12 Surprising Examples of Clickbait Headlines That Work

Clickbait gets a lot of hate and probably for good reason.

Clickbait-y headlines are often sensationalist, misleading, or just outright ridiculous.

But there’s no doubt that clickbait headlines – when used appropriately – do work when it comes to grabbing a user’s attention and driving clicks.

The key word here is “appropriately”.

How can you use clickbait headlines without misleading or ticking off your audience?

It all comes down to using the right headlines in the right way.

Why Clickbait Headlines Work

The most recent (2017) study analyzing article headlines found that many headlines with “clickbait-y” starting phrases generated the most engagement (in this case, on Facebook).

Phrases like “X Reason Why…” and “This is What…” were responsible for driving the most clicks.

An older study (2015) – but one that focused primarily on clickbait titles – found that the most polarizing headlines drove the most clicks.

However, it’s important to note that headlines that could be interpreted as “withholding information” were often demoted by Facebook and other channels.

So, clickbait headlines do work if used correctly, and by that we mean that they must intrigue viewers without misrepresenting the content they will find on the page.

The goal is to grab their attention, give a hint as to what they will find once they click, but leave just a touch of mystery.

12 Clickbait Headline Examples That Actually Work

One of the biggest reasons why clickbait gets such a bad rap is that people often exaggerate the information or simply make claims that can’t be true.

If you mislead your readers, this can certainly backfire – causing you to lose credibility and potential customers.

Instead, use some of these clickbait headline formats below to craft titles that grab attention while maintaining readers’ trust in your brand.

1. ‘X Reasons Why…’

You’ve likely seen this headline around a lot, and that’s likely because it was found to be one of the most effective titles when it comes to driving social media engagement and clicks.

Further, in an analysis of about 1 million popular headlines, it was found that numbered lists are the most shared of any headline type.

This clickbait headline does leave a little mystery because readers don’t know what the “reasons” are, so they are inclined to click and find out.

Whichever phrase follows should be one that speaks to emotion, like:

  • “10 Reasons Why Noise Cancelling Headphones Are the Best”
  • “27 Reasons Why Celebrities Love THIS Product”

2. ‘X Things You…’

Similarly, “X Things You…” headlines include the benefit of being a numbered list while being personalized to the reader.

The “you” here works to make this title relatable and entices readers to find out more about themselves (at least, this is what is implied).

You can use this headline like so:

  • “10 Things You Need to Do Before Buying a House”
  • “19 Things You Don’t Know About Your Favorite Sports Teams”

Again, people will be intrigued to find out what exists on the other side of the click.

3. Piggybacking

Whether or not you already have some brand recognition, you can use the “piggybacking” technique to build some authority and drive clicks.

This involves referencing a well-known figure or company in relation to your brand/post.

Some examples of this are headlines like:

  • “Forbes Entrepreneur Shares X Tips…”
  • “Dancing with the Stars Celeb Reveals…”
  • “Nike Swoosh Designer Teaches Us…”
  • Etc.

If you are fortunate enough to feature a prominent figure – or simply do a follow-up piece about an existing news story or interview – then you can use “piggybacking” to grab attention and attract visitors.

4. ‘This Is What…’

In this clickbait headline examples, the “this” makes people curious about what they will find when they click through to the page.

This is a common clickbait headline, but it can also go awry if you are too secretive in the title.

Avoid titles like “This Is Why You’re Losing Money” or “This Is Why You’re Lonely”, as these are too broad and cryptic.

Instead, aim for headlines like “This Is Why You’re Not Seeing an ROI on Your Marketing” or “This Is Why Business Owners are Investing in Bitcoin”.

In the later examples, you give readers more context and make them less skeptical about what your content is about.

5. ‘This Is the…’

Another headline that popped up in the BuzzSumo study was “This is the…” – which is also responsible for driving a lot of social media engagement.

Titles like “This is the most Florida way to remember the CDC’s guidelines on coronavirus social distancing” (Click Orlando) and “This Is The Surprising Way Coronavirus Has Changed Travel Insurance” (Forbes) have been shown to drive clicks and social shares.

6. ‘This Is How…’

Much like the “This is the…” headline, “This is how…” clickbait headlines intrigue readers by keeping “this” a secret while giving a hint as to what the content is about.

Again, the goal here is to not be too cryptic, otherwise, readers might get frustrated by your obviously clickbait-y title.

Some good examples of headlines in this format include:

  • “This is how business owners are saving thousands on their taxes”
  • “This is how parents can relieve stress throughout the day”
  • “This is how designers can make more money with fewer clients”

7. ‘You Can Now…’

This headline is a favorite because it implies that readers can now get/achieve/do something they weren’t able to before.

The appeal of novel information can be enough to get people interested and click through to your post.

This might include headlines like:

  • “You Can Now Land More Clients Without X”
  • “You Can Now Save Money with Y New Strategy”
  • “You Can Now Travel Abroad Without Having to…”.

8. ‘The Last … You’ll Ever Need’

This headline is a great one for ecommerce because you can position a product as being the last X a customer will ever need.

For products that customers usually have to buy on a regular basis, this can be a huge relief.

For example, if you know that people often have to buy hair flat irons every 3 years, you can market your flat iron as being “The Last Flat Iron You Will Ever Need” if it lasts 10+ years.

Customers will be happy to know they can save time or money by making a one-time purchase.

9. ‘You Won’t Believe…’

Headlines like “You Won’t Believe THIS Hack!” and often the worst offenders when it comes to clickbait-y, misleading titles.

To be effective (and not tick off your audience), you’ll want to be a bit more descriptive.

Some examples of “You won’t believe…” headlines done right include:

  • “Amazing Inventions You Won’t Believe Exist”
  • “You Won’t Believe This Dog’s Dance Moves!”
  • “166 Photos You Won’t Believe Are Not Photoshopped”
  • “50 Random Facts You Won’t Believe Are True”

10. ‘Why You Should…’

If you’re going to be bossy and tell readers what to do, you might as well give them a reason.

With this headline, you appear to give readers a helpful tip while enticing them to read more.

Headlines like “Why You Should Stop X and Do Y”, “Why You Should Stop Buying X Product”, or “Why You Should Invest in Real Estate Now” tell people what the content is about while leaving the “why” a mystery… until the click through to your site.

11. ‘LIVE…’

People love original content – what, with all the recycling content out there.

So if you share a live video or webinar, they’ll be inclined to click because they know they won’t find this content anywhere else.

This especially works for ads that direct users to a live webinar, video session, or conference.

You can set a timer so people only have access for a limited time.

Titles like “LIVE: Digital Nomad Conference” or “LIVE Video: How to Level Up Your Marketing Agency” can be quite effective.

12. ‘See…’

Sometimes seeing is believing – and people want to see the “secret sauce” for themselves before they put the information into practice.

“See…” headlines create a sort of information gap where people get the impression that you have something interesting they just won’t want to miss.

You should follow up this phrase with an urgency-creating headline like:

  • “See results from your marketing in just 2 weeks”
  • “See these SEO strategies in action – before your competitors do!”

These are just a few examples of how clickbait headlines can work for your site – without you jeopardizing your brand’s credibility or reputation.

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Featured Image: Created by author, April 2020