Content Promotion vs. Clickbait: How to Avoid Destroying Trust & Traffic

Alright, folks – it’s time for someone to say it. Your content promotion strategy is probably dependent on clickbait, and nobody likes it. In fact, everyone hates it, and it is ruining the online experience for all of us.

As content marketers, we all know how critical content promotion is. Just because you write it doesn’t mean that they will read it. Getting people’s eyes onto our content has become such a big industry that Relevance needed to create a “Content Promotion Ecosystem” to map out all of the tools available to help content marketers do their job.

Content Promotion’s Dark Secret

But there’s a dark secret lurking in the content promotion industry. Actually, it’s not even a secret – everyone knows it, but they simply don’t like to talk about it:  Most of the tactics used to promote content today are pure, unadulterated click-bait.

This means that the tactics being used to get people to content are simply focused on getting people to “click” on the content – not to actually read or engage with it. Think about the content promotion vendor you’re currently using to drive traffic to your content. How do they measure the success of their promotion/distribution? Chances are, they are charging you by the click.

But are the people that are clicking actually sticking around to read your content? If you’re promoting content via content recommendation engines or other “native” placements, in most cases the answer is emphatically no.

Tony Haile and his team at Chartbeat blew the lid off this idea back in March, giving the industry a peek into how bleak the performance of most promoted content really is. Their data shows that a majority of people bounce from promoted content within 15 seconds. And for native content, only 24 percent of people who land on that content will ever scroll at all. If people are spending less than 15 seconds on the page and not scrolling, then they are not engaged with and/or reading your content.

So how can you ensure that you promote your content in a way that achieves engagement, not just click-through rates with high bounce rates? Remember these three rules as you consider paid promotion for your content.

1.) Know How Your Promoted Content Will Look

A big reason why most promoted content fails is because it is being “optimized” by the content promotion platforms to drive higher click-through rates. This “optimization” can include everything from altering the headline of your content to changing the thumbnail image to something more “compelling.” This is the approach taken by the content recommendation engines – the boxes you see on pages that recommend other content to read from “Around the Web.”

The problem with this optimization is that it is increasingly being called out for what it is – a deceptive tactic for getting people to click on something that they otherwise may not have clicked on. So if you’re looking to reduce bounce rates and increase the amount of people who actually read your promoted content, be sure to use a promotion platform or channel that presents your content in a transparent and credible way.

If your content is about a B2B technology, it should be presented as such – featuring the actual headline so that people know what they’re going to land on. That B2B content is interesting and useful to a lot of people, and by presenting it for what it is, you’ll attract more of the right people – the people who might actually become customers. What sense does it make to mask that content with a more consumer-friendly headline and a “more compelling” image if it drives the wrong people, and those people bounce?

2.) Optimize For Increased Engagement, Not Just Clicks

After talking trash about “optimization” in the section above, this may sound like conflicting advice, but the fact of the matter is that optimization is critical – just not in the way that most content promotion platforms currently handle it.

When vetting a content promotion platform, ask them what they mean by optimization. Ask them whether they are simply optimizing for the click, or if they are actually optimizing for engagement – getting your content in front of the right people, who will stick around, scroll through and read your content. A great place to start is by asking content promotion vendors if they have the ability to tell you how many people engaged with your content, how long they spent reading your content and whether they scrolled or not. If they can’t tell you these things, chances are good they aren’t optimizing your content in an ideal way.

If a content promotion platform can’t measure engagement for you, then that means the only thing they can promise you is clicks. But if 76 percent or more of those people are bouncing within 15 seconds, then that’s a large percentage of your content promotion budget that is wasted from the start.

3.) Don’t Leverage Trust For Cheap Traffic

Traffic is great, but traffic alone should not be the end-all, be-all measurement of your content success. The quality of that traffic must also be a key consideration. Traffic that bounces in under 15 seconds has no value to your business. And by using deceptive (or at the very least, misleading) tactics to drive that traffic to your content by disguising it, you’re not only seeing little-to-no value, but you could actually be damaging your brand.

No matter how great your content is, by voluntarily pushing it into the content recommendation stream, you devalue your content by placing it in a pipe that feeds up a lot of junk. You might get more clicks by having your content appear in streams next to stories about the Kardashians, but will those people actually engage with your content in a meaningful way? Unlikely.

There’s a reason why many of these content recommendation and content promotion platforms charge so little per click, and that’s because they don’t care where the click comes from. It’s not worth leveraging brand trust to get cheap traffic that doesn’t convert.

Engagement, Engagement, Engagement

In summary, its time that all of us in the content marketing world stop focusing purely on driving clicks to our content, and instead start focusing on increasing engagement with our content.

An engagement-focused approach to content promotion shows deeper respect for your potential customer by presenting content to them in a clear and credible manner, but it also has the benefit of driving more business value for your brand.

Rather than wasting 75 percent or more of your content promotion budget on clicks that bounce, an engagement-based approach will help ensure that the traffic you drive is more focused, more engaged and more likely to convert.