Published on December 27th, 2022 ethical clickbaiting

Ethical Clickbaiting: How to Hook your Audience the right way

Love them or hate them – you can’t escape them. They are clickbaits! 

It’s impossible to browse the internet today without running into a bunch of them.  

Clickbaits draw clicks like a magnet, hook thousands of users, and make them land exactly where you want them to. Smart, right? No, it’s not that simple! 

Users don’t fancy clickbaits. They appear as annoying, manipulative, and misleading intruders while surfing the internet. And it is because their titles don’t deliver on what they promise, imply false information, and even maintain a facade. 

It’s true that clickbaits spark your interest and pull you down the digital rabbit hole. One minute, you’re searching for some facts, and the next moment, you’re watching a compilation of saving adorable kittens. It happens to all of us. 

And to counter this issue of misleading clickbait, we use ethical clickbaiting. But what is that?       

What are clickbaits & Ethical Clickbaiting?

As the name suggests, clickbait is any content created to attract clicks. It can be a headline, text post, thumbnail, photograph, article, or any other piece of content that draws attention and makes users click on it to land on a particular website. 

The internet today is filled with clickbaits in every form. They promote creating sensationalized and misleading content leaving out an important piece of information, which is a manipulative tactic. 

But here’s the interesting part, despite the negative notion attached to clickbait, there’s a way to use it in the right manner. It’s called ethical click-baiting. 

With Ethical Clickbaiting, the content delivers what the headline promises, without bluffs or any gimmicks involved. So, there’s no room for misleading, manipulating, or misinforming users in any way. 

Simply put, in this practice, we lead users to the content offering real value instead of just driving traffic to the page.  In other words, we use clickbait in a positive way, for instance: 

3 books every Digital Marketer must read

Be more Productive, adopt these habits

7 easy ways to save more of your money 

Sounds interesting? We know! 

Let’s take reverse gear and go back in time to know where the concept of clickbaits comes from.  

The history of clickbait 

Clickbait content goes all the way back to the dawn of print journalism. Its concept isn’t just a few decades old. Have a look at this classic, the 1913 version of the New York World. Every headline sparks interest and curiosity and just hooks a reader at first glance. 

clickbait headlines newspaper

When it comes to the most iconic headlines in the world of clickbaits, the incredible work of John Caples doesn’t go unnoticed. He is known for his outstanding work that contained clickbaity ad copies.    

In 1925, John wrote one of the best headlines of all time that read, 

‘They Laughed When I Sat Down At the Piano, But When I Started to Play!’ 

clickbait ad copy

The interest-piquing copy leads to the story of Jack, who gives the mind-blowing performance of Beethoven’s Musical Sonata at a musical evening, leaving everyone completely mesmerized.

Not long after, in 1927, he wrote an alluring ad for a life insurance company during the times of the Great Depression in the US. He came up with the headline that read:  

‘How you can retire on $200 a month.’

clickbait ad copy 2

So it is quite apparent that the concept of clickbait has existed in the world of offline advertising and journalism for so much longer than we assume. 

 Let’s find out!

How Ethical Clickbait Works 

If you read a clickbait headline, they don’t give complete information, spark curiosity, and imply that there’s more to know for a reader. 

For example, 

‘You’ll never believe this…, X things to never ignore…, X things to look for…, this is what happens…’, etc, are some of the classic clickbait titles you’ll find everywhere. 

But have you ever wondered how clickbaits actually work? 

For instance, whenever you come across a clickbait title, you feel this urge to know more than the surface level. This psychological feeling of wanting to know more is called the Curiosity Gap.        

In a nutshell, clickbaits are structured to make you think that you’ll learn something new or get your hands on more information once you click on the link. Little crazy, but it works!

Back in 2015, the article An Emerging Science of Clickbait’ was published by the MIT Technology Review.  

The interesting article sheds light on comprehensive research performed by Marco Guerini and Jacopo Staiano. Their research was about figuring out the connection between the virality of the content and the emotions of the viewer. What they did is collect and analyze the bunch of website data to conclude some results.  

And with their comprehensive research, they concluded that a strong link exists between the virality aspect of content and the 3 emotional reactions. 

Valence – intrinsic attractiveness or averseness of an event, object, or situation. 

Arousal – the emotion that stirs something inside of us that makes us take a certain action.

Dominance – it gives us a sense of control when we’re reading the content.

According to Guerini and Staiano, posts receive more comments when people feel certain emotions, like arousal (happiness or anger), sadness, or fear. On the contrary, posts get more social votes when people feel inspired to see them. 

Have a look at these examples of clickbait content on popular websites: 

buzzfeed clickbait headlines 


clickbait headlines


There’s a plethora of similar clickbait content that will hook you right off the bat. But what’s so special about it is that every site is hellbent on creating this type of content. Keep reading to know the benefits!

