A tried and tested method to attract attention to your site or social pages is to create controversial content. Find a topic on which you know your target audience will be divided and let the debate begin. When considering controversial content as a content marketing technique there is quite often, and quite understandably, the concern that you could destroy your brand and become a social (media) pariah! So how do you employ this method without overstepping the mark?

It’s all about the level of controversy you target. By ‘controversial content’ I’m simply referring to content which will have opposing reactions and thus spark an emotional response or debate. Obviously topics such as religion and politics do this, but so do more minor, even trivial topics such as the pronunciation of ‘GIF’.

You may think, ‘Fair enough Rachel, but are these the topics people really want to debate?’ People love debating these trivial topics, and they can actually get pretty intense. As internet marketers, I’m sure at one time or another you have found yourself amused by the raging flame wars sparked by extremely small issues.

Even the White House weighed in on the hot topic of ‘GIF’ pronunciation (see imTumblrage). And President Obama himself announced his official position on the matter.

If you think about it, it makes sense that these topics would attract more of a reaction. Not everyone will have the confidence to openly argue their political or religious beliefs on a public platform, but can stand confidently on one side of a debate which has no negative repercussions.


So by avoiding high-controversy topics such as abortion, Brexit and Donald Trump you can still create controversial content  whilst remaining squeaky clean.

What are the ‘big’ debates in your niche? Asking yourself this question is the first step to creating your own successful controversial content. You should know your niche well enough to be able to think of some ideas. Get on your industry forums and Reddit for inspiration. What trivial issues have been discussed at length? Or perhaps you know your audience well enough to think of something completely new.

Affiliates within the body building niche should find it relatively easy to get their audience to react to a piece of controversial content, this community (and seemingly just about everyone else lately)Crossfit is not shy of talking about fitness on a public platform. Put this debate out there and let the flame wars begin; bodybuilding vs crossfit!

To make the most of the engagement which controversial content can offer, you really want to get it on socials, Facebook in particular. You then allow this content to spread quickly from your followers’ comments and reactions to their like-minded friends and onwards. Plus, Facebook is just THE place to get into a seemingly pointless debate, isn’t it?!


Pair your social post with a light-hearted blog entry detailing either side of the argument, maybe highlighting the key arguments given to each. Encourage your readers to give their opinions in your comments section. This potential for user generated content is another reason controversial content should be considered as a valuable marketing method.

Examples I’ve given so far have been the ‘this vs that’ tactic, where you propose two opposing sides with little need to choose one. This is great to get quick reactions on socials but it will likely be a little more difficult to drive this new traffic to your site. It probably works best for your own brand-awareness and social following (and yes, in turn this will have a positive effect on your site’s traffic anyway).

If your main goal is to use controversial content to drive traffic to your site, you may want to try an alternative tactic. This method is going to take a little more work but should be worth it when you’re left with a valuable, popular piece of content. This time it’s vital that you take one side of the argument; take an opposing stance to a popular belief within your niche and propose an alternative viewpoint.

This content will need to be well planned and well executed. Your reputation is at stake, so you don’t want to be making statements which you can’t back-up within your content. People may come down in favour of what you say but others are going to dispute it, especially if it’s something which has been believed to be true for some time. This is fine. Actually, it’s exactly what you want them to do, build a little hype around the content.

If done correctly, you will have backed up your controversial statement with research and evidence. This is what allows you to maintain a bulletproof brand despite taking a side or making a contentious statement. Your audience is therefore not arguing against you but disputing the data instead, allowing you to deflect any backlash towards the studies or data.

Working on my previous ‘bodybuilding vs crossfit’ example, you could adapt this same idea to create something like ‘Bodybuilders Should Learn THIS From Crossfitters’. This flies directly in the face of bodybuilders’ opinions of crossfit, thinking it’s all complete nonsense and ineffective. If you could research and identify a benefit of crossfit, a reason why people who do it are superior to bodybuilders, then you’ve hit the controversial content jackpot! Remember to use your data to backup your claims for when the backlash comes (and it will come with this one, believe me)!

Simply by following this advice you could run a controversial content marketing campaign in your niche and reap all the rewards with zero risk of unwanted backlash or any damage to your brand.


Start thinking about what could cause controversy in your niche (or steal my ideas if yours is bodybuilding – seriously, I won’t be using them)! We’d love to hear about your experiences with controversial content as a marketing method so please feel free to share in the comments section below.