April Fools’ Day is this Friday. This is 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 preyed on my pre-first-cup-of-coffee state. 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 very creative. But it worked and was effective. 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 dangles the promise of remarkable information. Instead, it’s bland, irrelevant or useless drivel.
You can call it clickbait or good ol’ fashioned bait-and-switch. If you overpromise and underdeliver in your content, your website visitors will stop paying attention.
Making grandiose promises that you can’t meet may trump honesty and credibility for some politicians, but businesses engage in the practice at their peril. Think about why you post blogs or 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. Consider an article titled, “5 MIND-BLOWING TRICKS TO LIVING LONGER!!!” Three of those “tricks” are exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet and quitting smoking. Readers will be angry that they wasted a few minutes of their lives reading this BS. They won’t make the same mistake. When they see that the source of an intriguingly titled article comes from your business, they’ll 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.