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Nicole Patten, Ricky Telg, and Kevin Kent


Clickbait is a catchy, attention-grabbing, often sensationalized headline, title, or image that hyperlinks to a web page. Clickbait headlines are designed to appeal to readers’ curiosity, tempting them to click on the link. This publication provides an overview of clickbait and its characteristics. The publication also discusses a few implications of clickbait use.

What is clickbait?

Clickbait is a marketing and engagement strategy designed to encourage readers to click on the headline. Clicks on the headline or image drive page views and increase the advertisement revenue of the site. However, the content of the clickbait headline is usually of questionable accuracy. Sometimes, clickbait headlines also incorporate images that are sensational in nature (Figures 1 and 2). Some examples of clickbait headlines include:

  • “You’ll never believe…”
  • “You should know these 5 things about…”
  • “This easy trick will save you…”
  • “This is what happens when you…”
Fictional example of an online ad employing two common clickbait tactics according to Wired Magazine, including the use of numbered lists, and utilizing an information-gap to encourage reader curiosity.
Figure 1. Fictional example of an online ad employing two common clickbait tactics according to Wired Magazine, including the use of numbered lists, and utilizing an information-gap to encourage reader curiosity.
Credit: GreenMeansGo via Wikimedia Commons (


Fictional example of clickbait style adverts.
Figure 2. Fictional example of clickbait style adverts.
Credit: Lord Belbury via Wikimedia Commons (

Clickbait has proven to be an effective marketing strategy to generate page views because it activates readers’ curiosity (Pengnate et al., 2021). Readers get the impression that the information they are searching for is within the article behind the clickbait headline. University of California Berkeley neuroeconomist Ming Hsu said, “The way our brains respond to the anticipation of a pleasurable reward is an important reason why people are susceptible to clickbait” (Counts, 2019).

Characteristics of Clickbait

Clickbait headlines are commonly used in social media and blogs. Clickbait can even be found on reputable websites, such as those of weather and news agencies, when they offer advertising space to clickbait content. It may be difficult to distinguish between clickbait and a legitimate headline. To help you identify clickbait, look for these characteristics:

Clickbait uses words that pique curiosity, such as:

  • Catastrophic
  • Spellbinding
  • Inspiring
  • Heartwarming
  • Masterful
  • Exclusive
  • Reassuring

Clickbait can use humor to establish a positive emotional connection with readers.

Clickbait is often written in all caps.

Clickbait often incorporates data or numbers. Headlines that contain data, percentages, or numbers help quantify potential benefits for readers, such as, “8 Surefire Ways to Know Your Clothes Are Out of Style.”

Clickbait and Trust

If your goal is to be seen as a trustworthy and credible source of information, do not use clickbait-style writing methods. Instead, create an engaging and accurate headline that genuinely reflects your content's value and purpose.

Be aware of clickbait titles when you seek out information. If you see some of the previously described writing techniques in a title or photo, you may be clicking on clickbait, and you will likely not find the trustworthy and credible information you were hoping for.


Clickbait is a method to drive online readers to web pages, usually through exaggerated claims or misleading information. Credible sources of information should not use clickbait-style writing. By understanding the nature of clickbait and the characteristics of clickbait-style writing described in this article, readers can also identify and avoid clickbait.


Counts, L. (2019). How Information Is Like Snacks, Money, and Drugs – to Your Brain. BerkeleyHaas. Retrieved from

Pengnate, S., Chen, J., & Young, A. (2021). Effects of Clickbait Headlines on User Responses: An Empirical Investigation. Journal of International Technology and Information Management, 30 (3).

Other Sources

Anderer, J. (2022). Study exposes how Facebook “clickbait” entices users into reading posts. Retrieved from

Brown, N. (2018). How Content Marketers Can Use the Power of Clickbait for Good. Retrieved from

Collins, K., Shiffman, D., & Rock, J. (2016). How are scientists using social media in the workplace? PLOS ONE, 11 (10). Retrieved from

Garcia, J. J., Colodro-Conde, L., Barlow, F., & Medland, S. (2022). Scientific Clickbait: Examining Media Coverage and Readability in Genome-Wide Association Research. Retrieved from

Georgiou, M. (2016). Write compelling headlines instead of clickbaits. Search Engine Journal. Retrieved from

Indurthi, V., Syed, B., Gupta, M., & Varma, V. (2020). Predicting Clickbait Strength in Online Social Media. Proceedings of the 28th International Conference on Computational Linguistics, 4835–4846. Retrieved from

Iyengar, S., & Massey, D. S. (2018). Scientific Communication in a Post-Truth Society. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 7656–7661. Retrieved from

Pengnate, S. F. (2016). Measuring Emotional Arousal in Clickbait: Eye-Tracking Approach. Twenty-Second Americas Conference on Information Systems, 1–9. Retrieved from

Venneti, L., & Alam, A. (2018). How Curiosity Can Be Modeled for a Clickbait Detector. Retrieved from

Xu, Z., Laffidy, M., & Ellis, L. (2022). Clickbait for Climate Change: Comparing Emotions in Headlines and Full-Texts and Their Engagement. Information, Communication & Society, 1–18. Retrieved from

Peer Reviewed

Publication #AEC792

Release Date:April 11, 2024

Related Experts

Telg, Ricky W.


University of Florida

Kent, Kevin


University of Florida

Fact Sheet

About this Publication

This document is AEC792, a publication of the Department of Agricultural Education and Communication, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date March 2024. Visit the EDIS website at for the currently supported version of this publication. © 2024 UF/IFAS. This publication is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.

About the Authors

Nicole Patten, master's student, agricultural communication, Department of Agricultural Education and Communication; Ricky Telg, professor, agricultural communication, Department of Agricultural Education and Communication, and director, Center for Public Issues Education in Agriculture and Natural Resources; and Kevin Kent, lecturer, agricultural communication, Department of Agricultural Education and Communication; UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.


  • Ricky Telg
thumbnail for publication: Clickbait