Bait-&-Switch Titles Destroy Your Street Cred & Prove You Hate Your Readers’ Guts
by Joel K

I was clickin’ through my Twitter stream this morning, when I came across the following title of a blog post:

“In 2015, Your Job as an SEO Isn’t Actually SEO”

(I outright refuse to link to the piece)

Intriguing! As a guy who spent a good chunk of his 20′s doing SEO agency-side, I was keen to find out how, exactly, SEO was no longer SEO (among all the other unruly claims being made like “SEO is Dead”, “Content Marketing is the new SEO!” and “SEO is like Thanksgiving Dinner” among other such nonsense).

When I got there, I was promptly greeted with this smug half-apology for wasting my time:

“OK, I’ll admit right now I wrote that title just to get clicks. It’s not my proudest moment, but I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t done it before.”

…Are you serious?

faces

I stopped reading right then and there. Pardon my French, but I was cheesed off.

It was clear to me, the reader, that what the author really cared about was my click – my delicious, juicy analytics data that would stroke their ego and make them feel as though their piece was a success.

Yes, they had succeeded in earning my click. Bravo.

But when I came looking for an intelligent discussion on a topic, I was fed a line about how little my time actually mattered and how the piece wasn’t good enough to stand on its own without duping me into reading it. What this clickbait title actually accomplished was telling me, the reader,

“Hi there! I can’t be trusted. Now, here’s my opinion!”

Can you see why prefacing your educational article with a lie is not a recipe for building credibility?

Friends, countrymen, content marketing mavens: Do you care more about the click than the reader? You might say you don’t, but go look at your posts. Are you misleading humans to fuel your analytics numbers?

Well, friggin’ stop it, because it makes your business look foolish, no matter how good the piece that follows is.

I’m not so naive as to think clickbait will ever go away.

Publications have to make money, and to make money, they have to generate revenue through ads, and to do that, they need a critical mass of readership. Clickbait is a wonderful little shortcut to getting that sort of momentum.

Maybe I’m an idealist – but why can’t you just invest your time into creating pieces so strong, your readership comes back because they trust you and value what you have to say?

Is it possible in an era of goldfish-esque attention spans to attract people just by being… I don’t know… good?

8 Comments
  1. At least they were honest enough to put that disclaimer right at the top, instead of making you read through the entire piece before you realized there was no substance there.

  2. Derek Mah says:

    Yet another facet of marketing that taints the industry. I agree that the best marketing is consistently delivering quality to build an integrity base of value. Tangible value emits a halo; bait and switch erodes halos.

    • Joel K says:

      It’s just sad that at this point, people have all but forgotten that you can build a loyal readership by offering up content that’s actually worth reading instead of luring in “clicks”.

    • Joel K says:

      Max! You beat me to the punch. But yeah, we’re definitely on the same page here. It’s insulting to me as the reader to be fed such a bowl of disdain.

  3. Integraphix says:

    No one, especially Google, likes the bait & switch. It’s a great way to get hated, for sure. Great post, Joel.

  4. Matt Lord says:

    Nice post Joel.

    I hate bait and switch marketing. I see it a good bit with some of the email lists I’m on.

    Whether “internet marketers” or large corporations, it seems many marketers are a little too data driven.

    They will sell their first born to increase open rates (what an adrenaline rush to see those open rates climbing when reviewing my stats!…not) often annoying leads and customers in the process.

    It annoys me quite a bit as an email copywriter. Especially when I’ve been asked to employ this tactic. Which I always explain to clients is a pretty terrible idea.

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