How to Build a Loyal Youtube Channel

How to Build a Loyal YouTube Channel

What You Need to Do to Build a Loyal YouTube Audience

My teen daughter has not watched television since elementary school. She gets her news and entertainment from YouTube.

While younger generations account for a lot of views, YouTube is ubiquitous across the generations, attracting 1.9 billion users each month. Every day, people watch over a billion hours of video.

While viewers have an unlimited supply of videos to watch, it’s a different story for marketers. With so much content available, how can creators gain a fair share of users’ attention?

Tim Schmoyer, CEO of Video Creators, offered some insight into his recent Content Marketing World presentation, How to Develop a Loyal YouTube Audience. Unless otherwise noted, images and insights come from his talk.

Think SEO with a twist

The goal of YouTube – like all content marketing initiatives – is to serve the right video to the right person at the right time, Tim says.

Google’s search engine similarly tries to serve the right content at the right time, but there’s an important distinction. Google serves up content like a concierge who seeks to answer a question and get the visitors on their way. YouTube, on the other hand, is like the hotel. It wants visitors to relax, unwind, and stay awhile.

Google views a successful search as one where the visitor doesn’t need to return to the search page. YouTube’s success comes from visitors extending their watch time – when the first video is done, the visitor views the next one and the next, and so on.

To help keep people watching, YouTube’s algorithm considers starts, watch (time), and sessions.


Starts are the videos that bring people to YouTube – the video that started a visitor’s session.

If a visitor starts at the YouTube home page, YouTube displays videos it thinks the visitor would like. Visitors who are logged into their YouTube account will see recommendations based on viewing history.

When I visited the YouTube home page, it showed recommendations for videos, topics, and channels closely aligned to the topics I watched in the past.

According to Tim, videos that appear on the home page have been successful at starting new sessions for users.


Watch refers to viewing time. YouTube seeks to recommend videos that have been watched for a longer time. For example, if two videos are both six minutes, but one has an average viewing time of two minutes and the other has been viewed an average five minutes, YouTube will show the latter as a recommended option.


Sessions refer to the videos that contribute to the longest viewing times. According to Tim, “YouTube’s goal is to promote content that gets people back to YouTube, content people actually watch, and then keeps them watching another video and then another video.

Focus on quality, not metadata

Metadata (e.g., title, description, tags) on YouTube plays only a small role in the discoverability of videos, Tim says. “Google got really smart a long time ago. They’re like, ‘Just because it has the keyword in the title, the tags, the description, doesn’t necessarily mean that this is the best video to serve.

Metadata’s impact is greatest when a video is first published. Because YouTube doesn’t know much about the content at this point, it pays attention to the metadata provided. As little as a few days later, however, YouTube can evaluate viewer signals – views, “likes,” watch time, etc. Those signals become more meaningful than creator-provided metadata.

“Your viewers actually determine how well your videos will rank,” Tim says. “So our goal is to make it as easy as possible for our viewers to give the signals to Google that they need to want to promote that video and surface it in front of everyone that they can.”

While you should fill in the metadata fields, spend more time optimizing your video for humans. Focus on the quality of your video. Quality will get people to watch your videos and check out other videos on your channel.

Tim dispels more video SEO myths in this video:

Build a community

Your YouTube channel gained 100 subscribers this month. Congratulations! What Tim might tell you, however, is that subscribers are not necessarily loyal fans. Subscribers may not visit regularly or pay attention when your next video goes live.

Tim urges creators to think less about managing a channel and more about growing a community. With a community, loyalty is measured by return visits and fan engagement and less by subscriber count.

The strongest communities, both online and offline, says Tim, revolve around shared beliefs, not common interests.

Let’s use an analogy.

You launch a YouTube channel about food. The videos show people making dishes and popular items served by local restaurants. They attract viewers interested in food. They become moderately loyal to your channel.

What if you created a channel about the slow food movement? It would appeal to a smaller but more passionate audience that is interested in countering the fast-food movement by preparing locally sourced foods using a more intentional approach to preserve culture and heritage.

