You know you’ve done it. You do it all the time. We all do it. As Mel Brooks’ character King Louis XVI says in the classic movie History of the World Part I, “I just did it and I’m ready to do it again, don’t tell me you don’t do it!”
What is “it”? Clicking on those damned headlines that say Top 3 Ways, Top 3 Secrets, Top 3 Reasons, etc., etc. etc. Don’t like the number 3? Look for the same headlines with the numbers 5, 9 or 11…maybe even go as high as 50 or 100 if you are feeling really crazy.
3 shall be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be 3
Headlines like that are used because, reportedly, science says we are more likely to click on them than headlines like, “Here’s something you should consider,” or “Hey, you, I’d like to share some real world experience with you.”
Who are these people?
Who is writing these things and what makes them such an expert on the 3 things? How do they know they are the top 3 things? How do they know the 3 things aren’t just a few of many things, none really being any better or more on top than the other, un-named things?
Sometimes the author is legitimate, using real research or experience to back up their claims. Sometimes it’s an intern that has no real experience and is just throwing crap out there because it makes for great traffic, might be a good read, but doesn’t really provide you with any new information.
Are those 3 things really informative?
Sometimes those top 3 things are no more informative than this – Top 3 Ways to Not Die:
- Keep breathing
- Don’t let your heart stop beating
- Become immortal
Top 3 ways to make it stop
So how can you stop falling for those “Top 3 Ways” headlines? Here are the top 3 ways:
- Check who authored the article, blog etc. Look at their experience and accomplishments. Then decide if you want to read the stuff they write or not.
- Look at the number of comments and reviews of the piece.
- Look at the profiles of people that follow the author.
If any of it smells a little funny, it’s probably because it’s rotten.
And if all else fails, click on it anyway, read it, and discard it immediately. That might be faster.