What Are Clickbait Ads?

Annoying Internet Ads
Reading time: 4 Minutes

Online marketing is one of the leading industries on the internet. Regardless of the type of business, online marketing is needed to grow sales and reach potential leads. One of the most effective strategies in online marketing involves the use of online ads.

Because online ads can be shown to everyone, most successful businesses online take advantage of them. Advertising agents come up with innovative methods to raise awareness of what’s being advertised. While these ads are proven to be effective, unfortunately, they have led some advertisers into omitting vital ethics of honesty. Among such ads are what is called clickbait.

Clickbait ads promote online content using sensationalized headlines and taglines. The main purpose is to deceive the user into clicking on the ad only to be directed to original content that has nothing to do with the topic. These types of ads spread quickly and are mainly used in the social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.

Clickbait ads are used to spread misleading data, fake news, or outrageous information on social media platforms. Fraudsters are the leading benefactors of clickbait as they generate income when users click on the ad.

How to Identify a Clickbait Ad?

Listiculating is the word behind modern journalism which focuses on less annoying verbs, punctuation, grammar, and other diminishing writing factors. This type of irresponsible journalism has proven to be somehow effective for many companies online. For starters, it plays around the topic to raise the interest of the reader but delivers the less expected final piece. The article headline kind of withholds the information from the readers to raise their curiosity.

The vacuous headlines that focus on curiosity-gap are what makes the majority of internet users feel guilty to click on the ad. However, as they read through the article, complicity begins to kick in. Towards the end of the article, reality starts to kick in with the cliffhanger beginning to settle.

There are many ways to identify clickbait ads. For starters, the headlines run off the rail from what the source contains. The headline hypes the story and paints a different picture (if not imposing a misleading image) to draw the attention of the reader into clicking on the ad to read the full story. Take, for instance, a headline that mentioned a three-legged human who managed to overcome all the circumstances. What comes to mind is a human born with three-legs and managed to overcome the agonizing looks from society. However, when users click on the ad, it leads them to a story about a person who injured their foot and is now walking on crutches.

It’s within the journalism industry to draw readers’ attention to a story that they wouldn’t care about on a normal day. Such journalism relies on curiosity gaps to draw masses to a story they wouldn’t bother to read. The idea is to raise enough curiosity for readers to click on the ad and access the web content. Clickbait content can come in the form of text, images, or videos. It is often disguised with enticement, making it seem like a desirable thing to follow through.

Should I Click on Clickbait Ads?

Clickbait journalism can be innocent, to say the least, a merely experienced journalist trying to draw the attention of readers into a story they wouldn’t care about on a normal day. However, this technique has been adopted by cybercriminals, to lure unsuspecting users into clicking on ads that will lead them to malicious content.

A clickbait ad is designed to drive traffic to specific web pages for monetary gain. It can also be used for phishing purposes to spread malware or steal personally-identifying information. This type of attack happens when the unsuspecting user clicks on the clickbait ad to learn more about the exciting headline only to trigger malware downloads.

In this modern-day era, it is hard to encounter an innocent browsing experience without a particular site pulling its dastardly techniques. Clickbait ads use a certain kind of imagery and text that stimulates the brain’s dopamine reward response. Engaging content is addictive and the mind is always in search of what’s next.

Malware such as browser hijackers and adware use the clickbait advertising technique to trick users.

Therefore, regardless of how enticing the ad can be, if you see the following signs, you must not click on an ad as it can lead you to infectious platforms:

  • Too good to be true headlines
  • Extraordinary imagery
  • Over-emphasized shocking headlines
  • A promise that the offer is about to expire or the product is the last one
  • Headlines that tap into the reader’s fears
  • Headlines that play around the current events making wild claims

You must avoid clickbait ads and not click on them. Use the above guidelines to identify them and stay clear from them. Since such kinds of ads are used in political warfare, and to spread fake news or malicious content, you expose yourself to the potential risks when you click on them. On social media platforms, clickbait ads are also used to hack user accounts.

How to Stop Clickbait Ads?

An individual can’t stop clickbait ads. However, you can take measures to protect yourself from falling for them. Here are measures to apply to stop clickbait ads:

  • If the headlines sound overboard, the story is likely not worth your time.
  • A true story always pops up on multiple platforms, always check for that.
  • Don’t support the spread of clickbait ads by sharing information before fact-checking
  • Use anti-malware security software with internet protection to receive real-time protection against phishing attacks and other suspicious websites.


Although it may seem harmless to learn more about an interesting headline, you should always think twice before clicking. Clickbait is not only for spreading fake news or promoting a particular less interesting product. It is also used to spread viruses such as ransomware and spyware which is why it’s dangerous to just click on any exciting headlines before executing a thorough fact check.

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