Content Marketing Bait: The False Promises Made by Marketers

It’s all in the name. First impressions count. We all know it, but how far would you go to seal the deal and bag yourself an extra reader?

Competition is huge and marketers are desperate to round up their audience. But what has led to some thinking it’s acceptable to totally oversell their writing through a cleverly manipulated title? They might not care if you even read the article. As long as you’ve connected through the link, it’s increasing their reach.

Relentless search for a headline

Research into the science behind a title appears to have reached the inbox of every writer and blogger. In some cases the rules have saturated the writers own creativity and become a formula rather than an attraction to engage the reader. The common tactics (whether done consciously or not) use:

  • Numbers in the heading
  • A controversial statement
  • An opening question

And although I’ve not read it as a rule, it seems everyone thinks they need to use VERY overstated and emotive adjectives to reel in the unsuspecting reader.

Annoying hype

Some companies feel the need to oversell an article or video with embellishment to snare the reader. You’ve seen them before: ‘You’ll never guess what this guy said to his wife…’, or ‘10 reasons why you’ll never look at your IPhone the same way again. They’re so over the top and unrealistic, it’s beyond annoying.

I’ve lost count of the times I’ve gone to read an interesting-looking article only to find it doesn’t live up to the hype. It’s to the point where if I think a title looks too good, I won’t open it because I don’t want to be disappointed. How depressing is that?

The danger in misleading your audience

When a brand is labeled with the ‘boy that called wolf’ syndrome, the audience ultimately loses faith. Content marketers are relentlessly preaching about being true to the core and being authentic. Of course your title is hugely important; you don’t want to waste great content by not attracting the audience. But please, don’t mask average content with a fake amazing title.

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The Lush approach

I believe that once a brand has established a positive reputation, their followers will grow. A catchy title may bring in a new crowd but, essentially, great content comes from knowing the brand as well as your own. We like to spend as much time as possible with our clients. It’s necessary. It’s not just about ‘adding the personal touch’. We’re lucky to have grown strong, long-lasting relationships with many becoming friends.

So instead of wasting brainpower by constructing an elaborate title, work on the content. That’s what it’s all about, right?

What’s your view on writing headlines?

Lucy Helliwell


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  • Reply

    Sarah Mitchell

    Hi Lucy,

    I so agree with your post. Those hyperbolic titles annoy me to no end. I can’t help but think an annoyed reader isn’t going to stay long.

  • Reply

    Richard Keeves

    Lucy, you are spot on…. It’s about the content, rather than the headline… It is interesting to see that Facebook is now trying to stop the use of marketing bait headlines in Fb newsfeed posts.

    And Sarah, exactly. Annoyed readers don’t say thank you.

    It is a bit sad though that it takes less than a second for an article to be assessed as worthy of being looked at (let alone read) or ignored or deleted. Perfectly good articles with worthwhile content and benefit-rich headlines can be dismissed as spam if the recipient does not have sufficient trust in the author of the content. Whilst one goal of content marketing may be to make repeat profitable sales to a customer, the process of relationship building prior to the sale requires building Trust in the brand. And that usually takes time.


    • Reply

      Sarah Mitchell

      You’re right, Richard. Content has to burn from the very first sentence and, even then, the problem of TMI – too much information – means plenty of worthy content gets lost.

      Don’t you think it’s interesting that no matter who much we advance, the old-fashioned technique of building good relationships never ages?

  • Reply


    Super call Lucy, couldn’t agree with you more.

    If our paragraphs can’t deliver on our headline’s expectation, the audience will vote with their silence.

    You would love Jay Acunzo’s blog; Sorry For Marketing. He’s on a one man crusade to ‘bring some love back to the paragraph’. You should check it out. Keep the good insights coming!


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