The channel would have fewer subscribers but a stronger bond tying the community together, one forged on a shared belief.

To really build a community, Tim says, requires something extra. “People really need to know your story in order to start caring. The second thing they need to know is your creed or your belief or your why. Not just who you are but why do you do this.”

The concept of the “creed” comes from the book Primal Branding: Create Zealots for Your Brand, Your Company, and Your Future. According to the book’s Amazon page, author Patrick Hanlon “explains how the most powerful brands create a community of believers around the brand, revealing the seven components that will help every company and marketer capture the public.”

On Tim’s Content Marketing World speaker page, you can find his creed, which is: “to train other creators to master the YouTube platform and use it as a place to spread messages that change lives.”

When you visit Tim’s channel, you go to learn valuable YouTube tips and because of a shared belief that YouTube can be used to change lives. It can make a difference in the world that goes beyond making money for creators.

According to Tim, “People need to know why this matters to you, and that, again, gets people to create a more human, emotional connection with you.” Along these lines, your creed can extend beyond your YouTube channel to your entire content marketing and even your brand promise.

Use icons and rituals

Icons aren’t channel-art or logos. They’re the things your YouTube community connects with that represent your brand. Tim, for example, wears a cap in all his videos. That cap serves as an icon. If Tim didn’t have his cap in a video, he would appear out of context and regular viewers might not recognize him.

For some creators, their face can be an icon – something that people grow to recognize and associate with the content. Andre Meadows has a channel called Black Nerd Comedy and shoots from his home on a distinctive set. Whenever Tim watches one of Andre’s videos, he thinks, “Oh, I’m back at home with Andre.”

Rituals are repeated interactions or customs that people grow to love and expect from your brand. Tim recommends you make them an integral part of your videos.

Using Tim’s definition of rituals, I came up with some examples:

  1. Sports commentary show Pardon the Interruption on ESPN
  2. Serial podcast from This American Life
  3. Performance competitions (e.g., The Voice, American Idol)
  4. Game shows (e.g., Jeopardy, where Daily Double and Final Jeopardy are well-known rituals)

Each of these examples uses a consistent format that viewers appreciate and has developed well-known customs that the audience expects. An iconic aspect of Pardon the Interruption is the visual on the right side of the screen that displays the time remaining on the segment and upcoming topics.

Icons and rituals help bind the community and keep them coming back. There’s such a strong bond that if you mistakenly leave out an icon or ritual, your audience will notice — and they’ll probably complain!

Know what’s working (and what isn’t)

YouTube’s audience retention report is a neat analytics dashboard, showing viewing duration, top videos, and audience retention for each video (e.g., a graph that shows precisely when users stop watching).

Tim urges creators to watch the last 20 audience retention graphs to spot triggers that cause people to stop watching the video. One of his clients discovered saying the word “module” would cause viewers to leave. When he stopped saying that word, he saw higher retention and viewing time.

Some creators are so in tune with their audience retention graphs that they know how many seconds they can talk before cutting to a different angle, how music impacts viewing patterns, and how often they need to say a sacred word or have another ritual.

Sacred words express your beliefs in a way unique to your creed. “These are the things that people use to identify themselves as an insider or an outsider,” he says.

View this video from Tim on how to boost audience retention, which features insights from several creators:

What’s your loyalty level?

One in four people on the planet watch videos on YouTube. Each day, people watch more than one billion hours of video. If you’re a YouTube creator, the opportunity is enormous, but only if you take the right approach:

  • Understand what YouTube wants.
  • Know how YouTube’s algorithm works.
  • Build loyalty via a community of shared beliefs.
  • Use icons and rituals.
  • Use analytics to guide the creation of future videos.

Back to my teen daughter. She’s loyal to a handful of YouTube creators and can spend hours on the platform. She’s loyal because these creators keep her entertained and amused. They also produce new videos on a consistent basis.

If I look deeper, however, I think many of Tim’s principles apply to her loyalty. In addition to the entertainment value, she has shared beliefs with the creators and appreciates their icons and rituals.

