Most search results today are dominated by a single type of content marketing: big, sprawling “ultimate guides.” These behemoth posts often contain thousands of words, with dozens of keywords crammed into titles, headers, paragraphs, and metadata.
As a younger content marketer, I churned out these ultimate guides on a weekly basis, creating dozens of articles just like this one: The Ultimate Guide to SaaS Pricing Models, Strategies & Psychological Hacks.
On the surface, it seems like a winning article. Even today, it ranks for over 1,100 keywords. It drives tens of thousands of visits. But there’s a crucial data point missing: For a full year after publication, this article—and others like it—generated exactly $0 in new revenue for our agency.
With hindsight, I recognized the problem. It’s not enough to attract people to your company. It’s not even enough to attract the right people at the right time.
There’s a missing element: trust.
To generate revenue, to turn anonymous visitors into happy customers, you need to demonstrate expertise. You need to build your credibility and your authority in the subject matter.
Most SEO content—like my ultimate guides— sucks at building trust:
As a younger content marketer, I assumed that content marketing and SEO were one and the same—that every article needed to look like this ultimate guide.
But I was wrong. There’s another, better way.
By way of contrast, here’s an article from Hiten Shah: Why Trello Failed to Build a $1 Billion+ Business. Within a handful of days after publication, Hiten’s article racked up over 150,000 views. It generated over 100 backlinks. It even went viral on Hacker News.
While most visitors to my ultimate guide hit the “back” button and forgot about the article almost immediately, Hiten’s article has been discussed, analyzed, and shared for years after initial publication. Dollars to doughnuts, it’s had a much greater business impact.
It did this by doing the exact opposite to my tired “ultimate guide”:
These traits mean that opinionated content, like Hiten’s article, is strong where SEO content is weak.
While most SEO content is great for generating compounding traffic, it struggles with a host of other goals.
It’s situationally useful, designed to help a particular person at a particular moment in time, and there’s no incentive for the reader to share it with anyone else.
It struggles to generate leads because it doesn’t demonstrate expertise. It’s not interesting enough to grow an audience, and it makes it hard to share your brand messaging because you’re constrained by the information the keyword needs you to cover.
Opinionated content doesn’t have these limitations. Though it doesn’t benefit from steady search traffic, strong opinions encourage sharing and generate backlinks.
It generates leads by demonstrating real expertise. It’s interesting enough to keep readers reading, and it’s great for sharing company messaging.
Experimenting with opinionated content doesn’t need to be complicated. You can start with one article, and four simple steps.
Start by listing 20+ “truisms” from your industry: the common ideas that most people take for granted and assume to be true.
You can find these truisms in the “best practices” touted by your peers, in your own common assumptions, in competitor marketing material, in your sales conversations—you name it.
In my industry, content marketing, some truisms include:
Brainstorm as many truisms as possible, then prioritize ideas that:
The next step is to construct your counter-narrative. Look for edge cases where your truism doesn’t hold up, challenge faulty logic, and use real-world examples to argue against them.
Using our content marketing truisms from before, we might formulate three counter-narratives as follows:
Armed with your counter-narrative, you then have the task of persuading readers that your new, contrarian opinion is true.
At Animalz, we use a centuries-old philosophical framework called Hegelian Dialectic, creating a persuasive argument using the thesis-antithesis-synthesis article structure:
To help your article to take off and your opinion to take hold, you can use a coined concept: “A memorable catchphrase that encapsulates your ideas and arguments.” Three useful sources of coined concepts are:
Without SEO to fall back on, it’s important to be deliberate with your distribution channels. We’ve found that opinionated content performs well through three primary channels:
With SEO content, it’s easy to rely on compounding traffic and keyword rankings as measures of success—but these metrics rarely tell the whole story and even distract from the fact that few of those visitors ever actually become customers.
Opinionated content relies on qualitative measures of success, but these measures are often more concrete than traffic figures.
You’ll know when opinionated content is working because you’ll feel its impact. Sales prospects will reference your content, repeating back your ideas and opinions.
The industry at large (and even your competitors) will start to echo your coined concepts and debate your opinions. You’ll experience what we refer to as a “natural upswelling” of brand awareness: Your opinions begin to permeate your entire industry and shape it in your favor.