Kim Jong-Il – Your Link Bait on a Platter

Is death funny? Is it appropriate to make light of another person’s demise, or to use the topic for your own purposes? So long as it’s about a kooky-ass dictator in a land far away, the answer is “Hell yes!” Kim Jong-Il is link bait incarnate… or reincarnated, as the case may be.

Most often, the pursuit of links through original content is about providing readers with real value and hoping you gradually grow your readership within your target audience. Your content is the means by which you demonstrate your ability as a thought leader, an expert, an analyst, or perhaps just a helpful person. Most articles that talk about how to “go viral” actually provide advice on how to create good content that people want to read. You should do that all the time.

This article is not about good content. This is about jumping on the trend– the meme– and appealing to the basic emotions of curiosity, self-righteousness, schadenfreude, indignation, or whatever else stirs the pot.
Go ahead and pronounce yourself above it, if you like. Maybe you don’t want to be associated with tasteless foolishness. I’m not suggesting you write a piece lambasting ol’ KJ to post on your site’s homepage, or blog, or your brand’s youtube account. You could stick with kittens.

No, seriously, you don’t even need to be the author, nor do you need to publish on your own site. Grab a writer online, or use a pseudonym for all I care. The point about link bait content is that if it catches people’s attention, it leaves a trail of link juice back to wherever you point it.

Few readers will ever care who wrote it, much less follow the link back to your site. Google, however, will notice exactly how many times your piece was shared (even on social media), and that’s what matters when it comes to link bait.

In the pre-Panda era, link bait came to mean sites that gamed the algorithm to capture traffic based on keywords that were often completely unrelated to the content of the site. They just hoped to sell things by exposing themselves to enough eyeballs, user experience be damned. You can’t really do that anymore, and most businesses and serious bloggers have no use for such schenanigans anyway.

Link bait is now about real, original and/or smartly curated content going “viral.” Whether it’s closely related to the subject matter of your business is beside the point. In fact, whatever you focus on all day is probably a wee bit too dry (or, uh, cold and damp?) to catch fire on the interwebz. Visceral reactions are the ones we share. Intellectual ones, not nearly as much.

Let’s suppose you can afford some edgy, topical humor in your content ecosystem (and the vast majority of bloggers and many online brands certainly can) there are a lot of ways to approach it — none of them guaranteed. Creating things that grab a lot of “endorsements” as links certainly requires an artful approach to the content. That being said, I strongly believe there really is a method you can use to greatly improve your chances.

Think of it as a venn diagram; the more traits you capture, the more likely you are to create something people react to, get a kick out of AND want to share. No single trait is required, but the more the better.
I’ll use the Dear Leader to illustrate.

Be Timely: Kim Jong-Il was reported dead on a Sunday. I’m writing this fewer than 24 hours later. If your topic is news-related, you’d best jump on it. Social media is faster than cable news, which is faster than network news. Wait too long and topical content is too late.

Be Trending: Not “trendy.” Trendy is probably “over.” Trendy happens after it’s caught fire for a while. News sites, blogs and the twittersphere are… a-twitter… with Kim Jong-Il right now. Ride the wave. People want to be in on it. No use in writing about breaking news that no one cares to talk about. Curate good stuff as a way to jump into the conversation, like this list of the best Kim Jong-Il parodies. You don’t need much writing talent to curate well.

Be Titillating: You want people to ask “What is THIS about?” Think long and hard about your headline. Be provocative, controversial, a little bit bad or otherwise unabashedly indulgent. You have permission to push the boundaries of good taste. Have a theory about the deceased despot’s sex life? His hopes and dreams? His fashion sense? His reflections on a life well- despicably-lived? Why he’s so misunderstood? Why the world is doomed without him? The dude was crazy – you could just about report facts and they’d be rather curious.

Be Funny: This might be the hardest part. If you’ve done a good job finding a titillating topic, the funny angle should follow. Funny isn’t necessary, but it sure helps. This Kim Jong-Il dating profile has been viewed over 100,000 times in the past two years (that’s a lot of volume for most videos, to be sure), probably because it’s titillating, but it’s not terribly funny. It ain’t no Honey Badger with 27,000,000 views , even though it took more creativity and effort to create the video from scratch. Think you need a video to be funny? doesn’t think so.

Be Familiar: I’m from Pittsburgh and for whatever reason, anything said in a Pittsburgh accent is good stuff to share. Sometimes it’s hilarious just because “it’s so true,” other times it’s nostalgic, and still other times, it gives us cover to say the rude, bigoted thoughts we don’t dare spout in polite company. We share familiar things with people we know, stereotypes included. You think the stereotype in the honey badger video isn’t part of what makes it so funny? The actor’s accent in the Kim Jong-Il parody is funny for that same reason. Both politically incorrect, for sure. It’s like joking with your best friend in private, but you do have to find the line– no one will share hateful content.

Be Succinct: If your idea has to be explained, few are going to get it, and no one is going to say, “Hey, look at this!” even if they do get it. Memes are ideas that we ALL get. They travel from person to person with ease. Sometimes, rockstar viral content BECOMES the meme. Most often, it just uses them. Kim Jong-Il is a meme inside of many others: dictator, ankle biter, fashion fail, eccentric weirdo, brutal psychopath. It all goes without saying.

Be Loved or Hated: Link bait doesn’t do it’s job if people don’t “talk” about it by sharing. The stronger our reaction to something, the more likely we need to experience that with others. Don’t be afraid. Go all-in with your crazy take on a subject. Play the devil’s advocate. Produce a satire or a total goof. Slight bemusement won’t get you far. Blasphemy will. You can go off on His Dear Deadness– people love to read about universally hated characters. How handy.

Be Epic: Work hard at it. Make you stuff worth it. Do some research. Make it a production. Good link bait must be a lot better than average, by definition. If you’re guest-posting the piece it will certainly need to be of high value to make it onto a quality site. Of course it’s hard for most of us to create epic shit on a regular basis, with limited time, talent or resources, especially when blogging and other content objectives are just a portion of our daily demands. Dedicating yourself to a great piece every now and then may be worth five, 10, 50 or even 100 regular ho-hum posts. So give it a shot! Kim Jong-Il will only die once, after all.


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