March 28, 2014
The Definitive Guide to Writing and Promoting a Viral Infographic
When infographics rocketed onto the scene a couple of years ago, everyone was rushing to make one. Like every new SEO tactic, it was easy to score some quick wins. Yet, as with all successful marketing approaches, the market for infographics has become crowded. It takes more than just great design to have a real hit.
The emphasis is on intelligent conceptualization, strong storytelling and design, and targeted marketing. But don’t let that dissuade you. A well-placed infographic can get you a large number of great inbound links and exposure to a wide range of potential customers and readers. Here’s what you need to know to develop an infographic that stands out from the crowd.
Without a great concept, everything else is wasted effort
For infographics in particular, it’s critically important to develop and execute a great concept. Not every idea works well as an infographic. There are a few criteria to consider when deciding whether or not an infographic is the right medium for your idea:
- Is the concept visual? Does it have a visual slant or a systems dynamic that can be conveyed in a visual way?
- Is the concept data-driven? Can a series of ideas and facts be used to tell an effective story?
- Is the topic focused enough for a single infographic? Have you chosen a topic that can be told in one image series or on a single page?
Once you’ve determined that your topic will work as an infographic, it’s important to consider timeliness and competition. Some aspects to think through include:
- Is this topic trending right now? Are there discussions on social media that would make this interesting? (A quick look at Google Trends or Twitter Search can help answer that question).
- If you Google your keywords + the word “infographic”, are there a lot of other infographics on the topic? If so, is your concept unique enough to stand out? Another place to look for related infographics is Visual.ly.
- Do we have enough original data or access to public information to create an interesting narrative?
If you’ve determined that your topic is timely, original, and possible to properly source, it’s time to start the outlining process. Developing a solid outline for your infographic will save you a ton of time in both research and design. In the next section, we’ll talk about design, but for now, let’s take a closer look at further developing your concept.
As you get started, come up with a compelling title for your infographic. A good title does three things. First, it grabs people’s attention. Second, it conveys the core concept of the infographic. Finally, it includes your priority keywords for optimization purposes.
Find your narrative thread
Most infographics are based on a simple concept. For example, an infographic could show the evolution of mobile tablet use over time. But it’s important to consider “what’s the story I’m actually telling here?” What do you want people to walk away with? Why does this matter? By answering these questions, it’s possible to really focus your efforts. In the case of tablets, you could look at the evolution of the iPad, detail the story of competition in the industry, or look how people have used tablets over time.
Outline your key points
Once you know what you want to say, break it down into individual pieces. For example, exploring the history of the tablet might start with facts about prototypes of the tablet, the year the first tablet hit the market, when it exploded in popularity and so forth. Review each piece to make sure that it’s absolutely essential, and reinforces the overall message of the piece. Cut anything that’s extraneous.
Gather your data
Since so much of the focus of infographics is on data, map your facts to each of the key points. If you’ve got primary data, break it into sections linked with your major takeaways from the previous section. Fill out your available information with data from reputable secondary sources. Some options include Forrester, Gallup, Nielsen, and Google Public Data. Industry groups and associations are also a great source of specific information in your field.
Choose your positioning
The way that you want to tell your story is going to determine the framing you give your infographic. For example, many infographics explore “how to’s” or “facts you didn’t know about X.” Others take a humorous approach, break down a big idea or system into its parts, compare two things, or look at trends overtime. Many subjects can be treated from the same angle, but given a slightly different spin depending on which approach you go for. Take a look at infographics in other fields to see which style you find most compelling.
The emphasis is on intelligent conceptualization, strong storytelling and design, and targeted marketing. But don’t let that dissuade you.
Transform your concept into an effective design
With all the planning that goes into conceptualizing a great infographic, it’s important to remember that they’re primarily a visual medium. There’s some copy and facts that are featured, but these are more like the scaffolding that the design is hung on. There’s a number of different ways to develop an infographic, from using an online generator or DIY software to partnering with an experienced designer. I’m going to trust your ability to figure out the “how,” and instead focus on some points that are important for you to keep in mind. The end result will be a design that tells your story effectively.
Decide what visual approach you want to take
In the same way that you selected a “category” of infographic, it’s important to decide the overall design style that you want to take. If your story is geographic-based, is a map the right central element? Instead, you might choose to take a more structured approach with graphs and charts, or a more abstract one based on illustration. Ensure that the format you choose serves the story that you’re trying to tell and that the tone matches the message or branding.
What’s your visual hook?
As you comb through your data or your story, there’s a good chance that a leading fact or hook grabs your attention. In the same way, it’s important to decide what images will lead the development of the piece. This will help your overall design come together. A good visual hook is what will stand out, along with a strong title, when people initially glance at the finished infographic.
Choose your color scheme
Levels of color play a big role in designing infographics that are easy to follow. Because infographics often distill complex concepts into simple visual representations, the ability to follow the through lines of the story relies on different visual cues. A good color scheme not only evokes the right ideas, but guides the eye through the experience you’re trying to create.
