Expletives-CoverI am a positive person by nature. I look for the bright side of almost everything. No matter how bleak, I am always looking for a way to put a positive spin on something.

I let the perky side of my personality influence everything, including my writing. The problem? Negative titles often work better than positive ones. The posts with negative titles stand out in your blog roll, on your Twitter feed or LinkedIn blog page. They are more likely to be shared, retweeted and read.

People are drawn to articles with negative titles because they are afraid of doing something wrong or the title connects with something they were feeling but hadn’t been able to put into words. So, I could have called today’s blog post 5 ways to improve your blog titles, but I didn’t. Why? Because that title would suck.

Are you boring readers with weak language?

Phrases like improve, common mistakes, tips for success make your blog title look like hundreds of other articles out there. Everyone knows they could do better, so you would think people would want to read posts like that, and some do. But for most people these nice, helpful titles are a bit like eating broccoli or working out. We know we should do those things but there is always a reason to put it off. So readers skip your nice, helpful article to check out the “bad” ones.

One of my most successful series of blog posts, white papers and seminars were all built around the theme of Why People Hate Your Website. The series was, and still is effective because the word “hate” stops readers in their tracks. It is such a strong, negative word. No one wants to be hated, so they have to come and find out what the article or white paper is about.

Edgy language draws attention. These are phrases somewhere between polite language and vulgarity, these are  words you might not use in front of your grandmother so some writers avoid them. Words “suck” get people’s attention because they don’t expect to hear them in a business setting. These edgier terms won’t work on every blog, you have to know your audience. But if they will tolerate it, go out on the edge every now and then.

Are you afraid to scare your readers?

If edgy is not your thing, there are other strong phrases which can draw a reaction because they tap into your readers fears. Topping that list are failure and waste. Fear of failure is core to who we are as people, so it is hard to resit reading a blog post entitled  Why Do Businesses Fail. Do a Google search for the word fail or the hashtag #FAIL and see how quickly you find something you just have to read.

One of my favorite scary words is “waste”. Maybe it is something in our childhood, but we don’t like to waste things.  Two of my most popular blog posts on Linkedin use the word “waste”.

Is your sales team wasting your marketing? and Don’t waste time  trying to be good with social media. 

The first struck a chord because of the inherent conflict between sales and marketing and the second resonated with both people who think this whole social media thing is a waste of time and those who want to convince their bosses it isn’t.

If you go negative, do it cautiously

Andy Rooney made a career out of being negative. We tuned in every week to hear him complain about something on 60 Minutes. While it worked for him, it may be a bit much for the rest of us. So, when it comes to negative titles use them cautiously. Just as the simple, sweet or helpful won’t stand out in a sea of bland content neither will a steady stream of negative. Try mixing it up and reserve the really edgy language for those special occasions.

Now, go write a negative headline and then (because I can’t end on a bad note,) have a nice day.

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