Need More Links and Social Shares? Try Making More Enemies

image of a woman boxer

This is the sixth post in the “Content Connections” series.

So by now you know that real links (the kind you earn, not the kind you pay for) and social sharing are key components of natural SEO.

And by “natural” I mean “the kind that still works.”

So you’re busting your tail to:

  • Create really good content,
  • To get a decent headline on it,
  • And to cultivate your online network to get the word out

That’s often enough to get some momentum going. But if you aren’t seeing it yet, there might be a critical piece of your message that’s still missing.

You might not have enough enemies yet.

Now this strategy can be wildly misused. And if you get it wrong, you’ll do more harm than good.

But when you get it right, you fill one of the last pieces of the organic SEO puzzle — and just like every element of good SEO, it works for your audience and customers even better than it works for search engines.

You have to stand for something

A few months ago, my kettlebell trainer shared a fascinating post from a blogger named Amber Rogers, whose blog is called “Go Kaleo.”

The post pulled me in with an engrossing story. It was about a subject I’m very interested in — fitness and nutrition.

And it had a point of view. A sharp, smart, well-defined, and rather snarky point of view.

A point of view that challenged the status quo — but thoughtfully. (And supported by evidence, which is always refreshing.)

The more I found out about Kaleo, the better I liked the content. I “Liked” the Go Kaleo page on Facebook and started commenting and sharing.

I notice that some of my own friends on Facebook are now following Go Kaleo … and sharing her work with their networks.

Taking a stand attracts attention. But you need more than attention.

You can’t just be a contrarian jackass

I think we’ve all read content from acid-tongued critics who don’t seem to have ever actually built anything.

People who are addicted to phrases like “punch in the face” and “go die in a fire.” They’re often clever and very funny. They have no trouble gathering links or shares … but it’s not in service of anything.

They pull our interest in … sometimes in a pretty sick way.

But they build nothing. They create nothing. They offer nothing. They only tear down.

Attention is not the same thing as authority.

When you claim authority (not bogus “guru” authority, but real leadership), you’re constructing something. If you aren’t solving a problem for your audience, go back to the drawing board until you can.

Not everyone who builds is a nice guy. Steve Jobs wasn’t a particularly nice guy. But he was no troll, either. He built a hell of a company … one that added to people’s lives, instead of sucking energy into an endless attention black hole.

Find your tribe, or create a new one

Here’s Amber Rogers’ self-description from her blog. Notice that it doesn’t define her so much as it identifies who she serves.

… trouble-making cheerleader of the boot-strappers, the over-comers, the kool-aid rejectors, the post baby body-reclaimers, the eaters and movers, the strong and powerful, and most of all, the critical thinkers.

Figuring out your big idea — your positioning — is about what you stand for, but it’s also about who you aren’t.

Go Kaleo isn’t shy about making enemies. Rogers talks about the traditional dietary industry as “predatory.” She talks about the “bro science” that informs a lot of popular fitness sites.

She’s a warrior, and she seems to thoroughly enjoy duking it out on behalf of her tribe.

She is fearless, and I think that lack of fear comes from knowing that her content is in service to her audience. She offers constructive, positive advice as a counterweight. And she encourages her audience, always, to think for themselves.

When you know what you stand for, you’ll know how to frame everything you create. You may not be quite as confrontational as Go Kaleo, but you won’t be afraid to speak up, either.

The SEO benefits are great … those who love you will talk about you, and those who can’t stand you will talk about you even more.

But far beyond the SEO benefits, you’ll be serving your audience. And that’s always the best foundation to build on.

This is part six of the Content Connections series

This post is part of a series on making connections with other web publishers — the kinds of connections that will serve your business.

It’s the other half of content marketing — what happens after you’ve created something worth reading.

To get the full series, just stay tuned here at Copyblogger. If you haven’t already, why not subscribe by email so you’ll be sure you don’t miss any of the posts.

You can read the first five posts here:

  1. What Michael Phelps’ 19th Olympic Medal can Teach You About Smarter Online Marketing
  2. Score More Traffic, Subscribers, and Buyers by Discovering Your Second Customer
  3. How to Win a Zero-Sum Game: What to Do if Competitors Won’t Link to You
  4. The Granola-Munching Hippie’s Guide to All-Natural SEO
  5. A 10-Point Plan for Connecting with Online Influencers
Print Friendly

What do you want to learn?

Click to get a free course and resources about:

Reader Comments (47)

  1. says

    Considering the content of my last two posts, although I probably wouldn’t be making lots of enemies yet, I am ruffling some feathers–and spurring people to respond as a result.

