Does Clickbait Still Work? 8 Headline Tips to Attract the Right Eyeballs

I used to roll my eyes when I saw clickbait headlines. “Yeah, right,” I’d sneer.

Fake news, right? Yes, usually.

But now I study those same headlines. “Why?” you may ask.

Clickbait headlines have only gotten their poor reputation because they promise way more than they deliver, as Content Marketing Institute’s Ann Gynn points out. But you’ve got to admit; they’re catchy. Which is why I now study them. You should, too.

Here are eight headline tips that I’ve observed that will not only help you get more clicks, but also help you avoid losing trust with your readers due to the dreaded bait and switch.

1. Leverage Drama, Mystery – or Both

Drama and mystery, as Gynn shows, are the two main ingredients in an effective clickbait headline. Both characteristics work well on their own, but combine them – and the results will speak for themselves.

Both ingredients appeal to people’s basic fear of missing out (FOMO). When you add drama to the mix, they’ll fear missing out on something big.

A sense of mystery draws people in simply out of curiosity. It’s like that itch that you just have to scratch. Done right, it’s irresistible.

2. Make Sure the Content Delivers on the Headline’s Promise

Remember the disappointment when Toto pulls back the curtain on the Great and Powerful Oz to reveal a shriveled old man? That disappointment came from the Wizard of Oz’s failure to deliver on his promise.

Don’t be that wizard. If you promise something great and powerful, deliver on it.

Top-quality content that addresses your target audience’s needs, satisfies their curiosity, and delivers actionable information is always essential. It’s even more critical when you use clickbait-style headlines.

3. Use Social Media and Content Analytics to Segment Your Audience by Interest

Notice how we inserted “to attract the right eyeballs” in the title of this article? That’s because we knew – from our own content analytics – that most of the segment we’ve targeted it to, readers like you, are from larger companies with customers in a variety of industries.

With today’s capacity for gathering, analyzing, and segmenting data, your content can get as customer-specific as you want. This kind of personalization is the foundation. The headline is the icing on the cake that gets them to bite on your article, not your competitors’.

Although attracting “the right eyeballs” is relevant to all content marketing teams, larger ones need to target specific content to the needs, pain points, and interests of each segment. Take full advantage of these specifics and include the main need, pain point, or interest in the title – with a little spice thrown in. It’s the best recipe for clickbait, and it can produce delicious results in not only clicks but conversions as well.

4. Use the Year in Your Clickbait Titles if It’s Appropriate

Posts about new industry developments and time-sensitive topics (such as the ubiquitous COVID-19 articles this past year) benefit from having at least the year in the title. For one thing, numbers in the title drive clicks – big time, as Moz’s Nathan Safran points out.

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But the other side of that coin is that most people want to read the latest information on your topic. Putting the year in the title lets them know it’s current.

However, don’t stop there. Make a note in your content calendar to update the content itself, as well as the title, the next year, keeping it fresh and relevant to readers.

5. Include Numbers and Power Words in Clickbait Headlines

Numbers in the title are irresistible. Combine them with power words, like “reasons why,” “insane,” “secrets,” “tips,” “success,” “don’t miss out,” “how to,” and many other examples to convey the sense that you’ll be providing them with inside information that promises to lead them to success.

Double-check before you publish to make sure you’ve covered all the bases in your title. Power words in the title demand powerful content within.

6. Personalize the Title in Emails

If you have an email newsletter (and you should), you need to use it to funnel the most relevant blog posts for each of your target market segments. Make sure that you include a dynamic element in the subject line that includes each recipient’s name.

For B2B headlines, you might even include a reference to the recipient’s company itself. Combine these personalized elements with relevant keywords and punchy wording, and you’ll have the perfect headline.

7. …But Don’t Overdo the Clickbait Thing

Clickbait-type headlines are like medicine. They’re best in small doses. Save them for quick problem-solving content, listicles, shock-value content, or lighter, more humorous articles.

Intersperse clickbait-type headlines and content with posts that are still catchy, but a bit more serious, or ones that answer your audience’s questions.

Timely Issues and Thought Leadership Headlines

Articles that provide your readers with insights on current events or industry developments deserve a little gravitas. Titles like “10 Tips from Doctors on Keeping Your Office Safe from COVID-19” or “9 Must-Know Insights on Content Marketing in 2021” still grab people’s attention but signal readers that they’re getting authority-sourced material.

Headlines that Answer Your Target Audiences’ Common Questions

To get to Position Zero – the very top of search results, including ads and paid search, your headline and prominent sentences must answer questions that people looking for information about the products and services you sell are asking. Answering these questions also puts you in a better position to attract people who prefer to use voice search.

For example, people looking into planning their gardens will want to know which plants are beneficial to plant beside each other. They might ask questions like “What are the best companion plants for carrots?” for instance.

Seed companies that have “best companion plants” in their titles and “companion plants for carrots” in a bullet-point list in their content would have a better chance of landing on Position Zero in a featured snippet. However, an article on little-known ways to fend off garden bugs would be a better candidate for a clickbait title, such as “5 Insane Ways to Win the Garden Battle Against Bugs in 2021.”

8. A/B Test Your Post Titles for Best Results

So, you and your content planning team have put your heads together and come up with some catchy clickbait titles for your new posts. As Tony Stillwell points out, testing those titles against each other can boost your traffic by as much as 500 percent.

Using A/B testing can separate the verbal wheat from the underperforming chaff. And, when it does, it can give your teams a chance to look at what made the winning title so effective – and then go create more titles like that one.

Having a single digital space where you can plan, create, test, and analyze all your content is a game-changer for larger content teams. With Divvy HQ’s comprehensive content marketing platform, you have everything you need in one place.

The best part? You can try it for yourself for free for 14 days with no obligation. Start your DivvyHQ trial today!