What Can We Learn From Buzzfeed’s Trademark Hook?
Clickbait as an online marketing strategy elicits mixed emotions. Some feel there is nothing wrong with relying on catchy headlines to drive traffic to a website, while others view it as a cheap marketing gimmick.
The truth is clickbait isn’t exactly a new phenomenon and has been merely repurposed for today’s digital age. These types of headlines go as far back as 1888 then referred to as “Yellow Journalism.” Love it or hate it, clickbait drives traffic as is exemplified by BuzzFeed. The site attracts 7 billion content views every month, so clearly, these headlines do work. But is there a happy medium?
Wait, What Happened To Buying Banner Advertising?
Long gone are the days when you could throw money at paid banners and drive significant traffic back to your website.
One of the reasons for the decline is that ads are now basically standard on all websites. The advertisements look more or less the same on all sites. This has lead to what is referred to as ‘banner blindness’ which simply means people no longer pay attention to them.
There has also been a dramatic decline in click-through-rates (CTR) for banner ads. In the 1990’s, the CTR was anywhere from 50% to 90%. Recent statistics show the CTR for banner ads currently at about 0.1%.
The rise of ad-blocking technology also means that web users are no longer compelled to view advertisements that they don’t want to see. Up to 200 million people worldwide actively use ad-blocking software. Generations X and Y are particularly desensitized to this kind of direct advertising further compounding the problem.
Adapt or Die
There has been a significant shift to creating and publishing content as the primary means of driving traffic. In fact, 92% of marketers interviewed by The Content Marketing Institute reported that the organizations they work for consider content as a business asset.
Leveraging the Power of Clickbait to Drive Traffic
The reason why clickbait is so successful in driving traffic is it plays on basic human psychology. Beneath the veneer of social graces and propriety, human beings are every bit as greedy, fearful, optimistic, lustful and most importantly; as curious as their ancestors.
Despite the genuine distaste for clickbait, BuzzFeed continues to drive mind-boggling amounts of traffic every single day. Their secret is simple; BuzzFeed articles don’t make any promises they can’t keep. The takeaway here is a sensational headline is perfectly fine as long as your content delivers on its promise. The focus, therefore, should be on creating high-quality content and the headline is merely a way to attract readers to content they will find worth reading.
It would be naïve to assume that BuzzFeed success relies solely on its mastery of clickbait. The truth is there is a combination of factors that work together behind the scenes to create the success that we see. There are a number of great tips that you can borrow from this website to create content that drives traffic.
#1: Don’t Make Promises You Can’t Keep
This point is worth repeating. The reason why clickbait often irks web users is because of sensational headlines that only lead to sub-par content. BuzzFeed content has a high click-through rate and an equally high share rate for the simple reason the material delivers on its promise. The headline should be an accessory for your content rather than its main feature.
#2: Write Content That is Easy to Digest
The average BuzzFeed article is written at a 4th-grade level while an article at CNN, is written at a 7th-grade level. The idea here is that everyone should be able to read and understand your piece. Know your readers before deciding how to communicate your ideas best and attempt to include as many of them as possible.
#3: Respect Your Readers
Slideshows increase page views but are cumbersome and merely take too much time to get through. BuzzFeed creates lists that viewers can quickly scroll through. User experience is far more critical than short-term page views and other stats. Great content won’t do much for you if your website is poorly designed or the content isn’t presented in an attractive way. Focus on creating a positive experience for your audience.
#4: Quality Over Quantity
The length of your article really depends on your audience and the subject of the piece you are writing. However, there has been a growing trend in the SEO community that longer articles perform better in Google’s search results.
Longer written articles may provide more information, but they aren’t a requirement for getting social shares. As an example, the average BuzzFeed article is a whopping 154 words. Buzzfeed relies on pictures and animated images to do all the heavy lifting in their pieces.
Personally, I think the best strategy is to just focus on quality and user experience. There is an overwhelming amount of content clamoring for your audience’s attention so make sure your content says the most in the least number of words. Work on delivering value as quickly as possible putting the most critical information first whenever possible.
#5: Make Your Content Scan-able
Again, listicles are BuzzFeed’s bread and butter. These articles are easy to scan through in just a few moments. Break up your content with subtitles so the readers can skim through or jump right to the information they are looking for.
#6: Take a Long-term View
Another reason why BuzzFeed continues to dominate the social media space is the company has a solid long-term strategy. The company manages its own servers, created its own stats system, has a full-fledged data science team and built its CMS from scratch. It’s hard to tell the sheer amount of work that goes on behind the scenes considering the light-hearted content the company churns out. All these aren’t absolutely necessary right now but the company intends to drive the future of online publishing.
The takeaway here is to approach your digital marketing with the future in mind. Staying current with industry trends, search engine algorithms and upcoming technology are just some of the areas worth investing.
#7: Know Your Audience
Finally, all these points can be summed up in one sentence; know your audience. A strong understanding of your target demographic helps to inform most of your content decisions including reading level, word count, whether to include pictures and infographics, tone of voice and a lot more. The more information you can get from your audience the better.
Numbers don’t lie so there is no denying that clickbait is an effective marketing tool. It’s not so much whether clickbait is good or bad rather the person using it.
The most important takeaway is clickbait can’t be used as a stand-alone marketing strategy. Cheap tricks such as sensationalism or clickbait title generators won’t get you any long-term results.
The primary focus should be the content rather than the headline. Clickbait is only useful for luring your audience to good quality content that delivers on its promise. There is no reason why you shouldn’t capitalize on your audience’s curiosity and make your great content more visible and drive traffic to your website.