Do you want to write more effective headlines?
A superlative is an adjective of the highest kind, quality, or order; surpassing all else or others. It indicates the greatest degree of the quality that the adjective describes. Best is the superlative form of good; fastest is the superlative form of fast.
Superlatives - words like best, biggest, greatest - can be effective in headlines. But it turns out that negative superlatives (like least) can be even more powerful.
In a study of 65,000 titles, Outbrain compared positive superlative headlines, negative superlatives headlines and no superlative headlines. The study found that headlines with positive superlatives performed 29% worse and headlines with negatives performed 30% better. The average click-through rate on headlines with negative superlatives was 63% higher than with positive ones.
There are a few theories on why this might be:
- Positive superlatives may have become cliched through overuse, which leads to them being ignored.
- It may be that negatives are more intriguing because they're unexpected and surprising.
- Negatives also tap into our insecurities in a powerful way. Using negative words like "stop", "avoid," and "don't" often work because everyone wants to find out if there's something they're doing that they shouldn't.
- Negative terms are more likely to be viewed as authentic and genuine.
In terms of news headlines, you are more likely to click on headlines like: "The worst economic dip in 30 years," "Unemployment numbers have never been lower," and "10 Ways Facebook is destroying your life."
When it comes to headlines, negative prevails over positive.