Google has been shooting down sites left and right with Penguin penalties due to a variety of factors, but one thing that has become clear to many online marketers and link-builders is that Google is no longer tolerating low-quality links and content. To keep yourself ahead of the game, you have to make sure you are building your links alongside valuable content.
One of the biggest strategies being employed by content marketers is guest blogging, which gives you the opportunity to provide high-quality content on sites of good standing, along with your desired link, for some good-old organic link-building. Seems like the solution, right? Yet the problem remains that even a strong guest blogging strategy can become suspect in Google's eyes if you overindulge.
To have a successful link-building strategy that won't attract negative attention or at worst, a penalty, you need to have a diverse range of content that serves as your linkbait. Guest posts are one type of linkbait; infographics are another, and possibly even more effective because of their visual element, which makes them easier to share and more likely to go viral and take your link along with it.
As with any content, your infographic needs to be interesting, fresh, and valuable to the target audience. In coming up with concepts for an infographic, you need to consider not only the basic idea of the infographic, but what data you want to display, how you will display it, what theme will the infographic have, and what conclusions you want your audience to draw from it.
Get inspiration from directories like Visual.ly, which not only hosts infographics, but also shows the most recent popular and trending infographics. You can begin brainstorming by thinking up interesting topics within your (or your client's) niche, or by tracking trending topics that you can relate back to your niche.
Take, for example, this infographic: A Who's Who Of The Minions, from the popular animated Despicable Me movies. This was released right around the time Despicable Me 2 came out, and has been trending on Visual.ly ever since. It was created by Collectib.ly, a site which allows people to display their collections online, but what does that have to do with the Minions? It doesn't, really, but a clever line at the bottom of the infographic: "Catalogue and keep track of your collections before the minions steal them away!" ties it in brilliantly.
Once you've come up with a concept, you need to do your research. This might not seem incredibly important when you're using your infographic as linkbait, but there are too many infographics out that have low quality and facts that are just plain wrong. Some actually see this as a concern that Google might end up devaluing infographic links, but by making sure your infographic is relevant and well-researched, you'll be a step ahead of the rest.
The design is crucial to the success of your infographic. Infographics are all about displaying information in a unique, interesting and easy-to-follow way. You might already have a design in mind based upon your concept, but when incorporating your research into your design, you want to think of each data point as an illustration; by doing this you can get a better sense of the layout of your design.
I work with an independent graphic design team to make all my infographics, and have to write up a very thorough work order to get the result I'm looking for. In my experience, what I've found is that in the case of infographics, less is more.
An elaborate, detailed infographic might have some fascinating data, but complex can quickly become convoluted and your audience's eyes will be wandering away before they can digest the data. I've actually had interested sites turn down infographics because they were too long, even though they admitted they were very interesting and loved everything else about them.
Once you have your infographic created and ready to go, it's time to begin your outreach efforts. I've found that the outreach process isn't that much different from my guest blogging outreach. In fact, once I created my infographic, the blogs where I'd published content before were the first group of people I contacted.
After that, I began searching with Google search operators to find blogs that accept submissions and had hosted infographic content before. In contacting them, I sent them a preview of the infographic for them to review. This ensures that they don't post it without a link; I don't provide an html code for the infographic, either, as this can often be seen as spammy behavior.
Unique Selling Point
Another way to make sure that Google isn't getting the wrong impression from your infographic marketing outreach is to make every post unique. Our USP is to offer a custom introduction for each infographic for the site that posts it, relating to their particular niche and audience.
By offering this we increase the value of the content, establish a connection with a new audience and encourage their engagement with the content. We also increase the value of the link to google, as the link can be included naturally in the introduction as opposed to hidden in the image HTML markup.
Infographics and Guest Blogging Together
Link-building through infographics is a great strategy that can get you some seriously high-value links (my first infographic was picked up by Yahoo Finance only days after I began pitching it! In comparison to guest blogging, it's actually faster as, once the initial infographic has been created, the actual process of content creation is cut down significantly.
However, it's not something that should be used to replace guest blogging. These are both individual strategies that should be used to complement each other and create a well-rounded strategy that will help you increase your reach and expand your link profile in a safe, effective way.
Marcela De Vivo is a freelance writer and online marketing consultant from Los Angeles. The founder of Gryffin Media, she currently works for hostpapa.com, writing on everything from content creation, social media marketing, and web analytics.