The Beauty of Blog Controversy

December 2, 2008

One of my biggest pet peeves on the web is when companies use their blogs as a press release repository or just a listing of local news.  They provide no insight, state little opinion, and spark zero conversation.  In short, they don't take any chances.  That's always a huge disappointment to me.

A blog is a great way to educate and engage visitors, clients, and prospects.  Take some chances, state an opinion, tell me something personal.  Don't just take the easy way out and repost your press releases or the releases of other companies.

We use our blog as a way to discuss industry trends, talk about processes at the company, brag about recognition, and voice our opinions.  The last one is what this post is dedicated to.  Joel recently posted on how he thought Gmail's new themes are a backwards step for usability.  The post instantly sparked controversy, gathering over 20 comments, the vast majority of which were lambasting Joel for his opinion and reasoning.

Now, if you are a practitioner of the boring method of blogging described earlier, you would shudder at this response, thinking that it reflected poorly on your company and getting your ego bruised.  However, a true blog should do just the opposite and embrace the controversy.  We were thrilled to see people from across the country calling Joel an idiot and criticizing his post.  We'd voiced an earnest opinion and sparked a conversation - how awesome!  There are several reasons why sparking a mini controversy with a blog is a good thing.

First, we generated an honest discussion around a recent news event.  Isn't that one of the main purposes of a blog - to interact with others and start a conversation.  Whether people agreed or disagreed with Joel, they appreciated the post enough to take time out of their day and write a response.

Second, we gained a ton of traffic from the post.  People would much rather spend time reading a piece that takes a stand and states an opinion rather than just a press release or boring post on a trivial event.  In just 24 hours after posting the article on our blog, Hacker News, and Reddit, we'd gained over 3,000 unique visitors.  In addition to the traffic, we also had many new people subscribe to our blog feed.  The post was unique enough that people decided they'd like to know more of our opinions, helping our blog gain wider readership and a better chance of our posts being passed around to even more people.

Third, we have experienced a great longtail of Search Engine traffic related to the post.  Since the post was provocative, people posted it on different networks and blogs, giving us some great SEO juice.  Now, for dozens of permutations of the search phrase "gmail new themes" we rank organically on the first page, generating dozens of visitors everyday.

We've written before about the benefits of corporate blogs, but it's important to remember you will only truly realize gains from your blog if you take chances and post interesting content.  Does anyone else have interesting stories about sparking a mini controversy with their blog?


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