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How Clickbait Headlines Hurt Your Website

Feb 23, 2018
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How Clickbait Headlines Hurt Your Website

Have you ever clicked on a link that made you wonder if you had just downloaded a virus? Ever read a blog post and double check the title confused as to why you clicked on the link in the first place? Have you ever encountered headlines that over promised and under delivered similar to these:

Your Company Will Fail in 2018 Without This New Amazing SEO Application

We Made This Small Change and our New Analytics will SHOCK You!

We Earned over $1 Million in Three Months with This New Product


Clickbait is one of the largest contributors to internet noise as well as a point of frustration for many. It’s a huge waste of time and people are becoming increasingly skeptical of clickbait. There are several variations you may encounter with every internet search or while browsing social media. While some articles are just a time suck, other articles or quizzes encroach on privacy by requesting your personal information.

It is tempting to try to compete with the noise and jump on the clickbait headline bandwagon. It can be exciting to see your website metrics increase, but as a small business or blogger, chasing vanity metrics will hurt rather than help your website and social media profiles in the long run.

You may think I’m overreacting, I mean, the internet is competitive. What’s the harm in having an attention-grabbing headline to draw in readers? If your goal is to develop a large reader base, increase engagement and conversions, and develop a reputation for trustworthy information, then the answer is clickbait is more harmful than you realize.

Clickbait is Harmful to Your Website.

Here’s How:

Back when the first clickbait articles published, they were often a waste of time, but not considered harmful. Lists of “The Most Amazing Secret Vacation Spots” or quizzes that determined the part of the country you should live in weren’t adding value, but they weren’t necessarily misleading. They were often entertaining and fun.

The tactic of creating a headline that generates interest on social media and encourages website clicks has increased in popularity. As headlines strive to top each other, one becoming more sensational than the last, the content has become less and less relevant. In some cases it’s not tied to the headline at all. Further, many headlines now promise to add value but in the end waste time and increase reader distrust.

Analytics Issues

As clickbait has inundated the internet and social media, Google and Facebook have acknowledged a need to fight spam more intentionally. Whether you agree with their strategies or not, the impact to your online reach can be affected if you promote articles flagged as spam.

Clickbait may drive more readers to click on your blog article link, but that doesn’t mean those people are reading your content. Sara Lippert explains that when your title is misleading “Your article will end up having high bounce rates, going unread, and blocked by the places that matter like Facebook and Google.” A high click rate coupled with a high bounce rate indicates the content is not helpful for the search queries and it will stop being offered to new searchers.

This doesn’t just affect one specific link either. Higher bounce rates may negatively impact your search engine rankings. Moz points out that Google measures dwell time, not just link clicks. When searchers need an answer and instead land on a site which wastes their time, they won't engage and convert. Clickbait may initially draw visitors, but if they don't convert what is the point?

Rapport Issues

Dictionary.com defines clickbait as “a sensationalized headline or piece of text on the Internet designed to entice people to follow a link to an article on another web page.” So, if the goal of the headline is for someone to simply click a link, the emphasis on helpful and informative titles and content is unnecessary.

A headline may include misleading or exaggerated words to stir a reader’s curiosity, but does the article add value for your reader? A headline that promises an innovative sales strategy but instead leads to a sales pitch or regurgitates basic, well-known ideas will do nothing to increase a reader’s trust in your website. The next time your website link pulls up in a Google search what are the odds that person will view the link as trustworthy?

Many, including myself, take the extra step of telling Pinterest or Facebook the link in their newsfeed is not helpful and request less content of that type. By selecting the three dots in the top right corner of every post a Facebook user can select one of several options to ensure spam is limited from their newsfeed. They can also say hey this is useful and I want to see more information like this.

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An Authentic Approach

When readers search Google they are looking for the answer to a question they are unable to answer by themselves. When your website answers the question, trust is built.

Clickbait may increase your website statistics on an occasional blog post but establishing yourself as a trusted source on the internet requires time, excellent content, and consistency. When you focus your efforts on creating informative headlines and content that answer a question or solve a problem, your readers will learn you have their best interest at heart, not your own.

Building an audience isn’t just about increasing numbers. It’s about increasing readership; a group of people who find value in your content. Readers who are inspired, motivated or encouraged by a blog article want to share it with their friends who they think it will also help. Providing excellent content will always win over clickbait in the long run.

For a business this means developing an audience of readers who will benefit from your services or products. For a blogger the audience is one that will find your content inspiring or thought provoking. When you offer high-quality, engaging content you have the opportunity to set yourself apart within your niche. You may not write the funniest article that day, but it could be the one that solidifies you as a trustworthy source.   

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Beth Walker

By Beth Walker

Beth Walker is a Content Strategist who is passionate about storytelling. She leads our In-House writing team and works closely with clients and Inbound Strategists to ensure all the content SMA creates meets SEO best practices and tells each client's unique story.

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