In this zany internet age, we’ve become more selective about how we spend our time on the world wide web. With zillions of internet articles to read on everything from politics to polar bears and limited time to devote to said reading, many people have become less willing to waste time searching for substance.
While a catchy headline like, “Read this article to discover the true meaning of life,” might grab your audience’s attention (who hasn’t longed for an internet article to tell them the true meaning of life?), if a few lines of reading doesn’t fulfill the promise of the headline, the reader will feel duped and be less keen to return to your website again.
And that, dear content marketer, is why you should avoid using clickbait headlines on your website and social media posts.
Many platforms have caught onto the fallacy of clickbait and developed systems to demote that kind of content. To better serve their users, Facebook now uses a system that detects clickbait headlines and reduces distribution of posts from Pages and web domains that consistently use them.
So how do you entice your audience to read your content without making false promises? Here are a few tips to help you get clicks without resorting to clickbait.
5 tips for writing clickable headlines that aren’t clickbait
1. Set realistic expectations
These days people don’t want to be strung along. The first few times your audience falls for the clickbait trap are exciting, but eventually you lose their trust and they stop clicking. Your desperate attempts to inspire curiosity and wonder will wear off if you continuously fail to meet expectations.
When the reader clicks on “These 45 Stunning Photos of Pruning Shears Will Make You Cry” and doesn’t shed a single tear, he’s going to feel like a fool.
If you’re going to describe the pruning shears as “stunning” and prepare your audience to cry, those better be some truly fantastic garden tools. Otherwise it’s best to cut the razzle dazzle and just be honest with your audience.
Facebook suggests that instead of relying on misleading headlines to intrigue the reader, share articles with accurate headlines that don’t exaggerate the topic. If your content is about boring, but incredibly functional pruning shears, then own it. Your audience of pruning shear consumers will thank you for giving them the straight facts.
That way when the reader clicks on “The 12 Greatest Garden Pruners for Small Hands” and your content lives up to the headline, she’ll know you’re a brand with integrity.
2. Make a list
When your audience is scrolling through an endless stream of headlines, what can you do to make your content stand out without manipulating them emotionally or withholding information? Organize your content into a list.
Research has shown that human brains love lists. Lists help create an easier reading and thinking experience. Lists help quantify the length of the story while preparing your audience for how much attention they’ll need to pay to the reading. In a world of infinite choices, list-style headlines can be a relief from the burden of decision. Numbered lists help us organize information spatially and enjoy a feeling of accomplishment when we successfully finish reading the article.
If you set out to learn about the “7 Most Important Moments in Icelandic History” and by the end of the article you know all seven, that’s a good feeling and you’re likely to click numbered list-style articles again. Especially odd numbered lists.
3. Evoke emotion
Creating an emotional connection with your audience is essential. Again, that doesn’t mean promising extreme sentimental feelings in exchange for making contact with your content. It just means identifying the emotions that matter most to your audience and using them in your language. Rage may not work so well for someone trying to sell fleece pajamas, but may work great for a marketer promoting an energy drink.
What works isn’t always so obvious. For example, one study on emotional marketing found that consumers in the finance and insurance sector respond better to intimacy than to safety and to anxiety over exclusivity. Consumers in the retail market had the opposite response. They were more likely to engage with safety over intimacy and exclusivity over anxiety. What works best for your company and audience may take a little trial and error to figure out, but once you tap into what makes them tick, you’ll be well on your way.
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4. Be authentic
Remember when you asked your mom how to make friends in school and she told you to just be yourself? Well, she was right. When your creative team taps into their own genuine interests, magical things can happen. Once you strip away the business lingo, you can relate to your audience through shared experience and connect with them as you would a friend.
That’s why it’s essential to have a vibrant, engaged creative team with a multitude of interests. For example, Hootsuite’s creative team loves the HBO series, Game of Thrones. By tapping into this authentic interest, the team was able to create a wildly successful bit of media content by reimagining the Game of Thrones title sequence with social networks as the houses.
The video has been viewed over 900,000 times and was featured in Time, AdAge, Fast Company, and Mashable. If you want to get clicks without resorting to clickbait, foster a supportive workplace environment that encourages creativity, individuality, and taking risks.
When your team can freely express ideas from a place of authenticity, shareable content will follow.
5. Revise, revise, revise
Just because a headline seems casually clever, doesn’t mean it was arrived at by quick wit. Great editors often painstakingly revise headlines down to a science. A muddle of keywords transforms into an effective high-converting marketing beast machine when attacked by a thoughtful copywriter.
You may be on a deadline, but that little bit of extra care you take to craft a headline can pay off big time if inspiration strikes and you come up with a great one.
Your headline is your first point of connection with your audience, so you better make it a good one. If you need a little help getting started on your headline, you can take a spin on this nifty headline generator tool.
Remember, you don’t need to stoop to clickbait to get clicks. Slow and steady wins the race.
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