Brainpower: How Negative Headlines Drive Engagement

|Rich Ullman

Headlines Featuring Negative Superlatives Far Outperform their Positive Counterparts

Sometimes the Best is the Worst and the Worst is the Best

Graph: Positive vs. Negative Superlatives in Headlines

You’ve heard this from us once before and the data proves it again: Negative prevails over positive. When it comes to headlines, that is.

Compared with neutral headlines (contain neither positive nor negative superlatives), headlines with positive superlatives performed 11% worse. Negative headlines, on the other hand, performed 50% better. Compared with their positive counterpart, negative headlines received 69% higher averaged click-through rate.

Why might this be? Positive superlatives have become clichéd, overused; negative superlatives provide the reader with something more unexpected and intriguing that could be perceived as impartial and authentic.

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Rich Ullman

Rich Ullman

Rich Ullman is Vice President, Marketing at Outbrain, who is responsible for the Outbrain brand and product positioning. Read more

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