Here’s an excerpt from Tim’s talk:

Social Media Marketing

Social Media Marketing

Your Guide to Social Media Success [Examples]

You’ve been invited to attend an important business pitch, but it’s happening in an unfamiliar neighborhood. What’s the first thing you do to ensure that you get to the right place swiftly and reliably?

Unless you have one of those infallible internal compasses, you likely consult some guide – a map, a GPS system, a mass transit schedule, or maybe a friend with a great sense of direction. Because, without the right information, you risk travelling in the wrong direction, becoming paralyzed by indecision, or worst, getting hopelessly lost and losing out on a great opportunity.

In the social media sphere, navigational challenges abound for content marketers – new platforms to explore, new rules of engagement to learn, new creative pathways to pursue, and new roadblocks to avoid.

How can you be sure which paths will lead to achieving your goals? You could wing it and hope for the best. But as someone who has spent plenty of time going in circles in search of a good shortcut (this speaks to both my dedication to content marketing efficiency and my poor sense of direction while driving), I’ve come to appreciate the value of reliable navigational tools whenever I’m faced with an uncertain journey.

This new edition is full of the latest insights and advice to help you make better-informed decisions about every content effort you create and share on social media – from mapping a viable social plan and making it actionable to identifying the best channels and content formats to work with, to creating the kinds of conversations that will engage your target audience and earn their trust.

Here are a few of the questions the survival guide addresses:

  • Which social networks are best for driving brand awareness and other top-of-the-funnel content marketing goals?
  • On which platforms can we enhance our content with rich-media features and functionalities?
  • When should we monitor conversations rather than immediately contribute to them?
  • Where is organic reach strong enough to meet our needs, and where are sponsored opportunities our best bet for reaching the right audiences?

Caution: dangerous conditions ahead

In the e-book, you’ll also find great advice on how to avoid dead ends and distractions that can waste your content team’s valuable time and budget, as well as major screw-ups that can cause lasting reputational damage to your business.

For example, a few recent social media fails are excellent reminders of why you need to follow the rules of the social road so your efforts don’t crash and burn.

Watch for conflicting signs and signals

Appliance retailer Miele’s celebration of International Women’s Day indicates the brand had its heart in the right place. But it took a wrong turn with this Facebook post by placing modern, empowered women on top of a washing machine – an image that recalls outdated stereotypes of 1950s housewives. The inconsistency between the selected image and the spot’s intended purpose virtually guarantees women of the #MeToo era will consider this campaign to be a total washout.

On the flip side of the consistency coin, HP’s decision to feature colourful ink cartridges in this post makes for an eye-catching picture. But the message is a turnoff as it focuses on an issue that may be a big concern for the brand but isn’t likely to garner too much interest – or sympathy – from the Instagram audience.

Lastly, I challenge anyone to explain exactly how using generic stock photography furthers Citrix’s stated mission of “making decision-makers look good”? A better choice for this message would have been to feature actual employees in a Citrix workspace, which would have lent the effort more authenticity.

Look out for speed traps

Automation can be a lifesaver for content marketers who want to respond to customers’ social media inquiries in as timely a manner as possible. But artificial intelligence isn’t always the smartest solution – especially when unanticipated situations arise. For example, Chick-Fil-A might want to tap its brakes on using likely automated responses triggered by keywords on Twitter, considering it led to an embarrassing denial of Alaska’s existence in North America.

Stay in the right lane …

There are times when it makes sense to court a little controversy in your social media posts. And there are times when over-the-top animal rights group PETA used a celebratory Google Doodle as an excuse to drag beloved wildlife advocate Steve Irwin’s name through the gator-filled mud on his birthday. Crikey!

… Unless you’re driving internationally

No matter where your business is, sharing your content on social media thrusts it onto a global stage – something Pop-Tarts clearly didn’t consider when creating this Twitter post. To begin with, it’s a cheeky spot, which doesn’t seem like the best tone for a family-friendly breakfast brand. But Pop-Tarts overlooked the fact that “fanny” is a vulgar term and not brand-friendly in the United Kingdom. The brand crossed the line between a questionably glib attempt at humour and a total PR toaster fire.

