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Saving the Infographic: An Endangered SEO Tool with Marketing Benefits

by Sharlene Boodram

For the last year or two, Infographics have been carving out significant space on the Internet, with no signs of slowing down. In many cases, Infographics draw higher volumes of attention than other forms of web content. However, there is also a growing epidemic of shoddy Infographics that needs to be addressed. The Atlantic recently reported on this troubling trend in its post “Ending the Infographic Plague.” It’s clear the time has come for our industry to take some significant steps to maintain the integrity of this invaluable marketing tool.

Of course, there should be some level of accountability. Producers, promoters and consumers of all content, including Infographics, have a responsibility to ensure that positive attention — from social buzz and positive sentiment to links, traffic and authority — is given to deserving pieces instead of low-quality content. This approach will allow the crème of the crop among Infographics to rise to the top while providing valuable information and honest entertainment to end users who deserve nothing less. To further increase the quality and legitimacy, this content should come from relevant, deserving — and fully disclosed — providers. In time, the deluge of “spamographics” will become an insignificant trickle.

Back to the Quality Basics

Developing relevant, high-quality content is not a bad thing. In fact, it’s encouraged by search engines. Infographics scores major points for possessing the ability to facilitate keyword relevance, category relevance and, ultimately, domain relevance and trust for a brand. Based on metrics that I have been collecting for more than a year as a producer of rich media, including Infographics, I can say without reservation that the value brought from “Deserving Infographics,” as we like to call them around here at Slingshot SEO, far outweighs that of “Spamographics” in terms of social traction, links, sentiment and direct relevant traffic. Most importantly, “Deserving Infographics” support the continued growth of all of these metrics over time … in some cases for up to a year. So use Infographics as part of your marketing strategy but be sure to follow a few important guiding principles outlined in this post.

Think of the User

The relevance and authority of the links you could potentially attain from a “Deserving Infographic” is much greater than a multitude of spammy links that have little or no longevity and hardly move the needle for your SEO campaign. Also, the quality of traffic that your site could get from industry-specific readers with a sincere need for the accurate information presented in a high-quality Infographic is much greater. If a reader finds accurate, enjoyable and properly tagged content on your site and has a positive experience or successfully solves a problem due to your information, that user is more likely to return to your site. The bottom line is that bloggers should be more selective about which Infographics they host.

A Valuable Messaging Vehicle

There have been countless articles discussing the value of Infographics, so I won’t bore you with the details. Infographics are acceptable vehicles for the distribution of information through their assimilation into traditional marketing methods such as press releases and email marketing. They have also been widely adopted by journalists, as is the case at The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, and more specialized and reputable communities such as Mashable. Some of the infographics placed on these sites come from external sources that may involve brand associations. Still, if the information is not intended for sales conversion only, but is also a value-adding and industry-relevant piece, then how can the graphic be considered spam? There are instances when a branded Infographic is misleading to the user, but there are also instances when branded Infographics are highly useful.

When an Infographic is delivered properly, it represents a win for both the end user and the brand. Infographics and other rich media, such as videos and photojournalism, encourage engagement. They also increase brand exposure, support message retention, and positively affect sentiment and potential conversion. “Deserving Infographics” also are readable and more easily digestible than a traditional print-only post because of the multi-sensory stimulation they provide.

Crafting an Honest Infographic with SEO & Marketing Benefits

When it comes to relevance and full disclosure, proper tagging of an Infographic allows viewers with various interests to discover the content through organic search. This allows you, as the provider, to achieve high engagement and positive sentiment. This only happens, however, if the graphic provides relevant information to the seeker and is found in an appropriate place.

Context should be considered at the initial stage of conceptualization. Depending on the brand associated with the Infographic, producers should choose an appropriate topic and follow some of the tips in Google’s Guide for Building High Quality Sites. Google alerts and trend reports surrounding product categories and keywords provide insight into what the hot topics are and what information people are searching for within your vertical.

After identifying these interests, it is important not to beat a dead horse by building a graphic that has already been done. Use bookmarking sites and graphic libraries such as StumbleUpon, Pinterest, Digg, Visual.ly, and vertical specific news sources to research existing graphics on the identified interests, as well as competing pieces. Infographics are a part of an online conversation and, just as in physical conversation, people do not want to hear the same idea multiple times. Present new data or spin a fresh perspective on data that has already been presented. In addition, it is also useful to analyze the performance of competing graphics by taking social metrics and performing link analysis to recognize the successful pieces from the non-successful ones as you consider new Infographic projects.

Beyond being “fresh,” newsworthy and relevant, an Infographic and other rich media should activate a certain level of pathos and appeal to an end user’s emotions. Sometimes, less fact-focused but more socially conversational graphics can still be relevant and perform just as well or better than Infographics centered on facts that offer no social value. The idea is to use emotional influence to spark a conversation.

So what are the most basic guidelines for successful communication between your brand and your target audience?

Here’s a quick summary:

1. Make sure your content is 100 percent accurate and properly cited.
2. Speak about what you know.
3. Appeal to emotion when appropriate.
4. Talk about trending topics.
5. Fully disclose your message and yourself as the provider.
6. Speak to an interested audience.
7. Analyze the performance of your posts.
8. Finally, as search evolves, assess your approach and delivery as you strive to improve conversations with end users.

Rich media continues to speak to end users with great emphasis and great opportunity for persuasion. Using this type of media honestly, infographics included, can truly open up the lines of communication between the online conversationalists and brands.

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