Controversy Sells – Stir Up The Pot The Right Way

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Eminem - ControversyControversy sells!  It’s a fact and it’s been shown time and time again throughout history.  Take Eminem for example; one of the biggest influential rappers that made it big in the late 90′s.  He made it big with his controversial lyrics, explicit songs, and something that hasn’t been done before. (one of the first white rappers), aside from Vanilla Ice, which was only really a one hit wonder.   But, anyways how does this relate to blogging and internet marketing?  Learn exactly how this post on being controversial can help your blog; straying from the norm can be a rock solid approach.

It’s true stirring up the pot with your blog is interesting to read.  In fact, over the years I have seen this done over and over again.  So it’s a fact playing devils advocate can be a worthwhile approach to blogging.  So in 2013 I am going to make a bold prediction and say controversial blogging will be on the rise?

How Do We Be Controversial?

It’s save to say you don’t have to go at it with the approach of making as many enemies as possible, but if your blog has alternative viewpoints on various topics your blog has the potential to gain lots of natural backlinks (provided the content is creditable) and people enjoy your writing.

Tips For Being Controversial

  • Fact.  You have to have an argument that provides facts otherwise your argument will become less creditable and people will tune you out.  This is not what you want!  Show with rock solid facts not opinions or accusations.  Opinions are not facts so don’t confuse the two.
  • Case Studies.  Providing case studies showing that something is trending, no longer working, ect. is an awesome way to go about this.  For instance, you could do a case study showing that private blog networks or exact anchor text are no longer effective.  Probably not the best example, but it’s the first thing that came to mind.
  • Witch hunts.  Don’t make the mistake of going on witch hunts or be an instigator in order to write controversial content.  A prime example is a blog I came across ( I won’t post the link, because I don’t believe they are linkworthy), but basically this guy goes around and pretty much slams every web hosting policy and goes around bashing affiliates that create web hosting review sites.    Possibly just an angry blogger that makes himself feel better about putting down others that are successful.
  • Infographics.  These are powerful and many bloggers don’t utilize them correctly.  Rather than writing a 1,000 word article on something controversial why not make it a 350 word article with an awesome infographic which can spread like wildfire.
  • Videos.  Another visually appealing tactic is to make a video that shows why something isn’t correct.  Provide a unique video that shows you have tested a product and believe it’s really hype and doesn’t live up to it’s name.  This builds creditability and with creditability comes trust.

Keep in mind if your going to go with this approach if you actively post arguments which are not facts you can find yourself in legal trouble.  One blog I recently discovered that I really like is (check it out if you haven’t already) because yes there is some controversial content and the owner Rasmus Lindgren does a fantastic job at doing this effectively without breaking any of the rules to creating great controversial content.

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  • Rasmus

    Thanks buddy, yeah I really like to look at the numbers for myself before following what “everybody” preaches.

    So while it’s easy to swim upstream with everybody else, sometimes it’s worth going the other direction to see if that is in fact better :)

    • Garen Arnold


      I agree I am from the “Show Me State”. I don’t believe everything I see :)

  • Paul Profitt

    A few years ago,there was an Internet Marketer who called himself “The Rich Jerk” and he made loads of money by constantly telling people how poor and stupid they were and how rich he was. I must admit at the time, I wanted to strangle him,and I’m sure that I wasn’t the only one.

    • Garen Arnold

      Hey Paul,

      I have heard of that name before. Wasn’t that just a MLM scam?

      • Paul Profitt

        Hi Garen, Scam or not, all I know is that he made a lot of money from it. And he is still around you can read his crap here www dot therichjerk dot com

    • Rasmus

      Ha, I actually think that there are a lot of these people out there using this as a selling tactic.

      Have to check out the site, what a jerk :)

  • Sarah Park

    Creating a controversy is quite risky for me. I would rather have the infographics and videos, a well-organized and well-presented ones.

    • Rasmus

      Well not all people will use all the methods and some are perhaps more comfortable being a little provocative than others.

      For instance the name of my blog RetireMyAss has certainly scared of a few people.