Stop, look, and listen carefully

Snapchat let this campaign go off the rails by approving and publishing an ad for a game called “Would You Rather.” It asked users to choose between slapping multitalented performer Rihanna and punching Chris Brown – an artist who had been accused of domestic violence when the two were dating. Though Snapchat quickly apologized for this “oversight,” there’s nothing funny about inviting your community to commit virtual assault. If you use humour in your social spots, take care to ensure that the joke doesn’t end up being at your brand’s expense.

Gas up and get in gear

Download How to Navigate the Wilds of Social Media for more tips to improve your social-sharing strategies and drive higher engagement rates for your content efforts (you can also view it below). If you find it to be a helpful map for success, we’d love it if you would share it with your friends through your social media channels.

Corporate Image Development

Corporate Image Development


In today’s fast-paced, 24-7, mobile and competitive world, accurately and effectively communicating your company’s values and unique capabilities are vital to success. A powerful corporate image is critical to your company’s communications and marketing positioning strategy.

The image projected conveys your brand identity and the competitive difference of your company. It must clearly define who your company is, what is unique about what you do and be a clear reflection of the differentiated benefits of using your services and products.

Following these 10 brief guidelines will assist you in maximizing your brand and corporate image strategies for your marketing and communications.

Define Your Goals and Values

Take time to carefully and thoroughly consider your company’s overall value proposition, or why should customers buy your products or services. A powerful and unique value proposition will help you succeed in your target market. This process must involve top management and end results must have the support of C-level executives. Whatever time and effort is required to complete this process is well worth the efforts as decisions made at this stage tremendously impact the success of your marketing and communications.

Develop Your Value Statement

Once top management has agreed on your corporate value, develop your key brand messages, which reflects the value experienced by your customer. It will be the No. 1 reason whether a customer will buy your product or service, or your competitor’s. It will be the basis of any successful communications outreach.


Review, Evaluate, Corporate Communications Strategies, Materials

Now take time to carefully review and evaluate how current strategies and communications reflect these key-positioning statements. Evaluate how any changes may impact your existing sources of communications. Get feedback and input from your various audiences, inside and outside your company. Do their perceptions and interpretations reflect the image you had intended?

Depending on how extensive changes are and how accurately the desired image is perceived, you may have to reevaluate and revamp your positioning statements and key messages to reposition your company.

Develop a Strategic Action Plan

Good planning will be critical to the success of your corporate image program. Make sure you know whom your audiences are and how to appeal to them. Prioritize your audiences in order of need to know. Select the most appropriate means of communicating with each audience, keeping in mind key differences and where, how and when to reach them and by what medium online or offline. Formulate your strategy, tactics and develop your action schedule and timeline.

Communicate Internally and Involve the Team

Communicating your corporate identity and key messages as envisioned by management must begin with the organization and should involve employees in a team effort. Key messages and goals much be communicated coherently, and communications must be couched in a manner understandable to the intended audience.

External Communications

Our control over our communications is limited in that communicating is only half the undertaking. The other half is the perception of your messages (communications and marketing) by the audience. Therefore, your communications must be clear, simple and to the point. Messages must follow in a logical sequence of ideas presented. Consideration should always be given to the individual characteristics of each specific target audience.

The ultimate success of any communications program is measured by how effective it is. Each communications vehicle is different; each has strengths and limitations. Select mediums that are best for your message and the intended audience.

Selecting Key Spokesperson

Personal participation from top management is vital to the credibility of any image strategy. Generally, the chief executive is the most authoritative and credible spokesperson.

Make clear who will speak on behalf of the company and what, if any restrictions may be placed on him or her.

