How to Use Clickbait as a Marketing Strategy

Man reads a newspaper with a headline that says "hey lizard brain! Guess what this blog is about."

We’ve all seen the headlines.

“This Family Took In An Injured Squirrel. Then The Unbelievable Happened.(the squirrel ran away)

“You Won’t Believe The Secret Food That Keeps This Woman Wrinkle-Free!(the secret is celery and a lot of plastic surgery)

“Did This Celebrity Die Unexpectedly?” (spoiler alert: no, they didn’t, and the person in the thumbnail isn’t even mentioned in the article)

Clickbait is as much a part of the internet as pop-up ads and paywalls – that is, really common and super annoying. Everyone has seen clickbait: it’s on your social media feed, the bottoms of all the articles you read, and even in your inbox.

Like most people, you can identify clickbait. You probably even roll your eyes when you see it. You know that the headline is probably exaggerated and that the 86 reasons celebrities love THIS product are more like five underwhelming reasons rephrased 15 different ways.

But deep inside you, something whispers…

“Don’t you want to read it?”

And just like that, you’ve clicked the article and gotten sucked into a rabbit hole of slow-loading website pages as you click through slide after slide of mediocre writing and unrelated images.

So why is that? Why do you click those articles if you know that it’s clickbait?

Because clickbait works.

Even though your brain is telling you that you know better, there’s an instinctive response that our team lovingly refers to as your “lizard brain.” Everyone has a lizard brain. And the lizard brain values three key things:

  • Your inner lizard likes shiny things
  • Your inner lizard likes to feel special
  • Your inner lizard wants to feel safe, comfortable, and unthreatened

Clickbait appeals to your lizard in all those ways. It holds the promise of information that might be exclusive or make your lizard smarter than other lizards. Or that information might be important to protect the lizard. Or it might be interesting information – aka shiny.

Your lizard likes all those things, and by being purposely vague, clickbait encourages you to… well, click.

So why doesn’t everyone use clickbait?

Because while it works, it comes at a cost.

People aren’t lizards. Parts of our brain may respond to certain things on an instinctual level, but once that instinct is fulfilled, the human brain takes over.

And the human brain does not like to be treated like it’s stupid.

Clickbait is one of the easiest ways to lose your audience’s trust. Sure, you might get a few clicks on whatever it is you’ve written – a social media post, an email subject line, a blog title – but those clicks aren’t going to translate into long-term customers.

But much like anything, if you use clickbait strategically, it can be one of the most effective things for your business.

These 3 Simple Tips Will Keep Your Clickbait Classy (Number 3 May Shock You!)

1. Be less obvious

The headline to this section is some classic clickbait. To make your clickbait classy instead, don’t fall back on those stereotypical types of headlines.

To use this headline as an example, we could have easily left out the part in parentheses. The first half of the headline is enticing enough to attract the audience we want (people who want to know how to write classier clickbait) but still provides enough context that it doesn’t feel like we’re withholding information.

2. Give some context

Why do people need to click your post, article, or product?

Instead of focusing on the “shiny” lizard values, focus on the part where the lizard wants to know what’s in it for them. By adding some context as to why your audience should click, it becomes less about tricking them and more about keeping them interested.

For our headline, we could rephrase it as “Improve Your Open Rates With These Classy Clickbait Tips” – this way, your lizard knows why you should read our blog.

3. Deliver what you promise

The worst part about clickbait is falling for the headline, only to not get the answer in the article.

Leaving the lizard unsatisfied is a surefire way to annoy your customers. If you don’t give your audience what you implied they’d get, they’re going to go elsewhere.

Where should you be using classy clickbait?


When you post on social media, write a blog, or send a newsletter to your mailing list, you should be using at least some clickbait-related principles. Your goal should be to get your customer to find out more about your product or service. The key is to find that place of balance – enticing, but not overpromising, and intriguing, not condescending.

Need help writing content that gets clicks without being clickbait-y?

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