Why Is Clickbait Good for Creators?

Why Is Clickbait Good for Creators?

Why do creators often resort to clickbait?

Why do creators use clickbait titles? This question will have as many answers as there are comments under this article. People claim to hate clickbait, but why is it everywhere then? If clickbait would not work, creators would pivot to a different way of capturing attention. The truth is that clickbait only exists because of the users clicking on it.

Imagine There’s No Clickbait: It’s Easy if You Try

Imagine if there is a group of users who were trained to identify that something is clickbait, and their reaction is not clicking on the title. This is a fictional community that only clicks on the content if the title is not clickbait-y and is fairly to the point. Creators, whose job it is to reach as wide of an audience as possible, will obviously go ato change the way they title content. Such a community will produce a different result. The reality is different.

One of my recent articles titled “Don’t be afraid to say no to work” told the community exactly this: it is okay to decline jobs that you don’t want to do. Instead of chasing every dollar, you could improve yourself and make more money as a result. The title is what I would call not enticing and without any clickbait. Had I re-titled it into “How to make more money by working less,” it likely would’ve picked up way more attention. At the same time, the piece would not exactly deliver on the promise: you can’t work less and make more money if you have to invest in education, spend time getting better, and only after enjoy the results. Fortunately, Fstoppers does not have an algorithm like YouTube, which tells me that the articles that don’t perform well are seen but are ignored or not clicked on.

Clickbait Versus Enticing

The word clickbait is often used to refer everything that is not a boring title. There is a big difference between outright clickbait titles and mildly enticing titles; however, it becomes almost an art when the title is on the verge of being clickbait. It might feel like walking on a rope suspended between two cliffs. If you step towards clickbait, you will be hated in the comments. If you step towards mildly enticing, the article will get no engagement. It is incredibly hard to come up with titles that are very enticing but not clickbait. One must be able to create a title that is sensational, but also one that creates a curiosity gap.

For example, if I was to write an article on how to take sharp landscape photos using a tripod, I could title it “Why every photographer should start using this simple camera hack to take better photos.” This is a generic title that will get a lot of clicks but will under-deliver if the “simple hack” is just using a tripod. If I title it “Tripods: an easy way to take sharp photos today,” it will be much better. It will create a curiosity gap for people that might not know how to use a tripod, while also being sensational because it promises to improve photo sharpness.

There are really bad clickbait titles, though. These are the titles such as “You won't believe what X celebrity looks like now,” “5 Ways You can make money now,” and “I Did This and became a millionaire.” They over-promise and under-deliver by a lot. Sometimes, the content has nothing to do with the article or video. These titles are used to generate clicks without giving any real value to the reader. Sure, a bad photo of a celebrity might surprise you, but it is not worth the “You Won't Believe what X Looks Now.” For example, if I wrote about how I would never replace a camera with a phone, but titled my article “Why I replaced my camera with an iPhone,” it would be considered bad clickbait. That particular title might sound like clickbait, but it delivers on the promise: I did replace my camera with a phone, for some situations, of course.  

My Goals

As a writer, my goal is to reach as wide of an audience as possible. The educational and informative content should reach as wide of an audience as possible to have an impact. I started writing to create a change, even a small one, in the photography community. Therefore, I have to create the most compelling title and lead image. The article content might be the same, but one lead image and title combination will make it get hundreds of views, while a different one will launch it into the tens of thousands.

It is rare that an article that gets only a few thousand views gains traction and helps a lot of people. Usually, the articles that gain a lot of traction are the ones that are the most helpful. Every time I get an email, DM, or comment that is grateful for the content, it makes it worth it. There are even some pieces that keep on pulling views months and years after publication. If a piece is able to stay evergreen, that means I managed to create something that is not only living off the hype around a topic, but something that is not only useful to photographers of today, but also of five years ahead.

Closing Thoughts

One way or another, this is a race for spreading my message through the articles. The more people I reach, the higher the chances of making an impact on the community I am a part of. Had enticing titles failed to bring views to my content, I would not use them.

Illya Ovchar's picture

Illya aims to tell stories with clothes and light. Illya's work can be seen in magazines such as Vogue, Marie Claire, and InStyle.
LIGHTING COURSE: https://illyaovchar.com/lighting-course-1

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Veritassium's video is excellent, thank you for pointing that out! I love watching him!


If a clickbait title is accurate, worded properly, and is a true description of the article's content, then I have no problem with it.

When a title is not actually a true description of the article's content, I disapprove.

When a title makes a preposterous claim that is not true, I disapprove.

When a title makes a blanket statement that makes no allowance for exceptions, I disapprove.

The one area of life in which accuracy is absolutely necessary is in writing. We all MUST write accurately, and use perfect grammar and pronunciation at all times. We all MUST write everything in a way that cannot be disproven, as if we are preparing a document for the highest court to be presented as testimony at a trial.

Writing is the one thing in which we don't get to just do whatever we want, but in which we must adhere to the constraints of accuracy, truth, and convention. Purposely writing an inaccurate, untrue title is a crime against literacy, truth, and character.

A good writer will write a title that makes people want to click, yet is fully accurate and an actual description of the article's content. A lazy writer will try to get people to click by writing a title that is outlandish or that isn't really true or does not accurately summarize the content of the article. Be good, not lazy.


That's the thing. What is accurate to you might not be accurate to somebody else. While it is easy to make conventions on grammar and punctuation, it's not easy to apply the same to title choices.
Thank you for your suggestions, Tom! Much appreciated.

I think you should title every article 'Why Starbucks ... ', i.e. ... will lead to failure of your photography business, ... will distract you from your work, ... will make your photographs blurry, ...leads to sensor spots...

Youtubers use clickbait, cause some of the "big" youtubers start using it and some of the rest followed as they think doing the same thing as the "big" channels will make them "big" too.

Luckely there are a lot of good small content creaters out there that don't do it and are smart enough to stand out

The real question is, why Fstoppers.com use headlines like this; I Cooked and Shot a Whole Roast Dinner, You Won’t Believe What Happened Next!

Well, I think it only makes sense for people to follow a path someone already used to become sucessful.
What are some of your favourite creators?

Sorry for the late replay, not here every day.
I think duplicating a succes is a natural way for humanity to progress, though in the realm of art, I see it more as an indication of lack of creativity.

I don't really have any favourite creators. I have some search frases I use to find videos of interest, like "street or landscape photography" filter by date and then I go from there.

Equal if I want to watch a review of a new camera, then I just search the name of the camera and filter by date and find some fresh video catching my interest.
Usually stay clear from the "big" names as their video and style quickly become stale.