    Post about how writers shouldn’t be political on their blogs in most cases? An avid follower responds with a counter-argument.

    Post about whatever a certain novel is anti-feminine? At least one response from both sides of the issue. Off-site.

    But you also have a point about having to construct something. Challenging any old thing or being controversial is actually easy, once you throw away the fear of pushing some buttons and let yourself latch onto some less conventional ideas, but I’ll have to pour positive energy into the mix if I want to create a community that isn’t built on constant arguing.

    • says

      There is nothing easier than creating a community that’s built on arguing, especially on the internet. But it’s draining and it doesn’t really get you anything worth having. That’s the trick — not to be afraid of controversy, but also not to just be controversial for its own sake.

      • says

        I agree.

        I had a podcast guest who is quite controversial with his new book. The first comment said that he has another blog to remove from his feeds. And he didn’t even get to hear the whole podcast.

        All the rest of my readers who commented listened to the whole show and said good things about it.

        I don’t intend to make more enemies but it just happens. I love to share information to my audience and it’s up to them to take sides if they want to.

        Great post!

        • says

          Agree with that — “I don’t intend to make more enemies but it just happens.” The web is a very polarized place right now. So we might as well stand our ground, say something worth saying, and make the best of it.

          I actually *hate* all of the online squabbling, but since this is the environment we’re in, I make the best I can of it.

  2. says

    I don’t think there is anything wrong with drawing a line in the sand and sticking to your guns, no matter how unpopular it may be, provided you are ready to deal with the fallout. Strong personalities are always going to attract their fair share of crazies and crankies, so just make sure you know how to handle them. Like you said, you can’t be argumentative just for the sake of stirring the pot.

    • says

      I totally agree, Nick! Strong personalities can polarize an audience like no other, but sometimes arguments have the ability to detract value from a discussion instead of adding to it. Differing opinions are one thing, but people shouldn’t strive for controversy if the message is hateful. That’s why I strongly disagree with the term “bad publicity is still publicity,” because sometimes controversial content does far more damage in the long run. However, there’s nothing wrong with gently stirring the pot every now and then to keep things interesting…

  3. says

    This reminds me an advise my mentor use to give me:
    Try to sell to everybody and you will sell to nobody!
    The best way to build a community around you is to be yourself, to attract like minded people and to let them spread the word to others….
    And being yourself includes to take postition on topics you like and don’t like and to say what you think!
    Stay correct but don’t be afraid of telling others your opinion.

  4. says

    I’ve found the things that really challenge and sometimes piss people off are those that make the most sense. Be real and support what you believe in. People always run to see a person on fire. You’ll eventually find your supporters, but you’ll also have folks stick around just to fan the flames.
    Always enjoy your posts, Sonia.

  5. says


    This is a particularly interesting subject because I think it’s a bit of a balancing act between authority and authenticity. Part of what appeals to me about certain writers is the way they construct language and their courage to push the limits. I think one of common characteristic to the the most successful and interesting writers on the the web is their ability to invoke emotion in their readers. I think it was Julien Smith who told me there’s no worse reaction that your audience can have than indifference.

    Since you’re writing a series, I’ wanted to recommend a cartoonist in Germany that I think might be of interest to you. His name is Mars Dorian and he does some really amazing and edgy work, while also providing an insane amount of valuable branding insight to his audience. Thanks for sharing Go Kaleo :). Here’s a link to Mars site

  6. says

    Thanks for sharing the Kaleo article. Another thing that I noticed about it is her story. I can’t even count how many times I’ve read the advice here on Coplyblogger to tell stories. I guess that’s another element of good copy that she nailed.

    There is no “one size fits all” nutrition plan, just as no single workout regimen works for everyone. I am glad that she tested things out and found out what works for her. Many people don’t try at all. Healthy or fit, whatever she wants to call it, it sounds like a worthwhile experience!

    • says

      She has a great story, and heading back to Sean’s post yesterday, her story is full of emotion that brings the reader in. She’s a really good communicator, and an interesting example of someone whose primary “product” is an idea. Persuasion is about more than sales pages.

  7. says

    Standing for something. That’s the thing. If you stand strongly enough, and long enough, that should do the trick. It’s going to be confrontational to someone! You don’t have to fake it or look for something or be a jerk, as you say. The thing is to drill down to the core of your message and sort of “beat that up” until you’re heard. Can’t just dance around it.

