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Creative Commons License Andy Piper via Compfight

Normally I write about health, real food, and motherhood.  But today I decided to take a little break from that to write about blogging.  Odd…I’m blogging about blogging.  But this is an issue that affect bloggers and non-bloggers alike, and something I think needs to be said.

There’s been a bit of controversy in the blogging world lately, in my niche.  Some bloggers have been publishing deliberately provocative, controversial posts to get attention.  I’m not going to link to them, because in my opinion they don’t need any additional attention….

I get it.

We all desire traffic.  We all want our rankings to go up.  We all want our subscribers, Facebook fans, and Twitter followers to come to us in droves.  We want people to talk about us, and link to our content, and write about our content.  I do too.  If you’re a blogger, or are considering starting a blog, you probably do too.  But I think these deliberately controversial posts are not the way to go about it.  At all.

But You Write on Lots of Controversial Topics!

Yes, that’s true.  I do.  I haven’t been a bit shy about taking on vaccines, homeschooling, breastfeeding, and so on.  And I never will be.  I don’t think that avoiding the subjects is the right answer, either.  If you have a strong stance on something, then talk about it.

The thing is, I try really hard to write about these controversial topics gently, with grace and understanding towards those who don’t agree.  I don’t take an “I’m-right-you’re-wrong” position.  I discuss topics openly and encourage people to do their own research and make decisions that are right for them.  This is a good thing.

What’s wrong is taking a strong position and pitting yourself in opposition towards those who don’t exactly agree with you.  “Those darn vegetarians…they’ve got it all wrong!  They should eat meat!” rather than “I believe that eating meat is healthy and the right choice for my family.”  The first inspires a lot of anger and frustration and probably, any vegetarians on the fence will no longer listen to anything you have to say.  The second, though, inspires understanding and curiosity.  You might not change any minds…but you might.  Who knows.  At least it’s possible with the respectful approach!

I strive to respect my readers.  And I hope that comes across in my approach.

Building Lasting Traffic, Building Community

I’m not in blogging just to get a few hits.  I’m not in it to drive my numbers up like crazy and get people sharing — and slandering — me across the blogosphere.  I’ve been there, and it wasn’t pretty.  Strangers or not, it’s hard to sleep at night knowing that a lot of people are very angry with you. And online, they’re really not afraid to tell you how they feel…in exquisite, heart-breaking detail.  I’ve had my share of mean comments and I don’t like it.

(Side note: think before you type.  Re-read what you’ve typed and think about it before hitting ‘send.’  Especially if you’re really angry.  Take a break, walk away, take a deep breath…make sure you get your feelings across without attacking the blogger.  A real person on the other side of the screen has to read your words, and will likely take them to heart.  It might make you feel better to ‘blow off some steam’ if you’re mad about what they said, but it might weigh on them for days.  Say it privately to a friend, or write a comment you don’t actually send.  A good rule is, if you wouldn’t say it to their face, don’t post it to their site.)

Anyway.

I want to build a lasting, supportive, knowledgeable community.  And I have.  I’d love to see it grow…but it will, in time.  The community grows because people feel understood and accepted.  They feel like they can get the knowledge they need without judgment.  I have a diverse community that includes Christians, Pagans, Paleo, vegetarians, vegans, homeschooling families, public schooling families, straight, gay, liberal, conservative, home birthing, hospital birthing, vaccinating, non-vaccinating, and so on.  All of these people have come together and co-exist peacefully because they have certain aspects of their lives in common.  We can discuss those aspects and learn together without feeling the need to fight about what we don’t agree on.

I like it that way.

A community where people feel a sense of belonging and a sense of peace, a place where they can come back again and again to ask questions and read new information is the kind of blog I want to have.  It’s incredibly rare that someone says to me “I can’t follow you anymore, this is just too far outside my beliefs.”  They don’t need to, even if that’s true, because I don’t need to make an issue out of disagreement.

