Infographics have been hailed as a penalty-proof strategy to build backlinks effectively, but now that they’ve been around for a few years, the enthusiasm for their utility is beginning to wane. In order to get the best results from your SEO campaign, you need a link building strategy that accomplishes three things:
It builds links quickly enough to influence a significant change in page rank
It builds links cost effectively, keeping the campaign within budget
It builds links safely, without attracting any negative attention from Google
Infographics once easily met all three of these criteria, but are infographics still an effective way to build backlinks?
The theory behind the usefulness of infographics in a link building campaign is still solid. At their best, infographics are concise, visual pieces that convey complex significant information in a compelling, entertaining, and easy-to-understand way. This is a perfect recipe for “viral content,” which has a high propensity to be shared amongst peers.
Viral content has a number of advantages on its own, such as widening the reach and visibility of your brand, but its advantages for link building are what have made infographics such a popular medium for search marketers. When a piece of content, particularly an infographic, is shared on a new site, the sharer typically posts a link back to the original poster. Any of their readers who share the infographic would also link back to the original, eventually generating a large network of backlinks.
The best part about the strategy, compared to other link building tactics, is that it is completely organic. One hundred percent of the links generated with infographic marketing are naturally produced by audience members, which means the marketer spends less effort building individual links and Google has no real reason to implement a penalty.
One of the only downsides of infographic marketing was the cost of doing it right. Creating a compelling enough infographic requires the help of an in-house or freelance designer and several hours of intensive work. But still, infographics were safer and more effective than almost any other link building strategy available.
Changes in Popularity
Infographic marketing has changed. Over the course of the last five years or so, there has been a stunning increase in the popularity and importance of visual media in the marketing world. Popular social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter began seeing a trend of people posting, liking, and sharing more visual content than written content. Content marketers noticed that posts with images get far more traffic than posts without. And new, entirely visual social media platforms began to take center stage as the next step in social media evolution. Today, the photo sharing network Pinterest attracts around 40 million active monthly users, while Instagram has over 200 million active users.
This rise in popularity has actually been a good thing. More visual users means a larger audience for infographics, and a higher potential for infographics to circulate quickly. Platforms like Instagram and Pinterest almost cater to this idea, encouraging users to engage with one another in an almost exclusively image-based format. For marketers, this translates to a higher number of potential backlinks from a more diverse range of sources.
On the other hand, thousands of marketers have realized the power of infographics and have started producing them on a more frequent basis. This rise in popularity has been a bad thing. Think of this concept as infographic inflation; money is valuable because it is a limited commodity. If the government were to decide to double the amount of money in circulation, it wouldn’t make everybody twice as rich; it would just make money half as valuable. The same principle applies here, at least to some extent. When you see your social media news feeds flooded with a torrent of infographics on a daily basis, over time they begin to diminish in significance, and eventually, they register as white noise.
The popularity surge of infographics, by some accounts, has overtaken the surge of visual social media sites, resulting in an oversaturated market where the power of the infographic is greatly diminished. For example, Neil Patel of KISSmetrics found that the average power of his infographics decreased from 53,459 visitors and 875 backlinks to 21,582 visitors and 371 backlinks between 2012 and 2014. This is a perfect example of infographic inflation; these infographics are researched, produced, and distributed using the exact same process, yet the number of backlinks produced has been cut in half.
However, take a look at the current power of content marketing in general. More businesses than ever are using blogs and social content sharing to build their authority and generate revenue, and yet it’s still a relevant strategy with plenty of room for anyone who wants to get in on the action. While infographics have waned in value, that doesn’t mean they are no longer valuable. Even looking at the low figures in the example above, 371 natural backlinks per infographic is substantial.
Cost and Impact
Infographics are still effective for link building, but that doesn’t mean they are an efficient strategy. For example, if infographic effectiveness has declined to the point where manual backlink building can earn you more backlinks in fewer hours, then manual backlink building would be a superior strategy.
Depending on how you develop infographics, the cost can vary. Generally, it takes a graphic designer several hours to perform preliminary research and design out the piece. It then takes a marketer an hour or more to distribute the infographic on the proper channels. An average infographic would therefore cost hundreds of dollars, and like with any piece of design or content—you get what you pay for. Skimping on your infographic budget will only lead to low-quality work that only generates a minimal number of backlinks. With the current popularity of infographics, only quality work stands out.
Still, even if you pay upwards of a thousand dollars for an infographic, if you can get several hundred unique backlinks from them, it’s worth the investment. Otherwise, you’ll be spending dozens of hours hunting down high quality backlink sources and building links, one by one, on your own.
Why Infographics Are Still a Great Strategy
Infographics aren’t nearly as efficient as they used to be. An infographic today, identical to an infographic in 2011, will only generate about half the interest and half the backlinks. Fortunately, that’s still a significant amount.
But even if you throw out the idea of backlinking entirely, infographics are a great long-term strategy:
They are an easy way to promote your brand. Even if you don’t generate any links, if you include your brand, more people will see it and become familiar with it.
They are perfect social media fodder. Syndicate your infographics on social media, especially on visual platforms like Pinterest, and you’ll be able to attract more followers to your profile even without the extra backlinks.
They facilitate more traffic. You might not get as many links as you used to, but your infographics will drive more traffic to your site (especially if you become well-known for your high-quality infographics).