Today a friend relayed to me a clickbait experience they had and asked me what the point of this was from an SEO perspective.  The answer is kind of nuanced and kind of difficult.  As Google gets better and better at indexing and understanding content, I’m hopeful they are better at weeding out clickbait stories, but right now it is just another way to take advantage of people and improve your statistics. As the name suggests, it gets you to click and then sadly usually wastes your time with something misleading or off-topic.

Mock Drafts are Pointless

It also got me to thinking about something else that pops up a lot this time of year and sort of grates on my nerves. Mock drafts, which are for the most part pointless, but a great form of clickbait in the sense that they tend to always get clicks and then read through to see that thing they wanted to see or see why this particular person doesn’t agree with what they were hoping to see. Sports fans are by definition fanatic about their team. Mock draft headlines suggesting that your team picks some particular player will tend to grab clicks and people read through to see if they agree or vehemently oppose. I suppose there is entertainment value to that, but in the end, mock drafts are pretty much all a waste of time. I’ve read them. I know. You never see anyone bragging that they correctly predicted the draft afterward. As far as I know, I have not seen it. Even the NCAA tournament tends to get a few people that accidentally pick all of the games and that is far more correct picks.

A study a year or two ago about accuracy showed that two well-known national experts had at best predicted 25% of the first-round picks the prior year. That is pretty horrific.  Mock drafts are pointless and are mostly just fun exercises for yourself. Why you would take any value from any of these “expert” picks I don’t know. You’d likely be just as accurate asking a friend or your uncle, and at least you would get some nice bonding time. National experts don’t have the level of knowledge of local teams to do a solid job and the local experts tend to not know what the other teams are going to do. At least local experts can tend to give you an idea of what players your team may be interested in, but they still don’t have any idea how the draft will play out. It has even gotten to the point where journalists feel like they have to do one, or they aren’t really taking part in the process. It is all pretty pointless.

But I digress. Why do we clickbait?

Getting People to Click and Also Stay

Getting people to click and visit your site has a lot of different types of value. First of all, advertising often is based on views and visitors, so in that sense, they don’t care if the visitor is happy with their experience. They just want the volume to get credit for ad views and potential ad clicks. The more the better in that sense.

If a site owner is willing to take that risk to potentially leave a bad taste in their user’s mouth to remember that they provided a bad experience, I understand that to some extent. In many cases, people don’t even remember the brand or the specific site when they click these stories, so you’d have to upset them quite a few times before I think it would truly set in that they don’t like your site. You can exclude certain sites from your news feeds, but many don’t even know how or care to do things like that.  They just Google. Which gets us to the tough part.

If a site gets you to click on a search result and then gets you to stay, Google is likely to view that as a successful search experience, actually potentially improving their SEO. If a site gets you to not only click through, but to stay for a while, and not go back and do another search or a different result, they appear to be a good answer to your query. By burying the outcome from their headline deep enough into their page, or even into a slideshow to get you to keep clicking through their site, they are tricking you and Google into thinking they are a good site. We hope Google gets better at weeding these out in the future.

Teach Google Not To Reward It

Google GuidelinesIn the meantime, I beg you to just click back when you see a slideshow site when you click through (unless you really want to see a slideshow) or if you recognize it as clickbait right away.  Click back and choose something real as quickly as you can.  They will still get credit for the view for their advertisers, but they will at least not appear to be a good answer to the query in the Google algorithm. Help teach the algorithm to push this clickbait down the rankings.

Finally, just don’t read any mock drafts, please. Go to your local team site and read their articles on potential targets so you know what they might be looking at, but don’t read the other stuff. There is a lot of helpful content out there covering these prospects and your team’s needs. You’ll be better off and can spend your time doing something of value.

If you are a business that isn’t just trying to get readers, stay clear of clickbait altogether. In the end, your customers remember unique and helpful content that helps them better understand your offerings and how to solve their problems. Always err on the side of being helpful, not just getting a click.