Clickbait or Catchy Hook? How To Write Headlines That DON’T Suck

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Are you ever scrolling through Facebook or reading a blog post and you see a headline that you just HAVE TO CLICK – only to find out you’ve been completely misled, manipulated or downright duped?

Ah yes, welcome to the Internet. As a copywriter, how do you know if your content is cringeworthy or clickworthy? Keep reading…

Hey guys, it’s Alex and welcome to the first edition of Clickbait or Catchy Hook where I go up against the Internet to call out content that I think is just downright douchey.

Yes, I am talking about CLICKBAIT.

You don’t have to be a copywriter or marketer to know what clickbait is. Typically we think of clickbait as hyperbolic, sensational or unbelievable content that makes us DESPERATELY want to click to satisfy our curiosity. It often looks something like this…

Or this..

Or this…

Or this…

Or this…

Or this…

But are all those examples REALLY considered clickbait? What if they are just really catchy hooks? What’s the difference?

Well, lets first consider The Oxford English dictionary’s definition of clickbait.

They define it as: “content whose main purpose is to attract attention and encourage visitors to click on the link to a particular webpage.”

Hmm… to that I say, yeah, but isn’t that kind of the point of copywriting? To get attention and encourage visitors to click on your link?

It’s for this reason that I think this definition is a bit outdated, and no wonder people are confused!

The truth is, a lot of marketers out there today have widely misused and abused the covenants of great copywriting. Which is why, in my opinion, clickbait has been reduced to…

An intentionally sensationalized, vague or misleading headline that leads to content that’s irrelevant, provides no value or just straight-out lies. You know, real… fake news.

This is the Copy Posse definition of a clickbait today.

As a marketer, I can assure you that, while clickbait will get you loads of clicks, it is immensely harmful to a brand and sabotages brand loyalty. Yes, you need to capture visitors’ attention with a catchy hook, but if they feel duped in any way after clicking, you’ve likely lost that customer forever.

Clickbait may attract first-time readers — but it usually stops there.

The Copy Posse golden rule is to always DELIVER on what you say in your hook or headline. You can still get mad clicks by piquing curiosity, but if someone feels baited, you will lose their trust for LIFE.

If you want to learn more about how to build a solid brand and engage your audience with authentic and compelling copy — I have dozens of videos and guides to get you started. So remember to head on over to YouTube and subscribe to my channel!

And now – as a copywriter – how do you know if your headline is clickbait or a catchy hook? Well, think of it this way…

Clickbait creates a disconnect between the headline and the content, while a catchy hook gives people what they came for.

Clickbait offers no value with hypey, unbelievable or pointless hype… while catchy hooks lead to value in the form of entertainment, education or inspiration.

And lastly, clickbait tends to be dishonest and misleading; a straight-out bait and switch, while a catchy hook still opens a loop, but doesn’t use misleading or misdirected statements.

For example, you may throw at Buzzfeed, Bored Panda or Upworthy and write them off as clickbaity content sites…

And perhaps they have dropped the ball and succumbed to clickbait headlines in the past.

But let’s face it — most of the time, you’re getting exactly what the headline says in the article. If you click on This Super-Easy Green Onion Hack Is Blowing My Mind”… you’re gonna get a green onion hack so good that you’ll seriously wonder how you didn’t know it sooner.

Btw, because I know you are wondering – it’s basically to chop off the bottoms with the roots and put them in water so they RE-GROW.

Clickworthy headline, relevant content, value delivered – that is one catchy hook, no “bait and switch” there.

Alright, let’s get into some more examples brought to you by the Internet. It’s time for a little game show called:

Clickbait or Catchy Hook?

Let’s begin with the first contestant.

Headline #1: The Surprising Reveal

Couple Adopts Triplets. A Week Later, The Doctor Reveals Something Nobody Expected.

It’s an interesting story. You don’t often hear of couples that adopt three babies at a time. And you’re left wondering if what the doctor revealed was something bad, something good, or something just shocking altogether. It sure makes you curious! You click the link, only to find…

An article that takes 18 freakin’ PAGES for you to find out that the doctor revealed the wife was pregnant with twins.

Sure, the story was relevant to the headline and delivered a pretty good and surprising ending.

