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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+. Visit My Google+ Profile