This Post Will Shock You and Might or Might Not Include a Video of a Sneezing Cat: Click-Bait and Content

Have you ever been a victim of click-bait? I’m not too ashamed to admit that I have. Usually it’s the Huffington Post or Slate that is the culprit. They’ll seduce me with a strong adjective like “shocking” or “mesmerizing” in the title, or describe their list as things that I must do, see or eat before I die. I’m not alone. One person was so annoyed by the Huffington Post, he created the Twitter account @HuffPoSpoilers, so other readers wouldn’t have to get baited like he was.

Buzzfeed takes click-baiting a step further with 1001 different articles about cute cats and quizzes to tell participants which 1980s NBC sitcom sidekick they are. Today, my Facebook Newsfeed was littered with posts from friends declaring which cheese they scored in a Buzzfeed quiz so aptly titled “Which Cheese Are You?” I would be lying if I said that I didn’t feel kind of silly clicking these things, but I have to admit that they are effective. Is click-bait the future of content marketing?

Not really, because it always has been a part of content marketing. In fact, i09 did a pretty good job of chronicling the history of American journalism and showcasing how click-bait was important to the early 20th century newspapers. William Randolph Hearst gained fame and fortune through sensationalist Yellow Journalism headlines. Furthermore, the most esteemed award in journalism is the Pulitzer Prize – named after New York World publisher, Joseph Pulitzer. Pulitzer had no issues with making the mundane melodramatic either.

The point is that creating titles that will make people click your link or read your article is the past, present and future of content. When you create content or look for SEO companies to create the content for you, it could have the most in-depth and quality substance out there, but if the title is a snooze, you’re not going to get the maximum exposure you can get, nor the advertising bucks that come with the extra clicks. At the same time, though, if you lure your reader and don’t deliver, nobody is going to share your article or come back to your site.

Therefore, you have to do both. The creativity of the title should match the quality of the content so you have something that is valuable to your readers. And once they reach your site, maybe they’ll hang around and see what else you have to offer. In his Guardian defense of click-bating, Steve Hind noted that while Buzzfeed does draw all of those visitors with the cats and quizzes, it is also heavily investing in traditional media reporting to become a respected site and to keep people engaged and returning.

Titles matter extraordinarily, but you won’t do your marketing campaign any favors if you don’t have the content to back it up. Speaking of that, I almost forgot the sneezing cat…


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