While a formal spokesperson role is a fundamental requirement, it should not be considered a barrier to including certain other employees to speak on behalf of the company. For example, it is often desirable to encourage senior sales executives to participate in public speaking programs within their territories. In this case, however, it is critical that speakers’ training, written speeches and extensive training on handling of objections, criticisms and questions be provided. The messages they deliver must be well rehearsed and inline with your key communication messages.

Ongoing Process

It is important to recognize that the image you wish to project will not materialize overnight. Establishing an identity (the image you want to project) is an ongoing process, both internally and externally.

Periodical, re-evaluation of your strategy and tactics in conjunction with the results you have achieved must take place. Questions to consider: Are the results in line with expectations, or are adjustments to your strategy and tactics needed?

Protecting Your Image

No company is exempt from crisis and controversy. Protect your image and reputation by planning for possible crisis situations before they happen. This type of planning in advance can save valuable time, and frequently many dollars, over the longer term, while at the same time help to protect that image that you have carefully cultivated.

A Word on Attitude

Management’s attitude in this process is important. Corporate communications are not an end unto itself, but are simply a means toward achieving the result you want.

Without evidence of management support and conviction to back up your key messages, your tactics will lack credibility and ultimately prove meaningless.

Remember that effectively communicating your image is a difficult and complicated charge, best handled by experienced professions internally, and may require additional outside professional assistance for maximum impact.

Establishing and protecting your image is a never ending task and a daily challenge. It means keeping all the right people informed in the right ways at the right times.



The Invisible Game-Changer

The Invisible Game Changer - Choose The Right Audio

Some of us react more intensely to music than others. For some, listening to a certain track can send shivers down their spine, and goosebumps appear on their skin.

Goosebumps are a fight or flight response

When you have intense emotions towards something, adrenaline is released and races through your body. According to Professor William Griffith, the head of neuroscience and experimental therapeutics at the Texas A&M College of Medicine, they are basically a product of our fight or flight response.

This response is usually triggered when we are scared or feeling threatened, as adrenaline prepares our body to defend itself or run away. However, strong emotional reactions to other things, such as a passionate scene in a film or listening to your favourite song, can also cause us to have this reaction.

The reasons for this are unclear, but one theory is that adrenaline release could be linked to a surge of dopamine, one hormone involved in the body’s reward response.

Another study, conducted by researchers at the University of York, found that music could help us manage our emotions. The team wanted to find out how listening to selected music pieces could elicit emotional responses and also be enjoyed by listeners at the same time.

They found that playing “sad” songs counter-intuitively could make people happier.

“One of the most important motivations to engage in music listening is its emotional effect on us,” the team wrote on the York website.

“Listeners often report that they listen to music to calm them down, to stimulate them, to bring them into a positive mood, or to experience emotions like melancholy or nostalgia. Therefore, listening to the sound of music is a unique way to experience and engage with different contrasting emotions, helping us to understand and regulate our mood according to many different situations. This makes music an important part of our overall mental wellbeing.”

Content marketing’s continual evolution

As content marketing strategists, we are responsible for the creation and multi-channel publication of an organization’s content (text, video, audio, animation, etc.). One of the difficulties of managing a brand content strategy is making sure that, despite the various messages and methods used, all efforts consistently reflect well on the brand — providing an opportunity to create coherence and meaning in a distinctive way.

At its core, music is a language — when used well, it can convey meaning with great clarity. To get started with audio branding, it’s essential to first clarify what our brand stands for — i.e., its essence and values — and then evaluate the sounds that might help translate those values into the language of music. From there, we define our current positioning in the market in order to build a creative content strategy around our audio communication.

To do this, ask questions that will help you understand the qualities you want to convey through your audio branding, such as:

  • What are the core values of my brand? “Innovation and entrepreneurial spirit” will suggest different music than “familiarity, ease, and security” would.
  • What does my brand’s voice sound like? Is it playful and casual? Authoritative and reassuring? Those aspects, too, will influence your brand’s audio identity.
  • What brands in your own world appear to design their sounds rather than leave them to product engineers or licensing managers? What do their sounds convey?

