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Clickbait Titles: How to Create Headlines That Boost Traffic

clickbait titles
Updated: | Content Creation vincent d'eletto wordagents ceo Vincent D'Eletto

As content marketers, we’ve all been there… 

You spend hours crafting a killer piece of well-optimized, high-value content that you know your audience will love. But after you hit publish, you notice that the post isn’t getting anywhere near the traffic you’d expected.

So, what’s going on?

Often, the problem is that your headline just isn’t effective enough at capturing the user’s attention and convincing them to click on your page. If only your title were a little more compelling, hordes of new visitors would get to enjoy your awesome content. 

So how can we craft our headlines so that they entice search users to click on our value-packed content? 

A great strategy is to use clickbait titles. 

In this post, we’ll explain the benefits of using clickbait titles and walk you through the do’s and don’ts of how to create them.

But first up, what do we mean when we talk about clickbait titles?

What is a Clickbait Title? 

In the context of digital marketing, a clickbait title is any headline crafted to maximize the likelihood of an article being clicked-on. 

This is achieved by coming up with a title so irresistible that people feel they have no option but to click to find out more. 

Clickbait titles have become synonymous with the dark art of using tantalizing headlines to manipulate users into clicking on links only to serve them content that falls way short of what the headline promised.

And while there’s no doubt that clickbait titles are still commonly used in this way, we hope to convince you that you can use clickbait titles for good – both in terms of getting you more clicks and giving your audience the quality content they deserve.

Why are Clickbait Headlines Effective? 

Although clickbait headlines get a bad rap, there’s no denying their popularity. According to one study from the University of Mississippi and University of Oklahoma, as much as 33.5% of mainstream media posts use clickbait.

Clickbait titles work by creating a ‘curiosity gap’ in the minds of readers, who then feel compelled to ‘fill’ the gap by accessing the associated content. 

In other words, the clickbait headline conveys to the reader that there’s some juicy piece of information that they don’t yet know and they’ll have to click through to find out what it is.

But why does this work so well?

The answer probably has to do with how our minds evolved. Understanding the world around us has always been essential to our survival, so it’s no surprise that we evolved to enjoy discovering new information.

In fact, the prospect of acquiring a compelling piece of information releases dopamine in our bodies, creating an itch that can only be scratched by learning what that information is. The prospect of not getting the information induces a negative response, similar to the well-known ‘fear of missing out’ (FOMO).

Simply put, clickbait titles harness our hardwired desire to be in the know.

22 Examples of Clickbait Titles That Work

Clickbait titles come in all shapes and sizes, but they all serve the same purpose: to intrigue the reader enough that they click.

Here are some examples to give you a sense of what a typical clickbait title looks like:

  1. Before You Get Married, Read This
  2. 13 Worst Interview Mistakes (You Won’t Believe Number 6)
  3. This Simple Life Hack Saved Me $10,000 Last Year
  4. I Ate Nothing But Meat For 3 Months, And This Is What Happened To My Body
  5. Which Comic Book Villain Is Your Boss?
  6. Only 5% Of People Can Figure Out This Riddle. Are You Up To The Task?
  7. 11 Reasons Celebrities Are Wearing THIS Watch
  8. How I Signed Four New Clients In An Afternoon WIth This One Trick
  9. They Didn’t Know She Was Listening. Then This Happened…
  10. 24 SEO Hacks That May Surprise You
  11. The Last Piece of Dating Advice You’ll Ever Need
  12. Why You Should Invest In Crypto Before It’s Too Late
  13. 7 Reasons Why Your Website Needs A Makeover
  14. Wall Street Veteran Shares His Top 10 Tips For Personal Money Management
  15. The 23 Painful Lessons I Learned Driving My Car Across Europe
  16. 12 Party Tricks I Wished I Learned When I Was Younger
  17. 14 Hangover Cures That You Haven’t Heard Of (Number 10 Works Every Time!)
  18. Here’s What $100K Can Buy You Around The World
  19. 18 Dancing Tips You’ll Want To Keep To Yourself
  20. We Surveyed 450 Newlyweds. What We Found Shocked Us
  21. I Sent 1000 Cold Emails In A Week. What Happened Next Will Surprise You!
  22. Ex-Olympic Athlete Reveals Jaw-Dropping Details About Her Training Regime

How to Create Optimized Clickbait Titles 

When it comes to any kind of headline writing, the better you understand your audience, the more successful you’ll be at hooking them in.

So before you begin the work of crafting clickbait titles, make sure you have a good understanding of what your readers will find most valuable in the content you’re creating. Once you have a good idea of what that value entails, you’ll have a solid foundation upon which to craft a super-appealing headline.

You should also be prepared to write multiple variations of your headline before landing on the one that works best. Some brands will even run A/B tests to figure out which headline variation attracts the most clicks. And while it’s always a good idea to look to other headlines for inspiration, there’s no repeatable formula (other than testing) that can guarantee you’ll find the perfect headline.

That said, here are some best practices to keep in mind when it comes to writing an intriguing headline.

Integrate Your Target Keywords

When writing titles and headers for SEO, it’s always essential to incorporate your target keywords (or ‘focus keywords’) since they tell search engines what your page is about and what search terms it should rank for.

This applies even if you’re using a clickbait-style page title. No matter how clever or persuasive your page title is, it will lose all its SEO advantages if it doesn’t contain your target keyword.

So the trick is to find the right balance between keyword optimization and clickbait power. 

And in addition to integrating your target keyword into your headline, you’ll also want to ensure your headline reflects the search intent behind that keyword. In other words, when someone searches for the keyword, what problem are they expecting to solve? The better your headline lives up to this expectation, the more likely it will be to get clicks.

