Click bait in email marketing

by Donna Peterson

The term click bait describes the practice of enticing a visitor to click a link to continue to more content. In some cases, the user is then channelled into a registration process, in the hope they share their information with the promise of seeing the content they set out to read.


How click bait is used in email marketing

In business to consumer emails you may come across sensationalised messages that entice the reader to click what would otherwise be a bland offering. For example, a (false) celebrity endorsement, such as ‘Katy Perry’s secret list of favorite restaurants’ is likely to generate more interest than 'great restaurants in New York' - it's all about what's on offer. With a celebrity endorsement you're selling the opportunity to meet an idol as well as have great food, the latter is a much weaker proposition.

In business communications click bait is also used. Perhaps by overselling what's on offer or giving a misleading introduction. The impact on the reader is the same. They feel compelled to click, so as not to miss out on something but will be disappointed when the result doesn’t deliver on expectations.

An example could be, 'Essential reading for all successful entrepreneurs', sending the reader to a registration page for an unknown journal. The link left the reader with the feeling that they might miss something important if they didn’t click, but in truth they were delivered to a page setup to harvest email addresses.

The difference between effective and compelling links and click bait is the quality of the offer, if you really have got the ‘must read guide for entrepreneurs’ then that’s a different story!

Another way of baiting your audience is ambiguity, 'Short Notice Sale' - without specifying the actual dates of the sale. This can lead to a click, but more often than not the reader is looking for more information, rather than expressing genuine ‘ready to buy’ interest in your event.

The impact of click bait on click through rates

This method of generating clicks has a huge impact on click through rate (CTR). If effective, your CTR will sky rocket, but CTR shouldn’t be your most important target. Your goal for email marketing goes beyond hits on your landing page.

The impact of click bait on conversions (sales)

If you (sometimes unintentionally) use click bait strategies, you could see a rise in your CTR but a fall in your actual sales conversions. As your sales are the overriding goal, you want to be sure you are setting your email marketing goals appropriately, considering all possible conversion points that lead to a sale.

Honesty and integrity

The goal for many of our clients is not to simply generate a click, but to build a relationship with a new contact and sell to them not just once, but again and again. This can only be achieved through a relationship built on trust.

As your email message could be the first introduction a person has to your company and brand values, you need to be confident it is a true reflection of who you are and how you conduct business.

Transparency in your message and delivering on your promises is essential for success. A recipient of your email should always have sufficient information to be able to assess the value of the proposition. When they arrive at your website they should have a seamless experience of clear messaging detailing your offering and what steps they should take to progress.

If a prospect’s first experience with you leaves them feeling duped or misled your relationship could be irrevocably damaged.

How to avoid the perils of click bait

Whilst some marketers might set out to deliberately deceive, we know that the vast majority do not. However, we can still unwittingly mislead our readers. Have you ever read back an email later and thought 'I could have phrased that better' or 'I could have improved this by xyz? A simple change in language could propel your email from vague and misleading to clear and compelling.

Check external creative carefully. Whilst we work with list managers with high integrity, we have found in the past some who will do anything to inflate the value of their database. By ‘advising’ on creative they have the opportunity to add click baited links into your email to boost their own list value – as the effectiveness of their list is often judged by CTR alone.

Getting a second opinion is always a good idea. Ask a colleague (who is not involved in your project) to read your draft - ask for their honest feedback. Ask them to look at your landing page - do they feel they have all the facts they need to make a decision on their next steps?

Or better still, ask an expert. Our team would be happy to support you in building better, higher performing marketing emails. Simply get in touch with Donna to discuss how we can help you (



Topics: Email Marketing

Donna Peterson

Written by Donna Peterson

Donna Peterson is a B2B marketing specialist who increases her client's profit while saving them time. To get actionable marketing tips & techniques follow her on LinkedIn, Facebook and/or Instagram.

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