These aren’t the sorts of questions that you come across in your day-to-day duties. Nor are they likely to be ones that you’ve posed to your marketing partners. But today more than ever, we’re operating in a noisy, crowded, and competitive marketplace. Finding the heart of what your brand represents and then expressing it in your content — through text, visuals, sound, or any other medium — should be your top content marketing strategy priority.

How audio branding works

Audio branding’s approach uses unique and proprietary sound and music to convey a brand’s essence and values. It provides a consistent system of sound that connects people with a brand at a profound level.

To determine the audio branding elements that your signature sound should include, start by conducting an audio audit based on your brand’s marketing strategy. This evaluation’s purpose is to identify the components and priorities in your brand content plan, so you can optimize their impact with the audio branding elements you choose.

  1. Define your brand’s current positioning in the market, and characterize how it differs from that of your competitors. The audio audit will consider, among other things, whether any current sounds and music you are using:
  • Are consistent with your brand values
  • Are unique and original
  • Leave a memorable imprint
  1. Examine what audio elements competitors are using, as well as the audio themes, formats, or features that your target audiences are more likely to engage with. For example, if you are marketing a coffee brand, here are some common sector marketing themes that audio branding can enhance:
  • Sensuality/Seduction: Orchestrated in more or less a cinematic, romantic, or symphonic fashion, this has been a recurring and repeated theme in coffee marketing for many years. Musical sounds: A closely linked, romantic mixture of string instruments, a noticeable reverberation of the sound; the presence of a trumpet or other brass instruments; an intimate rhythmic base (muffled cymbals); a marked bass line.
  • The Family; The Every day: Several brands have adopted this positioning, characterized by friendly, accessible, and jovial musical tones. Musical sounds: Simple guitar or ukulele music; a childlike chorus of voices; jazz rhythms.
  • Indulgent Pleasures: A commonly used, recurring theme in many coffee advertisements, this mood can be brought to life through sexy-sounding music — often funk or lyrical. Musical sounds: Similar to the sounds found in those of the sensuality/seduction sound but orchestrated in a more dramatic and cinematic manner.
  1. Take a look at brands outside your sector that embody the feelings you want to convey with your audio brand — especially ones that could serve as inspiration for your own brand’s best audio practices.
  2. Create a touch-point analysis: What sound, if any, is currently heard at each of your brand’s touchpoints? What does each sound convey? Does it carry a positive-sounding message? Does it align with your overall brand positioning and values? Are there other sounds that might communicate these qualities more powerfully or more directly?
  3. From there, an audio brand strategist can create initial “audio mood boards” — musical demonstrations of different ways to express your brand’s core values. These boards are developed by the audio brand team into sample audio DNAs that can then be selected, evaluated and refined to your satisfaction.
  4. After the DNA is finalized, you can begin to adapt its use to suit each content marketing touchpoint it will be used in.

The combined power of audio branding and content

Today people are conditioned to take insight and sound together. Studies have found that attention spans have declined and that people today often operate in a state of “continuous partial attention.” Given this landscape, you’ll need every tool in your kit to reach through and transmit meaning.

Audio branding lends coherence and continuity to your messaging, so what your consumers hear when engaging with your content is always clearly and distinctively recognizable as a part of your brand. The technique provides brand strategists and CCOs with the tools to make every content marketing touchpoint a relationship-builder and to get consumers to form positive associations with your brand’s values.

It’s particularly critical to bring your Audio DNA to your entertainment content or instructional content, to subtly remind your audience who’s behind the messaging without overwhelming the experience itself. It’s also important to note that your audio strategy should not be left until the last minute — for maximum impact and continuity, it should be planned at the outset.

Other critical factors to always keep in mind include:

  • It’s not about entertainment — it’s about brand enhancement: Articulate what your brand stands for before addressing what the music must do. Investigate what audio approaches your competitors are using, so you can stand out.

The audio branding agency’s job is to create a core audio DNA that remains consistent, while allowing flexibility for adaptations to multiple touchpoints over many years — including what consumers will hear when they are on hold with your salespeople, visiting your trade show booth, viewing your videos, opening your branded mobile app, etc.

