You WON'T believe what Google is doing

Hannah Gallop

Hannah Gallop


That right there is a clickbait headline. The sensationalised headline was the bait to draw you in and intrigue you enough to click the link, and it worked - hook, line and sinker.

Clickbait headlines are regularly used in ads to help drive website traffic by exploiting our "curiosity gap". They provide just enough information to make us curious, but not enough to satisfy our curiosity without clicking through to the linked content.

However, we won’t be seeing ads with clickbait headlines for much longer, as Google has made the huge announcement that it will be introducing a Clickbait Ads policy. This policy will be rolled out in July 2020 and will prohibit the use of misleading Google ads as part of the updated Misrepresentation policy for advertisers.

What is clickbait?

Clickbait is a form of false advertisement that uses hyperlink text or a thumbnail image designed to attract attention and to entice users to follow that link and consume this piece of content. Clickbait can be defined by its characteristic of being deceptive, typically sensationalised or misleading.

You will have no doubt seen a fair few examples of clickbait, but here’s an example of what it may look like:

Non-clickbait title

A simple pancake recipe

Related example clickbait titles

  • Beyonce's favourite pancake recipe
  • A pancake recipe that won't make you look like an idiot
  • The pancake recipe that will help you to lose 10 stone in a day 
  • The pancake recipe that residents in Birmingham use the most
  • You WON’T believe what goes into this pancake recipe 
  • You won’t be single for much longer with this pancake recipe

While the content topic itself is relatively mundane, these clickbait titles make you think that this pancake recipe will change your life with some pretty remarkable claims, when in fact, it’s just the same recipe as every other site using good old flour, eggs and milk (and a bit of lemon if you’re feeling extra zesty).

What will this policy change?

“This policy covers advertising which uses sensationalist or clickbait text or imagery which intend to drive traffic to the ad through pressurizing the viewer to take immediate action in order to understand the full context of the ad,” the company says of the change.

From July, ads “which use clearly altered zoomed-in body parts, mugshots, or real-life accident or disaster photos to promote a product or a service; or ads which use ‘before and after’ images to promote significant alterations to the human body,” will not be allowed.

The policy will also prohibit ads “that pressure the user to purchase, subscribe to or stop consuming a product or service in order to avoid harm; ads which use depictions of severe distress, pain, fear or shock to promote a product or service.”

Why is the introduction of the ‘Clickbait Ads’ policy important?

While clickbait ads can be used solely for clicks, there is also a darker side that uses clickbait as a method for phishing attacks with the intention of spreading malicious files or stealing sensitive user information.

The implementation of this new policy will help to combat the rise of false information littering the internet, and will also seek to protect vulnerable users who may not be able to spot the signs of a website with malicious intent.

So far in June 2020, there have been nine policy updates published by Google in comparison to just one in May. This policy is part of the on-going work Google is doing to protect users. Earlier this year, Google’s Vice President, Scott Spencer, announced in a blog post that Google has taken down 2.7 billion ‘bad ads’ over the past year and has also suspended nearly one million advertiser accounts for violating its policies, and over 1.2 million publisher accounts.

Check out our another Google related blog, looking at the Google Search trends so far in 2023.

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