Earlier this year, I read an article that declared Mamamia, one of Australia’s most popular social media-based websites, was moving away from using Clickbait headlines.

You know the ones:

  • This person didn’t look like they could sing, but then..
  • A kid stood up, but you won’t believe what happened when…
  • They started to do this, but my mind was blown when…


That last one is pretty much the worst of the worst. The moment I see anything to do with minds being blown, I just automatically know I’m going to be disappointed.

However, all of these styles, and more, are clickbait headlines. They’re designed to grab a person’s curiousity and get them clicking through to the article to find out the rest of the story.

And it works. It still works. For a while after I read that article about Mamamia killing their Clickbait articles, I thought it was starting to flow across everyone, but just recently I’ve been noticing a renewed rush of these sorts of headlines popping up all around the place.

Is it really that effective, though? Some of these articles have gone viral, but have they gone viral because of the headline, or because of the content?

Remember a few years ago, when the video of Susan Boyle’s audition for – one of those reality TV shows – absolutely smashed the internet? It was the perfect clickbait video, wasn’t it? This awkward, unemployed, single forty-something woman walks out on stage on a reality TV show, and completely destroys what everyone is thinking of her the moment she opens her mouth and starts singing I Dreamed a Dream. So far in my life, that’s the most ‘mind-blowing’ thing I’ve still seen online.

They laughed when she said she wanted to be a professional singer, but it blew their minds when she started to sing…

Susan Boyle

It wasn’t the headline that made that video viral. That video went viral because of the content. When people clicked through and actually watched this woman singing a song that absolutely epitomized the very reason she was there, they couldn’t help but react. They shared it because of the content.

Good content will attract people, almost regardless of the headline.

Not completely. I’m certainly not saying pay no attention to your headline whatsoever. It needs to be good, it needs to be eye-catching, but it needs to be honest. It needs to give a clear idea of what a person’s going to see when they click the link, otherwise, it just leads to disappointment and a feeling of betrayal.

I want to just look at this from a slightly different angle, if I can. In my sales career, there was one article I remember reading which had more influence over any other training or coaching that I ever received. While I can’t seem to find it online anymore, the headline was, Why sell ice to eskimos, when you can sell life jackets to drowning men?

Why sell ice to eskimos when you can sell lifejackets to drowning men?

Why sell ice to eskimos when you can sell lifejackets to drowning men?

The premise of this article was that genuine sales is about providing people something that they actually need. Sure, you might be able to sell ice to eskimos, but eventually they’re going to realize that they didn’t need to buy ice, and probably experience buyer’s remorse. Next time you come to them offering something, they’re going to be much more cagey and suspicious. Not only that, but they’re probably likely to tell others about that negative experience, and as we’ve all heard, people talk a lot more about their negative experiences than the positive ones.

On the other hand, if you are selling life jackets to drowning men, then you’re offering something that they need, at a time they need it, when it’s most beneficial for them. Your sales strategy isn’t about making another dollar, it’s about providing something to your client that they need and will benefit them. It means that next time you come to them, they remember you positively, because you provided them with a positive experience. It means that on those far fewer occasions that they talk about a positive experience, they’re talking about you.

Clickbait headlines hide sub-par content.

The reason I don’t click on these links anymore, is because on the vast majority of occasions I’ve actually succumbed to my curiousity, I’ve ended up disappointed. I click through to be promised something mind blowing, or at least interesting, only to be let down.

Disappointed Turtle copy

Why are you not doing that with your blog articles or online content? Clickbait is the “ice to eskimos” sales style. It’s about what you’re getting out of it – once the person’s clicked, you don’t care what they think. You’ve walked away with the dollars and that’s the most important thing.

The reality is, that if you’re providing great content, then you don’t need a Clickbait title. Get people sharing your content because they found something really worth sharing. Social Media pretty much ignores the rule of people speaking less on a positive experience; it’s where people click share because they found something awesome. You’ll find yourself respected and valued far more, because you’re providing something people find value in.