  • Impact without meaning can be distracting and counterproductive: Decide if you need the audio branding to underscore or to add to the messages conveyed by your other brand content efforts.

You don’t want to develop and/or choose a piece of music and audio content just because you like it — it must clarify what your brand stands for. Are you carefree, festive, and mobile? Trustworthy, supportive and comfortable? Innovative, surprising, and friendly? As we mentioned above, when music is used as a language, it not only creates a bond, it helps tell your story.

  • Don’t neglect a measurement mechanism: After you’ve incorporated your signature audio elements in your brand content, you will want to test their impact. For example, consider surveying loyal customers (as well as prospects and other consumers) directly or via social media to see if — and where — the incorporation of audio in your brand content has helped to improve their perception of your brand.

Have you used audio branding in a content campaign? Or, are there some brands that come to mind that use audio in an easily recognizable way? Let us know how audio might play into your brand content efforts in the comments below.

What Is Click Bait?

What Is Click Bait?

Clickbait Content: Is It Good or Bad?

Welcome to the clickbait debate.

Credited to Jay Geiger, who first wrote about it in 2006, the term “clickbait” earned a place in The Oxford English Dictionary in 2016 with this definition:

“(on the Internet) content whose main purpose is to attract attention and encourage visitors to click on a link to a particular web page.”

Taken for its denotative meaning, clickbait does what all content marketers want – it entices the audience to click on the headline and consume their content.

So why does clickbait show up on lists, including Facebook’s, of content marketing mistakes or practices to avoid?

David Ambrogio, SEO and content strategist at Online Optimism, offers a definition that touches on what the word clickbait connotes for many people – “any content with sensationalist headlines used to encourage clicks or drive ad revenue.”

The problem with clickbait, says Gregory Golinski, head of digital marketing at, is that it’s a one-sided deal with your audience. “Clickbait is tricking people into consuming your content by making them believe it will be better than what it really is. You take something from your audience without fulfilling your part of the deal: creating useful, quality content.

But clickbait doesn’t have to live up (or down) to those negative connotations, others say.

Can clickbait be good?

“Clickbait isn’t necessarily bad,” says Andrew Selepak, a professor at the University of Florida. “While we often view clickbait negatively because it is associated with fake news and online hucksters, if your company has a solid product that can actually help consumers, getting people to your site by hook or crook isn’t such a bad thing.”

He offers P.T. Barnum’s “Greatest Show on Earth” label as an example of pre-internet clickbait: “While it is debatable that P.T. Barnum truly had the greatest show on earth, his clickbait advertising did get people to come to see his show, and what they saw was entertaining.

P.T. Barnum knew well that it was good business to make sure customers got what they expected. As he wrote in the 1880s The Art of Money Getting:

You may advertise a spurious article and induce many people to call and buy it once, but they will denounce you as an imposter and swindler, and your business will gradually die out and leave you poor.

Spurious articles to attract customers? That’s the clickbait content of the 19th century (and likely since the invention of the printing press).

Clickbait creates the curiosity gap

Patsy Nearkhou of Talkative UK offers two categories of clickbait titles – the spectacular and the mysterious.

A spectacular headline would be: Marketers Tried These 6 Insane Influencer Hacks … You Won’t Believe the Results! As Patsy explains, the headline is peppered with grandiose statements, directly addresses the reader, and contains several superlatives.

A mysterious headline might be: The One Word I Promised to Stop Using in 2018. It isn’t shouty but deliberately ambiguous.

“The continuous theme across all clickbait titles is that they appeal to the reader’s curiosity … they appeal to the same psychological process,” Patsy says. “They work because people are naturally curious creatures so it’s irrelevant whether they use grandiose or subtle tactics.”

Neil Patel believes clickbait gets a bad rap. “When done correctly, it’s one of the best ways to get people to take notice and give you their most precious asset: attention.

