Ethical Content Marketing: Beware Clickbait
Ethical content marketing is a real thing. Consider clickbait. And beware clickbait. It’s not the 2000s any more.
People will follow your content because they love your unique (or useful) work, not because you deceived them by using clickbait.
Here’s why you should consider avoiding clickbait tactics in your content.
What is clickbait in content marketing?
First, this is what I consider clickbait in content marketing.
I’m not talking about clickbait headlines such as “This couple broke up: you’ll never guess what happened” or “A miraculous trick that will help you lose 15 kilograms this month: you haven’t tried this before!”
I’m not talking about clickbait titles that are about gossip, sensational news, or miraculous solutions that nobody has discovered before.
I believe that titles or introductions that overpromise also fall into the (click)bait category. Consider:
- Titles that promise THE ultimate guides, the best guides, the quickest guides, guides that work 200% of the time.
- Titles that claim to offer you something that will change your life in 7 days (or 7 seconds) or grow your income in 1 month (or 1 year) while you’re asleep.
- Titles that use shortcuts and understatements to make people click.
As you can guess, I’m not a fan of clickbait titles. But I’m not a saint, either. I’ve used them, too.
But here’s the thing.
Today more and more online users know how clickbait headlines work. They’re aware of what some content creators are trying to achieve.
They know that often the goal is to manipulate people into clicking. But many Internet users realize that somebody is trying to speak to their basic instincts in a pretty sneaky — or not so sneaky — way. Not cool.
Do clickbaits work?
Clickbaits may still work, but my impression is that more and more quality readers appreciate a less sensational and more honest, practical approach.
Many readers have been so disappointed by clicking and not getting what they expected that they simply don’t trust those titles any more.
The bottom line: some readers will be attracted to more sensational statements and bigger promises. But some readers are too disappointed by now to take the bait.
For the latter, an article doesn’t have to be a game changer (even though it can be), but if it can change something in their lives, even if in a small way, it will be more than enough. Therefore:
Choose honesty. Choose simplicity. Choose transparency. Super enticing titles that advertise mediocre articles can be a real turn off for your readers.
What if clickbait tactics work for YOU?
What if clickbait tactics work well for you? Well, use your best judgment to decide whether you want to change your strategy. Also, keep your goals and priorities in mind.
However, remember that using clickbait headlines and making promises you can’t deliver in your content can undermine your authority as an author and/or expert in your field.
You may get tons of clicks, but also high bounce rates and lost readers. So avoid making promises in your titles that you can’t deliver.
For me there’s something dishonest and unethical about clickbait headlines. Using teasers to manipulate people into clicking doesn’t agree with my integrity.
Personally, I wish we would see less content like that. At the same time, if clickbaits work, they’ll probably stay with us for some time.
It is up to you as a writer whether you want to use clickbaits or not, and whether they serve you or not.
Either way, you should make your title compelling. But make sure to deliver the content that provides exactly that: something compelling.
Here’s what I recommend in a nutshell:
- Stay true to your promises. If you promise something impressive, do your best to impress your reader.
- Go big if you have something big and revealing to write about.
- Otherwise, go small but in a big way. Small changes can go a long way, so if your content offers small but useful and actionable tips, after a while your readers may be able to say: “This article (author) has changed my life!”
- Stay honest and modest. Honesty will increase your credibility as an author (so you can expect more clicks in the long run). Modesty will remove arrogance and will make your writing pleasant (which will help you connect with your readers beyond words).
- Don’t undersell yourself. Being honest and modest doesn’t mean you should undersell or undervalue your texts. Far from it! If you provide content that is useful and contains actionable tips that readers feel inspired to take, by all means, make it clear what you have to offer. Make your title compelling and attention-grabbing (as long as you deliver your promise).
- Don’t overpromise; overdeliver!
Make a new clickbait-free commitment
Yes, I admit I’ve written a few ultimate guides myself. I’ve also used enticing numbers in my articles.
Granted, they were based on research and I did a lot of work to produce high-quality stuff. Yet I think some statements were too bold to be made.
So I may have overpromised a thing or two myself.
Although I do my best to add all the facts, stats, data, and advice that readers potentially expect, have I created the ultimate resource?
Maybe I have, maybe I haven’t.
Will my content help people revolutionize their lives? Maybe it will, maybe it won’t.
I simply don’t know. But I believe I did my best to deliver my promise.
How about you? Do you find it controversial if, let’s say, you’ve been using clickbait headlines and they’ve proven to be effective?
If so, it’s up to you whether you want to change your approach or whether you consider it too crazy to do so if it’s been working so well thus far. You may also be able to deliver everything that the reader expects, so it may not be wise to change what you do.
Use your best judgment.
However, if you’re more into clickbait-free content and you don’t want to create content that promises what it can’t quite deliver, I encourage you to make this commitment:
I commit to putting my reader first. I will do my best to keep my promises to the reader.
I won’t lie about my value proposition in my title or introduction. I won’t promise what I can’t or what I’m not going to deliver. I will overdeliver!