What is clickbait? Clickbait, sometimes called “juicy bait”, is a short text or a thumbnail picture that is made to draw attention to something in the middle of a blog post, article, or any other form of online content that is designed to urge readers to click and read, watch, or listen to whatever the attached link is of related content. Many times this is done by baiting the reader into clicking on a certain link which brings up a story, advertisement, or another form of attention-grabbing content. For example, a link that brings up a story about a cute cartoon animal may contain a link towards an adult video clip, which a reader may find offensive.
But what is clickbait exactly, and how does it differ from other forms of internet marketing? Basically, “clickbait” is simply a term used to describe a promotional strategy that relies on baiting the user into clicking a link. When done properly, and with enough repetition, this can be very effective. It’s a way to get your website in front of your target audience without having to pay for advertising, and you only need a few sentences that use intriguing words or phrases that will intrigue the reader enough for them to click on your link.
How do webmasters create these bait sites? One way is to use articles that are poorly written, filled with spelling and grammar mistakes, and written in a way that attempts to trick the reader into clicking. This is usually done by over-hyped advertisement – the bait – that is found within the article. Another way is to provide inside or behind the scene testimonials, which can lead the reader directly to your website. Finally, to make sure that the bait doesn’t go unnoticed, most articles have some sort of hidden hyperlink or text linking back to the affiliate program website, or a sales page for the product being sold. These are the obvious tactics, but there are more subtle ones as well.
For example, a search engine optimization article may point to a website selling a particular product, but the page itself does not contain a single meaningful keyword. Instead, the keyword phrase “what is SEO” might be used repeatedly in the article’s various body paragraphs, and the article itself contains no useful information on the topic. In fact, it makes no sense at all – the keyword is irrelevant to the content. If searching, the article would come up near the bottom of the list, instead of at the top. The search engines do not display links unless they are relevant to the keywords being used, and those links must be placed in an area of the page that is visible to visitors who are searching for information about the specific topic.
Websites that have what is known as “viral” traffic are excellent sources of what is called “clickbait.” These sites, like the legitimate article directories mentioned above, allow for the placement of links to affiliate programs. However, instead of directing visitors toward the parent website, the links are placed in web pages that are already in the news. For example, if a news article was written about a new software tool that is available for downloading, the link could be placed into a website about software tools.
Some publishers choose to include what is known as “lure” links within their articles. These are hyperlinks that lure visitors to click on them. Sometimes, these “lures” are convincing enough to actually encourage someone to click on the link and be directed to an affiliate program. These publishers can get away with this sort of activity for several reasons. First, most publishers simply use their real names as author names in their articles – this is perfectly legal – but it is often not noticed by publishers who read the articles. In addition, publishers who engage in this behavior may believe that what is seen is what is earned.
Others have come under fire for what is sometimes described as “vigorous advertising.” These articles are published widely throughout the Internet, often at high traffic periods, such as around major product releases or industry-related events. At these times, a new bait is introduced – a resource box that encourages readers to visit the publisher’s site for more information. In this instance, it is the publisher’s obligation to make sure that the link back to their site does not cause accidental clicks to an affiliate program. Many publishers have learned that this is not a difficult burden to meet.
There is one more type of publisher who has received much criticism over what is sometimes termed “clickbait.” This group is consisting of bloggers and others who feel that they have an ethical right to write negative reviews about a product or service. The question of what is clickbait inevitably turns up when a blogger decides to make a “side” comment about a product or service. It turns out that they actually bought the product or are affiliated with the product’s sales agent in some way. The resulting “clickbait” is a sales pitch disguised as a review. Because blogs fall under the category of “opinion” and cannot be copyrighted, they can be criticized in this way, even if no money is exchanged.