What is clickbait?\r\nRemember the last time you were reading a short article and then, just as it was becoming intriguing, you were asked to click on a link so you could jump to the conclusion?\r\nThat was clickbait.\r\n\r\nThe web definition\r\nAccording to Techcrunch, clickbait is as follows:\r\n\u00a0\u201cThe intentional act of over-promising or otherwise misrepresenting - in a headline, on social media, in an image, or some combination - what you\u2019re going to find when you read a story on the web.\u201d\r\nYou can witness clickbait in action when you see sensationalist language. Think about attention-grabbing headlines such as \u201cYou\u2019ll never believe what happened next\u2026\u201d and \u201cWhat every golfer must know!\u201d. These are statements that try to create a hole in your life, make you feel as if\u00a0you are missing something, and compel you to take one step further so you can get the answer.\r\nOnly the chances are you won\u2019t find that answer. It\u2019s a ruse to click through to another site page, often several times in a row, to take you somewhere you might purchase a product or service. Or, just to rack up click-throughs to landing pages along the way for advertisers to make money.\r\nThe sensationalist approach may seem a little obvious, but it\u2019s used by advertisers because it generally works. It succeeds by exploiting the \u2018curiosity gap\u2019, by wording each clickbait title to reveal nothing about the content of the article. It\u2019s all about the headlines and less about the follow-up material.\r\nThis is why most long-tail publishers' sites now use clickbait in the form of the \u2018recommended links\u2019 advertising that leads to auto-playing ads.\r\nAnd it\u2019s all about the headline. Upworthy has a policy requiring new article contributors to submit 25 headlines to go with the piece. This way there is a constant push to find and use the best converting word combinations for clicks.\r\n\r\nHow does it work?\r\nTake the following typical clickbait headline:\r\n\u201cThis Entrepreneur Posted a Photo, What Happens Next is Terrifying!\u201d\r\nThere is no indication of what the photo contains, and we only know that something will happen next that will create a strong negative emotion. This is more powerful than reacting to a positive emotion as it stirs up outrage and anger.\u00a0\r\nWe also know it\u2019s an entrepreneur, so if we are starting a business ourselves, then our empathy fires up our curiosity. You want to find out, so you don\u2019t repeat the same mistake yourself.\r\nSo two things are happening:\r\n\r\n\r\n \tWe become curious because the exact information is sparse.\r\n \tWe feel deprived if we don\u2019t find out.\r\n\r\nIt\u2019s a \u2018one-two\u2019 sucker punch that baits and waits for the click. As HootSuite says, \u201cPeople are suckers for the unexpected\u201d.\r\n\r\nWhat\u2019s the benefit?\r\nCuriosity means more page views. Improved site performance means more to bill the advertisers.\r\nAlso, digital publishers need to make their content effortlessly discoverable. It\u2019s tough to develop a quality branded site loaded with stimulating content, ensure it has no annoying pop-ups, and make it simple to discover via web search and social media.\r\nWhen clickbait is used well, it funnels interest through these channels.\r\nWhat's more, the big players such as Google, Facebook, Bing, and Baidu are all constantly evolving algorithms that help people discover and access content. This means that digital publishers, advertisers, and marketers need to continually revise and optimize posted content to keep up. This creates a lot of work, making clickbait tactics more attractive.\r\nClickbait might \u2018evolve\u2019 by approving in new strategies and with different wording, but the essential formula of sensationalism remains the same. And a company\u2019s need to revisit a string of blog articles to revise wording for SEO purposes may push that content back up the rankings, but it\u2019s a \u2018band-aid\u2019 task that never ends.\r\nSo in some ways, clickbait makes sense, but it\u2019s not all so innocent.\r\n\r\nThe downside\r\nClickbait can be unhealthy because it creates spammed social feeds, an intrusive and annoying web experience, and spending half your day distracted by tiny bites of nothing instead of larger bites of more reflective and immersive long-form content.\r\nHowever, it\u2019s also a surefire way to lose traffic in the long run. The first time around you may click through, but then you become a little wiser. Publishers, in particular, can lose reader trust, and that\u2019s a commodity they need to develop at all costs. Clickbait is a short-term strategy that can make you feel like swatting wasps. It can infuriate and make you go elsewhere, and this also means you lose the potential to gain through social shares. As Unbounce suggests, more considerate headlines leading to positive gains will drive longer-term user engagement.\r\nShort, snappy content is also less widely shared. According to a Buzzsumo report, long-form content is shared more. Based on 100M articles analyzed over eight months, articles with 3,000-10,000 words had 8,500 shares, and content with 1,000 and below averaged 4,500 shares.\r\nBut clickbait is also a popular tactic for darker reasons. It\u2019s a gateway strategy for deception and fraud. After all, scammers are also looking to access the largest possible audience, just like advertisers.\r\nSo how do we know which clickbait is harmful?\r\n\r\n\r\n \tIs it suspicious?\r\n\r\nPhishing scams try to make you divulge sensitive information such as credit card details and passwords. Look for telltale outrageous statements that claim to be part of a bank, for example. They are not affiliated, and your click-through may take you to a fake bank login page created just to harvest your details and access your money.\r\n\r\n\r\n \tIs it too good to be true?\r\n\r\nIf it\u2019s outlandish, then it\u2019s not trustable. The net is a playground for opportunism. After all, what does it cost to post fraudulent information? Not much, and that\u2019s why those amazing sounding promises are peppering your social feed.\r\n\r\n\r\n \tIs it asking you to give something up?\r\n\r\nYour information and privacy may be compromised if you accept any request to download an application and install it. For example, click on the bait and install a \u2018Codec\u2019 file to play a movie that hasn\u2019t even hit the theaters.\r\n\r\nWhat\u2019s the upside?\r\nClickbait has a logical premise: it plays on our emotions just like advertising always has. However, it makes for an information-poor internet that is open to a fast buck and criminal intent. Facebook believes the tide is changing, and native advertising will instead count for 74% of all online ad revenue by 2021.\r\nReaders should be treated like they want smart content from well-designed websites that are informative. The interim solution is as simple as the Content Marketing Institute suggests, look instead for positive content!\r\nMaybe it\u2019s time for quality over quantity?