The benefits of Ethical Clickbaiting 

More page views

Clickbaits are indeed the smartest way to get more page views. No matter how you use it, put it in the headline, place it in the thumbnail, use it in the textpost, or any other way you want to. They serve the ultimate purpose of garnering the most clicks of any method. And if you want to measure the effectiveness of the clickbait you’ve used, use Google Analytics to check out the number and the sources of your traffic.  

A number of social shares

It is a fact that good or effective clickbaits gain a massive number of shares on every social platform. As a matter of fact, it goes like clockwork, you see some clickbait content on the internet, and you just couldn’t resist sharing it with your friends and family instantly. And this is why clickbaits are one of the reasons that some content performs way better than the other content pieces out there. In order to achieve the maximum number of shares, it is necessary that you trigger a certain emotion within your audience. The stronger the emotional response you receive from your audience, the more they are likely to share your clickbait content. 

Brand exposure 

The necessary element of content marketing for businesses is brand exposure. As clickbaits help your content spread across the web, it increases your brand awareness in multiple online spaces. Users on different platforms get to know about your brand, what exactly you’re offering, and your unique selling point. And in case your clickbait content goes insanely viral, you open the floodgate to the new stream of audience from everywhere.  

Virality isn’t necessary.  

Yes, your clickbait doesn’t need to go viral in order to build up brand awareness. If your clickbait content is good enough that it drives social sharing and increases page views coherently, it’s serving the purpose.  

What’s the Science behind clickbait 

So, here’s the thing: most of the time, we know it’s a clickbait we’re clicking on, and still, we do it. Ever wondered why that happens? What’s the mind-boggling science behind it?    

According to this report, researchers have discovered the essential features of clickbait content that capture the attention of users and make them click on it.  

Empty/unclear pronouns

Don’t ever make this mistake in your copywriting career 

This is the best book on Digital Marketing this year 

You need to know this before buying Iphone14

The unresolved pronoun, ‘this,’ in the above clickbait headlines gives us incomplete information. And as we see the information gap, we’re instantly tempted to know more and get our hands on the concealed knowledge. It does make sense and does the job, too.

Suspenseful language

You won’t believe what happened the next moment in our trip 

The most beautiful island you won’t believe exists 

The last denim jeans you will ever need

There’s one common thing in all three examples above. Suspenseful storytelling — it is highly effective and works wonders. The suspense element makes you think about what could be the possible answer that you can’t guess, and you end up clicking on the link to learn more information.  

Action words

Find out what this cat did after sniffing a baby 

Look how much this dog hates bath

See these amazing free web design templates before spending your money 

In the above headlines, ‘find out, ‘ ‘ look, ‘ and’ see’ are the action words that imply a certain action to be taken. This sets up our minds in action mode, and we can’t help but click on the link. 

Use of Numerals

67 gifts you can buy under $50

17 Former Stars who now work regular jobs 

5 NBA players who retired too early due to injury 

The presence of a number makes a clickbait look worth clicking. It gives the idea that you’ll gain a lot of interesting information in a short amount of time. According to this article, odd numbers have more potential to attract more clicks. So, it goes without saying that numerals kind of do the job for clickbait.  

Reverse narratives

Experts claim this supplement aids weight loss. Does it really? 

Doctors say this herb prevents hair loss. Is it true?  

Fitness enthusiasts swear by this health vitamin. What’s so special about it? 

In reverse narratives, the main or the crux of the story is revealed first; then, we get to know the backstory. This feature of clickbait content intrigues the interest of readers and they want to know the whole story. 

Unrelated images 

 Look at these clickbait examples having bizarre images coupled with interesting headlines: 

unrelated image and headline

unrelated image and headline

The mismatch between the headline and the image is noticeable in these examples. When you come across such clickbaits, you’ll wonder what’s actually the connection between the two. You’ll be curious and drawn in by the existing contradiction and want to know more. 

Ethical Clickbaiting & Content Marketing Strategy 

Although the concept of ethical clickbaiting is novel, there is a drastic surge in its usage. It has become a crucial element of the content marketing strategy as it brings in a plethora of leads, conversions, and revenue. 

Here are some ways you can incorporate ethical clickbaiting in your content marketing. 

Be honest with your audience. 

The first rule in ethical clickbaiting is to be truthful to your audience in every way. The data in this report says that ‘trust’ marks as the top 5 buying criterion, and 53% of consumers need to trust the brands they make purchases from. Speaking of which, you need to foster trust with your audience to grow your brand.  

