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Understanding Why Clickbait Titles Flop in the Inbox

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A quick look at your social feed of Facebook or any other network probably shows a plethora of suggested links from friends and organizations that have titles along the lines of “You Won’t Believe…,” “This Shocking Secret…,” and “I Can’t Believe What Happened Next…” While these clickbait titles serve a role in today’s modern social media and greater Internet landscape, your brand could be in a world of trouble in the inbox if it’s relying upon these offerings in the subject line as it reaches out to customers. To ensure your brand puts an end to its clickbait disaster – or keeps it from ever starting up – let’s spend a few moments talking about why this technique fails and what audience members really want to see out of an email subject line.

Clickbait Explained

Of course, some of you are probably sitting at your desk wondering just what the heck clickbait is and why it matters to the Internet. In an effort to shed some line on this very quandary, Jiaxi Lu of The Washington Post offers up a strong explanation of the clickbait process and how it works.

Essentially, a clickbait title aims to provide the reader with as little information as possible in an effort to elicit views based on curiosity alone. While this is definitely an effective tactic for building bulk click numbers, Lu points out that these titles often lead the reader to an irrelevant or poorly composed offering that potentially had little to do with the ambiguous subject line, thus disenfranchising the viewer and promoting a poor user experience.

Why This Approach Falls Flat

But wait, isn’t the “curiosity gap” a viable method for developing engaging headlines for both the inbox and blog content? While this statement is true, the curiosity gap method still offers up some relevant info, instead of eschewing all pertinent content in an effort to prey upon browsing passersby that absolutely need to know what’s happening on the other side of the link. In fact, as a testament to this observation, Lu notes that Facebook is actively trying to tighten its promotional ranking systems for content in an effort to do its part in the fight against clickbait.

On the email marketing side of things, Marketing Land’s Matt McGee explains that it’s less about regulation from email platforms and more about consumers simply growing tired of these clickbait subject lines. In fact, McGee points to several commonly used clickbait phrases and the reduction in read rates tethered to these offerings to prove this point. For instance, “Secret of” led to an 8.69 percent reduction in message reads, “limited time” clocked in at a 3.05 percent dip, and “shocking” caused this rate to plummet by 1.22 percent.

Considering how important each and every reader is to your inbox campaign, taking even the smallest hit due to poorly constructed, clickbait headlines is simply unacceptable. If you’re serious about being a player in today’s marketplace, this kind of negative response has no place in your marketing equation.

The Secret to Crafting Impactful Subject Lines

Now that we’ve shattered the notion of clickbait headline usefulness, it’s time to get your brand up to speed with a proper guide to generating informative and engaging subject lines. According to Daniel Burnstein of The Content Marketing Institute, it doesn’t matter whether you’re building content for your blog or the inbox, you need a header that mixes the right amount of curiosity and information. You don’t want to give everything about your message away in the headline, but at least offer up something informative and exciting to pique the interest of your viewer.

If you’re unsure what exactly fits into this category, don’t be afraid to engage in some split testing with portions of your audience. Trying out a few different subject lines to get a feel for what these viewers like does add an extra step to the production process, but Burnstein notes that moving forward with confidence and certainty in your subject line development is definitely worth the extra work.

Finally, don’t get lured into the Upworthy or Buzzfeed “trap.” Just because longwinded, vague headlines generate views on these sites, that doesn’t mean that this approach is right for the inbox. Keeping things focused, short, and sweet gives your brand the best chance to catch the eyes of your audience members. Regardless of what industry you’re aiming to take by storm, letting these simple, yet powerful, guidelines lead the way is a recipe for success that will have your brand rocketing past the competition in no time.

About Victor Green

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