  • Rick Lelchuk

    It’s a time tested tactic and one we all might each consider. Your points are well taken – to be controversial but not so over the top as to be offensive. Maybe, maybe not. We certainly want to steer clear of sex and religion, and if you get into politics expect to draw some toward you and push others away. Heck, you headlines could be controversial to pull people in to you. I just saw one in a local magazine that said “A Passion for Power.” What do you think that was about? Perhaps a power hungry politician or CEO? Nope, it was about the president of the local electrical generating company. Cute, and it caught my attention.

    • Garen Arnold

      Hey Rick,

      One thing I always do and I learned this from Perry Marshall is to look at Cosmopolitan magazine. Their editors do an awesome job at creating epic titles! True, stay clear of the above or you are wide open for online fights!

  • Dr. Erica Goodstone


    There may be a fine line between being controversial and being offensive. In fact, we will most probably offend someone if we make a harsh statement that goes against the general way of thinking. For example, with all the divorces, if I were to claim that the key to health is to maintain that first marriage, I would make a lot of people quite unhappy and distrusting me. It is also important to create trust. Remember that saying that people need to know, like and trust you. This may work if your style is to be controversial and people can trust that you will continue to be that way.


    Dr. Erica

    • Garen Arnold

      Hey Erica,

      Perfect example :). True if your going to be controversial you have to stick with it or otherwise people don’t trust you. I have often toyed with the idea of buying a black hearst and putting my company name on there, Dead Dog Design Inc. which could probably be seen as controversial :) Hehe

  • marquita herald

    I don’t disagree, but I do think it takes a particular personality to effectively deal with the backlash from being controversial. Last year I wrote an article I knew would probably tweak a few people but I had no idea what a firestorm it would create. I have to say not one of the comments was directed at me personally, but there was such anger (some even dragged religion into the mix!) that I decided that approach just isn’t for me. I do what I do because I want to motivate and encourage people to be all they can be – I’ve learned I’m happy letting others stir the pot :-)

    • Garen Arnold

      Hey Marquita,

      Hehe, Yep putting in something about religion and politics is just asking for trouble! I agree it does take a special personality to be controversial :)

  • Dena-Lynn

    You’re right, controversy is attractive. Whether someone chooses to chime in or not, you can bet that they’re lurking – soaking up the info from both sides. I like that you added the caveat to not to make enemies… I’ve seen that and it definitely back fires. Questioning anything in a positive light gives value and definitely gives readers food for thought to take away.

    Great insight, Garen!

    Dena Lynn

    • Garen Arnold

      Hey Dena-Lynn,

      Sure you always risk of your plans backfiring, but if done correctly it can be very powerful!

  • Donna Merrill

    Hey Garen,

    I understand the concept of being controversial. There is a fine line there where we don’t want to invite negativity. I must say that I do mention God sometimes and it may not be PC, but I really don’t care. So far, I haven’t been dissed for that yet lol.

    I would say the biggest controversial blog post I have done was not meant to be so. It was titled “why I Left the Empoered Network” It was all about me and my learning lesson of what I needed to do with an AHA moment. No dissing of the company, but I still get comments and emails to this day. So much so, I really don’t know what to do with all these people.

    I guess that was my big moment in controversy.


    • Garen Arnold

      Hey Donna,

      Yeah I remember reading that post after seeing it on countless blogs. There seems to be a ton of loyal people and then people that say it’s not right for them. From what I have heard is they charge 25 and then more and more for more training. However, once something gets so big and everyone starts doing it; it becomes less effective. Seen it time and time again and I know a lot of people would say “we have grown this far.” Almost like a pep rally or something, but I don’t need someone to tell me to work on something or motivate me. You know what I mean?

  • Willena Flewelling

    I guess I’m in trouble, cuz I’m about as non-controversial as they come! The only time I am “controversial” is when someone is in-your-face confrontational in real life and I have to take a stand or be bulldozed. And I’m glad to say that doesn’t happen very often.

    Thank you for a thought-provoking post!


