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Clickbait: What it is, Why You Should Use it and How it Works

by Degreat Michael

When someone mentions the term “Clickbait” to you, the first interpretation that comes to your mind is negative. Thoughts like scamming, hacking, or other related meanings if I’m right.

Imagine a friend promised you an awesome movie night. However, when you showed up, all you had was a dull documentary. You’ll feel disappointed, right? Good.

That’s the same disappointment that comes with abnormal usage of clickbaits. This guide will expose you to what clickbait means and how it works, including its advantages and disadvantages. 

You’ll also discover how to use it ethically by learning the unethical strategies to avoid. 

What Does Clickbait Mean?

Clickbait is a digital marketing technique whereby brands structure and make their content to grab attention and get clicks. They use catchy titles, sometimes with misleading information or eye-catching pictures. 

The main goal is to get you to click, even if the content doesn’t match what it promised at first. Of course, clickbait shows up in different ways, like exaggerated titles or tricky images meant to grab your interest. Even though people know about clickbait, not everyone agrees on whether it’s okay or how well it works.

A study found that over 50% internet users fall for clickbait and open links from unknown senders. They do this despite knowing the risks of malware and identity theft.

Read also: How to Use Pay-Per-Click Advertising on Your Website

Should You Use Clickbait?

The decision to employ clickbait hinges on several factors, including your content goals, target audience, and long-term brand reputation. Before using clickbait for your personal or business brand, evaluate the pros and cons to understand the implications thoroughly.

Below are some pros of clickbait:

  • Increased Click-Through Rates (CTR): Clickbait can help increase your Click-Through Rates (CTR). When your content struggles to grab attention, catchy clickbait titles can make a big difference. 
  • Enhanced Visibility: No doubt, the online space is crowded. But clickbait can make your content stand out with provocative headlines and eye-catching thumbnails. The more visible your content is, the better. It’s just like shining a spotlight on your work in a crowded room.
  • Potential for Virality: Clickbait has the potential to make your content go viral. That is, it can spread like wildfire, reaching a lot of people very quickly. Imagine your content being shared by hundreds or even thousands of people. That’s the power of clickbait, and it can skyrocket your content’s reach.

Below are certain cons of clickbait:

  • Trust Erosion: Remember the last time you clicked on a tempting headline, only to feel disappointed by the content? That’s the problem with clickbait. It can mess with the trust your audience has for your brand because it doesn’t always deliver what it promises upfront. No one wants to feel misled. 
  • Brand Damage: When you use clickbait too much, it’s like shooting your brand in the foot. People might start doubting your credibility, and your long-term reputation could take a hit.
  • Ethical Concerns: Clickbait can be seen as manipulative and unethical, as cares about getting clicks rather than providing real value.

Striking a Balance: Being Ethical with Clickbait 

If you want to use clickbait in your content strategy, then you should do it the right way. Make catchy titles and images that show what your content is about. This keeps people interested without being tricked or deceived. 

Don’t forget that providing good content all the time builds trust with your audience. For example, if you promise “The Best Cooking Tips,” ensure your content delivers helpful advice. Or if your headline claims to provide “Top Fitness Secrets,” then ensure your content truly provides useful fitness tips.

“The essential ethical note is to offer real value within your article rather than using a misleading headline to get page traffic,” says Neil Patel, a Digital marketing guru. 

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How Does Clickbait Work?

As said earlier, clickbait grabs your attention by using enticing elements to make you click on content. Its power comes from triggering psychological responses that encourage engagement. Here’s a simple breakdown of how clickbait operates:

  • Captivating headlines

Clickbait starts with a catchy headline using exciting words or questions to spark your curiosity and make you crave more information.

  • Appealing pictures

Clickbait uses eye-catching images to give you a sneak peek, aiming to stand out and compel you to click for more.

  • Playing with curiosity

Clickbait exploits our desire for answers, creating a gap between what you know and what you want to know. As a result, you may want to click to fill in the gap.

  • Emotional trigger

Clickbait plays with your emotions such as excitement, surprise, and fear, to prompt impulsive clicking, seeking quick rewards.

  • Quick gratification

It promises rapid satisfaction, delivering quick answers or fun experiences once you click.

  • Lists and numbers

It often presents information in lists like “Top 10 Secrets,” making it easy to digest and increasing the likelihood of clicks.

  • Dominating social media

It is prevalent on social media. News platforms use it as a trick to grab attention and promote sharing because users scroll quickly through content.

  • Engagement boost

As you know already, social media platforms love clicks, views, and shares. Thus, most creators use clickbaits to increase these numbers for more visibility.

With all that said, note that clickbaits’. effectiveness hinges on delivering content that matches expectations. Mismatches can lead to distrust. This can damage a creator’s reputation, much like a friend who fails to fulfil promises losing your belief.

Read also: Introduction to Google Adsense and How to Earn with it

3 Practical Tips to Use Clickbait Correctly 

Now that you know how clickbait works, it’s time to learn how to use it without sacrificing the credibility of your brand. To do that, below are some essential things you should pay attention to: 

  1. Irresistible headlines

Creating captivating headlines is an art. It involves using words and phrases to grab your audience’s attention while staying true to your content. For example, if you’re sharing a cooking video, a headline like “Discover the Secret to Mouthwatering Meals” would create curiosity without being misleading.

  1. Compelling visuals

Visual appeal is crucial, especially with thumbnails. Make them eye-catching and relevant to give your viewers a preview of what’s inside. A good thumbnail for a DIY tutorial might showcase the final result, enticing users to click.

  1. Optimizing your content

An excellent Click-Through Rate (CTR) is good. But remember, once users click, your content needs to meet their expectations. That’s why you should optimize your content (be it a landing page or otherwise) to keep their interest and encourage them to explore more. 

