How Clickbait has evolved (and why it still works)

Clickbait has been plaguing the internet since they figured out how to monetize content. The mystery that the headline gives compels you to click. You just can’t resist. But now that’s evolving.

Clickbait in its rawest form is defined as headlines that get you to click but are incredibly misleading or downright false. There’s a whole subreddit called Saved You A Click that combats those tempting articles by spoiling the twist. The current record is 256 clicks to find out what expensive car Malia Obama drives.

Saved You A Click has spoiled countless clickbait articles since its inception.

You usually see them at the bottom of established websites like CNBC, Fox News, and the Huffington Post. It doesn’t matter what side of the aisle websites lean, every major news source has something like this.

But while those still generate enough revenue to keep doing it, Google hasn’t favored those sites in its search ranking mainly because the clickback rate (how many users click on the site and immediately click back to the previous site) so the likelihood of searching for something and finding that clickbait site is going to be incredibly rare.

How has clickbait evolved to be a mainstream practice?


Clickbait has always been used when trying to sell a news source. Paperboys yelling headlines to get people to come and buy their paper. 10pm local news having a lead in of “is there a toy in your household that can catch fire? We’ll tell you in 25 minutes.”

Writing good clickbait is an artform that’s required to grow your blog and now it’s necessary for YouTube. YouTube doesn’t encourage misleading headlines, but they do state in their Creator Academy that you should consider an eye grabbing headline to get users to click on your video. Some creators take that too far and it works.

What is an example of bad clickbait on YouTube?


An example of bad clickbait is what’s referenced above; misleading thumbnails and a misleading video that forces people to watch through 95% or irrelevant content to get to the small part of the video you actually wanted to see. These videos usually tease nudity which was actually a form of clickbait thumbnails that almost every YouTuber of the day utilized. YouTube came down hard on those thumbnails and threatened to remove content because it increases clickbacks. YouTube wants engagement over clicks as they’ve stated in their new Partnership Guidelines.

But these users content is still compelling enough that some viewers will watch all the way through only to be bamboozled. Take Lance Stewart for example. His house burned down at least according to his headline, but it was just a smoke machine prank

This video was supposed to be deleted in 1 hour. Still up 10 days later.


What is an example of good clickbait on YouTube?


Needless to say there is good clickbait out there. While it might sound like an oxymoron, clickbait has evolved to include actual enticing headlines that deliver what they promise. A good example would be a video headline that provokes discussing.

Top Hat Gaming utilizes catchy titles, but backs it up with quality content. It’s not his fault people don’t watch his videos before commenting.

Take Top Hat Gaming Man for example. The former British wrestler has gained some decent success by making a headline that gets people to click and watch his content. Even with the clickbait headlines, his past 50 videos had an average 88% like ratio. If you exclude the times where he’s rustled Nintendo Fanboy jimmies, it’s well over 90%. He also has a net positive on subscribers on all of those videos and his views per month have a steady

What’s the future of clickbait?


Just like the rest of the internet, clickbait is evolving. Using incredibly misleading headlines has diminishing returns and you’ll be hard pressed to get the same people to fall for it more than once. If you don’t have the content to back your headline up, people aren’t going to watch anymore. While channels that continue to use bad clickbait will eventually shrivel and die off, those who fine tune their content over time, will find better ways to get you to click on their videos and eventually won’t even need to employ clickbait tactics.