FLAMED : After getting flamed on Facebook, called a racist and told I did not know what a ‘click bait’ site is, I had to go look and see if the rules had changed, or if there was some other measurement for click-bait that I did not know about. The purpose of click bait is to get people to open the page, and thereby trip all the revenue links on the page to earn money for the author. Let’s see how that works!
Other people may go by other criteria, but according to the tried and true spam-fighter rules, first set up in the 1990s called “Web Sites That Suck” we measure the degree of spam (click bait) on a web page by the metrics of its delivery, and the number of calculator, stalker, predator or spam links. So I returned to the page in question in the Facebook flame and it was a Washington Post article claiming something outrageous about Trump. Now, lots of people trust the Post and would never call it a spam site, or click bait. So, we’ll take a look…
The diagram : At right I’ve diagrammed a typical clickbait/spam site so you can see how it is arranged. The content that people came to this page to read is left uncovered. You can see it’s about 25% of the page. Note the page went on several more screens. All the pink is advertising, or predator links, and the yellow is clickbait, or stalking links. Never, ever click anything in the pink or yellow. If you do you risk being infested with malware, or being tagged and stalked on the web. Clicking on a yellow link guarantees revenue for the owner. Clicking on any of the pink earns a tiny amount, but provides the advertiser with your personal dossier. If you click and actually buy something, they make a lot. By virtue of arriving on the page, without doing anything, you are tagged, and cookied, and earn a slight revenue for your “view.” That little box on the right margin, just above the column of clickbait is a particularly insidious form of spam — it’s a running video spam that travels up and down the page as you scroll.
Click for an enlargement you can read.
Ranking a Clickbait Spam Site : Open the page and look at the code. First test is the number of characters of code to deliver the number of characters of content. A properly coded, “safe” HTML page will never go more than 8-to-1. Spam pages and stalker/predator pages go more than 12 to 1. Next test is the number of links which contain an ID specifier. These are stalkers or predators and usually are paying the site to deliver your details and IP address. THEN count the number off-site links other than reference links. These are usually paid, and report your presence to those entities. If clicked they get a much higher click fee.
Lastly look for “click bait” tag words or key words. The Anti Click Bait site has compiled a listing of these words but the headline contains at least one. Look for words like “boggling” or “amazing” or “unbelievable” and closers like “what happened next” or “the result will…” These are classic click baits. This particular headline said :
“Trump’s history of corruption is mind-boggling” That was the first dead give-away.
Further analysis :
There are 266 hidden links on this page that communicate with server level scripting or off-site servers other than the one containing the article.
There are 232 java-script and/or stalker links on this page, which either tag you or store your info for the site, or for another paid tracker.
The page contains 217,628 characters of encoding yet delivers a mere 1,286 words, or 6,527 characters of actual meaningful content that’s a 33 to 1 scripting to content ratio. (This is far beyond the ranking of a spam site which is 12 to 1) … did you read that correctly? That’s thirty three characters of coding to deliver a SINGLE character of content … again : 33 to 1, or nearly three times as much obfuscation as a spam site! There are one thousand and elevan lines of code you just downloaded to your browser. This page is 218 K of code, (not including graphics) when “Web Pages that Suck” says a page should never be larger than 60K. (Including graphics!)
16 Paid or “Fake News” predator links:
By clicking on this page, your IP address, last visited site and other various information used to tag you and stalk you was sold to:
- https://www.bills(dot) com/
- http://www.trueactivist(dot) com/
- https://paid.outbrain(dot) com/
- https://search.yahoo(dot) com/
- http://www.askmen(dot) com/
- https://www.homechef(dot) com/
- https://iad-usadmm.dotomi(dot) com/
- http://www.autopartsclass(dot) com/
- https://bs.serving-sys(dot) com/
- https://www.greengiant(dot) com/
- https://madeby.google(dot) com/
- https://www.americanexpress(dot) com/
- http://x.vindicosuite(dot) com/
- https://directvnow(dot) com/
- https://www.lowermybills(dot) com/
Yes, by clicking to this page, the owner could have made as much as $25.00. Yes, this is definitely click bait. The purpose of the leader posted to Facebook is to bait YOU into clicking. Why do you think Jeff Bezos bought the Post, and reports a 2.1 billion net income? The Post LOVES Trump. Trump accounts for a HUGE percentage of their income whether the articles are true or Fake.
Click Bait? How can you really call it anything else ? And, because of people’s gullibility, and thirst for recognition in social media, the click bait worked very well — it had been shared a hundred thousand times and who knows how many clicks. That’s about ten-grand right there.
It’s okay to make money on the web. But it’s not okay to extort money in nefarious ways that endanger your reader. If it looks like spam, smells like spam, it probably is spam. Friends don’t let friends get stalked.
Thanks for reading… go forth and be creative!
The original edition of this article is at http://www.graphic-design.com/60-seconds/339_click_bait.html