Ensure that when someone clicks on a promising recipe video, the actual content delivers on the promise. You do that by providing clear instructions and a satisfying result. Understand that in digital marketing, clickbait involves using attention-grabbing elements to attract users. However, note it’s about creating a positive experience, and not deceiving your audience.

Clickbait Strategies to Avoid

Many people often criticize clickbait online for seeming misleading. However, just as you’ve learned above, you can use it ethically without deceiving your readers.

To further help you do that, below are some unethical practices or strategies you should avoid when it comes to the usage of Clickbait: 

  • False promises

Avoid headlines that sound too good to be true. If it promises a lot but delivers little, that’s not cool. It’s like expecting a feast and getting just a snack.

  • Sensationalism overload

Watch out for exaggerated drama. If a headline screams disaster but the content is just a small issue, it’s toying with your emotions. It’s like expecting a storm but getting a drizzle.

  • The mystery box trap

Be cautious of headlines that create a mystery but don’t solve it. A clickbait should be like unwrapping a gift, and not staring at a locked box and wondering what’s inside. For instance, consider a headline like “Shocking Revelation: Celeb’s Big Secret Exposed!” 

This creates a mystery, sparking curiosity about the celebrity’s secret. However, if you click on the article and find vague information or that the secret isn’t revealed. It’s like staring at a locked box without knowing what’s inside.

  • Ridiculous numbers game

Imagine seeing a headline that boasts “10 Million-Dollar Ideas for Success!” The big number (10 million) grabs your attention, promising valuable insights. However, if you click on the article and find only a couple of generic suggestions or ideas that don’t live up to the grand promise. 

It’s like getting excited about a party with a large guest list but finding only a couple of friends when you arrive.

  • Bait-and-switch tactics

This one’s tricky. If the headline talks about one thing, but the content is different, you’re being tricked. It’s like expecting a movie and getting a documentary.

  • Overly dramatic language

Words like “shocking” or “unbelievable” might be trying too hard. Check if the content lives up to the hype. It’s like calling a small bump a mountain.

  • Fear-driven clicks

If a headline preys on your fears without giving useful info, it’s just playing with your emotions. That’s why as an online user, you shouldn’t let fear be the only reason you click. 

Instead, click for the joy of discovery, like unwrapping a present with an exciting surprise waiting inside.

  • Incomplete information

Be wary of clickbait that leaves you hanging. It’s like starting a joke and not finishing it, which is not satisfying at all. Who wants a story without an ending? Nobody.

Read also: Importance of Pay Per Click in Content Marketing

  • Click for click’s sake

Lastly, be mindful of content that’s just there for the clicks. If there’s no substance or value, it’s like eating jollof rice without the savoury flavour. Hence, as a brand owner, ensure your content provides value in return for your audience’s click.

Examples of Clickbait Headlines

#1. “Shocking Secrets Exposed! You Won’t Believe #7!”

This headline uses sensational language (“shocking,” “exposed”) and a numbered list to grab attention. It encourages curiosity but lacks specific information about the content.

#2. “You’re Doing It Wrong! Learn the One Secret to Success”

This headline appeals to the reader’s desire for success and implies they lack vital information. The vagueness of “One Secret” creates intrigue, but the actual content might not provide valuable insights.

#3. “Breaking News: World-ending Event Unfolding NOW!”

This headline capitalizes on fear with the term “world-ending” and urgency with “NOW.” Such headlines often exaggerate events to attract clicks and often lead to disappointment when the content doesn’t match the hype.

#4. “Fascinating Weight Loss Trick Celebrities Don’t Want You to Know!” 

This headline exploits curiosity about celebrities and promises a secret weight loss trick. Typically, these headlines overpromise, and the content often involves generic advice or products.

#5. “Unbelievable! This Simple Hack Makes You a Millionaire Overnight”

It preys on the desire for quick wealth using terms like “Unbelievable” and “Millionaire Overnight.” Such promises are typically unrealistic and lead to disappointment.

#6. “This Video Will Change Your Life Forever – A Must Watch!”

This plays on the reader’s emotions by promising life-changing content. Such headlines often lead to videos with generic advice or content that doesn’t live up to the hype.

#7. “You Won’t Believe What Happened When We Tried This Weird Experiment!”

Of course, this appeals to curiosity with the promise of a weird experiment. However, the actual content may lack substance or fail to deliver on the implied excitement.

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#8. “Secret Government Cover-Up Exposed! Click to Reveal the Truth”

Capitalizes on conspiracy theories and implies the uncovering of hidden information. Content may lack credibility and rely on sensationalism.

#9. Breaking: Exclusive Gist Inside – Scandalous Celebrity Affair!”

This headline exploits interest in celebrity scandals and gossip. These headlines often lead to content with limited or exaggerated information about the alleged affair.

#10. “Life-Changing App You Need Right Now – Download for Instant Success!”

This headline promises instant success through an app, playing on the desire for quick solutions. Often, the app may not deliver on the promised benefits.

#11. This Simple Trick Fit Make You Look 10 Years Younger!”

For Nigerians, this targets the desire for youthfulness and attractiveness. The content may offer generic beauty tips rather than a genuinely transformative trick.


Now you’ve learned what clickbait means and tips on how to use it ethically. Not only that, we analyzed some practical clickbait examples. 

With the value you’ve gotten from this guide, remember, that clickbait uses sensationalism and exaggerated promises to get clicks. Hence, learn to approach headlines sceptically and check the content’s credibility.

Edited by Priscilla Ajayi.

About Author

Avatar of Degreat Michael
Degreat Michael
Degreat is an expert SEO content writer, self-published author and founder of With over 5 years of experience in a variety of content writing, he helps struggling small business owners create result-driven web copies that sell their brand stories.

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