Getting Controversial with Your Content

Written by Nick Stamoulis

A few weeks ago I wrote a post called “Search Rankings a Dead.” I wrote it because I was inspired by the topic of another blog post I had found on Search Engine Land (a great SEO industry blog) called “Search Rankings are Dead: Long Live Search Placements.” I don’t think it’s any great secret that I think rankings aren’t a good metric of SEO success, but I get a lot of clients fighting me on it. I thought if I wrote a post and sited Search Engine Land I could show my full-service and SEO consulting clients that I am not the only professional in the SEO industry feels this way. I got a lot more from that one blog post than I ever expected.

I like to keep tabs on my sites’ analytics to see if there are any major spikes or dips and try to ascertain what may have caused them. I noticed that the day after that post went live the Search Engine Optimization Journal got over 3,500 new visitors and 150 people signed up for the Brick Marketing SEO Newsletter. Now those numbers are way above the daily average so I started digging around—what had happened to cause such a jump? It didn’t take long to see that that one post was having a major impact. It sent 900 visitors from Facebook and was Tweeted and reTweeted hundreds of times; I even got 40 visitors from Google+! In essence, this blog post went viral! I started scanning through the comments to see why this post had resonated so much with my readers. One comment in particular summed it up:

…you cannot discount what Nick is doing in the article beyond delivering the content and information. He has to also make it interesting, maybe even a little controversial (like this article) so that people will actually want to read his content. With a title like “How to Combat Personalization and Retain Your Rankings / Obtain Visibility” I would maybe read it, maybe not depending on how much I needed to know about the ‘how-to’ topic at the time. However, with a title like “Search Rankings Are Dead” then whoa! wait a minute, I HAVE to read that! You cannot discount the marketing factor. With our short short short attention spans these days, you have to have a catchy title to draw people in or they’ll never even give it a chance.

I hadn’t intentionally sat down to write a controversial piece of comment, but with such a dramatic title (thanks to the Search Engine Land article!) that is what it morphed into. I try not to be the type of guy that rocks to boat for the sake of rocking the boat, but I think that commenter made a great point—sometimes a catchy and controversial title is the only thing that is going to make your content stand out. Even great content needs a little help getting people to pay attention to it, so maybe taking a slightly controversial approach is just the ticket.

If you do decide to write a controversial piece of content now and again, be prepared to back up your stand (hopefully you can find other authority figures that agree with you) and deal with potential fallout. Controversy will undoubtedly spark a debate and get people really fired up. Don’t be controversial just for the sake of being controversial, that might actually hurt your brand in the long run.

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