The value of infographics has come under heavy scrutiny of late. Are they reliable evergreen assets and link building tools, or have they been abused by SEOs targeting low quality infographic submission sites?
For someone who has experienced varying degrees of success with infographics, I understand both perspectives. On the whole, I feel that they are the key ingredient of a successful content marketing strategy, but only if they’re well planned and executed.
In this article, I will provide a comparative case study of two infographics on which I worked, one of which achieved above expectations and one which fell short. Between them, I will offer some insight into getting the most out of this format.
Case study one: A History of Online Casinos
This year, my company launched RightCasino.com: a casino comparison website and information platform, also committed to providing high-quality, industry relevant content.
To help market the new site, I developed, published and marketed an infographic on the “History of Online Casinos“, depicting the 20 year history of our industry with an illustrated timeline. Our goals with this infographic were to cement Right Casino’s reputation as an industry authority and obtain links from domains in our niche.
Conceptually, our infographic was nothing especially original: other websites had already produced similar content. But, I was confident we could deliver a cleaner design on a white background, and developments in the industry (including the rise of “social gambling” and changes in international legislation) provided a window for timely intervention. As Glen Thompson points out in a Citeworks post, aiming for a newsworthy subject matter can make or break the success of an infographic.
After a day of research and putting together a basic concept, I hired a freelance designer from South Africa and received the finished infographic within two weeks. The price was £250 (including unlimited iterations). We then published the infographic on RightCasino.com, along with a bespoke embed code, containing brand anchor text in the copyright.
By entering an additional embed code within our embed code, we ensured that anyone encountering the infographic on another website would have the opportunity to share it without having to access the source.
When it came to gathering prospects for outreach, I plugged “gambling” into Buzzsumo and filtered the results for “infographics”. This gave a reasonable indication of which websites had previously shared similar content. I also used Followerwonk to identify key bloggers and commentators in the iGaming sector. Finally, I entered all of my leads into Buzzstream to manage and track outreach; and began firing off emails.
To date, this infographic has acquired more than 10 natural links; some via outreach and others through natural pick up. Here are a few examples of strong domains that have linked to our infographic:
Additionally, we rank number two for the phrase “history of online gambling” which will hopefully provide us with a passive stream of links from anyone researching this topic in the future.
Case study two: Bad Britain: the Cost of our Vices
After this (rather unexpected) success, we decided to attempt a more ambitious project. Taking a leaf out of Ken Lyons’ book, we aimed for a topic that was less niche-specific (though still brand-relevant) and more controversial. Ultimately, we settled on an exposé of Britain’s vice industries (gambling, smoking, alcohol, illicit substances, sex and fast food).
We felt that this subject had the potential for cross-industry appeal (touching on politics, economics, commerce etc.), while some of our data was sufficiently shocking to hopefully provoke mass user engagement. On the basis of our previous infographic, we optimistically envisioned a viral response with widespread natural sharing and organic pick-ups from premium news sources.
The development process was much the same as with our first infographic, although the illustrator charged us £400, given the more elaborate design. Unfortunately, we were not satisfied with the first product we were delivered, delaying outreach while we waited for updated iterations.
In terms of gathering prospects, I used PR tool Muckrack to locate journalists from UK publications with a history of social commentary. I also approached major news sources that had previously published infographics in their media sections.
After contacting 20 leads through this process, I also emailed all the sources we had cited in the infographic itself; this amounted to 15 additional leads. As before, I tracked the progress of this outreach project through Buzzstream.
Wins included links from:
While we probably could have marketed our new asset more aggressively, the overwhelming lack of momentum led us to cut our losses and move on.
Picking your designer
Before wrapping up with the lessons we learned from these two projects, I’d like to quickly discuss our decision to go with an independent designer.
When producing a visual asset, you basically have three options: hire a freelancer at a negotiated rate, approach an agency or keep development entirely in-house. All three have their merits. If, like us, you opt for a freelancer, you get the benefit of reduced costs, shorter deadlines and better communication overall (we conducted all of our correspondences via Skype). If you research a freelancer’s past work, you ought to be able to determine whether they’re up to the task.
Should you plump for an agency specialising in infographic design, you could face a bill of £2,000. However, large infographic agencies often have powerful editorial contacts that can help get the marketing ball rolling early on. For instance, Neomam Studios created an infographic for Sportsbettingonline.net – World Cup vs Life – which received a link from Mashable. The release of this infographic (which coincided with preparations for the world cup) further demonstrates the value of “news-jacking”.
Agencies also employ marketing software such as GroupHigh (with subscription costs of £5000 per year) to locate bloggers who might be willing to share their products.
Finally, you can use your in-house designers to produce your infographic. This giving you the closest possible control over the design process, but means you’ll have to leverage more resources for outreach.
Looking at these case studies, what can we ascertain about the value of infographics as SEO and link-building tools?
- While aiming for broad, cross-industry appeal seems to make sense, this approach does not always produce the best results. Often, niche-targeted infographics can justify their costs simply through acquiring links from industry sources and a small community of interested parties. Sometimes, it’s better to target a modest group of deeply-invested individuals than a wide swathe of moderately interested individuals.
- With the second infographic, we failed to adhere to a proper formula for virality. As Chris Angus of Warlock Media explains: “There’s no point drafting an infographic on, say, how many people in the US own cats – nobody cares and it certainly isn’t ground-breaking. Instead, how many cats in the US have feline AIDS?”
In our case, we should’ve anticipated that it would be no shock to reveal that Britain spends a lot of money on alcohol, but what if (for argument’s sake) we’d found out how much of that money is spent by priests?
- This issue was reflected in the design process. Whereas the first infographic had an obvious “flow” (being a timeline), the second was more like a poster that displayed its contents in no particular order. Angus summarises effective infographic design: “the data creates the story and path which visitors will follow from start to end; hopefully enjoying themselves along the way”.
- Topicality is crucial to the success of any infographic, making the window of publication paramount to its success.
The History of Online Casinos project coincided with critical developments in the iGaming sector, while the vices infographic was not motivated by any particular topical issue. Drug abuse, gambling, alcohol consumption and pornography will always be hot-button issues, but with no new information and nothing relevant in the news, our infographic floundered.
- Finally, while many companies are churning out low-quality content, others are investing in increasingly elaborate infographics, incorporating animated features. Simplicity can not only be more cost-effective, but will help you be reactive, allowing you to respond to topical issues before they become old news. However, this shouldn’t be taken as an endorsement of half-baked content – simple does not mean basic.
Note: The opinions expressed in this article are the views of the author, and not necessarily the views of Caphyon, its staff, or its partners.