    • Garen Arnold

      Hey Willena,

      Yeah I try to avoid confrontation if possible. As I think most people would rather get along than fight :)

  • Raena Lynn

    Hi Garen,

    Nicely put. You’ve given some great guidelines for someone who is considering the controversial approach. It really isn’t my style, but I wouldn’t have a problem posting a video or an infographic on a controversial subject. I’ve read controversial posts and the comments are always very interesting. You know the saying, everyone has an opinion.

    Thanks for introducing Rasmus Lindgren. I couldn’t help it. I had to check out his site. It looks like a lot of great information and he’s living the lifestyle.

    Raena Lynn

    P.S. The angry bloggers won’t last.

    • Garen Arnold

      Hey Reana,

      I live and breathe with a couple controversial post here and there. Love to mix it up and when I feel something I just write about it :) I think a lot of people don’t really like reading something where everyone agrees.

  • Lisa

    I don’t think I’ve tried that method – at least not intentionally. I did a post on which social sites to ditch and a few people disagreed and it became a controversy on Stumble Upon and Empire Avenue. I did have my own stats to go by. That post did get the most comments, so maybe there is something to it Garen!

    • Garen Arnold

      Hey Lisa,

      On the topic of StumbleUpon. Do you still use them? I have heard a mix of no and yes on them? I have heard the quality of traffic isn’t very good.

      • Lisa

        Very rarely Garen, just on occasion. I used to daily, then weekly and now just once in a while. I found traffic was not targeted at all for me. And the bounce rate as you would imagine was high too. Pinterest much better!

  • Michael Shook

    This is an interesting idea, Garen. There are a couple of things I am not sure I follow in your post, but it could be I am overlooking them, maybe you could help me understand them.
    I can see where people might be attracted to reading a post if it had a controversial headline and continue reading if the topic is controversial, but I am not sure I understand the connection between reading a controversial post and selling more of something.

    • Garen Arnold

      Hey Michael,

      For instance, I wrote a post on Hostgator and how bad their affiliate program is. Yes, this is highly controversial because tons of people use Hostgator, but it’s a widely known fact that they don’t pay their affiliates. Basically, just taking a stand on something you believe and supporting it will facts is a great way to handle controversial subjects.

      • Michael Shook

        Thank you for replying back Garen. I read your article about Hostgator, and I had not realized that they were not paying their affiliates. I had not had a problem with getting paid from them before. I had seen that they auto filled their own coupon code so that if a person I sent to the special discount link did not add my code to overwrite theirs, I would not get the commission, and that was enough for me to look for some other solution.

        If I am understanding what you are saying correctly, when you wrote this post about hostgator, you made more sales of the hosting program you represent now and that is because your post was written in a controversial way?

        • Garen Arnold

          Hey Michael,

          Yeah, they have lots of dodgy terms (Hostgator).

          As far as making more sales with the controversial post on Hostgator my intention was just to educate people of what’s going on with their affiliate program (not really on a witch hunt). Sure, people read that and want to actually get paid so they will sign up with my tier 2 affiliate link from WHH. As long as you help people and do it the right way people like to hear it. Most of the people that come to that post are upset with Hostgator because they have been duped out of a lot of money.

      • Heru Prasetyono

        If you write about a certain web host service to your readers objectively, it is good and positive for reader’s knowledge. But if you just write a controversial posting just to attract reader’s attention it will be worthless. But I am sure you write every your post based on your experiences and knowledge which are indeed quite useful for your readers.
        If a web host service does not pay the commision of the affiliates, this will be disadvantages for both the web host and the affiliates.
        Thank you for posting this valueable information.

  • Michael Shook

    That’s really too bad that a company as big as Hostgator thinks they need to beat up their affiliates. Kind of reminds me of the some of those CPA companies. That is great that you found an alternative hosting affiliate company that does their affiliates right.

  • vicky

    Hi Garen,
    Its true that people like to read something interesting and controversial writing hits the spot. Thanks for outlining the do’s and don’t of controversial writing. I got inspiration to write one and I want to use infographics as they are a powerful media to express ourselves. Thanks a ton for this post.