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September 30, 2015

The Shock Effect: Why Content Needs to be Controversial


Content marketing is currently at the height of its prominence. But there is one big problem plaguing a large portion of today’s content; it’s all the same. Nearly every piece of content created these days has been covered again and again by various sources.

This creates a massive dilemma considering that most folks will only be willing to look as far as the first page of Google for the information they are searching for.

A 2014 study by Moz concluded that the top 10 results in Google acquire more than 71% of all organic search clicks. This means that your content needs to stand out among the crowd and offer a different narrative than what has already published.

And how does one offer a unique voice to an already well-covered subject? By taking a controversial stance. People love controversy; it piques interest and incites memorability and intrigue. Even if the piece outrages the individual, it will likely still be commented on and shared to invoke the responses of others within their community. You, of course, never want to be overtly offensive, but if you’re trying to be everyone’s cup of tea, you are no one’s shot of whiskey.

The key for businesses to produce controversial materials is to strike a balance in expressing strong opinions supported by facts so that it doesn’t backfire on your brand. If you can manage to accomplish this, controversial content can increase site traffic, social shares, comments, links, and email shares.

Let’s take a look at some of the other highly beneficial aspects of generating content that stirs controversy.

Strengthen Consumer Relationships

When contentious content is published, some of your viewers will not agree with your point of view. A small percentage may even choose to abandon your brand entirely. But truthfully, you can’t please all of the people all of the time.

The upside to this, however, is that those who agree with the stance your company has taken will feel more passionate and enthusiastic about your brand than ever before. This can be viewed simply as losing those who aren’t engaged and bonding more deeply with those who are. These folks you have fortified a relationship with are your biggest advocates and promoters.

Discussions Galore

Content with a stance is by its very nature more easy to engage with. Controversial content is a massively effective way to generate discussions, which are critical in building and maintaining a social presence. The opinionated articles you post will end up attracting many more comments and shares than any other piece of content that partakes in the same viewpoints of a dozen others around the web. If you get your audience talking, it will not only draw more attention to your brand, but it will also make the crowd involved feel more invested in your company.

Illustrate Authority

Expressing a strong opinion through your publications provides businesses the opportunity to exhibit knowledge around a subject and help your brand to become an authority figure in the industry.

Just do be sure that your opinion is backed by factual research. This way, even if many disagree with your point, it is obvious that your brand is well-versed and has heavily researched the topic at hand.

If you’re choosing controversy simply for its shock value, the tactic can have a dramatically reverse effect. It’s essential that this mixture of fact and interpretation is in balance, or your credibility will be in question.

Demonstrate Conviction

By taking a strong opinionated stance on a subject, you are showing that your brand has conviction. This type of content shows audiences that your business has certain beliefs that you are committed to and willing to stand by. This helps to cultivate loyalty to a brand through the perception of authenticity.

Brands that never take a stance on any subject appear to not be trustworthy, or seem to be overly conservative, or just outright untrustworthy. Through taking a stance, you are offering your audience a level of transparency; and transparency is something that is highly valued among consumers in today’s shrouded corporate world.

While generating controversial content can be a massive driving force to increase engagement, site traffic, and other metrics in the social realm, do keep in mind that there are certain issues where taking a stance is inappropriate. Be sure to approach controversy with a discerning eye for what can improve your standings and what could severely backfire. All the same, by producing strongly opinionated pieces backed by facts, your brand is likely to attract more attention, clicks, likes, and comments than almost any other piece you have published thus far.

What are your thoughts on controversial content? Do you believe that the benefits outweigh the drawbacks or do you find it best to stay out of the discussion altogether?


Conscious online marketer, web executive, and multi-faceted writer Tina Courtney has been creating and fostering online innovations since 1996. Tina has assisted many clients in maximizing online production and marketing efforts, and is a staff writer for SiteProNews, one of the Web’s foremost webmaster and tech news blogs. She’s produced and marketed innovative content for major players like Disney and JDate, as well as boutique startups galore, with fortes including social media, SEO, influencer marketing, community management, lead generation, and project management. Tina is also a certified Reiki practitioner, herbalist, and accomplished life coach.  Learn more on LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+.

6 Responses to “The Shock Effect: Why Content Needs to be Controversial

    avatar saman says:

    انجمن سلام سامان،انجمن پارسی

    avatar TheAppforPC says:

    Many thanks for the information and the efforts that you have made for this post.

    avatar joe12 says:

    Actually the real problem is that the Google algo gets more and more lousy. Evidence? Here: Someone is searching for: Umphang (that’s a remote Thai outdoor destination). They get this: – Where there is almost nothing except one pic and no vids.

