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October 26, 2011

How Not to Suck at Controversial Blogging

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You’ve probably heard that writing controversial blog posts is a sure-fire way to attract new readers. You’ve also probably heard it dismissed as a gimmick. Well, just because it’s a gimmick doesn’t mean it won’t work – you just have to be careful how you use it.

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If done correctly, the short-term attention generated by your controversial blog post can be used to expand your blog’s readership and attract links. Here’s some tips on how to create a solid blog post when attempting to tackle a controversial topic.

Choosing a Controversial Post Topic

Pick a topic in your blog’s niche, or at least related to it.
The whole idea is to convert new visitors into regular subscribers, so you want to attract the kind of visitors who would be interested in reading your blog on a regular basis.If the topic has nothing to do with the rest of your blog, those visitors will move on to something else.

Remember that controversy = divided opinion + emotional investment.
If your topic stirs up emotion but you take a popular stance, you’re not being controversial. Likewise, if you defend the minority opinion but no one is deeply invested in the argument, there’s no controversy there, either.

Pick a position you actually believe in.
Don’t play devil’s advocate or take the less popular stance just because it’s less popular – find an issue where your position runs against the mainstream. People are going to subscribe to your blog because they respect what you have to say and how you say it, whether or not they agree with you. If your viewpoint is inconsistent from post to post, readers will think you’re not genuine.

Writing a Controversial Blog Post

Don’t just state your uneducated opinion; present facts and then comment on them.
The more logical your argument, the more your readers will need to engage with your ideas in order to comment back. An opinion asserted without evidence can be dismissed easier than a well-constructed argument backed with empirical facts.

Don’t try to be definitive.
Your argument shouldn’t be airtight, nor should you try to address all possible counterarguments. You’re trying to kick off a dialogue, not write the perfect essay. Leaving holes in your argument will help ensure someone will feel the need to point them out to you in the comments section.

Publish your controversial post at the beginning of the week.
There’s a reason bad news is always announced on Fridays, after the markets have closed and everyone has gone home: the hope is that the media will forget about the bad news over the weekend and have something fresh by Monday. So, do the opposite. Publish on a Monday so your post can go viral all week instead of fizzling out over the weekend.

As with all gimmicks, controversy quickly loses its effectiveness if overused.
Space out the posts you hope will attract controversy. If you advertise your new posts via Twitter, Facebook or other social media, then promote your controversial posts to a much greater extent than the others. That way, even your regular readers will know these posts are special.

Defending Your Controversial Blog Post

Stand your ground.
Once comments start coming in, you’ll have posters insulting you, your blog, your dog, your dog’s blog, etc. That’s great! It means you got a reaction out of a complete stranger, so your controversial blog post is working as intended. Unless they’re abusive or otherwise violate your posting guidelines, don’t delete those negative comments – wear them as a badge of honor.

Don’t get personal.
Anonymous posters have nothing to lose if they make themselves look like total jerks. You, on the other hand, are trying to attract new readers and elicit thoughtful comments. So keep in mind that there’s a difference between respectfully disagreeing with your readers and baselessly insulting them, dummy.

Respond to only the highest quality comments.
You want to reward the folks who actually take time to engage with your argument, whether or not they agree with you. After all, they’re more likely to tell others about your blog post or link to you from their blogs. And the longer you keep the conversation going, the more long-term readers you’ll attract.

So, what did I forget? What did I get completely wrong? Any examples of controversial blog posts done well, or done poorly? Respond below and I’ll try not to be a jerk.

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3 responses to “How Not to Suck at Controversial Blogging”

  1. Simon writes:

    Its very difficult to defend a controversial post… you will get dozens of comments and you will spend most of your time rpelying to messages. Being a low profile blogger that provides useful-original content is the best strategy.. Nice article with great points.Thanks

  2. Carlos FG writes:

    When it comes to blogging and especially on controversial subjects you have to be 100 sure that you own the story…if not themn you are in big trouble…

  3. Carlos FG writes:

    Why risk your online reputation to post controversial issues…?



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