13 June 2020

No Zombies Here

Clickbait Secret Tips

I was reading the news online the other day, and a well-known writer used the word “zombie” in his headline. I figured if it was good enough for him, it was good enough for me (see above), although it was probably his editor who made up the headline. The author himself might hate it.

Then I decided to gather some of the information I’ve found over the last couple of years about using SEO (Search Engine Optimization) keywords to entice readers to click on articles in newspapers, blogs, and every other platform writers use nowadays. I was amazed to realize when I keyed SEO in this paragraph, I actually knew what the letters stand for without looking it up. I looked it up anyway, to be sure.

I’m no expert. Before I wrote this, I’ve never intentionally used clickbait. I’ve read about how to use it, why to use it, and why not to use it, though. And how to find it.

So, what is clickbait and SEO? In case you don’t know, they are words or short phrases that computer people use to entice people to click on an article. Or better yet for them, an ad.

You may have heard of algorithms, too. Those are the computer programs used to figure out which words are clicked the most. And other things.

You will find lists of these words all over the internet.

But before I continue with that, there’s this part of an ad:

“7 reasons why your dream pant is here” with a picture of trousers

Wait, what? Do you wear a pant? Or do you wear pants? Personally, I prefer two legged pants. And I have never dreamed of pants before, let alone a dream pant. What am I missing, besides a pant leg?

You may be, or not, surprised that I found this ad in the same publication where the author wanted to discuss zombies.

Next I found an ad for “one short, every sport.” Picture of a man running in a short, I mean in shorts.

Anyway, the question is, are some of the words in these ads clickbait? Did the writers figure out that pant and short worked better as bait then when the “s” is added? Inquiring minds (well, mine) want to know.

You know what the most common word for Twitter used as clickbait is… Twitter?

Or did you at least guess that?

Here are some examples of clickbait. Have fun filling in the blanks:
  • “How to Get Results Using this…”
  • “You’ll never believe…”
  • “This happened, then this happened.”
  • Ask a question
  • Use a number
  • Be brief
  • Go ahead, be negative
Secret Tips
  • The Ultimate Guide to…
  • How to…
  • # of the Best…
  • # of the Worst…

My eyes just widened. I realized that by listing all these clickbait words and phrases, this article, when published, should show up near or at the top of many Google searches.

Or maybe not.

You can be sure I’m going to click to check it out. When I stop thinking about pant and short. I suspect that’s going to be hard to do now.


  1. A modern version of book sellers' focus on the perfect title!

  2. Man, I do hate the thought of so many people trying to manipulate me. My degree is in Marketing, and I'm almost ashamed to be part of that world now. I think my trade has gone from promotion, to manipulation and entrapment. Good post!

  3. How to get the ultimate zombie pants today!
    Love it.

  4. It's so hot here in the south, I can understand somebody wearing only one pant instead of a pair of pants.

    Good column, Jan!

  5. I can see that in my older age, I will frequently be using the "how to" search, especially with electronic gadgets.

  6. Thanks for commenting,everyone. I had a lot of fun composing this.

  7. Hi Jan,

    I like the "how to" myself when I blog, although I don't overuse it. You are right. There are "power" words which cause to click because they are intriguing.

  8. Jan, I'm going to have to try some of those tricks. Can't hurt, right ;-) ?

  9. I always say I'm going to use something like that to draw people to blog posts, then I forget. To me, "You'll never believe..." is a signal NOT to enter that site! But it might work--they keep using it.

  10. I’ve always viewed clickbait as deceptive advertising, though some definitions don't consider it necessarily deceptive. To me, a head that reads “How to Get Results Using this…” is not clickbait if in fact it delivers whatever the headline suggests it’s going to deliver. On the other hand, if the head reads “How to Get Better Sex Wearing Zombie Pants,” but the article or ad is really selling satin bed sheets, then I’d consider that clickbait. Though for life of me, why someone would fall for that is beyond me. Mmmm, there’s a crime story in there somewhere.

  11. Jacquie, thanks for commenting!
    Mark, go for it.
    Kaye, like you I usually forget to find some power words. We need to do better, I guess.

  12. Bruce, I see it differently, at least I give the click-baity headline a chance to be an accuate blurb for the piece. Of course, if it's not, then I won't trust the source again.

  13. After a while I think we become immune to clickbait. If the folks behind the scenes have to try so hard to get us to click, then audiences are no longer so easily manipulated and the content isn't worth it. I have a rule--if an article interests me but the screen is immediately covered with ads, I close it out. It won't be nearly as good as the title promises.

  14. I agree with you Susan. And I also click away if there are lots of ads and popups.

  15. Pant and short used to be plural, but they cut the s's off with a scissor.

  16. Marian Allen, you made my day!

  17. Laughing, Marian. Thanks for that and for commenting.


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