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Clickbait with a Conscience

Figuring out how to use clickbait to entice and influence your audience can be tricky. This month, we are looking at the second principle from our eBook “Powers of Persuasion" – using nice clickbait.

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Why, if so many of the clickbait techniques are intolerable, do marketers continue to use them? They do it because it works, all thanks to our built-in curiosity. While deep down we know that the article is unlikely to shock us, we get swept up in clicking anyway.

In our quest to make nice clickbait, we want to deliver on our promises and not trick people into clicking something irrelevant. For part two of our Powers of Persuasion series, we’re here to give you another taste of our eBook with the second principle.

Using nice clickbait

We know what you’re thinking... There's no such thing as nice clickbait. It can be awful and misleading.

When we say nice clickbait, we’re not talking about spammy headlines or links that you have to click on because they are in front of something you actually want to see. We are talking about clickbait that improves your persuasion levels. You should be aware of why some of these tricks work and then use them to entice your audience online.

Whatever principles and tactics you do try, make sure they fit the tone, brand, and organisational culture of your agency.

Why headlines are important

  1. Your audience has zero attention span and this is your main chance to grab it.
  2. The headline is a big factor in influencing them to read the rest of the content.
  3. If you've enabled sharing on your site or newsroom then it's also what will bring more users.
  4. First impressions count and this is yours.
  5. You have a lot of competition online. Audiences could be reading your important message, all while having 15 open browser tabs that are competing for attention.
  6. Your blog title, or page, will display in Google search results - think about how you’re selling your content to people with your headline.

Techniques with integrity

Trigger words

Your trigger words are adjectives. This is where you'll want to consider how appropriate they are for your brand. Phrases like weird, surprising, secret or mystery might be out. However others may work: useful, expert, first, helpful or latest.

Posing a question

This can be a really useful one in the public sector. It delivers on our curiosity quirk which will encourage the reader to explore further.

Deliver on a promise

This is crucial for our integrity principle. We are wanting to deliver on exactly what the audience is seeking. When crafting a headline, think about it as if you want to 'tell them what's inside'.


Click baiters spend a lot of energy working on a single headline and you should too. You've put a lot of effort into this content so don't brush off the headline. Write a couple of headlines, share them with the team, get feedback, and find which one works.

Be a little controversial

If it's appropriate, being a little controversial can work. Think about this for your media releases if you have a piece of research or something new to share.

With Google Analytics you'll soon know what headlines and page titles work best for your content. You can also A/B test headlines to really start to get a feel for which ones achieve more results.

The formula

For something different you could try testing out a set formula (or parts of it).

One that Nathalie Nahai uses in her fantastic book, Webs of Influence, goes something like this:

*Number + trigger word + adjective + keyword + promise

= clickable headline

*Of course all five may end up looking a bit spammy so pick out what works for you.

Food for thought

Our final tip? Steal, copy, and borrow from others who have experimented more! Look at websites that are pumping out huge amounts of content and get inspiration from their headlines. 

Power of Persuasion CTAIf you are looking for more ways to influence your audience, download the Powers of Persuasion eBook today!




About the author
Claire Hodds

With qualifications in marketing, communications and journalism, Claire has more than 10 years experience across a range of industries. She is passionate about continuous improvement and applying insights from behavioural economics to marketing strategies.

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  • I think even the news channels nowadays use a lot of clickbait titles online. YouTubers do this on whole different level and it works perfectly fine. I personally use headline optimizers to check which headlines gets the most attraction. Anyways, good article and thanks for sharing.

    Posted by Osumahanke, 18/09/2018 9:51pm (6 years ago)

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