Content marketing is all about generating traffic. If you can’t attract visitors to your site, your chances of online success are virtually non-existent.
Yet over the past couple of years, there’s been a surge of marketers and small business owners trying to find an easier route to bolster ftraffic by producing and promoting so-called ‘clickbait’.
When used shrewdly and sparingly, clickbaiting can be an effective marketing tool — but you’ve got to tread carefully. More often than not, clickbait is a recipe for disaster.
What is Clickbait?
You’ve seen clickbaiting everywhere, even if you aren’t always aware of it.
Simply put, clickbait is a piece of content that intentionally over-promises or misrepresents in order to pull users onto a particular website. Clickbait generally captures users with a snappy, sensationalist headline — such as “you won’t believe this”, or “you’ll never guess what happened next” — but then fails to deliver on the user’s implicit expectations.
One of the more popular types of clickbait content is to produce “listicles” that aggregate content from other sites in order to pull a wider range of users onto one site.
Clickbait articles tend to run under 300 words, and don’t ordinarily include original ideas or content. Instead, they’re summaries of longer stories or embedded videos that could be found elsewhere, and upon inspection don’t necessarily match their corresponding headline or lede.
A lot of small business owners and marketing agencies like to use clickbait because it’s a super-fast way of generating web traffic — and it can generate results. Industry-specific listicles in particular can save users a lot of time and energy attempting to aggregate information for themselves. The subsequent increase in traffic this content creates can improve a site’s search engine presence phenomenally. Generally speaking, that’s a win-win.
Whether that traffic directly translates to higher conversion rates and an increase in sales is more difficult to say. But if companies over-rely on clickbaiting, it can often come back to bite them hard.
Why Should You Be Careful Using Clickbait to Promote Your Business?
The trouble is clickbait over-promises and under-delivers, so chances are most of your would-be customers try to avoid it whenever possible. After all, nobody likes to feel like they’ve been duped or had their time wasted — and so if you start publishing or promoting clickbait too often, your brand might become toxically synonymous with questionable information or wasted time.
More important still, you could be shooting yourself in the foot in terms of SEO.
Search engines like Google factor a whole lot of criteria into their algorithms when producing results pages for users — and one of those factors is the quality of web content. Every couple of months, Google rolls out a number of updates designed to sift through clickbait, duplicate content and fake news, and subsequently punishes the pages and websites associated with that low-quality content by pushing them further down the results pages.
Another factor search engines look at when ranking different sites is a webpage’s bounce rate. If users click onto a page, identify the content as useless and immediately “bounce” away from the site without clicking to another page, Google generally classes that site as less valuable from a user standpoint. The more users bounce away from your pointless content, the more your website suffers.
Facebook has taken its own steps against clickbait, too. Last summer, the social media giant unveiled a new algorithm update that identifies clickbait being posted by companies, and subsequently prevents those posts from showing up in users’ News Feeds.
Bearing this in mind, it’s worth thinking twice before hosting clickbait on your company website or sharing it on social media. When used sparingly and creatively, it can generate positive traffic that could ultimately bolster your online presence. That increased profile comes hand-in-hand with a number of indirect benefits.
But relying too heavily on clickbait is also a sure-fire way to harm your SEO, lose social media followers and tarnish trust in your brand. So, you really should tread carefully. Sometimes it pays dividends to avoid hopping on the bandwagon — and unless you’re a confident marketer, that means you just might want to steer clear of clickbaiting.