The species of tantalisingly vague headline you just clicked has reached almost plague proportions on the web.
Everywhere you look there are enticing lines being written which give virtually no clue about what they lead the reader to, just a promise of jaw-dropping astonishment.
Sometimes what you find is pretty compelling; other times you just feel cheated. It’s turbo-charged click bait – lines crafted especially to provoke curiosity rather than inform – and it’s definitely a trend, particularly for video.
(Curiously, it’s the polar opposite approach to the one of the world’s most popular news websites, Mail Online, whose headlines disgorge the entire soul of a story in long and occasionally impenetrable headlines.)
Look elsewhere, however, and you’re deluged with invitations to be amazed, surprised, astounded, tearful or inspired by whatever thing it is lurking beyond a tap on the screen or a click of a mouse.
There are even now parody Twitter accounts of the most prolific offender, @Upworthy, whose content-with-a-conscience website has a reputation for bringing the genre to new levels of unsubstantiated anticipation.
The technique does seem to work. After all, haven’t you just clicked on this link, eager to see exactly what crazy thing happened? Click, click, click.
But is clicking all we’re measuring? For a retail company, for instance, what’s the success in having thousands of people click on your link if they bounce away seconds later in disappointment, leaving the online till silent?
What happens when your customers are clicking on your links only to find that the actual content repeatedly fails to meet up to what they felt they were promised?
They go elsewhere, perhaps even to a competitor.
The point is that using tricks will only get you so far. Eventually you have to show the goods and deliver content that lives up to expectations.
Because if only one customer is drawn to your website and their visit is converted into a purchase, that is worth infinitely more than 1 million customers who buy nothing.