Controversy brings hits.  Greater hits than my way, especially in the short term.  But it doesn’t build any kind of community.  People constantly feel angry and frustrated.  They’re constantly arguing with one another and insulting the blogger(s).  There’s a lot of negativity, a lot of hate.

I know for a fact that some bloggers who try this out get a lot of hits in the short term.  But I also know some have seen their traffic take a nosedive once they began doing this regularly.  Their followers were turned off to the one-sided, rather insulting perspective being offered.  People spoke badly about them all across the internet….  (This is why I’m not naming names.  I’m not going to engage in that.)

Short Term Gain, Long Term Loss

I guess if you want to try to whip yourself and your audience into a frenzy by posting provocative posts and making people angry, that’s your choice.  I think it’s a short term gain (lots of attention) and long term loss (you won’t really gain many “fans” doing this).

Plus, if you choose to take this route, you have to constantly come up with more and more over-the-top subjects to discuss, and get more and more heated and offensive.  I know — I tried it out myself.  It breeds a lot of stress.  The stress comes from dealing with the anger of the readers, as well as constantly having to figure out what to write next.  What will get a bigger reaction.

It can also lead to competition with other bloggers — trying to top their traffic, top their controversial material.

But why?  That, too, can shoot you in the foot.  I love to collaborate with other bloggers.  If you choose to compete instead, eventually others will not promote you, and your traffic will go down.

Strive to move more slowly, if needed, and build traffic by positive, wonderful information.  If you have something unique and excellent to share, people will read!

For a good example of this, take a look at Frugally Sustainable.  To my knowledge, she’s never posted a single controversial topic (at least a negative one), and she’s absolutely sky rocketed in popularity.  It was a combination of practical, excellent information and an engaging, positive style that shot her up in popularity.  And you know what?  Her community is going to stay because she continues to provide more of the same.

That’s what I want, too.

What do you think about controversial blogging, as a reader or blogger?  If you’re a blogger, do you do it?


This is the writings of:

Kate is wife to Ben and mommy to Bekah (6.5), Daniel (5), Jacob (3), and Nathan (1.5). She is passionate about God, health, and food. She has written 7 cookbooks and a popular book entitled A Practical Guide to Children's Health. She also recently released Healing With God's Earthly Gifts: Natural and Herbal Remedies, which teaches people to use natural remedies to keep their families healthy. When she's not blogging, she's in the kitchen, sewing, or homeschooling her children.

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9 Comments

  1. I’m with you on this. Here’s the thing…

    I was an internet marketer before I became a blogger on Homesteader Kitchen. And one of the things that is taught over and over, but misinterpreted many many times, is the idea that it is good to write posts that are controversial.

    Controversy gets people talking. It gets people thinking about their positions. I started on my “real food” journey because of a pretty controversial discussion about why grains are not actually that good for you.

    There are certainly good things about writing controversial posts. The intention, however, should not be to incite your reader, but to reach those of your readers who have secretly always felt that way but were afraid to say anything, or to inform people that what they think is truth might not actually be all that true. Case in point – the controversial topics that you address on your blog are done in a graceful fashion without vitriol, mind games, or pretenses of “I’m just telling how *I* feel.”

    Controversial blog posts that lash out, that are intended to incite, that use assumptions and straw man arguments to prove a point, etc. are unfortunately what some people end up resorting to, and it’s a shame. Yep, I agree – they get that spike in traffic, but unfortunately there’s also a loss of respect there on my end. If I’ve been reading or following a blog for a while and starting to think that this person knows their stuff, posts like that will be a big turnoff for me.

    There are a couple well-read (bigger) blogs in our niche that are like that, where I’ve noticed that the author either posts controversial posts just for controversy’s sake, and/or they tend to respond to dissenting comments with a rude and abrupt manner. Those kinds of behaviors make me lose respect pretty quickly, which is a shame.

