Fool me once – shame I won’t be visiting your website again

April Fools’ Day is this weekend, perhaps the only date on the calendar when benign cruelty is celebrated, apart from Black Friday. One of the most effective April Fools’ jokes my daughters played on me when they were much younger preyed on my pre-first-cup-of-coffee, semiconscious vulnerability. I stumbled into the kitchen, making a beeline to the timer-started pot of coffee that would be my salvation. I poured myself a cup, took a sip and did a literal spit-take all over the cabinets. While my expectation was for an aromatic cup o’ joe, I was instead greeted by warm, flat, Diet Coke. My girls still exalt in their triumph a decade later.

Their prank was neither elaborate nor particularly creative. But it worked. It was effective because my expectation was for one thing and I received something disappointingly different. It’s a trap that readers of blogs and other marketing content often find themselves ensnared in. A headline or opening sentence or two dangles the promise of extraordinary information only to deliver underwhelming, irrelevant or useless drivel.

You can call it “clickbait” or good ol’ fashioned bait-and-switch, but if you overpromise and underdeliver in your content, your website visitors will call it the last time they pay attention to anything you have to say.

Making grandiose promises that you can’t meet or have no intention to fulfill may trump honesty and credibility for some politicians, but businesses engage in the practice at their peril. Think about why you blog or put other fresh content on your website. Yes, you want to attract clicks and visitors, but ultimately, you want customers and revenue. The latter will only happen if those clicks give visitors what they came for.

Most people don’t appreciate feeling as if they were conned or tricked into choosing something that was not as advertised. If an article is titled “5 MIND-BLOWING TRICKS TO LIVING LONGER THAT THEY DON’T WANT YOU TO KNOW!!!” and three of those “tricks” are exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet and quitting smoking, readers will likely be angry that their lives just got a couple of minutes shorter after reading your BS. They won’t make the same mistake again, and when they see that the source of an intriguingly titled article comes from your business, they will click elsewhere.

That’s not to say you can’t or shouldn’t write eye-catching headlines and opening paragraphs that will attract readers. In fact, failing to do so constitutes marketing malpractice. But if you talk the talk, you better walk the walk; otherwise, the joke will be on you.

Have you performed a reality check on your content to ensure that it’s valid? Let us know in the comments below.

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