The truth about using extreme headlines in copy and content

By now, you probably know that the headlines you write for your website, sales page, or blog post have an incredibly important job to do: they have to flag down your ideal customer and convince them to stick around and actually read your page or post. It may sound stupidly simple. But if you’ve every tried to attract traffic online, you know that it’s no small feat.

Because writing a solid headline takes effort and practice, you’ve probably looked at headlines written by other entrepreneurs or bloggers for inspiration. And when you’ve done this, you’ve probably come across headlines that look something like this:

“The WORST mistake I ever made as a business owner” or

“The EASIEST way to double traffic to your website.”

These headlines got your attention (so they clearly worked in some way). But you’re still hesitant to follow their lead because they feel a bit, well, spammy.

So what’s the deal with these kinds of extreme headlines? Do they successfully capture people’s attention and convince them to keep reading? Or do they smell like click bait and scare people aware?

Keep reading below to find out…



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(They work for other types of headlines too!)


Superlatives: The heart and soul of extreme headlines

Extreme headlines often (but not always) contain superlatives. (This is the only time I’m going to go all grammar nerd on you in this post—I promise. So if you totally hate grammar or linguistics, just bear with me for a few sentences.)

A superlative is the form of an adjective that describes the greatest degree of the characteristic that the adjective describes. Examples are “fastest” (nothing is faster than the fastest car), “coolest” (nothing is cooler than the coolest vacation), and “worst” (nothing is worse than the worst mistake possible).

Here are more examples:

  • best
  • easiest
  • most
  • greatest
  • biggest
  • strongest
  • hottest
  • perfect
  • hardest
  • never
  • nothing
  • none



Red sports car

Go big or go home

What does all of this talk about superlatives have to do with headlines, you ask?

Data from Moz shows that people like headlines with superlatives, even if it makes them seem like extreme headlines.

But it also reveals that you don’t want to include just any number of superlatives in your headline. Instead, you want to craft headlines that match one of two extremes. Specifically, you want to use headlines that either contain just one superlative (e.g., “The worst mistake you can make as a business owner”). Or you want to use headlines that contain many superlatives (e.g., “The worst mistake you can make as a business owner and the easiest and fastest way to fix it”).

Related: 9 blog title generator tools to help you craft the perfect headline



Laptop with a book about overcoming failure


Should you be positive or negative?

You now know that superlatives are an important part of extreme headlines. And you know how many superlatives you should use in extreme headlines if you want them to be effective. So now you’re probably wondering what kinds of superlatives you should use. In particular, should you use positive superlatives (e.g., “best” and “hottest”) or negative superlatives (e.g., “worst” and “hardest”)?

Positive superlatives can help you write powerful headlines that give readers all the feels. But data from Outbrain shows that headlines with negative superlatives perform 30% better.

Related: The 4 U’s of writing headlines that convert


Need some help writing headlines that convert?
Download my 72 free blog post headline templates.
(They work for other types of headlines too!)

Send me the free templates




But what about extreme negative words?

If you’ve warmed up to the idea of using superlatives and other bold words in your headlines, you may be wondering how far you can push this strategy. For example, what about negative words with extreme connotations (think “killer” or “fear”)? Are they too spammy? Will they backfire and drive your audience away?

It may surprise you. But research shows that as long as they make sense for your copy or content, violent and aggressive words can help you get more social shares.

Of course, you never want to use these words to write a sensational headline that doesn’t fit your body copy. (Because that’s click bait.) But if these words work for your copy or content and won’t be offensive to your audience, they can give your headline the emotional pull it needs.

Here are some examples:

  • “The big fear I had even when I was making $1,000,000.”
  • “How to create killer ads that double your revenue.”


Related: 5 blog post headline mistakes you need to stop making



Woman praying


Where to place extreme words

Where should you place superlatives and other bold words when you write extreme headlines? Near the front of the headline. The first few words of a headline are the words that people pay attention to the most. So if you’re trying to use an impactful word to grab your audience’s attention, you want to place it close to the beginning of your headline.

Plus, extreme headlines tend to sound better when you place those bold words at the front.

Here are some examples:

  • “The 7 biggest mistakes new restaurants make” vs. “New restaurants and the 7 biggest mistakes they make”
  • Learn the easiest way to tackle Sunday meal prep” vs. “Learn how to do Sunday meal prep in the easiest possible way”

Related: 9 effective headlines that attract customers & subscribers

Extreme headlines work—if you do them right

There’s a reason why you see extreme headlines all over the place in copy and content: they work. The catch is that you have to craft them in a way that works for your brand without pissing off your audience.

Use superlatives and other bold words to capture your audience’s attention and connect with their emotions. As long as extreme headlines fit with the rest of your copy or content and don’t seem like click bait, they can boost your freebie opt-ins, webinar sign-ups, and sales.


Need some help writing headlines that convert?
Download my 72 free blog post headline templates.
(They work for other types of headlines too!)

Send me the free templates






The truth about using extreme headlines

The truth about using extreme headlines in copy & content + 72 free headline templates

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