Don't Read This Post

Recently I enjoyed a long lunch with my friend Jonathan Kranz, author of Writing Copy for Dummies. We shared a few secrets about creating great Web site copy.

Interestingly, we both had strong evidence that "negative" Web headlines and links often generate lots more clicks than "positive" ones. For example, on Web Ink Now, my Worst Practices category gets more clicks than almost any other area of the site.

I remember several years ago I helped build a site where we included a link "For Executives Only" -- this generated much more traffic than any other self-select paths on the site. It turns out people react to negatives. Words like "Worst", "Not", "Don't", and "Only" are interesting and people want to know what's there.

Jonathan experienced the same phenomenon with a link on his Web site: "10 Important Reasons NOT to Hire Me" which he writes about in a great post "The Power of Negative Thinking" on his Kranz on Copy blog.

While the "negative" technique most certainly works, it should be used sparingly. Only one negative link is appropriate on a site. And don't forget -- there must be something  compelling and interesting to read once people click! Don't promise something interesting with a negative headline and then fail to deliver.

David Meerman Scott

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