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In a world inundated with competition, many entrepreneurs and small businesses look to marketing “tricks” to get results. It can be tempting to seek the quick, easy click-throughs that come from a catchy headline, but you always pay a hefty price for cheap thrills. If there’s nothing to back up the headline, you’re going to lose interest (and potentially the respect) of visitors and potential customers.Of course, some marketers simply don’t care; it’s a matter of pulling in traffic at all costs. The ends justify the means. Sure, clickbait seems easy. However, that’s exactly where the problem lies. Let’s learn more about the dangers of clickbait and what you can do to reach your audience instead.What is clickbait?If you’re late to the game, clickbait refers to those “catchy” article headlines that are designed to get people’s attention and make them click through to the website. Many marketers and entrepreneurs like to use it because it does generate more clicks and interest, but it also drives bounce rates through the roof. We’ve all been victims. Think about it: Sometimes there is no question you’re about to click on a blatant clickbait piece. You’re fully aware, but curiosity wins out. You just have to know what the “little-known hack to drop 20 pounds by tomorrow night” is all about.Related: The Future of Content Marketing: Why Clickbait Won’t Cut ItThere are probably dozens of ways that these misleading headlines can ruin a solid reputation or brand, even with just a single use. As soon as a company or business posts an article with a clickbait headline, it’s basically confirming that all it wants is attention and maybe the user will get something too. How clickbait destroys brand reputations Audience disappointmentClickbait headlines are notorious for offering all shock and no substance — that is, these headlines may evoke strong emotions, but the content behind them is usually shallow, uninteresting or misleading. Sure, you can get people excited with a flashy headline. You can also disappoint them just as quickly when they show up and see that there’s nothing substantial behind the hype.Clickbait ruins other valuable site dataCompanies that use clickbait are putting almost all of their website analytics and metrics at risk. How are you expected to get accurate tracking information and data about your website and its contents if the lead-generation tactics used aren’t reputable? A single clickbait title can spur hundreds of views, but it can create just as many bounces and confuse all of your data. That makes it nearly impossible to track marketing strategies and improve conversion rates because there is no accurate information available on which to base improvement or measure success.Other ways to score clicks and drive trafficYou should never be out to trick people. A lot of marketers rely on clickbait because they are looking for a one-time gain — the fast results. They’re not concerned about whether the content actually delivers. When your audience members notice reckless posting, it’s a safe bet they will not be amused. They could even see your brand as spam or a company not worth investing in. A quick shot of website traffic is great, but long-term relationships are always better in business.Here are some more valuable ways to increase click-throughs and drive traffic with your content, without having to use clickbait or other misleading tactics.Provide value-adding informationYour biggest goal with content is to create quality information that your visitors can use. Brands that are able to create content that answers the “how” and “why” of their product or service are proving that you don’t need gimmicks to generate a lot of click-throughs. Educating the target audience is not only a good way to encourage higher click rates, but it also gives a brand a stronger reputation as an authority in its industry.Related: 30+ Ultimate Headline Formulas for Tweets, Posts and EmailsUse headline-analyzer toolsWhen creating headlines that are powerful and attention-grabbing — without becoming clickbait —there are a number of tools out there that can assist you. A headline analyzer can take all of your content titles and score them for you, while also including tips and insight to help increase readability and sharing potential. These tools shouldn’t be the only way to create effective headlines, but they can be a helpful tool in the initial brainstorming process, or to help those who are just starting out with their own headline creation.Consider listiclesUnlike clickbait, listicles are here to stay. Some marketing critics may be tired of them, but consumers love list-based and numeric headlines. Consider adding numbers to your headlines and create a list-type article to generate more interest: “X Lesser-Known Tips for Marketing Success” or “X Ways to Build a Brand Without Buying Your Audience.”They’re not the only option for compelling content, but marketers who are struggling to figure out how to create strong headlines and content can always rely on listicles to help them make a statement.Just say ‘no’ to clickbait The best content marketing takes advantage of a myriad of tools and possible content styles. It focuses on generating strong headlines with even stronger content to back up the title and giving users something valuable that they can take away. Whether that’s a little more information about the specific brand, an industry-relevant “how-to” article or just tips and insight that users can benefit from, it has to be something of value.As it stands, the majority of consumers see clickbait headlines and immediately steer clear. Check out your social-media feeds. Scroll through and find someone who’s shared a clickbait-style title and check the comments. At least a handful of them will be social-media users leaving comments like “This is clickbait. No real substance” or “This information is useless and has nothing to do with the title.”Related: 6 Easy Ways to Attract More Website TrafficMost importantly, you cannot treat your potential audience like it’s not smart enough to recognize gimmicks and marketing tricks. Take the time to do content marketing right and build a brand that’s in it for the long haul.