I tried the keto diet, and this is what happened

This is what we sold the most in the Black Friday Sale

70% of customers are saying this after buying our new air fryer  

Don’t promise something you’re not offering, and don’t try to bluff them in any way because they’ll find out that you’re nothing but a gimmick. 

Use FOMO – Fear of missing out. 

Think about what valuable information you’ve got that your targeted consumers need to know. It could be your USP, the latest offer, a sale announcement, or anything else. Take that information, incorporate it into your clickbait content, and make the audience feel they’re missing out if they’re not clicking on the link. 

7 denim outfit ideas for every fashion lover out there

Check out the new guitars before they run out of stock! 

Our merch drops this Friday, get your discount coupon now!

Don’t exploit the curiosity gap.

Avoid creating any extremely sensationalized clickbait that will mislead the users.

Your life will never be the same after knowing this……..

This practice might get you many pageviews and clicks, but you’ll fail to gain long-term consumers. So, stop using any misleading or false information.  

Pay attention to the data.

Make multiple versions of your clickbait content, compare them with each other, and see which one is doing better.

Love avocado toast? You’ll also love this!

Try this new recipe; you’ll forget about avocado toast 

Remember, what works for other brands might not work for you. So be mindful and make thoughtful decisions; don’t spend your time and effort on a strategy that doesn’t resonate with your audience.   

Use clickbait to link to other articles on your website

It is smart to use clickbait on other places on your website or landing page. For instance, ‘Recommended, explore more, discover more on the topic’ are the sections used to link to other articles. What you can do here is to use clickbaits to get more eyeballs and lure in visitors. This way, not only will you get to increase the average visit time, but you will also let users know you offer more information. 

clickbait headlines

Use humor in your clickbait-style content.

Don’t use the same old, boring, cliched clickbaits. Be creative, and add some humor, as it could be an interesting introduction to your audience. And it does get the attention of your audience faster than the other clickbait styles. 

This puppy wearing glasses will make it big in the modeling industry

Baby ducks saw water for the first; it’s hilarious what they did next

Note that you have to be funny, but don’t try too hard; let it come naturally to you!  

Use numbers in your headlines.

Having a number in your clickbait implies the amount of information or the actionable steps. It gives a clear idea of what users will be getting once they click on the link.

Write your first blog post in just 5 steps

7 tips to enhance your content marketing skills 

In addition, it also makes it easier to skim the entire piece and process the information given. So go ahead and add some numbers; it’s better if it’s the odd one.   

Prioritize relatability 

Be relevant to your target audience. Find opportunities where you can connect your content to the audience’s interest. You can incorporate the upcoming holiday, event, or trending topic into your clickbait, as your audience will relate to them more than other things.

Here’s all you need to know about Depp vs Heard Trial

This is the perfect gift for all dog dads

This strategy will strengthen your brand-consumer relationship but also elevate your brand persona.

Don’t overdo it.

‘Less is more’, stick to this rule when it comes to clickbaiting. Always stick to your brand image and professionalism while creating content. Don’t ever exaggerate; no one likes to click or read a headline that says

9 Outstanding and UNBELIEVABLE Ways to Use Apple Cider Vinegar EVERY.SINGLE.DAY!!!!!!

Got the idea? Great!

Think more than clicks.

Always write for more than clicks. The catchy, funny headline may lure in the users but what makes them stay will be your content. Only quality content that offers value to the users will be the gateway to conversions. Nothing else. So, it’s better to spend time and effort in creating wholesome content that will hook your audience. 

Clickbait Campaigns of the brands 

Here are some clickbait campaigns spotted in the marketing of some brands:

clickbait headlines


clickbait headlines


clickbait headline

What not to do in Ethical Clickbaiting

Apart from the evergrowing usage of ethical clickbaiting, one tiny mistake can cause damage to your brand. While promoting clickbait content, you need to be vigilant, as multiple social platforms and search engines have policies regarding misleading content.  

Be mindful that Google’s policy prohibits “Ads that use clickbait tactics or sensationalized text or imagery to drive traffic.” It includes ads that: 

  • claim to reveal secrets
  • show disasters or altered images
  • use death, illness, or any other negative event
  • display before and after imagery showing drastic changes in the human body. 

Meanwhile, on Facebook, clickbait articles will show up lower in News Feeds.  In addition, repeated sharing can result in page restrictions permanently. 

Wrap up

Gone are the days when clickbaits were used to create make-believe concepts, spread fake news, and sell unpromising products. 

In modern content marketing, ethical clickbaiting is reigning. If you’re promoting a product or service that offers value to your audience, you can use clickbait in an ethical manner. Because it will deliver what it’s promising.

So create interesting clickbaits, lure in users to click, and let your content keep them hooked till the end. That’s what makes a click-worthy clickbait!

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Published on December 27th, 2022
Updated on January 20th, 2024

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