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Why Clickbait Headlines Harm Your Marketing Efforts

Are clickbait headlines hurting your marketing? Discover the negative impact of sensationalized titles and how to craft attention‑grabbing yet honest headlines.

Clickbait headlines are designed to attract your attention but don't necessarily deliver on their promises. While some businesses can get away with sensational headlines, others use them to overpromise and underdeliver.

Can clickbait headlines hurt your digital marketing efforts? If you're not delivering on your clickbait headlines' promises, you can harm your reputation and deter customers from visiting your website.

Clickbait headlines are good at one thing: stopping people in their tracks. A headline like "You won't believe what happens next" entices you to click on the article. But is what happens next all that interesting? It depends on the article.

If you use clickbait titles to attract readers but the article is unrelated to the headline or the story is what they were expecting, you'll quickly lose traffic, and your visitors won't be engaged.

Read on to learn more about clickbait and how it can potentially harm your marketing efforts, especially when used incorrectly.

Clickbait is any type of online content that uses sensational stories and headlines to attract readers. Clickbait titles encourage clicks to read the full article.

What makes clickbait so enticing to businesses and marketers is that it works; it can get you more clicks on an article because it's sharable and uses your audience's emotions to make them take action.

Unfortunately, clickbait tends to underdeliver. A headline promises to give you more information once you click it, but the information is nowhere to be found in the actual content.

Over the years, marketers have abused the power of clickbait headlines to attract customers to articles that weren't necessarily as exciting as they made them seem.

Now, everyone associates clickbait with misleading information, earning it a bad reputation among marketers and average consumers.

How do clickbait headlines work?

Several years ago, clickbait headlines were essential to any content strategy because they increased traffic. Clickbait headlines work.

Clickbait can be effective if your ultimate goal is to get clicks that lead users back to your website. Headlines like "You won't believe what happened next" or "How I made $5 million in less than a month" are highly intriguing.

Clickbait can drive traffic to a website and increase page views because it sparks users' curiosity and interest by drawing on their emotions, so they feel compelled to click.

Emotions like fear of missing out (FOMO) can make users click on an article about a new life hack. Another emotion it draws on is greed.

Most people want to save or earn money quickly, so a clickbait title might make it seem possible, but the article explains that it isn't.

Of course, clickbait headlines can also draw on positive emotions like love or happiness. In any case, clickbait is regarded as manipulative because it hides important information and overpromises.

A headline claiming someone earned $5 million in a week might be an article written by a business owner whose business simply earns $5 million in revenue during the peak holiday season.

The negative effects of clickbait headlines

When you start a blog, your main goal is to get traffic. Unfortunately, clickbait headlines only work to increase clicks.

Once someone actually reads the article, the subject matter isn't as interesting as the headline made it seem. What you end up with is lots of clicks on an ad or social media post, but the article itself doesn't actually perform well.

Here are just a few examples of what can happen when you use a clickbait title.

High bounce rates

Clickbait tactics result in high bounce rates because your headline overpromises. Once the user determines that the article they've landed on actually doesn't provide useful or relevant content, they're more likely to bounce, increasing your site's bounce rate and lowering its engagement rate.

If you want your users to stay on your page, your clickbait headline must link to relevant content that actually delivers on its promises. Otherwise, users will get a bad impression of your site and leave.

Decreased trust in your brand

Once a user determines that you use clickbait to attract website visitors to poor-quality content, they won't trust you.

Ultimately, if your website is known for claims, sensationalized headlines, and poor-quality content, your reputation will suffer.

Clickbait rarely lives up to user expectations, so they'll stop trusting your content. As a result, most companies have moved away from these titles and focus more on generating headlines that tell users immediately what the article is about.

Decreased engagement

A high bounce rate means a low engagement rate. If someone clicks your clickbait headline and ends up on an article that doesn't actually deliver on the deadline's promise, they won't engage with your website. Instead, they'll leave and never return.

While headlines can play on your users' emotions, allowing you to deliver quality content, clickbait content tends to fall flat with audiences.

This is especially true for news sites. If you have a history of using outrageous claims or over-sensationalized headlines, visitors believe the news is fake or written as a joke. Users want to trust the news they read, so if you use clickbait headlines, they may not even click them.

Negative impact on search engine rankings

Clickbait is unlikely to appear in search engine results pages (SERPs). If your blog page titles, headings, and URL don't match the content of an article, you could be penalized.

The goal of any website isn't just to increase website traffic; you want to increase traffic while attracting new customers. Using clickbait headlines in your articles makes you more likely to lose website traffic over time.

Google isn't the only company cracking down on clickbait. Many of us still see clickbait headlines on social media. Social media platforms like Facebook have specific policies against these headlines because its users don't like them.

Any headlines that withhold information and have to click the article to understand what it's about is prohibited.

Both Google and Facebook take into account the time people spend on websites, so they can penalize you for using clickbait headlines.

The importance of writing authentic headlines

The headline is one of the most important aspects when you write a blog. Every content marketing strategy relies on headlines to attract readers.

However, your headlines should help users understand the article; you should not use clickbait tactics to attract web traffic and then underdeliver by providing irrelevant, untrustworthy, or poor-quality information.

Authentic headlines are key to attracting website traffic that is more likely to convert into paying customers. Here are a few reasons why you should move away from clickbait titles and focus more on authentic headlines:

Builds trust and credibility with your audience

When your headline tells visitors exactly what to expect from your content, they're not left guessing.

Setting expectations with your content marketing strategy allows you to meet those expectations and delight visitors with quality, relevant content — the whole reason they clicked on the article, to begin with.

Writing authentic headlines can also build trust with your audience by allowing you to use curated content on your social media or channels with your own unique thoughts on it. For instance, you can use content from an external source as the basis for a new post or blog.

Increases engagement and encourages social sharing

An engaging headline is one of several best practices for blogging. Clickbait titles are highly shareable because they draw on emotion.

However, once someone reads the article, they will probably end up disappointed. Authentic headlines increase engagement because they actually tell the user what the article is about, making them read the entirety of the article.

Then, if those visitors find it relevant to their own followers or audience, they can share it on their own social channels.

Generates more targeted traffic and higher click-through rates

Everything you add to your website should serve a higher purpose than increasing traffic alone.

A website's goal is not to attract visitors; it's to convert them by offering highly engaging content. Whether you run a business or news website, having traffic isn't enough. Instead, you want targeted traffic most likely to convert or find your articles the most useful.

By using authentic headlines, you can increase your click-through rates with the right audience — those most likely to take action on your site.

Improves search engine rankings and organic traffic

As we've mentioned, Google and Facebook are cracking down on clickbait titles because they deliver a poor user experience.

With authentic headlines, you can begin targeting keywords that enable you to boost rankings instead of leaving out crucial information that might include keywords.

Avoid clickbait headlines and embrace authenticity

Clickbait headlines can attract views while increasing shares. However, when your audience actually reads the article, are they going to be disappointed?

There are instances when clickbait can work, but it must deliver on the promises made in the headlines and draw on the audience's emotions.

Most clickbait articles underdeliver, so if you're using clickbait headlines and are getting a lot of clicks to your site but low engagement rates, it means you're losing out on valuable opportunities to convert visitors into customers.

Instead, avoid clickbait and write authentic headlines with Mailchimp. With our suite of tools, you can write attractive headlines and monitor your website performance to increase engagement rates and convert more visitors.

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