The Coast News Group
This Glock-shaped mailbox is in South Carolina, not Southern California. Courtesy photo
Ask Mr. MarketingColumns

Shooting yourself in the foot

There’s an ad on CNN’s website touting “Carlsbad’s most unique mailbox.” The photo shows a structure 3.5 feet high, 6 feet long shaped like a Glock handgun.

Having lived in Carlsbad for several years, I was surprised that I hadn’t heard of this obvious tourist destination before. Plus, the picture’s grassy yard was out of character for a Southern California beach town.

Figuring someone had taken liberties with the messaging, I Googled “Handgun mailbox.” McClatchy News reports this one is in South Carolina.

In other words, the advertiser lied.

Known as clickbait, such advertisements are mixed in among legitimate ads. It’s typically associated with fake news and spam sites that only want traffic and ad revenue without giving value.

Ads portraying naughty scenes from television shows and “news” stories that don’t live up to their billing are common. And even when the story told is partially true, you’ll have to parse dozens of images to find the segment that lured you in.

Because anyone in digital marketing will tell you about the significance of headlines when driving clicks and building traffic. 

And that’s their entire objective: Make readers click a hyperlink leading to worthless content. Tricking internet users through impressive headlines without giving useful and quality content, as the headline suggests. 

All of which is why, regardless of what you end up seeing, the site you’re visiting is chock full of ads selling everything imaginable. As the Washington Post observed this month, “The main goal is to attract as many clicks as possible, then serve the readers ads worth just fractions of a cent on each visit.”

Along the way, you could easily download malware onto your computer or phone, enabling bad actors to hack your credit cards, track your keystrokes or steal your identity.

That would be bad.

I’ve long advocated keeping your marketing at a high level. Sell quality products and services, charge a fair price and diligently protect your reputation. 

Clickbait has a well-deserved bad reputation. Meaning if you’re tempted to use it to attract attention to your own website, recognize going in that you’re tagging yourself upfront as a low-quality player.

And don’t feel bad if you ever fall for the lure of clickbait. Such headlines have tricked almost every internet user at some point. 

With that said, I wish you a week of profitable marketing.

Honest strategy. Honest marketing.

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