What is clickbait? Don’t be fooled by the glossy headlines

Noble Horvath

Clickbait is a phenomenon you cannot escape on any type of the Internet, wireless or fibre broadband. It is a term we hear often in online conversations and usually in a negative context. Where does it come from, what does it mean, how do we recognise it and is it […]

Clickbait is a phenomenon you cannot escape on any type of the Internet, wireless or fibre broadband. It is a term we hear often in online conversations and usually in a negative context. Where does it come from, what does it mean, how do we recognise it and is it always negative? Let us try to explain this ubiquitous term a little.

What does clickbait mean?

Free translation: ‘clickbait’ can be defined as ‘clickbait’.

How is clickbait recognised?

Ultimately, it is how many clicks a given web page on which a banner is placed receives. The term was coined by blogger Jay Geiger in December 2006. Since then, clickbait has become an Internet buzzword and is often used to refer to a series of articles published online. In this context, we have to ask ourselves: what kind of article is a clickbait?

What is clickbait?

In the world of online media, the word ‘clickbait’ literally refers to an article or other content with a catchy, sometimes even provocative title that captures the user’s attention. However, the title of the content does not necessarily say what the video or article contains.

“Clickbait is used in many different forms and on many different online platforms, such as Facebook, YouTube, TikTok, Instagram and Twitter. This form of content is used by both independent videographers and large media companies that produce articles. It can also be used in online advertising to promote various products or content, often of dubious quality.

Why is clickbait so common? Firstly, because digital content producers and online media make a living from advertising. Each additional view of a video or a page of an article generates more advertising revenue. In addition, web portals are prioritised every month according to the number of users and unique visits. The greater the reach of a website, the more lucrative advertising contracts it can win.

There is another explanation for the popularity of clickbait: in the digital world, everyone competes for the Internet user’s attention, which is very short. In this war for the attention of Internet users, everyone tries to use the most attractive headlines to attract attention. Therefore, clickbait has become an important part of the media world.

How can one recognise clickbait?

In most cases, clickbait advertising is distinguished by the following factors:

A catchy or controversial headline.

Strong emotional appeal.

Short but ‘juicy’ paragraphs.

“Puzzle” solution that requires you to keep clicking to get to the next subpage.

A form that encourages quick sharing on social media.

Clickbait’ is designed to arouse people’s curiosity, to give the impression that we will miss something important if we don’t click on a link (FOMO), and often the headline has little to do with what we will find in the content (text, video, etc.). In an age of constant misinformation, people often react to posts or continue to share them without reading the article itself.

In 2016, Canadian SEO expert Nadya Khoja conducted a study to identify the most common elements of clickbait headlines. The most common tactic was to use a shocking element (e.g. ‘you won’t believe it…’). Very often there is mention of a new phenomenon (cosmic or natural), a discovery (e.g. medical, a scientific breakthrough). Personal references, attempts to put an old event in a new light or references to the latest knowledge are also frequent.

Is Clickbait a scam?

There is no clear answer to this question. If the title leads you to an article (or video) that has nothing to do with you, it’s natural to feel cheated. However, this is not illegal. However, fake adverts and other adverts that use clickbait tactics but are intended to deceive can be considered as such.

However, clickbait is not necessarily fraudulent. Sometimes it can be used in a creative and positive way, just like here! Want to learn how much you can save on your broadband, visit Mayo Fibre to see our amazing offer!

Examples of good and bad clickbait

While clickbait is a way to attract attention, it is not the same as distorting the truth. In some cases, clickbait can be used to encourage users to click on a headline that tells the truth about the content itself and leads them to the page, even if it contradicts their expectations. In this case, the term ‘positive clickbait’ can be used.

How can you create good clickbait? Firstly, you have to respect the reader’s intelligence and leave some mystery, while at the same time giving the recipient a response proportionate to what they get out of the text. Today’s readers are cynical, so they won’t take you seriously if you are too mysterious.

Good clickbait invites readers to click, but does not misrepresent the facts or mislead them. For example.

Referring to a specific group of people (‘only xxx people know this’ / ‘9 out of 10 people are wrong’).

Gives a new perspective on a known situation (‘You didn’t know about xxx’).

Unknown/savoury stories about known people (‘You wouldn’t believe what XXX did when he was young’).

A range of expert advice on specific topics (’10 Little Known Tips for Saving Money’).

Not all clickbait is good.

On the other hand, negative clickbait often inflates a piece of information as fact and exaggerates its importance (for example, describing the development of a patent for a new device as a ‘revolution’ when it may never have been created).

Sometimes the country of origin is deliberately concealed in the headline, for example by implying that it takes place in Ireland. For example, if Uruguay had been mentioned in the headline, the ‘click-through rate’ of the article would have been much lower.

The situation described may be characterised as ‘unusual’ because of the cultural differences between the two countries, but the event is common in the country referred to in the text.

All of the above are examples of bad clickbait. Using this trick is dangerous because it drives viewers away (they leave the page as soon as they realise the misunderstanding). This leads to an increase in the ‘direct return rate’ and the algorithm moves the gateway further down the list. This is just one of the many harmful effects of clickbait exploitation.

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