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September 3, 2009

Why You Should Create Controversial Content At Least Once a Week

Last week, like every other week, I wrote an article. This time I decided to syndicate it, something I should be doing twice a week, but only get to about 4 times a month, and that’s if I’m feeling up to it.

This was one of the biggest traffic draws from a single article that I have had in years. It is still producing a steady stream of traffic, sales and subscribers as I’m writing this.

It’s been 2 years since I’ve gotten that much of an appreciative response, or that amount of attention, period, for an article I wrote that wasn’t widely syndicated. In fact, it only appeared in one major publication.

So what’s all the hub-bub, bub?

As you may have guess, there was a controversy surrounding the article. First, there were several typos. Normally I’d edit the article so relentlessly that by the time the article was perfect, it would be a month since I wrote it and it wouldn’t fit into my article marketing campaign for that week.

Since I’d been kicking my own butt to get content out on schedule, even when it isn’t perfect, I took my own medicine and just sent it out the way it was. And boy were the grammar, typing and spelling police mad!

Two people wrote me that they passed my article around at their meetings as an example of what not to do. Does it count as a backfire when one of the people who sees it Googles you and becomes a client?

(Just had to get in that little dig. Forgive me.)

What else was so bad about the article?

I called my readers “punks” – in the title.

This was a calculated risk – I’d run another version of the article a blog post and from sharing on StumbleUpon alone it got over 3000 visitors. In this new version, the article then went on to tell my readers to basically get off their over-thinking butts and do something, then gave them two examples of things to do.

There was, of course, a vocal minority of outraged responses about this too. But, curiously, other, louder, people who read the article – people I have never met or spoken to – came along and defended it.

In the end, my slang-ridden, typo-laden, in-your-face article brought me more profitable traffic and attention than any other article I’ve written this year. It was written in a moment of passion I had at seeing a friend almost lose their house, and a peer almost lose their business, mostly as a result of inaction.

And seeing this reaction led me to go back and look at my other articles. I write all my own stuff – it’s far more profitable for those of us who are at least halfway decent at writing to write an okay article injected with personality than it is to pay someone else to write generic content.

(I still hire writers for certain things though. But I concentrate on the ones with voice and depth, and pay them more for unique, engaging writing – I don’t simply outsource to the lowest bidder. I say if you’re going to hire a writer, get someone better than you.)

If you have the ability to generate controversy with your content, do it. Not convinced? Here are seven reasons why you should consider it.

1- It’s Effective

Nothing gets more attention than controversy. That’s why reality shows are popular. It’s why we read the journalist who we think is making an absolutely backwards prediction about something we care about. That’s why people gossip and debate.

Why merely participate when you can be the topic of discussion?

2- Negative Attention is Sometimes Even better than positive attention.

Nothing spreads faster than outrage. Wide exposure for a controversial view is much better than no exposure for towing the conventional wisdom line.

3- Display Your Skill at Dealing with Diverging Viewpoints.

Let people see the smooth way you react to the rude comments from people who take your words personally that WILL follow. I’ve gained lifelong friends, fans and customers from them witnessing what they call poise under pressure – and I call common courtesy.

You don’t have to respond from the same type of energy that’s being directed at you. Why let someone else having a bad day ruin your day?

4- It vets your buyers!

For example, if you want more clients that will take your advice to heart, get off their butts, and stop making excuses, try making a video that takes a hard line and tells people to get off their butts and stop making excuses!

Yeah, you’ll get reamed for it – by people who make excuse. They will be offended and never sign up to your newsletter.

Awesome. Because the people who needed a coach who believes in swift kicks in the butt will take your advice and hungrily seek more of it.

5- It’s fun to do.

What’s more fun than seeing something controversial? Being controversial or doing something controversial. It’s not for the faint of heart, but if you can take it, boy is that a fun ride!

6 – It’s entertaining to experience.

When people are entertained, they buy more. You probably never noticed the music playing in the background at the grocery store. It’s there because studies show that people browse longer and thus, buy more, when they’re being entertained.

Now you see more TVs at gas stations and in convenience stores. When I used to live in Vegas many of the Strip cabs had TVs on the backs of seats before I ever saw them in regular cars.

Then there’s the classic example of commercials during our favorite TV shows.

7- It sets you apart.

You know why bigger companies are afraid of controversy?

Me either. If you find out, come tell me. All I know is, I’m not afraid of controversy because I see it as an opportunity. It’s another way to connect, to have something to discuss, and in the case of my last controversial article, to help people.

Even if you aren’t going to make a controversial audio, video, blog post or article, for goodness sakes, do something different.

No one watches boring shows on TV, invites boring people to parties, reads boring books or listens to boring music unless they have to, for study or evaluation.

Try a little controversy and see where it takes you. If that’s too scary, at least risk being extraordinarily passionate. The spotlight can be fun.

Speaking of controversy, find out the most controversial secret I have about generating traffic from Social media here – – and get a free introduction to social media strategy.

13 Responses to “Why You Should Create Controversial Content At Least Once a Week

    avatar Thomas Townsend says:

    You are so right on the money. I have done this for others I have written for but did not want to offend readers to my site. But looking back at the reaction I recieved on other posts I wrote for Realesate sites….I will take this insight into action and see If I can’t create a boost….been so busy working on other client sites I have neglected mine.

    Probably the only area that this will not wotk for is a nonprofit site. If you tick of toomany peeople, then you loose possible donors andor sponsor opportunites. Would be intereseting to see how this might be done in tis example, I am a Board Member for OPERATION HUG-A-HERO

    Hell yeah – anyone watch Top Gear? The presenter called all truck drivers something along the lines of “overweight rapists”, people who hog the outside lane in the motorways “paedos” etc etc – its one of the most popular shows in the UK and is supposed to be a car review show…

    Its an interesting choice – calculated alienation. Maybe its time to stop dumbing down that linkbait!

    The controversial ones are always the most popular. They are divisive, entice heavy debate and keep going and going.

    No surprises here!


    Top gear sounds sweet, but I don’t think it’s in the states.


    avatar Tinu says:

    Thanks for all the great feedback everyone. It’s certainly not *original* advice, but we all get stuck in the places we get stuck in because we’re NOT doing things we SHOULD do. I know I do. Hope that little bit helps!

    avatar jim says:

    Your absolutely right about controversial content, it’s gauranteed to get a reaction, I have one question when you speak of blog syndication can you tell me how you do it as I want to do exactly the same thing with a blog I’m just starting.

    avatar Philip says:

    This is a very useful idea. I agree with you that it is good to be controversial in one’s writing. Your advice will definitely help me in future blog posts.

    avatar INBSPIRATION says:

    i like the articles you are posting they make people hunger and want to read more about it, most of them i also post them to my site. I like blogging articles like yours.
    keep it up.

    Great article! Using it’s wisdom as method I do my web business since I started it in 1998 – and successfull.

    No mercy is given to anybody – full controversial power to move the reader to new insights and make some of them to clients.

    There is no better way in online marketing your product/service!

    My best regards from Germany


    avatar Thomas Sandbjerg Ejsing says:

    Interesting choice you take, but yea its always better talking to people than dont say anything

    Ok, …… now your spark a thought in my world. We run a number of different sites. Maybe I’ll have them argue with each other and hence manifest a show for visitors. Maybe I’ll try to get Jerry Springer to referee a little too.

    Thanks for the spark,
    Thomas Anthony
    Facility Support Services
    Coupons and Codes

    avatar Olusegun Adewola Isaac says:

    You have recruited another follower through your direct to the point message.
    I will reach you soon by reading your articles and commenting.
    Segun Adewola.

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