Be nasty to your website visitors

Poor Amy Winehouse eh? Fancy being an international star and being booed off stage. How rude. Or you might think it is rude to ask people to pay you and then turn up to entertain them, apparently drunk. Either way, what is clear is that the audience at the Belgrade concert is unlikely to forget the evening. The night that Amy came a cropper on stage in Serbia is likely to be the stuff of dinner party conversations for years to come. “I was there and I booed her,” people will proudly be saying. However, what is interesting is that if the concert had gone ahead “normally”, without any apparent problems or difficulties, the chances of people remembering very much about it are much slimmer.

Amy Winehouse It seems that when negative emotions are triggered we are able to remember things more clearly than when we feel positive about them. Indeed many of our “flashbulb” memories are for things which are negative – the 9/11 attack, the day John Lennon was killed, the morning Princess Diana died. Big events, big memories, big negatives.

New research suggests that when we have a negative emotion it actually helps us remember things more clearly than when we are in a purely positive mood. Allowing your website visitors to think good things about you, then to give them some kind of negative as they are about to leave your page, could actually work in your favour. They may well remember more of the positives, it seems. Leave people with good content and there’s an almost “that’s nice” reaction and the memory fades. Give your readers some nice content then shock them at the end and you could well increase the retention of what you are writing about. Being nasty, it seems, works – at least in terms of memory.

There are several ways you could do this, of course – some more annoying and troublesome than others. You could, for instance, merely make some kind of negative comment at the end of your positive piece. Or you could be even nastier with pop-up boxes that appear on exiting a web page and which will not disappear until your visitors have clicked on the appropriate link. You could also have a negative sound which arises upon the closure of a web page. For instance, if you have a website which is all about business growth and when someone closes your page on that topic they get the sound of a baby screaming.

Of course, you may not wish to go this far…! But you may wish to consider triggering negative emotions towards the end of your content; that way, according to this new study, people will be likely to recall the positive content at the beginning of your article. To make them remember your good stuff, you need to be a bit nasty at the end it seems. After all, we all remember that Simon Cowell supports his artists, is immensely loyal to the good ones and is a significant contributor to charities. But I doubt if we’d remember much of that if he wasn’t Mr Nasty from time-to-time. So, if you want your website to be remembered for all the good stuff it does, perhaps you also need to be prepared to be nasty as well.

Gettit? You good-for-nothing, lazy, selfish wotsit…! Oh, have I gone too far? Never mind; you’ll remember it now….!


Get blog posts like this each week

Sign up to receive my weekly blog digest every Monday

Graham Jones
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+
Graham Jones


Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist, professional speaker and author of 32 books who helps businesses understand the online behaviour of their customers
More evidence for the negative impact of social media. "Social Media’s Negative Impact on How We View Our Bodies"… - 8 hours ago
Graham Jones
Web Statistics
Cover page of free report

Weekly Online Business Advice


Get FREE advice to boost your online business EVERY

Saturday morning

And get this free booklet too