Infographics have been a bit of a hot topic in SEO recently.
Matt Cutts said that Google could one day put them under the spotlight, Patrick Altoft, said that they may have 12 months until they become ‘grey hat’, while a recent survey suggested that they are the fastest-growing content marketing strategy in SEO.
There is concern among the SEO community around the phenomenon of the infographic, and it stems primarily from the factthat infographics are making bloggers unwittingly endorse sites that they – nor their readerships – have any interest in, which is a pretty unsavoury way to generate links.
However, there is another concern among the SEO community, which is that the SEO value of great content may actually decrease if it is presented in an image.
Is maximum benefit always gained by presenting great content in an image? When is an infographic a good tactic in a content strategy?
Creating infographics for the sake of creating infographics is all too common a practice these days. It extinguishes the whole point of a content strategy. The primary objective of a strategy is to create the best content in its best form for the content-consuming audience and, surprise surprise, that doesn’t always involve infographics.
Of course, infographics can be and often are great, but people are taking what could be fantastic content and putting it into an image just for the sake of making it aesthetically pleasing to the user. Granted, good infographics can improve the aesthetics of your web content, but they don’t always have the SEO benefit you might hope for.
There are two problems with turning great content into an infographic:
- Search engines can’t read it as well as they can read text and;
- Visitors (and, potentially, conversions) are lost precisely because it is hosted on external sites.
There is far more value in keeping the content on your own site in a well-designed, text-based article with images and mini-graphics because your site will then be the original source of that content.
You may not see the full benefit of your content, no matter how great it is, if it is shared across multiple sites. Of course, having an infographic that you created sitting on 10 or 15 different relevant sites will undoubtedly add value to your own site, but more benefit could be gained if people have to visit your site to see that content.
If Joe Bloggs embeds your sexy infographic on Joe’s Blog, his visitors will have no reason to visit your site because they will have seen everything they need to see. Not many readers will care where it came from and even fewer will take the time to visit your site just because it is a great infographic.
You could nick some of those readers from Joe Bloggs’ Blog if you host the content on your site and on your site only. If it is truly great content, it will attract the visitors, links and conversions that you want.
On an external page that links back to your content, a reader is more likely to click a text link than an infographic image link in order to learn more about the original source. This is true simply because the infographic image link will take the reader out of the site they’re on, only to present that exact same image on the other site (the source).While the 150ish-word description will be different on both sites, it’s unlikely to be different or enlightening enough to justify the journey to another site.
This is exactly why we published our findings from our Tweets vs Rankings study here back in April. This article was picked up by the likes of Econsultancy and generated intriguing text-based links such as ‘Research from Branded3 showed…’.
If we’d have instead published these findings in an infographic on, say, Econsultancy, readers would have learnt everything we wanted them to know on Econsultancy.com and therefore won’t have been as encouraged to click through to our site for more information.
Are infographics dead?
No, infographics are still very much alive, and this article is not insinuating that you should scrap infographics from your content strategy altogether. Links in this form can still be valuable, but infographics should only be used as a strategy when it’s absolutely the best way to present the content that you want to share.
Infographics are an overused tactic and Matt Cutts recognises this. However, he has only hinted that Google could one day pull out the magnifying glass on infographic links to inspect their quality, simply because Google wants to eradicate links that cause bloggers to unwittingly endorse other sites they wouldn’t normally.
A lot of infographics present bad data, are completely irrelevant to the companies whose information they’re presenting (and therefore misrepresent them), and/or incite bloggers to link to and/or share sites they wouldn’t link to in the normal course, but that doesn’t mean that infographic links are never good links.
An infographic is a good piece of content and provides a good link when it presents great data that isn’t misleading, is completely relevant to the company whose information it’s presenting and is genuinely useful to its audience. If the content of the infographic is directly relevant to your business, the right people will have a reason to link back to and share it.
Here is an example of an infographic (or, rather, instructographic) we created for Bridgman earlier this year:
It’s relevant to the company and presents clear, usable information for its audience, so it performed really well:
- 13,000+ Pinterest repins
- 5,000 Stumbles
- 250 Facebook shares
- 50 Tweets
- 62 links across 24 domains (including 1 x link from .edu site (DA: 97, 158+ linking domains))
This content probably would not have seen the same level of success, especially on social media platforms like Pinterest and StumbleUpon, if it was a text-based article with images and graphics.
An infographic should only be created if it is the best way to communicate what you have to say. Don’t put your content into an infographic just because they look nice. An article can look great and perform brilliantly if enough thought and love goes into it, which is what the approach should be for every piece of content that is produced for your site.