Design around the data
The best infographics are engaging storytellers – and they also find compelling ways to share data. This actually doesn’t mean that the “fancier” treatment of data is always the right one. But it does mean that even if your design goal is to make a beautiful infographic, that this is secondary to the goal to make an effective one. Readers should be able to easily follow and understand the information that’s presented.
Test your design
Once the infographic is drafted, it’s important to test it with members of your core audience. Do people unfamiliar with the project “get it?” Are they able to follow the story? Is there any resistance or do questions come up based on the data? The more you work out problems in advance of releasing an infographic, the better its general reception will be. Testing will help avoid complaints or criticisms of your data sources or overall approach.
Everything you need to know about promoting an infographic
Promoting your infographic is the fun part. Infographics, because they’re both highly visual and informative, have the potential to go viral. This is especially true within specific niches or industries. Effective promotion starts with a good plan. Who is the audience for this infographic? What question or problem does it solve for them? Where is this group spending time online? If you can answer these questions, even at a high level, you’ll be able to get your infographic in front of the right people.
Infographic SEO and Structure
One of the major promotional benefits of infographics is generating inbound links to your site. Because they’re highly shareable, you’ll get static backlinks as well as social signals. If this sounds too good to be true, remember: in exchange for getting to display your insightful visual content, webmasters will link back to you. But it’s important to get the infographic right from a structural perspective first. Let’s take a closer look at what you need to do.
Set up your home page
Take the time to set up a display page on your website that features your infographic. Ideally this should be the same site as where you want to send your links. I recommend hosting the infographic and any preview versions on your website. Many webmasters will skip an infographic that requires them to download files and repost to their sites. Instead, make it simple.
As with all successful marketing approaches, the market for infographics has become crowded. It takes more than just great design to have a real hit.
Set up embed code
The easiest way to get people to share your infographic is by making the embed code easy to use. Embed code should be in HTML and include all the necessary information. The minimum data would include the preview display, a link to the full infographic, any author or sourcing attributions, and relevant links.
Give it a great keyword-relevant title and alt text
When titling both your page and your alt text, think strategically. Include the term “infographic” along with a relevant description.
Focus on the target keywords in body copy, URL, and file name
Do the same with your H1 tag and include at least 200 words of body copy on the web page displaying your infographic. If your infographic accompanies a longer, more detailed article, there’s an even better chance that it’ll be shared and found. Also make sure that your source file name includes your keywords and the same for your subdomain URL.
Add a thumbnail for social sharing
Infographics are shared a lot on social media. To optimize for that, create a small square thumbnail that social platforms like Facebook and possibly Twitter cards (if you’re using them) can search for. This will ensure that the infographic gets featured in any social media posts about it.
Include your URL in the visuals
No matter how easy you make it to embed your infographic, some people will grab the image and post it without a link. Include your URL somewhere in the visuals of infographic, such as under the source information or as a logo in the top corner, to make sure you get credit and exposure when that occurs.
Once the infographic is finished and all the structural SEO is done, you’re ready to begin the outreach process. The first step is publishing the infographic to the site that you’re hoping to get links to. Getting the attention of the right people with your infographic is the next step. Remember, an infographic that’s even moderately successful is going to garner a number of backlinks. It’s better to target a small community that’s genuinely interested in the topic that a wide audience that will simply see it as visual noise. Here’s how to do that.
Syndicate your infographic
There are a number of infographic directories and sites that promote infographics. The next step after publishing the infographic on your site is submitting the image to various directories. Some of the top ones include Visual.ly, Visual Loop, Daily Infographic, and I Heart Infographics. Reddit’s Infographics subgroup and Nerdgraph are also worth considering.
Submit to niche blogs
Look for niche sites that publish information related to your topic. Let those webmasters know about your infographic. If they’re unwilling to publish infographics, consider offering a guest post to go with them. Niche blogs are a major source of online momentum for infographics.
Connect it with guest posts
Choose two or three high priority sites, and write a guest post that links to the infographic. Include the infographic as visual support for the pieces. The higher quality the posts, the more likely that they’ll be shared and linked to.
Disseminate to your audience
Share the infographic with your audience on social channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Reddit and Stumbleupon. Look for opportunities to promote it via your blog and in email newsletters. Infographics are some of the most flexible and easily repurposed pieces of content.
Post to relevant groups on LinkedIn
Because many infographics focus on professional and industry topics, consider promoting it via LinkedIn. One of the best ways it to create a new discussion in relevant groups on the site and sharing the infographic there. This will help get it in front of multiple individuals and influencers in your field.
If you need help designing and/or promoting your next infographic, there are services available that can take care of these steps for you.
A strong infographic can have a big impact on your organic search rankings. It’s important to focus your infographic from the beginning, and follow a design and promotion strategy that communicates with your audience effectively. Let us know in the comments below how you’re approaching your latest infographics project.