by Mark Hayes

I remember the first time that I clicked on a link to Upworthy, the clickbait king that started making Internet waves a while back with juicy headlines. I don’t recall the exact title, but whatever it might have been was “Sure to Blow Your Mind!”

I clicked. I waited. But my mind was not blown.

“But still,” I thought, “not the worst thing to kill a few minutes.” Then I clicked away, to find the next work distraction.

“Not the Worst Thing”

Clickbait is a beautiful distraction, designed to collect eyeballs with witty headlines and entertain for a few minutes. But if you are serious about attracting real customers — your target audience — clickbait is a disaster.

You don’t want your brand to be “not the worst thing” that comes to mind. Your readership should be your personal cheering section, heartily recommending your content and your business to their social networks. Clickbait drags your carefully planned content marketing strategy through the mud, nullifying your efforts in milliseconds.

Clickbait Is Tabloid Marketing

While it may not take up premium space in supermarkets, clickbait fills the Internet with similar levels of overhyped promises of engaging content. The hyperbolic headlines overpromise and under deliver shamelessly, collecting clicks for your Google Analytics account, not customers.

Deceptive titles erode the trust that readers put into your company, and lower their expectations for legitimate headlines (from any source) as well. If all you can evoke is “Meh,” then you are missing the point and disappointing readers.

Exploiting the Zeitgeist

Clickbait gets down and dirty, riding the tides of Internet memes in an attempt to attract Internet hipsters and Starbucks solopreneurs. This tactic takes advantage of our natural instinct to share inside jokes with our friends, but insults our intelligence after a time.

It may take five, 15 or 50 clicks on clickbait headlines, but eventually we see that the Internet culture is being used against us, delivering substandard content couched in meme-lined titles.

In short, when everything is beyond amazeballs, nothing is.

Clicks Are Meaningless

Clicks have been the primary metric tracked by Google Analytics since the birth of the Internet, but they no longer represent meaningful engagement with a brand. Anyone can click briefly, discover they weren’t really interested and click away within moments. Clickbait is all about the numbers, not the readers.

Even Upworthy has taken notice of this trend, and they have developed the attention minutes metric to show how engaged readers are on a given web page.

Watching a video through to the very end or actually reading an article thoroughly is more important to anyone’s marketing plan than collecting clicks. Of course, after sucking in views for so long, the ennui is likely to sink in and a new measurement would make clickbaiters more relevant again.

Clickbait Is Boring

Nothing can keep the Internet’s attention for long. Memes are fleeting and nebulous, changing faster than most content providers can keep up with. Their lifespans can range from a single day up to a few years, but it is impossible to determine that ahead of time.

Your audience may have already grown tired of the in-joke before you create your clickbait, or may not have even heard of it yet. Such a hit-and-miss tactic is doomed to fail before it even gets off the ground.

If you really want to blow your readers’ minds, keep making relevant and evergreen content that will last longer than the blink of an Internet eye. Authenticity and trust are the backbone of a strong brand, and the content will remain meaningful and engaging for a significant amount of time.

Put the effort into your content marketing, and you won’t believe what will happen next!

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