Controversy marketing – why it works and why you should consider it

Every now and then I see a flurry of activity around certain individuals, usually on the back of something apparently wrong or outrageous.

Shoemoney, a   big fish in a little pond whilst debating with a guy named Randfish, another big fish in a little pond caused Andy Beard, yep, you got it, another big fish in a little pond to react and address the issue as he saw it.  I think Andy has been reading a few linkbaiting articles lately as the headline is a classic “Blogging Full Disclosure Debacle – Grow Some Brass Ones” now if someone is talking about you in such a way its very difficult not to react. In fact both did, Rand commented on Andy’s Blog and Shoe blogged  on it. The other thing too is that it stirred all of these people to chime in and give an opinion or two. David Naylor Twenty Steps Hamlet Batista Search Anyway Online Business Blog BlackBeard SEO CPA Affiliates Frank Watson  Dave Taylor  Shawn Collins 

People say controversial things all of the time for a variety of reasons. Some do it because they just haven’t really thought things through, others do it because they are a little bit thick and don’t realise what they are really saying and some do it because they know it’ll have the desired effect of stirring things up and gaining a little attention.

Doug Heil used to do it all of the time. He’d start threads in his SEO forum that attacked a well known face in the crowd. He’d call them a spammer or a cheater. He’d pour scorn on sites that he considered to be spamming and call them out it. He was a classic example of a controversy marketer in action. Others have used less charitable words, but the point is for a time it worked. For a time it did actually pull people into his site and they reacted to what he said. His telling like he saw it, however controversial got people talking about him.

John Chow and his recent aim at monetising his blog commenters by charging to de-nofollow commenters links, got some a little hot under the collar, various peoplein the blogosphere questioned what he was doing. What he was doing was considered to be very controversial and got people talking about him, in fact according to Y! site explorer its encouraged thus far 108 separate new inwardlinks. Whilst he may have caused some short term consternation with his readers and conversationalists, the reality is that his blog has attracted a little more love in the form of links.

Jason Calacanis is another, he had a platform at a search engine watch conference and said that SEO is Bullsh!t he subsequently blogged on it too and said that 90% of the SEO market is made up of snake oil salesman he stirred lots of discussion as result, with the likes of Danny Sullivan calling him out on it in lengthy terms. A little look again via Y! site explorer shows his post attracted 461 separate links now 462. 

We can’t all do it of course, some of us just aren’t built that way. Most of us tend to operate within the confines of safe social discourse. We don’t have the bulls or the energy or the stupidity in some cases to run around alienating groups of people or individuals. Reputations whilst often hard fought, can so easily be undone. Hell, some people  trade very nicely on being an ass, but if you are gonna be an arse, then it seems you’d better be a 1st rate one, else you’ll be sure to see your metrics plummet as people go off of your boil and see you for the arse that you truly are.

Anyways, the good news from all this stiff is that Ive now got my own disclosure policy too, so besides being the inspiration for this post I guess I should also be thanking Andy, Rand and Shoe for that too. Thanks guys.

Rob Watts
Kickstart your business today - Get an SEO Consultation or just talk to Rob about your online aspirations. With over 20 years experience in building traffic he's pretty much encountered most markets and scenarios
Posted on: 9th June 2007, by : Rob Watts

10 thoughts on “Controversy marketing – why it works and why you should consider it

  1. You’ve really hit the nail on the head, mate. Like I mentioned in my article, it is hard to tell whether some of these bloggers are serious about what they are saying and doing, or whether they are just trying to create controversy. Great article.

  2. Great Post. I keep coming across disclosure policies and need to to one myself (soon). I think that it’s great how much link love you gave in the post. That’s the beauty of blogging

  3. For ages I have been looking for someone to get stuck into, as I love a bit of a ruck. But most bloggers act like idiots because they want the publicity, which is why I never give them the oxygen of publicity.

    However, I am not adverse to slagging off specific industries, like the directory industry.

    I think if you go down this route you have to really believe in what you are saying, else you wont last a round. You will be nose down on the canvas, blood dribbling on to your keyboard.

    If you know your stuff, if you are passionate and if you blog, sooner or later you will have a run in with someone. My advice is stay polite, stay factual, stay passionate. And at the end hopefully you will still be on speaking terms with your target.

    I think it works for Shoemoney as he really believes in what he is saying and he doesn’t give a hoot who disagrees with him, but his blog is just for fun and if yours is not I would think carefully before going on the rampage. is an interesting example of someone who takes on the big boys, although at times I am not sure of his motivation.

    It’s a tool in the toolbox, but should only be used when not under the influence of alchohol.

  4. @ man of a 1000 anchor texts 😉

    Lyndon, I hear that – its not something to be banded around with impunity. If you flog the horse too hard it’ll drop down dead. Far better to give it the odd whip across its arse, just to get it to keep up and stay with the pace. If you respect your horse, you’ll know its limits and needs. If thats the case your horse should serve you well.

    @ David – thanks David, and yes absolutely. People love to be loved after all 😀

    @ Phishie Diaz- Cheers Phishie, that graphic on your piece summed that particular aspect up very nice indeed. I guess that some people, might even like that stuff (a punch in the goolies) and come back for more every time. I think you’ve gotta respect your subscriber base. Respect doesn’t equate to that sort of behaviour, but in a world where links are king then it works – give it a month or two and most would have forgotten all about it. The links however will remain. Therein is an aspect of the power that is, controversy.

  5. I thought that was an interesting little turn of events. It was all about the debate and then Andy came out of nowhere by flogging the horse hard! lol

  6. Well, I might be the odd man out. When I happen upon an article that is nothing more than a rant, or an article just trying to stir up the excrement, I choose not to read it any further. I feel if one disagrees or wishes to raise a contrary point, that he or she would get a better readership if they used a modicum of intelligence, wit, and propriety. Too many people think they’re ‘cute’ if they go off on someone; it makes themselves feel special, important, and, yes, their site might enjoy some short-term and ill-gotten notoriety, but in the long run, I think they’ll find that they’re soon very old news.

  7. Shane – I think its fair to say that both Rand and Shoe kinda got lost in the minutae and missed a couple of key points. I wouldn’t say Andy gflogged it that hard, just got it to ride a little faster maybe 😉

  8. Hi Morgan

    Thanks for stopping by.

    I do hear what you are saying and I’m sure you aren’t alone.

    Some people actually like that kinda stuff and enjoy a bit of juicy gossip, especially if it’s something that lots of others might be thinking but m,aybe don’t have the balls to say.

    I think too that every tree needs a little shake occasionly, it prevents things from going stale. Isn’t it really all about knowing your readership and perhaps deciding what kind of reader one wants?

    Just pointing out that the contentious noisy stuff tends to generate buzz and interest and those all important links.

  9. A little controversy can go a long way. As long as character assassination isn’t employed, I am all for it. Rip away!

  10. Hey Matt, absolutely!

    There really isn’t any need to get all insultive and rude about anything. I think the smarter ones realise that too and maybe wince at some of their shall we say, more vocal utterances.It doesn’t take too many ill considered views to mount up and detract from ones whole.

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