The Future of Infographics

by Matt Beswick August 20th, 2012 

future

As you're no doubt already aware, link bait is a fantastic strategy for boosting traffic and creating loads of organic, in-bound links. The infographic format in particular is one of the best ways to leverage the natural appeal of data visualization for SEO purposes. However, infographics may be facing some serious challenges in the near future that threaten their viability. As Google's own Matt Cutts recently hinted, the web's preeminent search engine giant may be looking to downgrade the value of links originating from infographics. The ramifications of such a move would be far-reaching for many marketers and SEO specialists across the web.

A Quick Link Bait Refresher
Basically, link bait can be anything unique and eye-catching that gets users to click through to a target website. Early on, link bait was more often than not packaged as an article or blog post. Web content directories and article directories factored heavily into the overall SEO game plan. Provocative titles and posts geared towards spurring controversy were a popular strategy that was used successfully for many years. Nowadays, the almighty infographic is the newest tactic for link-baiting online. Alongside YouTube and Vimeo videos, infographics boast conversion rates that make them an attractive proposition for marketers.

The Pros & Cons of Infographics
The infographic has been an extremely successful tool for building links for years. They naturally attract viewers, they're easy to share and they're an inexpensive way to build links. Thanks to free cloud-based creation tools, infographics can be whipped up by anyone in a matter of minutes. On the other hand, they're not nearly as effective as they once were when it comes to SEO and boosting PageRank. Many infographics found online are of poor quality and feature inaccurate information. Furthermore, we've reached a point of "infographic overload" where the novelty has largely worn off.

The Future of Infographics for SEO
As a direct result of the Panda and Penguin updates, Google now focuses far more on the quality of content and links on a site. Building links purely from submitting infographics to as many blogs as possible isn't going to be a long-term strategy, but combining them with guest posts and custom summaries of your images most certainly will be. In short, don't just try to get your graphic posted – add extra value and reap the long-term benefits.

Augmented Reality & New(er) Media
The use of infographics as link bait isn't going out of style anytime soon. If marketers want to stand out in an increasingly crowded and competitive field, they'll need to be fairly creative when relying on them to build organic backlinks. Clickable infographics that incorporate media like video clips, interactive controls and augmented reality features are going to be big business in the next few years. As a result of the widespread adoption of mobile devices like the iPhone, augmented reality has gradually become more popular among everyday web users. Though link bait infographics featuring augmented reality have yet to go mainstream, they're right around the corner.

Link Bait and the Big Picture
If current trends are any indication, link quality and authority will eventually dominate the future of SEO. Google's efforts to weed out sub-par link bait content by looking at social gravity rather than sheer social volume have been largely successful in recent years. If Oprah or Ashton Kutcher reference your link bait infographic, that's one thing. The vast majority of your Twitter followers re-tweeting your link bait probably won't have the same effect. Those factors aside, a quality piece of link bait that delivers value will typically overcome whatever built-in bias against infographics that Google might have.

The Wrap
Brilliant though they may be, folks like Google's Matt Cutts will never be able to completely stymie today's blogspammers and tomorrow's even more clever SEOs. Though infographics appear to be in the cross-hairs of Google and its competitors to some degree, that could ultimately be a good thing for those who know how to roll with the punches. Quality infographics are a blessing for the most part, and those who employ them judiciously don't have anything to worry about. In any event, the infographic format will continue to evolve and make for effective link bait for years to come.

Matt Beswick

I'm a self-confessed web geek with a somewhat unhealthy addiction to SEO. I co-own Pet365, which takes up half of my life, as well as being a director of Hidden Pixel.

Matt's Personal Blog

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4 Responses to “The Future of Infographics”

  1. Jared says:

    I agree, the novelty has worn off. Fortunately though, every once in a while an infographic comes along that is still able to wow me. I imagine sooner or later infographics will become slightly devalued, similar to widgets.

  2. Danny Ashton says:

    Bravo Matt, finally some sense on the whole discounting infographic links issue.

    Article linkbaits (Top 10's, 12 Amazing…) evolved the same way from really easy links (because people hadn't seen them before) to only the truly awesome gaining links as bloggers/webmasters had become used to their existence.

    The same will be true of infographics and also any new future content that turns up.

    Our job as SEO's is to keep looking for the new stuff like augmented reality but also to keep getting better at the "old" stuff so bloggers take notice.

  3. CraigStevens says:

    I like the idea of Infographics and generating traffic through the use of infographics. At one point – and this is just a few months back – I was convinced that these would be the 'next big thing' in marketing, not to be however. I agree with you, it seems that the novelty has worn off.

    • Danny Ashton says:

      Craig, I have to disagree.

      The time when cheap infographics could be used to get easy links is at an end but like all content infographics are evolving to achieve more strategic marketing goals.

      A great book – Information Is Beautiful by David McCandless – shows how infographics can be used for much more than just cheap linkbait.

      When done right, infographics can set you up as a thought leader, differentiate your company, be a part of your conversion process and educate your target internal and external audiences…which is worth more than just picking up some links from an infographic directory.

      So yes, crappy infographics are not going to work (that is were the novelty has worn off) but you can bet that powerful research matched with amazing data visualizations are getting links and traffic from all over the web and will continue to do for some time.

      You can take my opinion with a grain of salt, as I run an infographic studio, and would have an obvious incentive to protect my craft :)