How many times have you clicked on a link or opened an email on the basis of the headline, or subject line? If you’re like me, the answer will be ‘frequently’. How many times have you felt like a sucker as a result? I know I have. The headline promised one thing but then failed to deliver the content you expected. Ask yourself a simple question – how do you feel as a result?
If you’re anything like me, the initial thought will be one of disappointment. But that quickly morphs to anger. You’ve deceived me to get a click, to get my attention – to steal my time. The website owner or e-mail sender has in one sentence, one phrase, one undelivered promise – killed our relationship. Trust is the most valuable of commodities. It’s difficult to gain, and almost impossible to win back if you lose it.
This practice is known as Click Bait – a headline with the soul purpose of getting clicked.
For example, I could have gained more click-throughs for this article with this eye-catching headline –
Raccoon Drives School Bus.
It would certainly get more attention. It would peak people’s interest. It would entertain, to a certain extent. But it wouldn’t deliver on the promise – certainly not in this context. If you’re a satirist writing for the likes of The Poke and The Daily Mash, then fair enough. But if you’re simply using it as a means of generating traffic, you’re making a massive mistake.
The job of the headline is to get people to read on further, click on the link or open the email. Headlines are hugely important and often overlooked by writers and bloggers. They’re often the starting point of what you hope will transform into a relationship. Trust begins with the headline.
I’m all for clever, funny and thought-provoking headlines AS LONG as they deliver on the promise. If the headline leads me to content that adds value, then I will trust the writer more. If it turns out that the headline is the highlight of their writing – trust will be eroded.
Don’t compromise trust by getting too cute with your headlines.
NOTE: No Raccoons were harmed in the writing of this blog post.
In the coming weeks, I’ll be writing a series of articles relating to Headline Writing.
If you’ve got a question relating to writing headlines or have any great examples of Click Bait Headlines that have over-promised and under-delivered, please share them in the comments.
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