    This one: (randomly selected) which has comprehensive content is not even in the listings. This means that the Google algo is below average and that they don’t show the good stuff to the user because they only want to show sites that place adsense ads. No adsense ads = game over. This reminds me of the current VW scandal. Exactly the same stuff and everyone who won’t play is experiencing this: > – this is evil!

    avatar Tom breen says:

    I agree with the sentiment, but most businesses, especially smaller ones, will always err on the side of caution.

    I agree with Tom about business interests being more cautious although the article is good, clearly some things go viral for a reason.

    avatar Chuck says:

    100% against this tactic, totally against common sense (which of course doesn’t exist on the net any more) and good business practices. Must’ve got this from the Fox News school of fake journalism. What, the stoopidnet doesn’t have enough arguing already, it needs more from every piece of ‘content’ now? NO! One of the biggest problems of the internet is all the fighting and stupid controversial postings just to get traffic or to vent an opinion that no one cares about (well, no sane people), which is a much bigger turn-off to reading a blog article/content piece to most sane adults than apparently some researchers think. Of course this tactic won’t apply to many businesses, and there’s NO good reason for them to start using it. The ‘reasons’ given in this article are not reliably supported or well thought out in my opinion.

    WHY would ANY business, which is what this site is aimed at, take the chance of alienating ANY of it’s current or potential customers by publishing controversial content now, when they never used to? Unless maybe it was new findings related to their niche that they can PROVE without a doubt are true, whether it’s good or bad news for others (and someone on the stoopidnet will ALWAYS argue about it). How would a business know how many of its clients/visitors would be offended by such a piece, regardless of whatever supposed facts back it up? How would they know what percentage of their ‘followers’ spend the most money with them that might stop if offended? What if you offend only ‘a small percentage’ but they spend the most money with you, and they tell their like-minded friends, etc., etc.? They won’t come back, so is it worth it just to gain some temporary traffic and have to assign someone to delete and block comments all day, every day? No. Not good business for the vast majority.

    “It’s essential that this mixture of fact and interpretation is in balance, or your credibility will be in question.” You do realize that on the stoopidnet that there’s no such thing as ‘balance’, and 80% of the users who comment are trolls (my opinion, I have no facts to back that up–oooh–controversy!) and don’t care about the facts, they just live to argue, so ‘credibility’ will be questioned no matter what ‘facts’ or reasonable arguments you lay out. Why cater to and attract them, they won’t be customers, and you’ll alienate your current ones, or they’ll get tired of the arguing comments and stop reading your future content, controversial or not.

    Most of this article is BS supposition to me. “Brands that never take a stance on any subject appear to not be trustworthy, or seem to be overly conservative, or just outright untrustworthy.” Bull. Pure guessing. So now it’s not ‘cool’ to NOT be controversial, and just do good content that supplies useful, correct info, which is what I think MOST sane people prefer? MANY older users are tired of all the fighting in every comment section everywhere, and there must be some younger users who are tired of it too. MANY businesses have no reason to ‘take a stance’ on anything, so that makes them untrustworthy? No, it doesn’t, it makes them look BETTER to me than a biz that stirs up unnecessary arguments just to get traffic.

    And who decides what’s ‘too controversial or inappropriate’? There’s far too many overly sensitive people on the net who will be offended by anything, and you have no idea how many of them may be your potential or current customers, and who will start a campaign against your opinion/facts that will hurt you way more than the increased traffic will help you. Not worth the risk.

    And with Faceblech now having a dislike button, you’re likely going to get many more dislikes from controversial posts, which isn’t going to help your rep. So why poke the bear/trolls? Social Media, which should be called UNsocial Media since that’s what 90% of it is, is a joke, and it amazes me that more people haven’t figured that out yet. Who cares how many likes or followers your FB page has? It doesn’t help your own site’s search engine rankings (regardless of some articles posted here, they’re wrong), and ties up an employee to monitor the page to control the chaos. Anything you can do on FB, Twitter, etc., you can do on your own site and have better control over your privacy and what your users do.

    The net doesn’t need more controversy, it needs less. Articles like this are not helping, and it’s an unprofessional approach to maybe gain a few more stupid ‘likes’ and followers on unsocial media that don’t matter, and just not worth the risk.

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