They Said What? Tips to Reach People with Controversial Content.

Larry Alton
by Larry Alton 16 Jan, 2018

Ideas and thoughts that aren't mainstream are often considered controversial. It takes courage to publish content that challenges the status quo, or the currently accepted ideas in a given field.

Building a successful website when your content is controversial requires diligence and intentional planning; you don't want to alienate regular people or make it easy for skeptics to discredit your information. Do this right, however, and you'll generate a steady stream of visitors and even some backlinks.

You know your content is valuable and will make a unique contribution to the world, so here are three practical tips for reaching people with controversial content:

1. Always cite sources and research

As the author of a controversial website, it's your duty to provide visitors with access to as much data and research as possible. It's not enough to share your opinion and experiences; your entire audience won't necessarily know you as an authority on the subject.

Your credibility depends on your willingness to cite your sources, even for statements that seem like common sense. Always remember that your visitors may be coming to your site severely misinformed or uniformed. is an exceptional example of a website that presents controversial content well. Addressing the misconceptions about a natural, medicinal herb called Kratom, this website provides detailed information for visitors to reference.

They've published a plethora of scientific and academic research supporting the safety and efficacy of Kratom. The website directly addresses multiple misconceptions, and then provides supporting data that includes specific dates, names, and quotes from Ph.D. university professors. All of the information published can be traced to a source and verified. The site is not hiding behind generalities.

Be transparent with the facts

The LivelyMood website does one more thing extremely well. They don't hide the facts, even when it has the potential to deter people from trying what they are advocating.

No matter what the facts are, your visitors will respect you more when you're transparent. Nothing in this world is 100 percent agreeable or perfect. Trust in your visitors' ability to think for themselves.

2. Don't water down your message but choose your words intentionally

In this article from Unbounce, the author describes the science behind controversial content. The author points out the results of a study on what kind of controversial content gets shared the most. The study revealed, "[Data] shows that controversy increases likelihood of discussion at low levels, but beyond a moderate level of controversy, additional controversy actually decreases likelihood of discussion."

You'd think that more controversy would inspire more discussion, but it has the opposite effect. There is a fine line where controversy stops working in your favor. This means you need to be careful about how much you emphasize your controversial content. You don't want to water down your message, but you do want to present your message with a neutral attitude.

3. When you need to polarize content, don't shame the other side

Marketing requires polarizing content toward your target market. However, the other side doesn't need to be shamed in the process. Appealing to your market without making the "other side" wrong is necessary for success.

Although, the perception of what constitutes shaming rests heavily in the eye of the beholder. In other words, you may be unaware of how your messages are being interpreted. You might not be conveying the message you originally intended.

The UK brand Protein World found this out the hard way when they ran an ad with a skinny woman in a bikini and the words, "Are you beach body ready?"  The ad upset plenty of people who interpreted it as an implied standard of beauty. Whether the company had that in mind or not isn't clear.

The best way to test your message (before publishing) is to ask people for feedback. The best testers are people who disagree with your message. If they feel respected, but still disagree, you know your message is good. If they feel disrespected, then you should rethink your approach. Find a way to make your message stronger without bringing the other side down.

Presentation is everything

Controversial content can be the lifeblood of your website; what makes the difference between success and only causing arguments is how you present your content.

About the Author

Larry Alton is a professional blogger, writer and researcher who contributes to a number of reputable online media outlets and news sources. In addition to journalism, technical writing and in-depth research, he's also active in his community and spends weekends volunteering with a local non-profit literacy organization and rock climbing. Follow him on  Twitter and  LinkedIn.