    Anyway, of course I could be wrong, just my opinion, don’t want to offend anyone ……………

  8. says

    Your words on this from your presentation at Content Marketing World have been ringing loud in my ears for the past week! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve shared Brian’s words from that day: “You don’t need to be controversial, just take a stand on something and watch the haters come in.” Very well said. It’s not about being controversial on purpose, but about not being afraid to have a position and live by it and defend it.

  9. says

    Do you know what I have just realised? My personal blog gets less readers now I am producing nice funny posts than when I was ranting and raving on a regular basis. Maybe I need to bring Grumpy Dean (my angry persona) out to play more often. 😛

  10. says

    I appreciate that you chose to use the term “enemies” but then provided examples that convey a “stick to your guns” and “ruffling feathers” without the negative connotation usually associated. I think when you are passionate about your brand, you take on a mama bear stance, coming from that position is a great way to provoke meaningful conversations because not only are you the expert, but you are willing to care and protect what you’ve worked so hard to cultivate. Although I understand there are general SEO pluses to cultivating conversations with your enemies, I’d like to see what specific SEO benefits there would be by making enemies.

    • says

      The benefits (links and social sharing) come from the people who passionately believe along with you, with a few coming in from people who think you’re dead wrong. The point of making enemies is that it’s the natural by-product of attracting people who absolutely love what you have to say.

    • says

      You got it with your phrase, “provoke meaningful conversations.” If you’re doing that, you’re going to make some enemies, it’s just the nature of the internet.

      The SEO benefits come out of that conversation, because it fosters links and social sharing, which are important signals for Google when it determines rankings. The conversation fueled by thoughtful, strong opinion is a great way to stand out in the huge volume of noise that’s generated online.

      Does that make sense? Thanks for asking the question.

      • Charlie Gilkey says

        I just wanted to chime in to say it’s not just the Internet – it happens offline just as much, but people can’t hide behind screens or anonymity and morph into trolls and haters, so we don’t see it as much.

        Great post, Sonia!

  11. says

    Hi Sonia-
    Before I go ahead and say something controversial here 😉 – I want to say that you’re my HERO. I love reading your down-to-earth , entertaining posts. It just so happens that our “audiophile mp3″ music codec is pretty revolutionary. It seems that no matter which forum I go to write about it, some “pro-audio” guy is right there with the boxing gloves on-ready for a fight! I could be in a forum for 50-something Jewish Grandmothers and these guys will stalk me and start giving me hell.

    While I ‘m getting better at smelling when it’s time to cut and run from these characters, it’s a sad fact of life that some folks make it their “lifes work” on the Internet to slander, mock, insult and refute anything you have to say about a new product. Not because these people are really saying anything real or worthwhile-it’s just for the sheer “high” of being onstage. Pathetic.

    • says

      It’s exhausting, isn’t it? I agree, “pathetic” is the right word.

      Keep sluggin’. :) You believe in what you have to offer, and that will shine through.

  12. says

    A man is known more by the enemies he has than the friends he keeps. Someone wise said that (or something similar) It’s as true in the blogosphere as it is in the ‘real’ world. What I can’t stand are shock jocks with nothing to say and who say it loudly.

  13. says

    If we give attention to everything in life then we will end up giving attention to anything, we need to weigh the out comes and see the ones with weight and use them. We all have more enemies as compared to friends, it is the friends who keeps us going because they are more like our mentors.

  14. says

    Well that’s a nice idea. This is one way you should be able to get more online discussions about your business. But I Imagine that you have to be prepared to manage your own reputations if you get more enemies than friends and stand your ground. :)
    10x for the article :)

  15. says

    This is a set up I really needed and thanks a lot you dropped by to give such an inspiring stuff. I really found it more interesting and helpful. It all needs one to be herself/himself in this kind of matter to gain success at the end! Your write sounds so educative and informative. Looking forward into sharing more with you Sonia; I love your inspiration, very perfect and attention-grabbing! Keep up.

  16. says

    True enough, when you stand for something, you create enemies and judgements. Also you pull in a bunch of other people who like your stand. Requires courage to be the one who stand for something.

  17. says

    Great posts here! So far I read this one, and “Write an Article in 20 Minutes”. Both were very inspiring! Will comeback for more. (I just started blogging.)

  18. says

    Thanks Sonia. Another great post among your other posts.

    Actually, this really gives me an idea to becoming a “jerk” blogger from now on. I can’t believe that i need to read this article so i can finally think of becoming a critical blogger. I agree with your opinion here. Blogosphere will always need new critical bloggers that bring not just critics, but also other new ideas or opinions that can enhance people’s live.

    Thanks Sonia for your awesome post. Really.

Comments are open for seven days. This article's comments are now closed.