Clickbait headlines and why you should NOT use them

You’d like your post to rank and your headlines to be clicked on. That’s how you generate traffic from the organic search results. After your headlines have generated those clicks, you’d want your customers to stay on our site and read your posts (and eventually decide to buy your stuff). That’s why writing clickbait headlines are not the best way to optimize your content. In fact, writing over-the-top clickbait headlines won’t be beneficial to SEO at all. In this post, I’ll explain why you shouldn’t write clickbait headlines.

Read more: How to write an awesome and SEO-friendly blogpost »

What exactly are clickbait headlines?

Clickbait headlines are titles that provoke such curiosity, that people are inclined to click on them. These titles contain, for instance, many exclamation marks or words carrying very strong sentiments like: Awe-inspiring, breath-taking, gut-wrenching, soul-stirring. Clickbait headlines contain catch phrases (will blow your mind) and directly address the reader.

There are quite a few tools that help you create these kind of headlines. These tools for instance check whether you have a number in your headline (an uneven number is better!) and whether you use enough clickbait words.

1. Clickbait headlines result in higher bounce rates

Your headline should fit your page or your post. If a headline generates lots of clicks because of phrases as ‘this is simply unbelievable’, ‘the most amazing story ever’ or ‘you’ll be blown away’, your post should immediately gratify the headline’s promise. However, most likely, your post won’t be able to meet the expectations of the readers. So, your audience will bounce back to Google, increasing the bounce rate of that page.

2. Clickbait could harm your rankings (in Facebook too)

Google notices it when a page has a high bounce rate. If people come back to Google after clicking on a search result, Google interprets the first click as a mismatch between what they’re searching for and what they’re finding. In the long run, a high bounce rate will result in lower rankings of your site.

In August 2016, Facebook announced they would start identifying phrases that are commonly used in clickbait headlines. Their new system identifies posts that are clickbait and which web domains and pages these posts come from. Links posted from or shared from pages or domains that consistently post clickbait headlines will appear lower in News Feed.

3. Clickbait headlines can diminish trust

Research of Matthew Hindman (2015) shows that going too far down the clickbait path, with catchy headlines that misrepresent the article, can diminish the newspaper’s brand and squander readers’ trust. A large national newspaper found that headlines chosen for maximum clicks actually lowered total news traffic. Dramatic headlines attracted a larger fly-by social media audience, but turned off those readers most inclined to visit the second or third article once they were on the paper’s homepage.

Perhaps audiences are getting used to the clickbait headlines they see in search results and on social media. They know that clicking on these titles will not give them the best or most useful information. Sources and sites using these clickbait titles will be more and more considered not to be trustworthy.


Should we all write really boring titles then? Of course not. First and foremost, you need to write high-quality content. I think your main focus should be with your content. You need to make sure that people want to come to your site and read your post. The most important reason that clickbait titles do not work (in the long run) is the mismatch between the expectation the headline provokes and the gratification the actual post will offer. If your content is absolutely awesome, your title can raise some expectations. So, a catchy title is fine as long as your content will deliver what the headline implies.

Keep reading: Content design: a great way to make user-centered content »


Hindman, M. (2015). Stickier News: What Newspapers Don’t Know about Web Traffic Has Hurt Them Badly – But There is a Better Way. Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy Discussion Paper Series.

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4 Responses to Why you should NOT write clickbait headlines

  1. Chris Nastav
    Chris Nastav  • 7 years ago

    Hmmm, a high “Bounce rate” to me implies they came to one Web page and then left. They didn’t explore further. If you’re writing a blog post with engaging content, how do you influence a lower bounce rate without moving from a click bait strategy, to a strategy of teaser paragraphs that you have click further Website links to get more information. Tricky, but manageable.

    • Ngan
      Ngan  • 7 years ago

      I think you’re confused between Google’s Search Engine Bounce Rate vs Your Own Blog’s bounce rate.

      A misleading title will cause the visitor to return to Google and perform the same search again, and if many visitor does the same, Google knows that article is not helpful, probably junk, thus the site will lose ranking.

      However, if the article is good, visitors will stop ‘Googling’, the bounce rate for the page will be 100% and if the visitor stop Googling, google knows they’ve delivered the correct article.

  2. Akash Srivastava
    Akash Srivastava  • 7 years ago

    I agree with you Marieke, we should not write clickbait headlines, if content is not up to mark.

  3. Aaron
    Aaron  • 7 years ago

    Great information! I was unaware of Facebook’s crackdown. We are looking at launching some specific lead generation packages for some of our markets here in the next few months. I appreciate you writing this because I am now going to be making sure that our headlines are compliant. Thanks for the information.