Do Negative Headlines Work?

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If you’ve dipped a toe or two into copywriting, one of the first things you’ll learn about is the power of negativity.  Words like “Don’t” or “Stop” or “No” are powerful motivators when used correctly.  But at the same time, they can be overkill when a message that’s designed to provoke actually leaves your readers feeling cold.

If you read a blog post with the headline:

5 Easy Ways to Improve Your Photography Skills

It might tickle your interest.  But throw a dash of the negative in there and you’ve got something like:

For Best Results: Don’t Ever Take Pictures from This Angle

Which one would you be more likely to click on?

When Negative Headlines Work Best

Negative headlines work best when they alert and inform. Headlines commonly tell people that they can finally stop and rest easy with a specific solution.  Negative headlines shouldn’t, however, be used to imply a connection between the negative thing, and the person reading the article.  For example:

Stop Marketing like a Spammer: How to Get More Email Subscribers the Right Way

Headlines like these can get the complete opposite reaction from your readers – in the “Who you callin’ a spammer?” way.  The rest of that headline will get completely ignored.

Using Negativity to Pique Curiosity

Negative headlines also work well when used to engage your reader’s curiosity. Sure, we all love stories of triumph and success, but subconsciously, we’re also drawn to the kinds of tabloid headlines that reveal a seedier, more secretive side to life.  With that being said, you can also use negativity to stir up a desire to read more, such as:

7 Things Your Doctor Will NEVER Tell You (Unless You Know How to Ask!)

10 Disturbing Secrets Every Waiter MUST Lie About to Keep Their Job

The main thing to remember when using negativity in headlines is this – the best headline in the world won’t motivate your reader to do anything if the rest of the body copy is bland, boring or unoriginal.  Make it your mission to concentrate on unleashing a powerful headline which is then reinforced with heavy-hitting benefits that show the results of NOT taking action.

Now it’s Your Turn…

Have you used negative headlines in your copy?  What were your results?  Have you ever read a particularly stirring headline that compelled you to want to know more?  Tell me about it in the comments below!

Sherice Jacob
Sherice Jacob helps site owners improve website performance and increase conversions through her blog and custom design service at iElectrify. You can also follow @sherice... Read Full Bio
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  • tgcgs

    Interesting spin, negativity can certainly be a powerful ally in writing headlines. I think you also have to balance it within the content of your copy too. I often use negative headlines when I'm trying to announce my personal opinion. Twitter is a good way to hone your skills with this approach. I think all kinds of negative/prophetic/warnings of doom headlines get noticed, we don't all remember Nostradamus for no reason, do we?

  • Shirley Thomas

    Cool. I know I am more likely to go tabloid on blog posts or articles myself but I never thought of using negative headlines when I write my copy. I guess I was simply too serious or deadline haunted!

    Newbie, you know 🙂

  • Wynne

    I actually prefer negative headlines to positive ones; for some reason when I am selling something I seem to get more sales.

  • Aharon

    Precise. Thanks.

  • sewa mobil

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  • sewa mobil

    great news, it is very informative article