Just the other day, I wrote a controversial blog post. I don’t usually write blog posts that are controversial, but I thought it would be a fun experiment to see if these kinds of posts are worth writing from a traffic and revenue perspective.
What was the controversial post I wrote? It was called Why Successful People Are Douchebags. Before you jump to any conclusions, let me say that the post was about why many people think successful entrepreneurs are douchebags, when in reality, they are not.
Entrepreneurs typically enjoy helping other people. You just need to understand how to communicate with them effectively as they have busy schedules.
So, how did this post do? And is it worth writing controversial posts?
Controversial posts can hurt your brand
Typically, when I write a blog post, I get 11 to 27 emails from readers like you, thanking me for the great content on Quick Sprout. The emails usually look something like this:
Neil, your post on content marketing is awesome! I haven’t been able to grow my blog traffic, but I am going to try the tactics in your post to see if it helps.
Thank you for the tips!
But with the controversial post, I only received three positive emails. Even then, they weren’t as positive as the emails I normally get:
I laughed when I read the subject line and admired your courage in using it.
Who is NOT going to click on a headline like that????
I just love you. I love that you’re not afraid to use that subject line. Kudos to you, I am inspired!!!!!
Most of the emails I received were very negative such as:
Are you out of your mind? cancel this email.
Do you know what a douchebag really is? I’m guessing you do.
If so, why would you use that term? I know the “kids” think it’s funny, but they also have other terms I would never use in a business email.
I’m hard to rattle. Yeah, you got my attention. But not in a good way!
I do not want to see the word “douchebag” in the subject line of a message in my inbox.
Please remove my email address from your list.
And even worse:
I just learned that I am not your “ideal” customer. I was referred to you by someone I think, generally, passes on decent resources—and perhaps you are offering some decent information; however, I’m totally turned off after this email. Douchebag? Really? A piece of home medical equipment used, almost always, to douche (or rinse) a vagina. Now, Neil, I realize this has become a very common term in America lately but I personally think it’s more distasteful to use than say, referring to someone as an “asshole.” That’s just me.
I’ll be unsubscribing (and not referring you) because I’m really not interested in getting email on my professional machine (and one that lies open at home to my kids eyes sometimes) with the word, “Douchebag” in the subject line (or “asshole,” for that matter).
Just some feedback to consider.
Good luck and adieu,
From a personal or a corporate branding perspective, it can be risky to write controversial blog posts. Even if the post itself isn’t negative – only its title is, you can’t assume everyone will read the post to find that out. Many people will just make assumptions based on your title.
Controversial posts produce more unsubscribers
Every time I write a blog post, I mail it out to just over 100,000 people. It’s how I drive instant traffic to any new post and generate social shares, comments, and sales.
When I wrote the controversial title, I was hoping that my email open rate would increase, but it stayed roughly at 26%, which is what it usually is.
What was interesting was the unsubscribe rate.
Every time I send an email, a percentage of my readers unsubscribe. This is common, and it happens to all companies. But my unsubscribe rate after the controversial post was three times higher than my unsubscribe rate after a regular post.
Controversial posts drive more traffic
On the bright side, this post did extremely well compared to a regular post when it came to traffic. The post got an extra 4,061 visitors compared to a normal Monday blog post. To top it off, my social media traffic was higher by an extra 1,682 visitors, which is 134% more than my normal Monday social media traffic numbers are.
From a traffic perspective, it will probably be my most popular post for the month. I’m not sure how it will do in the long run, but if I were monetizing the site from an advertisement perspective, the extra visitor count would work in my favor.
Controversial posts can hurt your revenue
Although the post did well from a traffic standpoint, the income for the day dropped drastically. Compared to a normal Monday, the income dropped by 26%, which is a lot, considering there were more visitors to the website on that day.
To make matters worse, the income for that day was even lower than for the days when I don’t publish a blog post – by roughly 4%.
The reason controversy can affect your revenue in a negative way is because it affects how people view your brand. If they start seeing it in a negative way and associate it with bad things, you are likely to lose the trust of your visitors and make less money.
Although my controversial post had more negative effects than positive, I would say such posts are worth writing if you run a consumer-based blog that makes revenue from its advertisements.
Assuming you aren’t being too controversial, advertisers shouldn’t have an issue, and the increase in traffic will help you generate more revenue.
But if you aren’t monetizing from the ads or if you are in the B2B sector, you should consider staying away from controversy. Sure, it can drive more traffic, but the damage it does to your brand and the loss in revenue you will experience are typically not worth it.
Do you think it is worth writing controversial posts?