What this person did... changed everything! (and other ways to lose trust)

Yes, a terrible, misleading, and utterly useless headline.  But how often are readers gulled into reading an article, blog post, or viewing a video because of the headline?  Not the descriptive type of headline, but the kind that reels you in, like a helpless fish on a line.  Welcome to Clickbait headlines.

If you’re not sure you’ve seen this type of approach, some examples:
  • One Touching Detail You Probably Missed On This Week’s “Game Of Thrones”
  • 23 Awkward Movie Mistakes That’ll Make You Say, “Wow, Really?”
  • See how a group of Swedish police officers responded when a fight broke out on the New York subway.
  • Barbara was hired at a top-notch design firm at 87. Here are 5 amazing things she’s done so far.
The primary reason for this type of headline is to gull the reader to click the link – and then expose them to the ads that wrap the article.  Unfortunately, this reduces trust, as most feel used by the approach.  (It is Interesting that while people click these highly addictive links, they wouldn’t be caught dead buying a supermarket tabloid, which is where these headlines first made their appearance.)

If clickbait is inappropriate, then how should headlines be written?  Yes, attract the reader to the underlying content.  But the headline itself is an implicit promise to the reader that the article content (or video) will actually deliver.  It builds trust, not erodes it.

Notwithstanding this, Clickbait headlines do teach an important lesson:  they strongly connect to the reader’s emotional center, and drive action.   Here are two more examples - consider the different emotional loading each provides:
  • 12 ways to use headlines to improve readership. 
  • No one had read his blog until he tried this one technique.  Then 8 million did.
In both cases, the article still needs to deliver – but because the second one sets such high expectations, it must deliver to that high standard.  The key difference between the "pure" Clickbait examples provided earlier, and these two statements, is that these headlines both contain a value-adding Content Preview statement.


Re-look at your blog posts, memos, and even your email subject lines.  This week, try adding an emotional connection along with a content preview statement... without straying into Clickbait territory.  You’ll find that more people will click through – and your writing will necessarily “reach up” to meet their expectations.
Randall Craig


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