Infographics. Some SEOs and publishers love them; some hate them.
Whatever your personal perception, there’s no denying the fact that they have, for quite some time, been an effective approach to earning high authority links from some of the world’s leading publishers.
The truth is that with a great concept, infographics make life easier for a journalist or blogger. All they have to do is write a short intro (in many cases they’ll even ask you as the creator to do it for them), use an embed code, and they’ve a ready to use article.
Top publishers still use infographics (but not as much)
For example, as recently as last month, the Daily Mail published a handful of infographics, including this one looking at tourism-related complaints and this one looking at driving laws across Europe. At the time of this writing, the last 30 days showed three more published by the newspaper.
Run the same search for the Huffington Post (a Google search operator of “site:huffingtonpost.com infographics”), filtering the results by past month, and there are too many to count!
The reality is that infographics still prove effective for many SEOs as a way to earn links; they just become much less efficient than they once were.
For many, infographics died around 2012. Yet it’s only been in the last 12 months that many of the major publishers seem to have started to move away from this content format.
SEOs are always guilty of trying to scale anything and everything
SEOs want to be able to scale things, that’s what we’re known for. Infographics offered an easy way to scale link building in a way that attracted authoritative editorial links.
The only reason infographics lose their effectiveness is because they’re overused. With the right concept (probably the hardest part), a day or two of research time, and a graphic designer (this doesn’t even have to be in-house; there are plenty of great designers on PeoplePerHour and Upwork that won’t break the bank), almost anyone can come up with an infographic that looks great. You can then send it to a targeted list of journalists, bloggers, and publishers with the right outreach approach.
In 2017, however, infographics have to be insanely brilliant to break through the noise and gain coverage. The bar is simply rising and there are fewer and fewer SEOs able to top that.
In this spirit, visual content is always a fantastic way to earn links.
Visuals are easy to share, make a great story, and are popular with editors; it’s just that we SEOs get lazy and use the same format too much.
Here are three forms of visual content (that aren’t infographics) that every link builder should use.
While some may argue that the maps are, in one way or another, infographics, it’s clear that the publishers don’t think that way. There is recent evidence from a number of publishers that they are an effective format at the moment.
Not a week goes by without the British newspaper The Independent presenting a map. This one, which was published last month, looks at countries that still haven’t legalized same-sex marriage.
Using this example, we see a simple but very effective visual:
What makes this visual so effective and appealing to publishers are these three main elements:
- It covers a hot topic. The one that concerns a large number of people and on which they have a strong opinion. It’s not controversial, but it certainly covers a talking point.
- It allows for easy comparison between countries, the creation of geographically relevant stories as well as the ability for readers to see how their own country compares to others.
- It contains an element of shock factor. Did you know that in some countries same-sex marriage is considered a crime punishable by death? No, most other people don’t either, which makes sharing really appealing to a publisher.
Maps are a great form of visual content for several reasons:
- They’re usually pretty easy to produce cheaply (you don’t have to be the best graphic designer in the world to put something like this together).
- Editors love being able to compare one place to another.
Using public data is usually the best approach to creating a map, although it’s also important to give your own opinion and research new approaches.
ILGA, which produced the example above, could have simply produced a two-color map showing whether a country has legalized same-sex marriage. Instead, they’ve taken it up a notch and color-coded the map based on state-imposed sanctions.
Here are two more fantastic examples of cards used in link building campaigns. These illustrations show the diversity of what can be done with a little creativity:
2. 3D models
One of the biggest problems with infographics is the fact that, more often than not, they are boring. It doesn’t take the best designer in the world to create an infographic that looks good, and because of this, they don’t really stand out from the crowd.
If you are lucky enough to have access to the skills of a top graphic designer, why waste their talent on designing an infographic?
3D models are a form of content that has been used more and more in recent months.
The effort and investment required to produce such content is far greater than an infographic, but the results are usually far greater as well.
Looking through examples, what becomes apparent is that the most effective 3D mockups are those that focus on something hypothetical. No one is interested in seeing a slightly different vision or model of something that already exists, but readers and editors love to talk and take a look at what something that doesn’t exist might look like.
As a content creator, the key here is to look at something that is not it exist and propose models of what could look like. The only limits here are your imagination and the skills of your designer. You literally can’t go wrong with the fundamentals of the concept!
Yes, it takes time to come up with a good idea, but here are some inspirations from a few recent successful campaigns to get your thinking started:
3. Scrolling interactive visuals
While the above two visuals usually only require extensive research and an excellent graphic designer, if you also have the luxury of a developer on hand (usually those working within an agency or in-house at a large organization), you can achieve fantastic results by creating and promoting interactive scrolling visuals.
What we’re talking about here is something impressive that thinks outside the box and depicts the stats in a way that’s both relatable and shocking.
Successful content that has adopted this format as inspiration includes If You Printed All The Instagram Pics Uploaded in a Year… by Cewe Photoworld and The Capacity of an iPod Visualized as Vinyl by Concert Hotel.
There are still few brands creating such content. It’s usually only the big companies and agencies that have the resources to pull something like this together.
However, that doesn’t mean such content is completely out of the question for petite outfits, especially when you break down the format and realize that, in many ways, it’s pretty simplistic. The key to successful content formats is the concept.
It takes a great idea coupled with creative execution to work, but the real nature of the development and design isn’t too complex and nothing that even a junior team couldn’t deliver even in a relatively short timeframe.
Although these two examples are quite similar in format, this is the underlying message; one being that as users we share loads of photos on Instagram and the other being that the technology is a great space saver!
It’s these key media hooks that make this form of content so appealing to journalists and the main reason these two examples got 503 and 840 links.
We are talking about serious volumes of earned links here. The ones that really move the needle on search engine ranking positions, especially when you see that a lot of them come from domains like Mashable, Huffington Post, and Business Insider.
If you compare the time and budgetary resources needed to create content like this, it will often happen much more often than designing and developing a simple infographic, nevertheless, the results speak for themselves.
The trick here is to come up with a great concept; nothing less than the best will do. Again, this is what sets great marketers apart from others – those with the ability to spot and develop an idea for content that is almost guaranteed to be successful.
Risks vs Rewards
When it comes to creating visual content as a link building approach, we cannot ignore the impact of infographics in recent years. They are easy to execute and many of us have had great results even with a poor concept. However, times are changing.
Like what happened with guest blogging in the old days, we SEOs have tried to evolve and have continued to produce shoddy content that is simply no longer attractive to publishers. The format of an infographic has become boring, overused and dated.
What hasn’t changed is that publishers are still hungry for easy-to-share content. Usually this comes in the form of visual content.
Think outside the box and try something new. There are some great ideas above, but what else you can come up with is only limited by your ideas, your imagination, and the skills of your designer and developer.
Posted Image 1: ILGA
In-Post Image 2: High Speed Internet
In-Post Image 3: Click Mechanism
Picture posted 4: VW engine parts
Screenshot taken by James Brockbank, July 2017.