But dragging you across almost 20 ad-infested pages with confusing design and tricky navigation buttons to finally deliver you some form of value?

LAME. Although it’s a real story (I fact-checked), I’m going to have to call this one: CLICKBAIT.

Headline #2: Contradicting Beliefs

How This Supplement Satisfied My Sweet Tooth & Gave Me Glowing Skin

This content headline comes from a reputable site, Mind Body Green.

In this headline example, we’re being given the impression that there’s such a thing as something that fulfills our candy craving and gives us great skin at the same time. Hmmm…

Clickbait or a catchy hook?

While it may seem too good to be true at first, upon clicking the link you are taken to an educational article where they introduce you to the benefits of a chocolate collagen powder, complete with a chocolate collagen brownie recipe, Fair enough. Nothing misleading about that and it provided great value.

So nice work Mind Body Green — this was a catchy hook!

Headline #3: Hypey Benefit

Doctors Stunned: This Melts Belly Fat Like Crazy! (Do This)

It seems like anyone can throw around the word doctor these days to inject a false sense of authority in their copy. Because who’s gonna have the time to research and fact-check, right? Especially when it comes from an obviously completely legit source with a name like Smart Life Reports.

In this ad you see a bottle filled with cucumber and what appears to be chia seeds. Could there be a third ingredient? Is it some little-known elixir recipe that triggers a biochemical process that burns fat? Let’s take a look.

Oh. It’s an article about a diet pill. One that claims to have helped a woman lose 25 pounds in a month. First of all — that’s nearly impossible. You’d have to either starve yourself or contract a serious illness to lose that much that fast. Second — who believes this is possible by simply taking a pill?!

Unless you’re brand new to the internet, it’s pretty clear that almost everything on this page is a douchey marketing ploy, including the probably fake or stolen testimonials. When you take two seconds to investigate this diet pill, you pretty quickly find out that they’ve been illegally using a REAL Doctor’s name in a fake endorsement promoting their product, along with a bunch of reviews calling this product a scam.

The verdict? Not only is this clickbait, but it’s a major scam. Do your research guys!

Headline #4: The Fake FOMO

This Video Will Soon Be Banned. Watch Before It’s Deleted.

Should we even dive into this? It’s obviously clickbait, you guys. But for the sake of this game show, we’re going to indulge anyway, in the name of learning. A lesson. The painful way.

I’m counting on the possibility that none of you would actually believe that this headline would lead you to legitimate, trustworthy, or valuable content.

The funniest thing about this ad is that it says NOTHING of the subject matter of the content. But we have a fancy car… and a young woman throwing herself on it. This could only be one of two things… either it’s a shocking investigative story about an underground syndicate involving the rich, or it’s a…

A money-making scheme. Yup. It’s a money-making scheme.


Headline #5: Weird Reality

Someone Found This $159,900 House Listing That Looks Modest At First But Gets Weird Fast When You Look Inside

We all love a bit of novelty to pique our curiosity every now and then. And this very specific headline for a post on Bored Panda ticks all the boxes — a house that looks ordinary on the outside, but promises the extraordinary on the inside.

And the description entices you further with comparisons to Alice in Wonderland and time-traveling wizards.

Too good to be true? Let’s see!

The link takes us to an extensive photo gallery of the hidden backyard and unexpected interior decor that gives you a detailed tour of a very eclectic and unusual home.

You get all the images on one page with no obstruction from annoying ads or misleading information, it’s easy to navigate, and as you scroll down to the very end — it’s safe to say that you got exactly what you came for.

Which, in my book — makes this contestant — a catchy hook! I will click that every time and not be sorry about it.

I hope those examples give you a quick idea on the difference between clickbait and a genuine, relevant and catchy hook.

The bottom line is — don’t ever resort to using clickbait, guys! Not in your headlines, not in your email subject lines, and not in your social media posts — you get the picture. Be the copywriter and marketer who cares about building your brand for the long term, connecting with your audience and giving them something of value.

What was the best (or worst) clickbait headline that you’ve ever come across? Share them below!

And make sure you remember to subscribe to my YouTube Channel and ring the bell to be notified when my next video goes live!

I’ll see you next week with a brand new post. Till then, I’m Alex. Ciao for now!

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