Steve Kurniawan, content specialist and growth strategist at Nine Peaks Media, agrees. “Humans are curious in nature, especially for topics we already are interested in,” he says. “The key to a successful clickbait title is a proper understanding of your audience – their behaviours, needs, issues, the things they love, and so on.

“Then you can deliver a clickbait title to address this behaviour or need.”

Are clicks the goal?

Marketers and content creators seeking to avoid clickbait-type content should try to provide all essential information in the headline or summary, says John Sammon, CEO of Sixth City Marketing. “Someone can read it and get the information they need without having to click on the article or keep reading.”

His advice works well for brands seeking to be expert resources or have their content be the featured snippet on the Google search results page. But what if the goal is to get people to visit your website (i.e., click), what can you do?

Neil has pointed to an academic study of 69,907 news article headlines that revealed that the most powerful headlines – the ones that receive the most clicks – are polarizing.

Eman Zabi, copywriter and brand strategist at The Scribesmith, says the trick is to write a killer headline with a hook and follow through with an equally good article. She suggests writing at least 10 headlines and then picking the best one. If you’re stuck, use headline formulas. Run them through CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer to narrow down to the best.

“Don’t be afraid to have a little fun with the headlines. Clear beats clever, but there’s no reason you can’t pull off both,” she says.

Angelo Frisina, CEO of Sunlight Media, notes how BuzzFeed rapidly grew to a top-50 site in the United States largely due to its clever, attention-grabbing headlines. “Some would classify that as clickbait, I say it’s optimizing titles for high click-through rates,” he says.

Angelo offers some BuzzFeed-like headlines for marketers to use for their own content:

  • 25 ___ That Will Change the Way You ___
  • I Tried ___. And Even I Was Surprised About What Happened Next
  • This ___ Makes ___ 10x Better
  • Here Are 11 ___ That ____. And They’re Backed by Science
  • Use These 20 Simple Hacks for More ____. #5 Is Awesome
  • When You Learn About ___ You’ll Never ____ Again

“The ability to use it creatively and effectively is the key to success,” he says with a cautionary note. “Overuse will bring little to no positive results.

Why clickbait won’t (and maybe shouldn’t) disappear

Derek Gleason, content lead of CXL, says content platforms like Google, YouTube, and Facebook are set up to encourage clickbait-type headlines.

Think about a search page. Marketers want their headlines to stand out in the crowd to encourage searchers to click and connect with their content. But you don’t have to implement sensationalistic practices to get this result.

For example, if you create an industry guide, a straightforward label title may not be enough to get noticed. “You may need to start dropping words like ‘ultimate’ into your title so that your link seems better than those offering simple ‘guides,’” Derek says.

Searchers also tend to click on the most current information available. Derek offers the example of a hypothetical article called Blogging Best Practices in 2013. Each subsequent year, you update a couple links and screenshots in the post and change the date in the headline.

“The change of title suggests a more dramatic change in content value than what’s really there,” Derek says. “The only reason (to include) date at all is that (you) think it will boost click-through rates.”

Content platforms aren’t the only ones that reward clickbait. Brands that measure content success by clicks and shares exacerbate its use. It’s a perverse incentive system that pays no mind to whether clickbait achieves long-term company goals. In other words, it ‘works’ in their tiny fiefdom,” Derek says.

“Clickbait has one motivation – to entice users to click on a link/video by using highly engaging headlines and thumbnails, says Matt Slaymaker of Folsom Creative. “Good clickbait is when your thumbnail and headline are provocative and enticing, yet true to the content of the article or video.”

He offers an example of YouTube sensation Mike Korzenmba who produces multiple NBA-related videos every week for his 1.3 million subscribers. This one, 7 Stories to Prove Michael Jordon was NOT Human, has generated 8 million views and interestingly, multiple comments about how it’s “the most clickbaity YouTube channel that isn’t clickbait”

It boils down to one thing

No matter where you fall in the clickbait debate, we all likely can agree on the resulting principle: Create the bait – great, accurate headlines that entice people to click – and, when they click, don’t disappoint them – have content deliver on the promise.

And that’s what I call click-worthy. What about you?