Controversial content is in demand and it’s driving more traffic and ad dollars to websites and brands than ever before. Visit any top website like CNBC, Forbes or ESPN, and you will see the sites littered with native advertising and paid content placements for the latest celebrity news, eye-catching images, and what seems like an endless supply of gossip and entertainment rumors and news.
The majority of this content is being created, simply because it works. The visitor views and ad dollars that are generated from the sites creating these controversial articles simply to grab attention is massive. You can see a few examples of this in the screenshot below.
As mentioned, when you take a look at any of the most popular sites on the internet today, you will see these types of ads and controversial content pieces all over the place. This ultimately comes down to the supply and demand for ad space, and who is willing to pay the most money for it. With such ads getting a lot of attention and very high click through rates, they earn these sites a lot of money, 24 hours a day.
It’s not just about finding sites to place such content and ad placements on, it’s also about what type of content to create as well. This is something many sites are focusing on daily, always looking for the next hot topic or idea to write about. They are making use of content designed to stir up passions in an effort to drive traffic. Controversial content of this sort works by provoking an immediate reaction in the audience – viewers will see the headline and frequently click or comment before even reading the article. It’s no wonder that such content has come to be called “click bait,” and has developed an undesirable reputation.
But can you make click bait content work for you? The short answer is, yes.
But there are rules to remember if you go the route of using controversial content.
Points to Keep in Mind when using Controversial Content
The first thing to remember is, never write or post controversial content on purpose – you can’t do this for the sake of being controversial, and attempting that will come off to the reader has fake. If you’re going to publish content on controversial topics, your best option is to post the facts with supporting documentation, and let them speak for themselves. Facts have the distinct advantage of being incontrovertible, even if they speak to a topic that is controversial.
The important thing to remember, is that NOT all clickbait is good. Yes, the clicks, views, and revenue is great — but the end result might not be. As pointed out in this article from Polygon, YouTube has been suffering with their own clickbait problems for a while now.
The next point to remember is that you are aiming to start debate, rather than plain controversy. Yes, you are posting something contentious, but the purpose is to get a debate going. Don’t post something so controversial that it’s bound to hurt feelings; rather, you want to get people talking. This is where the famous “toilet paper controversy” is successful; it elicits strong opinions, yet it is completely inconsequential.
Getting your audience talking will lead to your next goal, driving traffic. It’s related to the previous point; making your content too controversial will likely push people away. You want to find topics that provoke discussion without bitterness.
In short, these three points can be summed up in a simple rule that will always make controversial content work for you: Do Not Feed the Trolls! You’re not looking to start a fight or a flame war, you’re looking to use some controversy to start some healthy discussion and boost traffic. And that takes us to our final point about controversial content.
User Generated Content as a Source of Diverse Opinions
By its nature, controversial content is disruptive – it will shake up the normal flow of things on your website. While you can try to create such controversy with your own regular postings, we pointed out above that this is hard to do on purpose – the best controversy, that is, the most disruptive materials that generate the best SEO results, traffic, and audience response, will come from your users.
User generated content – all of the posts, reviews, and comments that your audience leaves on your site – is, without a doubt, the best source of controversial content that you can find. Your site users will have more opinions, and in greater variety, than you can form on your own. Then, you can harness these opinions and put them to work to your advantage. The wider you spread the net, the more different opinions you’re likely to find, and the better the discussion will be as a result.
When it comes to user generated content, few brands have done it better than Buzzfeed. Whether it be through their controversial articles, quizzes, or even their memes… it’s all about getting the most out of the content created by users on the site. You can see more examples of how this can best be accomplished, in this article on JeffBullas.com.
Another great way to create user generated content for your site, is through the use of social media and incorporating video and audio into your site. For example, a voice comments platform like Heyoya will foster more – and higher quality – user generated content on your site. By letting users express themselves in ordinary speech, through voice recordings, Heyoya allows a human element into the conversation.
This would definitely be a huge benefit to any websites or blogs that have an active social media or commenting audience. Inclusion of plain text, images, or video work to add additional layers of nuance. By using interactive and user-generated content on your site, not only does it bring more engagement and activity, it will likely incentivize others to follow along as well.
How to Get the Most Out of Controversial Content in 2019
As you can see, many websites and brands are taking advantage of what controversial content as to offer.
There is nothing wrong with getting creative and fun with your content, but you just need to make sure you aren’t pushing the envelope too far and breaking any rules in the process.
For best results, visit any of your favorite entertainment or news sites and see what type of native advertising is being shown on these sites. You might just get some new ideas on how you can start creating similar content, while also exploding your site traffic and revenue in the process.