By the time you sit down to write your headline, you’ll probably already know what keywords you're trying to rank for with your blog post. But if you’re struggling with your keyword research, a good place to start is with Google Search itself. 

Just start typing any term related to your chosen topic into the search bar, and Google will automatically present some variations of real-life search queries.

clickbait examples

Once you’ve shortlisted a few keyword variations, you’ll need to find out their associated search volumes and ranking difficulty. It’s best to choose a keyword that isn’t too competitive but still has substantial search volume to maximize your traffic and ranking potential.

You can find this data for free by using the Ahrefs Keyword Generator tool. Here you’ll find monthly search volume data as well as a difficulty metric for each keyword (the higher the number, the more difficult the keyword).

clickbait title

Match The Headline to the Content 

Making sure that your content lives up to the promise of your headline is paramount if you want to avoid developing a reputation for using shady tactics.

After all, we all know how frustrating it is to click on a post only to discover we were intentionally misled by whoever wrote the headline. At best, we’re annoyed, and at worst, we feel like the author betrayed our trust.

So, whatever you write in your headline should have relevance to the content and shouldn’t contain wild exaggerations or outright falsehoods.

That being said, there’s still plenty of wiggle room for poetic license. 

Most modern-day web users are now accustomed to hyperbole and the occasional sensationalized headline and instinctively take them with a grain of salt. So there’s no need to aim for absolute accuracy in your headlines (after all, a great headline will entertain its reader), but do steer clear of any clickbait tactic that will leave your readers feeling like you fooled them. 

Take Advantage of Current Trends

Piggy-backing on popular trends in your industry or the culture at large is another great tactic for writing clickbait headlines that resonate.

Integrating a pop-culture reference into your page titles will immediately differentiate your result from all the other listings in the search engine results pages (SERPs). It will also give readers the impression that your brand has a sense of humor and is tuned in to the wider culture.

Use Controversy to Grab Attention

Nothing attracts attention quite like controversy.

Bold statements, shocking assertions, and unconventional perspectives are all great for turning heads and evoking people’s curiosity. What’s more, if the opinion expressed in the content has some genuine merit (which it should if you’re using this tactic!), then using a controversial title may stir some positive and lively discussion around your brand.

Of course, this tactic should be used with caution. Taking a deliberately provocative stance can backfire on brands if they misjudge how it will come across. Depending on the severity of the miscalculation, this could result in anything from slight embarrassment to a massive loss of customers. So tread carefully! 

Tap Into Emotions

Professional copywriters and salespeople have long known the persuasive power of tapping into people’s emotions.

Accordingly, you’ll often find clickbait titles decorated with so-called ‘power words’ that can activate readers’ emotions and make them take notice.

Here are just a few examples of power words:

  • Mind-blowing
  • Cringeworthy
  • Catastrophic
  • Spellbinding
  • Inspiring
  • Scandalous
  • Heartwarming
  • Masterful
  • Exclusive
  • Reassuring

Another subtle trick that can help you stir positive emotions in your audience is to refer to them in the second person (‘you’ and ‘your’) throughout your headline copy. This creates the impression that you’re addressing your readers directly, which can make them more receptive to your messaging.

Similarly, it’s often a good idea to use the first-person perspective in your copy (‘I,’ ‘me,’ and ‘mine’) since it can help readers relate to your content on a more personal level.

Use Statistics & Data 

Finally, incorporating data is one of the surest ways to transform traditional headlines into something more click-worthy. 

If your content contains research or data that can’t be found elsewhere, you must mention it in your headline since this is a huge selling point for your article. 

More generally, headlines that contain numbers are appealing because they help us quantify benefits instantly. For example, a page title that reads ‘How I Shaved 10 Minutes Off My Marathon PB In 2 Weeks’ is much more compelling than a vague headline that just reads ‘How To Run A Marathon Faster.’

Good vs. Bad Clickbait 

What should you do to ensure that your clickbait titles fall into the ‘good’ camp and not the ‘deceptive’ or ‘misleading’ camp?

Remember that your content marketing campaign exists to generate new leads and bring in more sales for your business. So if you frustrate visitors by duping them with a bait-and-switch, you’ll just be shooting yourself in the foot. Chances are they won’t return to your site, and they might even spread the word about your use of underhand tactics – not good from a brand-building point of view.

That said, your clickbait headlines shouldn’t cause any problems if you avoid the following misdeeds:

  • Failing to deliver on the promise of the headline in the content
  • Serving a piece of content that has virtually nothing to do with the headline
  • Littering your post with annoying and distracting ads
  • Chasing engagement metrics by using slideshows when information could be presented better on a single page
  • Pretending that the post is educational and objective while, in reality, it’s just a big, not-so-subtle sales ad for your product.

Earn Your Clicks! 

Despite having a troubled reputation, clickbait titles can be used honestly and effectively to the benefit of marketers and audiences alike. 

We’ve seen that the key is to ensure that your article headlines provoke enough curiosity that users feel compelled to click while at the same time seeing to it that your content lives up to the hype of your title.

Equipped with your new knowledge of how to craft clickbait titles for SEO, it’s time to work them into your content marketing strategy and show us how it’s done!

Are there any other headline crafting tactics you think we should add to our list? Please let us know in the comments!

vincent d'eletto wordagents ceo Vincent D'Eletto

Hey, I'm Vin. Founder and CEO of WordAgents.com. I create content that ranks really well on search engines for our clients. I'm also deeply involved with the SEO community; maintaining a portfolio of successful, profitable affiliate websites. You can find me playing guitar, drinking scotch, and hanging out with my German Shorthaired Pointer when I'm not working!


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