Clickbait may be a tempting marketing tactic. It provides an easy and almost surefire way of drawing attention to a product or piece of content.
However, clickbait is often misleading. The long-term repercussions of purposefully deceiving your audience far outweigh any short-term rewards. It’s impossible to build a true relationship with your audience if they can’t trust you, your marketing, and in turn, your product.
In this post, you’ll learn how to protect your brand’s reputation by making your site feel less like clickbait.
How to Make Your Site Look Less Like Clickbait
You already know clickbait leads to a loss of credibility, so how can you set yourself up for success? In this section, you’ll learn some of the best ways to prove your legitimacy and build trust with your website visitors.
1. Leverage credibility cues.
Credibility cues are factors that “signify” credibility to an audience. For website design specifically, you can incorporate these cues by displaying some form of social proof on your site.
Studies have found that social proof can be a very powerful credibility cue, positively influencing audience behavior and increasing perceived trustworthiness. One 2021 survey found that 49% of respondents said they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations from friends and family.
Here are some ways to include social proof on your site:
- Feature testimonials from past and current customers.
- Display user ratings and reviews.
- Include recognizable logos.
- Highlight press mentions.
- Showcase awards.
- Gather influencer endorsements.
A great example of a site that leverages social proof is OptinMonster, which uses many of the strategies mentioned above.
What we love: OptinMonster prominently features how many newsletter subscribers are on their list and how many websites use their offering. You can also see a real-time counter of how many sessions OpinMonster has optimized. Remember, numbers are a powerful way to show your reach.
2. Opt for clean and professional design choices.
Of customers, 50% believe that a company’s website design is an important part of its overall brand, according to a survey from Top Design Firms.
To ensure that your brand is perceived as professional and trustworthy, consider simple, clean, and cohesive design elements for your site. That includes:
- Choosing fonts and styling your texts to improve readability.
- Selecting and sticking to a cohesive color pallet.
- Making use of whitespace generously.
- Using visual design elements thoughtfully.
The goal here is to ensure that your site doesn't have too much going on. Remember, you don’t want your visitors to feel like your site is constantly trying to distract them. Users should find gathering information on your site easy.
If you’re not sure how to design your site, a simple hack is to look for design inspiration from the most trusted brands within your industry. Also, you can reference this post for website design guidelines and best practices.
A great example of a thoughtfully designed site is Notion.
What we love: Notion’s home page makes use of simplicity. The page is almost entirely in grayscale, with the important exception of their CTAs. The text is easy to read. Further, the page makes use of whitespace, so information is easy to find.
3. Regulate ad placement and frequency.
The majority of internet users don’t like ads. Globally, 42.7% of internet users use ad blockers, according to Hootsuite.
That said, research has also found that internet users (including those that use AdBlock) might not have a problem with ads in general. Often the challenge lies with how most publishers integrate advertising. Even AdBlock users are receptive to “light, unobtrusive” ads, according to a 2021 survey.
Clickbait sites monetize primarily through views and clicks. They often resort to spammy, low-quality, and obstructive advertising to boost revenue.
To differentiate your site, take a more moderate, regulated approach when placing ads on your site. Here are some ways to do this:
- Use a reputable advertising network to ensure that your ads are relevant and high quality.
- Avoid obstructive ad placement.
- Be careful about inconspicuous ads. When you place an ad, best practice demands that visitors are made aware that it’s an ad.
If you’re looking for a role model, turn to technology publication Wired.
What we love: Wired places advertisements in a separate section of their site, off to the far right side. Readers can easily identify ads and are unlikely to click on an ad on accident. Further, the site incorporates advertising for its newsletter in branded colors with an easy-to-find “no thanks” option.
How to Make Your Content Feel Less Like Clickbait
Web design isn’t the only element that can make your site feel like clickbait. The content on your page is equally as important. Below, you’ll learn how you can avoid clickbait in your content.
1. Avoid using overtly sensationalized headlines or titles.
The clearest indicator of clickbait content is in the use of sensationalized headlines. If your title is too shocking (or rather too shocking to be true), readers become skeptical of your content.
Additionally, certain words and phrases have also been associated with clickbait. As a rule of thumb, you generally want to stay away from the following phrases.
- We couldn’t believe when ‘X’...
- You’ll never ‘X’ after knowing ‘Y.’
- This weird/unusual trick will help you….
- The one ‘X’ you need to do ‘Y.’
That said, this doesn’t mean that your headlines can’t and shouldn’t be attention-grabbing. However, do this within reason and only in combination with the other tips listed in this section.
Backlinko shows the power of a good headline. The title below pulls you in without using clickbait tactics.
What we love: The title of this post grabs your attention while asserting that the findings within are backed by data. Just from the headline, you know the writer’s team analyzed a large number of articles, increasing the post’s credibility.
2. Optimize your introductions for relevance and trust.
The introduction is a crucial section for establishing trust and encouraging visitors to stick around, especially if you’ve used a headline that might be perceived as clickbait.
If the visitor is new to your content he or she might be skeptical — and understandably so. It then becomes your job to use the introduction to reassure them that you’re trustworthy. Here are some ways to do this:
- Provide background information that establishes your credibility on the subject matter.
- Provide specifics about what you’ll be covering in your content.
- Give the user insight into your process or research methodology to prove the validity of your claims.
Finally, keep your introduction brief. You don’t want the viewer or reader to assume that you’re stalling because there isn’t any real substance to your content.
Let’s dive deeper into the Backlinko post on evergreen content. Its four-paragraph introduction offers an excellent example to follow.
What we love: The writer’s introduction briefly describes the team’s research methodology in a way that builds credibility. They call out their partner transparently, all while remaining brief.
3. Deliver on the promise in your headline or title.
Did the reader or viewer “walk away” at the end of the post or video with the information, data, or knowledge promised in your title? This is the singular determinant of whether or not your content is clickbait.
If you promised the reader “astounding facts,” you need to deliver outstanding facts. If you promised the reader a “real-life Minecraft house,” you need to deliver a real-life Minecraft house.
It's pretty simple — never overpromise and then underdeliver.
YouTube star Mr. Beast is one creator that continuously lives up to what most would expect to be clickbait titles. For example, here’s a video titled “Anything You Can Fit In The Circle I’ll Pay For” where he does, in fact, pay for anything random strangers can fit into a circle.
What we love: While his titles feel like clickbait, Mr. Beast’s videos work because of his credible reputation. His titles consistently use this style of title, and each time he delivers on his promise. If Mr. Beast were an unknown YouTuber, his videos would be less likely to attract views. This shows the importance of building trust over time.
4. Back up claims with facts and statistics
If you’re creating content that requires you to make bold claims and assertions, you must back up these claims with verifiable facts.
This means you need to:
- Clearly and logically explain how you came to any conclusions that your argument is based on.
- Back up your claims with real-world examples, studies, and/or statistics.
- Properly cite any studies you reference (the actual study and not a secondary source).
- Cite the materials you get any statistics from (the actual source and not a secondary source).
An example of a post that does this is Backlinko’s piece titled “How I Built 5,660 Backlinks in 30 Days [New Strategy].”
Although this post could have easily been dismissed as clickbait based on the claim made in the title, the post backs up this claim by sharing the step-by-step process used to achieve that number.
What we love: Well-researched content stands above the rest. If your title reveals an amazing insight, explaining how you came to your conclusion will impress your readers.
Generate clicks without sacrificing trust.
Both the design of your site and the quality of your content will impact the trustworthiness of your site. Use the tactics above to garner attention without seeming like clickbait. Apply what you’ve learned and start reaping the benefits of traffic without the risk of repercussions.