How To Lose A Reader in 10 Days: The Bane of Teaser Headlines

How To Lose A Reader in 10 Days: The Bane of Teaser Headlines

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A post about the ‘Collapse of the Brazil World Cup Stadium’ turned out to really be a piece on how a crane in the said stadium collapsed, leading to the death of two people. My heart goes out to the people and the crane. But, my heart doth not go out to the cheapster who concocted the headline merely to get clicks.

I don’t mind jazzy, funny and even downright wacky headlines, don’t get me wrong. I draw the line at ‘wrong’ headlines, however. Unfortunately, this kind of misleading sensationalist headlines is all we, the citizens of cyberspace, are bombarded with every single day, these days. In a world where we netizens have fewer nanoseconds to spare on each article, ‘clickbait’ seems to have become de rigueur.

Which is annoying, because I really hate them. And they make me feel really stupid, once I realise I’ve fallen prey to a boring truth in the guise of a handsome lie. If you are a content marketer, here’s what you need to know about the bane of teaser headlines.


Let’s start with clickbait… what is it? Simply put, it the use of outrageous headlines to get people onto a website. It is kind of like clicking an article about the 10 Things That Make Mondays Better and finding yourself looking at 10 different pictures of donkeys or 10 different pictures of Brad Pitt flexing his muscles. Distractify, Gawker, HuffPost, Upworthy, ViralNova and Salon are among the biggest, most profitable perpetrators of this crime. This trend, if nothing, is worrying because it spells that clicks are king, not content.

Well, as for me; while I might fall for clickbait, I refuse to share nonsense. And, really, isn’t that the key to viral success? When someone actually wants to spread your word? Yes, writing a headline that makes people want to click is a real art, but too many people are taking the easy way out. Readers are left feeling cheated. And, the site/page loses its credibility. Immediately. As a content marketer, you first aim should be to keep your reader reading… beyond the headline, and keep him/her entertained throughout.

So, how do you write a headline that gets the clicks and yet isn’t a load of hot steam?

Pose a Question

I hate not knowing the answer to something. I am told that is basic human tendency. So, making your headline a question is a good way to pique curiosity and get readers to enter your page for knowledge satiation. Curiosity is the queen that drives content. So, feed her well. Remember to speak in first person to make it more personal. Use the word ‘you’ in the headline. Example. How do you increase your page following in a month?

Keep the Mystery

Don’t ever write a heading that basically gives away the entire story. For example, if your post is about how “X’s Share Have Dropped by Y%,” why not tease the reader with a headline like “X’s Shares Take the Biggest Nosedive in Five Years”? That way, the reader will click to find out more about the drop in shares. Of course – ensure that the title is a fact.

Guess What!

Exactly. Keep your readers hanging with a headline that is catchy as hell until it tapers off into… This is a trusted trick of novelists, who keep their fans turning the pages with breaks at the most nail-biting of times. And, well, we all want to know the end of a story, and what happens after the dreaded \’…\’. Here’s a word of precaution- try this only if the content matter is really that awesome. Or else, your reader might want to hurl a chair at you.


Content with No Value Kills

The worst thing ever for a reader is to continuously land on pages that don’t deliver on the promise of a good story, as indicated by their headline. You will lose their trust. If you cannot come up with groundbreaking stories on a daily basis, that’s alright. But, don’t make false promises. We’ll wait for the awesome content, when it does come up.

Lists and Numbers Always Work

Such headlines are easier to find and instantly draw attention, because readers are at least guaranteed of a reading experience that is easily-palatable. It is said that headlines with the words ‘Ways to’ get more hits. But, don’t get carried away and make all your headlines number-heavy, especially when it makes no sense at all.

Promise the Reader Takeaway Value

The idea is to pique your reader’s interest with the promise of some useful information he/she can use in the end. Be specific, as such headlines get more hits. Based on your product, identify problems and offer solutions to them. Example. How I Increased My Twitter Following By 30%, and Spent $92.

Don\’t clickbait. Don\’t be a con-artist in content marketing. Stay classy. Follow us @BetaTwentyOne.

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About Nina Simon

For better or for verse? Prose or prosaic? Karma or carnivore? Dosa or dolma? This black top or this other black top? These are FAQs I addle my brain with on a regular basis. My kind of legal high is bacon. I am passionate about writing but dislike the uber-pretentious Grammar Nazi.
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