Negatives don’t come easily to me. I’m the eternal optimist and “glass half-full” kind of person. However, even I admit negatives have their place–in headlines and teasers, that is.
Studies show that negative headlines earn higher click-through rates than positively stated ones. In fact, Outbrain, a web content aggregator, found that readers are 63% more likely to click on a negatively stated link than one that is worded positively.
I have several theories about the human conditions that come into play here:
Theory A: Many of us don’t have the ambition to be the best, fastest, top, or only person doing something deemed good. But, we sure don’t want to be the worst, slowest, bottom or last person doing it. By clicking through to find out what we should NOT do, which is easier than what we ought TO do, we hope to take a shortcut to not humiliating ourselves.
Theory B: There is so much to do in business to succeed, that even the hardest working person has a certain level of guilt about not doing enough or the right things. When we see a list of the dumbest moves by others, we can gain a bit of pride that at least we aren’t THAT stupid, lazy, or behind. We elevate our self-esteem by recognizing things could be worse.
Theory C: Experienced sales people know there are only a few core motivators: 1) a gain now, 2) a gain in the future, 3) a loss now or 4) loss in the future. Of those, the fear of losing something now is the greatest. We will invest more into not losing what we have than gaining what we want. Negative phrases play into that tendency. In addition, perhaps we realize we can tuck away the negative headline and pull it out to help persuade or motivate someone else when needed.
You probably have your own theories, and you may be right. We humans are complex. The good news is we don’t have to know for sure why it works. We just have to accept that it does.
If you’re like me, you’ll find it takes practice to turn the proverbial Pollyanna into a Negative Nellie. Therefore, here are some examples to help you get the hang of it.
Positive: Optimize your website in 10 easy steps regardless of your technology experience
Negative: The 10 SEO tricks even the dumbest Luddites can ace
Positive: Plan now to avoid a media crisis
Negative: The four worst crisis headlines a CEO can read
Positive: Storytelling is the most popular marketing tool in 2013
Negative: Will you be the last marketer on the storytelling bandwagon?
It’s easy to see the negative headlines are more compelling. So, if you don’t want to be the worst communicator in the world, don’t forget to “negativise” at least some of your headlines!