Fraud in disguise. What is clickbait?
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Fraud in disguise. What is clickbait?

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You’ve probably found yourself scrolling through social media with a headline that immediately caught your eye. You clicked the link and it turned out that the content is not at all relevant to the title. What happened? You were lured by clickbait. What is it and how not to fall for it?

Clickbait is a graphic or text lure whose aim is to increase the number of visits on a particular page. Most often it takes the form of a headline which has little to do with the content of the page. This wouldn’t be so bothersome to Internet users if the information provided on the page was true; however, in most cases, the title is just a decoy that doesn’t reflect the real content at all.

Emotional stimulus

A catchy title attracts Internet users like a magnet, triggering a state of increased arousal, or excitement. A natural consequence of the stimulus induced by the increased arousal is a reaction, i.e. clicking on the link. Such a reaction is quick and automatic.

Kobieta z lornetką
(Photo by Chase Clark, source:

This innate human curiosity is very important for marketing efforts. It is what has caused humanity to evolve so much over the centuries. This trait is also very cleverly used in advertising; most internet users easily succumb to catchy titles, even if they know it’s just a decoy.

FOMO, or fear of being left out

Nobody likes to be left out. In the age of the ubiquitous Internet, the easiest way to do this is to stay up to date, which means making sure you don’t miss out on any popular content. By clicking on a tempting title, you can deal with the fear of missing out on important content on your own and thus reduce the state of internal tension.

Nowadays, overlooking some content on the Internet can cause problems when talking to other people who have similar interests or are of similar age. Contrary to appearances, this topic is not trivial at all and has a real impact on our behavior.

Why do we need clickbait and does it work?

The only task of clickbait is to provoke an interaction in an Internet user, i.e. clicking a link. This increases the number of page views and thus the number of advertisements, which translates into profits for the authors. Many websites make their living only from displayed advertisements. Whether there is high quality content on the sites is a secondary issue. This phenomenon is used by various companies, regardless of their size.

(photo: Liam Briese, source:

The clickbait method is based mainly on satisfying human curiosity. Internet user clicks on the link because he is interested in the title or graphics. After reading the content on the page, he finds out that it has little to do with the title and leaves the page, but sooner or later he is fooled again.

How do you recognize a clickbait?

Clickbait is characterized by catchy and generic titles that are meant to be an incentive to read the entire article, e.g.: “read how celebrity XY did something”, “you won’t believe what happened to Ms. X!”. You can recognize good quality guide articles by the fact that the entire content of the article is summarized in one sentence

Above all, clickbait is used by companies that want to quickly increase the number of clicks on their website. In the long run, however, it can be counterproductive, because annoying ads and content almost unrelated to the title will cause the brand to lose in the eyes of customers.

Main image of the article: photo by Mael Balland, source:

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