Infographics smashed into the world of marketing a few years ago, and within a few months everyone and their mother was making one. They were everywhere; on Facebook, on Pinterest, on LinkedIn, on every blog under the sun. Heck, I’m surprised I’ve never seen one on a billboard. I’m sure if it was possible to turn one into a radio advertisement, someone would have.
Very quickly, the market for infographics became utterly saturated. Everyone made them, and a lot of people made them really poorly. It almost killed the concept as a whole, but some excellent designers and talented marketing firms have kept the idea alive.
All of this happened over the course of 2010 through 2013. It’s now 2015, and people are asking; are Infographics still worthwhile for backlinks, or have they passed into the realm of trite, worthless and outdated techniques?
The simplest answer is: yes, infographics are still great for links. There’s just one caveat; you need to do them properly. It’s very, very easy to make a really bad infographic that just doesn’t catch on. Ask yourself; could you see this infographic cut up into a PowerPoint presentation in a business meeting? If so, it’s a bad infographic and you should feel bad for making it.
Thankfully, you have me, and I’m here to give you a rundown of what it takes to make a good infographic, what you should do to avoid making a bad infographic, and how to market an infographic successfully.
There’s more to running an infographic than just getting backlinks. In fact, I would venture to say that backlinks are one of the more tertiary benefits to come from creating and circulating infographics. Here are some other things you can get out of them.
There are a lot of ways an infographic can fall flat or fail. The worst part about a failed infographic is that it will still earn you some links and traffic, and you might never realize it’s not a success. If you’ve never made a great infographic, you don’t have the standard for comparison, and you might just think the industry interest is low or that infographics in general don’t work as well as some people say. Here’s how an infographic might fail.
1: The data sucks. There are a lot of ways the data for an infographic can suck, but they all kill a graphic. If the data is dishonest or misleading, it’s not going to make a good graphic. At best it will die an ignoble death. At worst, it will get a lot of circulation because someone points out how misleading it is and your brand is mocked around the Internet. If the data is just plain incorrect, the same thing can happen, and some people might even attribute malicious intent to the incorrect data rather than just ignorance or poor fact checking.
Another possibility is when the data comes from an unreliable source. You know how college professors always tell students never to cite Wikipedia in their papers? The same holds true in real life. At least have the decency to find what Wiki uses as a source and use that.
If the data is old, it’s another reason the graphic might fail. Who, today, is going to want to see an infographic about Hurricane Katrina, or about the 2008 presidential election, or about the economic status of Lichtenstein in 1996? Old data is old news, and old news doesn’t bring in traffic.
On a related note, it’s possible that no one cares. It’s difficult to stomach sometimes, particularly if you’ve gone through the trouble of harvesting the data yourself, but it’s a possibility you need to consider. What is your fallback if no one cares about the subject?
2: Your graphic design is awful. It takes more than a bit of knowledge of Photoshop to make a good infographic. You need to have an internal narrative, a flow to the information. You need a logical trip from point A to point B, from intro to conclusion. You need more than a few pie charts and some clip art. Fancy typography and scatter plots do not make a good infographic. Just take a look at the top infographics and count how many of them include charts you can generate in an office program. Or just look at this.
3: You have no plan for promotion. You can’t just put an infographic out into the wild and expect it to thrive. It’s like releasing your child’s cage-raised pet rabbit in the back yard; an eagle is going to swoop down and eat it before you know what’s up. That’s not a metaphor for your graphic flying high; it’s a metaphor for a sad and disheartening death.
“Promote it on social media” isn’t a strategy. Neither is sending the graphic out in messages to every top blog you know. There’s a lot more to promotion than a list of the tools you want to use. You need to write copy to go with it, share it to targeted sites and with targeted people, and focus on getting traffic over links. Once it has popularity, then people will be reposting and linking to it. That’s where your links come in.
The first word of warning I have for designing an infographic is avoid companies that sell the service. Remember how I said infographics took off as a means for building links? Just like other forms of link building, black hat spammers took over the industry very quickly, and there are hundreds if not thousands of companies out there looking to prey upon you with a slick sales pitch. They’ll make you a graphic, sure. You just have a few possible outcomes. Maybe the graphic is good, but you paid about ten times what it was worth. Maybe the graphic was cheap, but it’s basic and looks terrible. Maybe it’s decent and cheap, but not white-label, and does as much to advertise the infographic company as it does to advertise yours.
In general, it’s better to come up with a concept and hire a freelance graphic designer than it is to hire a company that specifically creates infographics.
So, what’s the process for creating an infographic? It typically goes a little something like this:
I’ve glossed over a lot of the details of hiring and working with a designer, which you can find covered in a bit more detail here. It’s an older article, but most of the information still holds true.
If you’ve been paying attention, you might notice that there’s a lot of details to infographic creation. It’s a lot more intensive than just throwing some charts in Photoshop, slapping in some text and tossing it up on social media. That’s where most businesses go wrong; they fail to realize that the process involves a lot of work if you want a good product.
The promotion process is worthy of a whole other post. Suffice it to say that you’ll have a lot of work ahead of you, posting about the graphic, sharing it on social media in various ways, performing blogger outreach and keeping the graphic alive as long as possible. Meanwhile, you’ll be starting the whole loop over with brainstorming your next graphic. For novice graphic creators, I’d suggest a 2-4 week cycle of development, as long as you can find the topics. Once you have it streamlined, you can tighten it down and release graphics more often.
Kenny is a blogger and networking professional. He uses blogging and content marketing as a launchpad for small businesses looking to grow their online presence.