click bait (or clickbait) is a term applied to links, headlines, or titles written in a sensationalistic way in an attempt to entice you to click through to read the associated article or post. The most common characteristic of click bait is the “over the top” terminology used to over-promise what the target material typically underdelivers. Phrases like “you won’t believe”, or “will blow your mind” and others have become so common as to become parodies of themselves.
Click bait exists primarily because many advertising models are based on “impressions”, or the number of times an ad is displayed and presumably seen. The more people click to visit the target page, the more the advertisements on that page are displayed, and the more money the website owner makes. It’s not uncommon for the target pages to have an excess of ads.
Clickbait is a text or a thumbnail link that is designed to attract attention and to entice users to follow that link and read, view, or listen to the linked piece of online content, being typically deceptive, sensationalized, or otherwise misleading. A "teaser" aims to exploit the "curiosity gap", providing just enough information to make readers of news websites curious, but not enough to satisfy their curiosity without clicking through to the linked content. Click-bait headlines add an element of dishonesty, using enticements that do not accurately reflect the content being delivered. The "-bait" part of the term makes an analogy with fishing, where a hook is disguised by an enticement (bait), presenting the impression to the fish that it is a desirable thing to swallow.
Long before the Internet, an unscrupulous marketing practice known as bait-and-switch used similar dishonest methods to hook customers. Like bait-and-switch, clickbait is a form of fraud. (Click fraud, however, is a separate form of online misrepresentation which uses a more extreme disconnect between what is being presented in the frontside of the link versus what is on the click-through side of the link, also encompassing malicious code.) The term clickbait does not encompass all cases where the user arrives at a destination that is not anticipated from the link that is clicked. When the manipulation is done for the purpose of humor, as with rickrolling, and there is no element of exploitation, then that deception does not qualify as clickbait. The term can also be misused when viewers complain about an enticing thumbnail or title, as with a sexually provocative image. But if the image or title accurately reflects the content delivered upon click-through, then this is an example of simple enticement. Without the element of deception, it does not qualify as clickbait. The borderline cases happen when a content creator inserts a very short segment in order to serve as justification for a provocative thumbnail, when the vast majority of the content has nothing to do with this short segment or thumbnail. Here, a strong case for clickbait can be made by any user, as the overriding characteristic is deception for the purpose of exploiting the user.