How to write clickworthy – but not clickbaity content

Estimated read time: 2 minutes

Content creators who produce clickworthy headlines and subject lines toe the line to clickbait but never cross it!

Clickbait often makes readers click and then the content doesn’t necessarily hold up what the headline promised.

But at least we got you to click. Ha. Of course, a one-time click strategy is not a project for long-term and repeat engagement.

What content publishers really should do is create headlines and subject lines that are clickworthy. For me, that term was first coined by Janelle Penny, a senior editor at

Of course, many clickbaity headlines are also clickworthy at first glance – which is why some people do clickbait, but it can be spammy and has a negative connotation. Plus, it’s not a long-term strategy to maintain audience necessarily.

As I’ve mentioned before: Intent matters. Producing clickworthy content signals the intent to serve the reader. Good! Producing clickbait might signal the intent to just want that click.

How do we write clickworthy content?

Some of the standard content creation things apply:

Know your audience

Use the terms that interest them

Be emotional – people click when they fear something, including the fear of missing out.



Keep testing

Brainstorming is probably one of the biggest pieces. Many content creators I’ve run into over the years do the subject line or headline last. It’s sometimes an afterthought.

Instead, give them more prominence in the process. If nobody gets drawn in it makes no difference how great the content is.

Write multiple versions

Ask others for quick feedback

Push the envelope and then pull it back when necessary

What’s the outrageous way of saying that? Write that headline. Then check it against tone and most importantly accuracy.

If a word is too strong pull it back some as applicable. That’s the line to toe but not to cross.

Use buzzwords that currently are trending in the news and industry. If you have something unique to say about News and Trending Topic say it and use the terms that allow readers to link the two quickly.

Also highlight what’s unique about your story.

That’s a lot to get into a headline or email subject line – of course. We don’t have an unlimited amount of space.

Let’s be real. That’s not a new world for editors. Editors, as I was once told by an executive editor, put 10 pounds of content into a 5 pound bag. It’s their job. Edit like you are running out of words. We only keep the good ones.

This goes somewhat hand in hand with a previous topic that I covered: The fine line of being good and trickery. We don’t want to cross the line there either and when we do, quickly return to the right side of it.

Headlines and subject lines matter and are the gateway to our content.

This article was edited by Lindsay Schwab. You can connect with her here.