Blackhat Tactic: How to Use Trusted Heuristics to Get Clicks

I saw a brilliant banner ad today, using a technique to get clicks I haven’t seen before:


Yes, that giant “Like” button is a part of the ad, and I bet it boosts CTR like crazy. It’s also probably infringing on some Facebook trademark. As the title of this post says, blackhat.The reason this ad works is that it takes advantage of a heuristic – a mental shortcut – shared by most visitors to this site. Through constant, repeated exposure, they have been conditioned to seek out and click on the Like button across the web. This ad might benefit from the Facebook brand by including its logo, saying subconsciously “Look, Facebook trusts us!”. But it also benefits less directly from the tremendous power of that little thumbs up on the Like button.Think about it. The real Facebook Like button takes up a tiny percent of available screen real estate on any article, and yet gets a disproportionately high number of clicks. We see it enough, and we feel strangely compelled to seek it out and click it. Just like the Youtubesque play button used effectively in social ad images, certain icons and symbols have tremendous magnetic power, drawing the eye in almost instantly.They bypass traditional, rational processing and tap into heuristics buried deep inside our base, reptilian brain.And they work very, very well.Use them carefully.By the way, there is another, even more powerful(and less blackhat) heuristic trick that this ad(and many others) use. Can you spot it?Update: Facebook is so prevalent that its semiotics are used frequently by lazy advertisers as a cheap way to get clicks. Here’s another ad I just saw in Yahoo mail:

  • Rishi Shah

    ??Not a bad idea. But the ad has to be directed to the Facebook page or the visitor will be pretty upset.

  • Ilya Lichtenstein

    This is goes straight to their landing page, not to Facebook. It’s been running for quite a while, looks like it’s working and nobody’s upset.??

  • Riley Pool

    I would never dare risk it.?? Facebook don’t fuck around.?? They will eventually issue a DMCA to whichever company is displaying that ad.The other one you were talking about… Read more?

  • Ilya Lichtenstein

    Yup, you got it, it’s "read more". There’s something in any visitor’s brain that makes them itch to click on a "read more" looking link, just because they’ve clicked that link on articles so many times in the past.You might be right about danger from Facebook about this…but what about making your own blue box with the word Like in it? Sort of like the movie Transmorphers, the box art is evocative of the original on a deep, unconscious level, but different enough to avoid getting sued.

  • geakerson

    No doubt it is working like a charm, but it’s soo shady 🙂

  • knmn

    Why not create your own button that looks very, very similar to the Facebook like button? I’m fairly sure they don’t have copyright on the word "like" or the colour blue.

  • ezra abrams

    what about people like me, who NEVER ever visit facebook, twitter, or do any social media of any sort – am I like only 0.01% or what ?whenever I see one of those stupid like things, i trust/like the page less !!

  • Nikola Cvrtnjak

    This is actually very clever and it can be user many ways. Read more, Continue reading, Comment… You don’t have to use protected trademarks, logos and so on and do it the risky way, it’s enough only to think out of the box :). I like the idea tho 🙂

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  • Martin @ Habitaciones Londres

    But does it bring real traffic or it just destroy your statistics? Because I think the like button will lead to confusion and misunderstanding. I guess for everyone is much better direct the traffic to get relevant visitors, which are really searching for your product. This creates a higher chance of conversion, than just spread the "LIKE" buttons and believe that few visitors will be interested with your content and become a costumer without any care that they are at different place than the ad led to. Its like when you want to travel to the club and it takes you to shopping center instead. I don’t think its smart way to reach costumers, especially when its Pay Per Click advertising. My advice: Pay attention to your Bounce rate. One nice example of heuristics is "DON’T CLICK THIS BUTTON" 🙂 Anyway thanks for the preview of one black-hat-SEO tactics, nice article.

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