    Reply

  2. I appreciate your posts, and the open way in which you write them. Like all people, I think you have a harder time accepting criticism in the comment section and sometimes that can come across more “controversial.” I understand that though, I have gotten engaged in a debate online over something I strongly believed and I was literally seeing red!

    One thing that made me chuckle, I am sure you have a few readers who identify themselves as “pagans,” but you also have a number of agnostics, atheists or non-believers who don’t appreciate being labeled a “pagan.” I am a humanist, plain and simple, not a pagan.

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  3. I try not to write controversial posts on purpose but since I have strong beliefs, many of them are to some who disagree with me. I always try to say my convictions with grace, however, knowing that some will disagree with me. You will always offend some people when you hold to some truths that you believe and that is okay but I certainly don’t write my convictions as a way to have controversy or generate traffic.

    Reply

  4. I mostly lurk here, but I just wanted to say that you’re right. I keep coming back and reading your posts because, even when I don’t end up agreeing with the conclusions you draw, your stance on an issue, or the way you do things, I always feel like I at least learned something because your posts are so thoughtfully written and usually thoroughly researched. So. Keep up the good work!

    And, to add, I think I lurk more than comment often because I hate being critical in the comments and, as I said, I often end up disagreeing. I’m very sensitive to criticism and I know how hard it is to take, even when it’s kindly worded–and you just don’t get tone of voice in the typed word! On the other hand, when thoughtfully and carefully done, those sorts of responses can be very valuable. I got to know one of my best internet friends after emailing her with a critical response to a guest post she wrote–but it was a private response, I let it sit before I sent it, and I was very careful to make sure to soften my words and tried to convey, as best as possible, that I was questioning her words and offering guidance from my own viewpoint, but not being personally critical or attacking. It’s a tough balance, though!

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  5. I agree … It’s of the utmost importance that we treat everyone with respect. Important points need to be made, vital issues must be addressed, but we can all be civil and respectful while doing so :-).

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  6. I know of which posts you speak and it pains me that bloggers feel the need to stir the pot and create divides all in the name of ego and numbers. I much prefer to read posts like yours which address tough topics in a gentle, approachable, and palatable manner. I try to always do the same on my blog. It is NEVER my way or the highway. There is a lot of wiggle room around my opinions and experiences.

    We are all learning and growing together and hopefully trying to increase awareness and being about change. Writing controversial pieces for attention is only going to detract from our overall mission at the end of the day. These bloggers really are doing more harm than good.

    Reply

  7. Continual controversial bloggers don’t gain my readership for very long. I appreciate the fact that you write with humility, respect, and grace. You handle “hot topics” gently. In particular I’m thinking of your series on vaccinations. I didn’t read all the posts (as I don’t have kids), but what I did read was well-balanced and researched. You often shared the oppositions views as well. I know that when I DO have kids, I will be coming back to your posts as part of my vaccination research.

    I appreciate the way you write your blog. Thank you!!!

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  8. Amen to this! I have been wanting to write something very similar as of late. You are right, things have really started to get out of hand on certain popular blogs in this niche. Thank you for being a place of calm and reason in the storm, I always enjoy the way you write.

    Reply

  9. I don’t care for the controversial blogs. There is enough vitriol on the internet—and while searching for forums and blogs on the things that affect my life, I have found many that are just mean and nasty—fellow mom’s who can’t wait to cut down anyone that doesn’t agree with them. That just makes me ill. We can all be harmonious and still do things differently or believe different things. I am one of the posters who is a “Pagan”, so just by admitting that I’m generated controversy and I don’t want it, you know? I appreciate your blog and Facebook presence. I’ve been a mom for 25 years so I try to help when I can to offer advice as a person who started out as a run of the mill mom but became more crunchy as I got older and wiser. I am no where near as crunchy as some, but crunchier than most of the people I know, so I’m just controversial all the way around—sometimes I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t. But I appreciate this group because even though I’m probably older than most of the people here—I’m still learning! Thanks!

    Reply

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