What made you click through to read this post (unless you’re reading this via RSS and already know what’s coming)?

Was it because you’ve read other posts of mine, and trust me to deliver on the premise shared wherever that might be? Was it because someone shared it on Twitter, Facebook, etc., and you trust their shares, so you automatically share too?

Or was it because of the headline, and the easy quick-fix yet often vapid information that headline suggested?

If it was any of the above, you’ve just been suckered – yet we allow ourselves to fall for this kind of click-and-bait trap all the time.

I Clickbait, Therefore I Am

Back in July 2013, leading inbound marketing and analytics company MOZ published an article titled 5 Data Insights Into the Headlines Readers Click.

In it, some interesting – and, to a large degree, sad – stats were shared.

  • On average, 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest (I wonder how many 8/10’s shared this post based on the headline…).
  • Traffic can vary as much as 500% based on the headline, according to traffic results from viral video site Upworthy.
  • 36% of readers preferred to click headlines with numbers in them, while only 15% would click a “normal” headline.

Sensing a pattern here? For the most part, many readers aren’t even caring what the content may be like – it’s the headline that drives them to a site (or not).

It's called content for a reason - why are we allowing headlines to destroy it?Click To Tweet

This isn’t really anything new – newspapers have been trying to outdo each other with creative headlines for years, to garner the sale from the rushed commuter over the competitor’s publication.

Headlines

The problem is, the success of headline attraction and clickbaiting isn’t just turning consumers of content into lazy sharers, it’s also turning the content creators into frauds that care only for eyeballs, versus providing the quality content these same eyeballs clicked over for in the first place.

This post could be viewed as a [deliberate] example of that.

But… But… Where Are My 100 Tips and 52 Experts?

Anyone that’s read this blog long enough, or is connected with me anywhere online, will know the contempt I generally have for the majority of list posts.

You know the type – “The Top List of Marketing Blog Top Lists”, “The Ultimate Guide: 50 Ways to Increase [INSERT ANYTHING HERE]”, “The Top 100 Online Web Users Any Web User Should Follow Online”, etc, etc.

Now, don’t get me wrong – some lists do offer value, and are crafted with love and care, and actually share real reasons why these lists exist.

And then there are the rest…

The problem with these lists is that they’re so clearly designed for link-bait reasons and link-bait reasons only, all while being disguised as a vacuous attempt at offering useful information.

Admit it - most list posts are nothing more than vacuous attempts at popularity contestsClick To Tweet

It’s not just bloggers desperate for traffic either – it’s so-called reputable publications that are falling into this malaise. You only need to look at the crappy Forbes “Top 50 Social Media Influencers” list that makes the rounds every year (sometimes more frequently).

When the author of these posts admits there’s no real science behind the list, and it’s essentially based on how noisy these “influencers” are online, you know the traffic whores have won.

I’m also not a fan of the term “content marketing”, which regular readers of this blog will know. So, the idea I’d write a post that shares 52 content marketing experts and their 100 top tips is… yeah….

Which brings me back to my opening question.

We Deserve What We Click

If you clicked on this post with no prior knowledge of my content, and whether it’d either be a fit for you or, more importantly, actually deliver on the headline’s promise – why?

  • If it was because of the headline only, how often have you been disappointed by the subsequent content that failed to discuss what the headline promised?
  • If it was because you reshared it from someone whose other content you frequently reshare without reading, don’t you ever wonder what it is you’re recommending to your followers, and how they’ll perceive you if the content is crap?
  • If it was because it somehow ended up in one of the automatic curation tools you use to share content, when did you last vet the content and make sure it was the stuff you wanted to be associated with?

If you recognize any of the reasons above, is that really something you want to continue being known for? Has quality control really disappeared, and now you just want your own shares to be reshared because the title looks sexy, and the more reshares your own shares get will make you an “influencer”?

If so, be careful what you wish for – there’s only so much wool you can pull over peoples’ eyes before they get wise to you.

We frequently complain about the quality of the content on the web today, and how a lot of it sucks compared to “the golden age of blogging” 5+ years ago.

The thing is, if we’re sharing and clicking crappy content filled with lies and false promises, we’re simply reinforcing the value of that crap and its raison d’etre.

Be better than that – your audience deserves more.

An experiment for you – click the tweetable below, and then see how many of your friends/connections retweet it. Then ask them if they read the piece first. See how many fall into the 80/20 headline rule.

This is probably the best list of content marketing tips from experts I've read! Click To Tweet

(And if you really do need to read 100 tips from 52 content marketing experts, you can find that here.)

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