Clickbait titles do have their place, but it’s important to assess your audience’s needs before including them in your marketing strategy.

By avoiding the mistakes of the clickbait sites and creating relevant, interesting headlines, you’ll be able to grab readers’ attention and drive additional traffic to your site.tion

Grow your Business with Digital Marketing
Eric Steiner

Eric Steiner

Eric Steiner graduated with an MFA in professional and creative writing from Western Connecticut State University in 2014. He's worked on a number of professional writing projects with clients such as Pearson Education, WatchMojo.com, and Michael Mailer Films. Giving brands a voice is his passion.