A clickbait title is a title for online content that is designed to engage the reader and tempt them into clicking through to the associated content. The practice is sometimes associated with content marketing.
Conventionally, titles are used to encapsulate the content, telling readers what it is about so they can make an informed decision as to whether they want to access it. For example, a listicle about household uses for baking soda might be titled “20 ways to use baking soda for a cleaner home and better health.”
Clickbait titles hint at the content rather than describing it and imply to readers that they will gain not only information but a visceral response of some sort. They typically provide just enough information for readers to anticipate the contents in a general kind of way. Written in clickbait, the above title might be reimagined as: “Doctors don’t want you to find out about these 20 mind-blowing uses for a common household product! (Number 4 will shock you!)”
In fact, it’s highly unlikely that Number 4 or any of the other items in a listicle about the household applications of baking soda will shock many readers. However, marketers are attempting to create and exploit a psychological phenomenon called the curiosity gap, which can happen when someone detects that there is a piece of valuable information available for them to access.
Increasingly, however, the wording of clickbait titles reduces the likelihood that savvy readers will click through to what they’ve learned to expect will be a letdown.