Click-baiting & its role in the modern marketing mix

Creative Web

Modern marketing has evolved significantly since the professionals of yesteryear left the workplace to make room for the latest generations. With a new group of marketing professionals entering the industry, with different moral compasses and a whole host of new capabilities, the marketing sector has undoubtedly changed dramatically.

So what are some of the technological changes that have occurred in the last few decades? Well, one of the most notable – and controversial – practices that has come about is that of click-baiting. Click-baiting was born in what could be seen as an incredibly overcrowded online space; with a number of online publishers all looking to gain the attention of online consumers, many turned to luring, or ‘baiting’ these individuals with tempting titles or links.

Now this may seem like a good idea – it’s no different to attracting consumers in the physical world with bright, garish and eye-catching marketing slogans. The difference when it comes to online is that click-baiting has become such a prolific tactic, everyone seems to be using it; from low-budget websites simply looking for more traffic, to huge multi-national news outlets in a bid to outdo their competitors.

Sensationalist words and unanswered questions are often used to force the reader to click through and discover more – thus resulting in higher traffic volumes. For website publishers, this is good news as it means more advertising revenue and better SEO. So it seems that the marketing advantages are obvious; but, as stated, this has become such a prolific tactic that in actuality a number of online sources are now banning the practice.

The most notable one of these is Facebook. According to the social media site, 80% of its users prefer headlines that help them determine if the link is worth their time or not, rather than leading to more unanswered questions. For this reason, the site famously took a stand against click-baiting to try and improve the experience of its users.

But click-baiting also affects the credibility of a site; now that active internet users are becoming savvy to the act, many are viewing it as a cheap and tactless approach and know not to fall for the somewhat melodramatic headings. And brands, agencies and media owners are beginning to recognise this, too. According to the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB), 71% of professionals involved in the online space believe clicks and views to be an ineffective method of tracking the success of content-based campaigns – aka, the kind of links that previously may have been subject to click-bait stylisation.

In fact, the most popular metric listed that indicated success was that of engagement time/attention given to an article, as listed by 86% of respondents. This indicates that actually, click-baiting is not only being shunned by consumers as a cheap ploy, but also by the very businesses that employed the tactic initially, as it becomes obvious that it is not necessarily the best way to attract consumer attention. With social shares the next most popular metric, standing at 70%, and click-bait articles unlikely to gain traction on such sites (re: Facebook’s policy), it certainly seems like click-baiting is losing its impact.

This is leading marketers to question whether they should abandon the practice all together. Should quality content be abandoned for clicks and views, or is it time to invest time and energy in creating something of value again? Newly emerging technology like programmatic and audience targeting are beginning to weaken click-bait’s hold on an audience, and opening up new pathways for businesses to move away from the salacious headlines that have dominated the online space for so long.

But where does this leave marketers? Click-baiting is still a fairly popular tactic, and it can be an easy method of gaining online traction for those site new to the online space and who are looking for high traffic in the form of clicks and visits. However, it is important to be wary of the changing attitudes towards click baiting from consumers and peers, and to find the right balance between sensationalist titles that attract, rather than annoy, those they are looking to attract.

For more established brands and those with the budget and expertise to invest in more high-quality content, it definitely seems like the time has come to begin moving away from click-baiting practices and start providing the kind of content consumers want – something well written, well researched, and well worth their time!