By Jayson DeMers
24 Nov 2015

Are Infographics Still Valuable in SEO & Online Marketing?

Content Creation     Content Marketing     SEO Strategy

Infographics were once heralded as the golden children of SEO, touted as an efficient means to attract thousands of effortless links.

Infographics stood out as a unique form of content, which in theory could help propel SEO campaigns and launch any business to higher domain authority and better rankings overall.

Infographics were once heralded as the golden children of SEO, touted as an efficient means to attract thousands of effortless links.

SEOs latched onto infographics for a variety of reasons:

  • Their visual nature compelled sharability
  • The links embedded in the code ensured a steady stream of backlinks
  • Google's ever-tightening guidelines ruled out other link acquisition tactics

Infographics stood out as a unique form of content, which in theory could help propel SEO campaigns and launch any business to higher domain authority and better rankings overall.

The infographic trend started years ago, growing ever larger until Matt Cutts specifically called out widget and infographic links in a Webmaster Help video

The video didn't mean the end of infographics, however. Infographics still pop up in newsfeeds everywhere on a semi-regular basis, but are these pictorial information pieces as powerful as they used to be?


Moz And BuzzSumo's Research - Findings

Moz and BuzzSumo recently published some detailed findings about the “best” content on the web (my analysis here). The study analyzed data from more than a million pieces of content across 600,000 domains to find which types of content performed best.

Performance was measured in two metrics: total social shares and links. More shares and links qualified a piece of content as performing "better" because links contribute to the brand's SEO campaign and shares and links contribute to the brand's overall visibility.

Perhaps the most interesting finding is that the vast majority of content — regardless of form or function — gets zero links and zero shares. Only content that truly stands out gets any digital attention whatsoever.

The survey analyzed 98,912 infographics, finding the average total shares 268, with 3.67 referring links. This isn’t terrible, but it isn’t exactly good, either. Infographics were the worst format formally surveyed, far behind the competition.

List posts, for example, had 10,734 shares out of 99,935 pieces surveyed, with a nearly double 6.19 average referring links. Quizzes, "why" posts, videos, and “how to” posts all had more than 1,000 shares (with similar sample sizes) as well. Only quizzes had fewer referring links, with an average of 1.6.

To make matters worse, over half of all the infographics surveyed generated zero external links, and a quarter of them generated less than 10 total shares. The 343 top performers all earned more than 10,000 shares, which is great, but the average score for the medium is abysmal.

Moz and BuzzSumo's study can’t tell us everything about infographics — for example, even though they weren’t shared as often, they may be more engaging, leading to more referral traffic. But in terms of raw and direct ranking power in SEO, shares and links are the most important indicators we can measure. This data tells us that infographics are no longer the powerhouses they used to be in the link building game.

Why Infographics Are Less Popular - Oversaturation

It’s clear that infographics simply aren’t able to generate the sharing power they once did.

There are a handful of reasons for this, but most significant is the oversaturation of the content market. Back in 2012, infographics were especially powerful because they were new and rare — a useful combination to capture attention. This uniqueness led people to jump on every new infographic that crossed their newsfeeds.

SEOs were quick to broadcast the earning potential of infographics, which led to infographics as a mainstay for SEO agencies and small businesses everywhere.

Now, in 2015, infographics are everywhere. They’re being mass produced, and as a result they’re neither new nor rare.

Dozens of companies have emerged that allow anyone to create an infographic without design talent or skill (based on pre-designed templates), which has completely removed the barrier to entry which once made infographics so rare. This means fewer people are interested in them, and because they’re being churned out in volumes, the average quality has plummeted.

The Cost to Benefit Ratio of Infographics

Even though infographics have fallen from grace, so to speak, infographics still have a potentially powerful content punch.

Don’t forget that over 300 infographics in the sample size generated more than 10,000 shares each.

The downside is, of course, that unique, well-researched infographics take vast amounts of time and money to create. If you’re investing the proper time and effort, you better make sure the quality of your material is good enough to support such a massive number of shares.

Even bulk-produced infographics take significant time and money, but according to both BuzzSumo & Moz's unique study and my own experience, they won’t stand a chance at generating meaningful shares or links. If you want to see any significant return from an infographic, you need to make sure that it’s good enough to stand out.

The Future of Infographics

It’s hard to say if infographics have a chance of coming back, but as of now, it appears that they were a victim of their own success.

Infographics exploded in popularity when they were novel forms of content, but once the general public started seeing them too regularly, they lost their novelty value. It’s still possible to create a great infographic, like it’s possible to create great content in any medium, but the medium itself has taken a hit in overall popularity that may be irreparable. Odds are, newer forms of content—like live video feeds or some form of interactive content—will move in to replace infographics.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line for infographics is the same bottom line for any type of content—if it isn’t unique, thoroughly researched, valuable, eye-catching, and concise, it isn’t worth producing and syndicating.

The online world is saturated with content, so only the best has a chance of surviving. Infographics don’t have the power they used to (thanks in part to heavy oversaturation), but if you create them properly, you can still get value from them.

Keep infographics as an occasional entry in a broader, more diverse content strategy with various different forms and plenty of different angles. If you're looking for increased brand visibility, don't invest solely in infographics.

Jayson DeMers

Jayson DeMers founded AudienceBloom, a Seattle-based content marketing & SEO company in April 2010. Jayson is a regular contributor to Forbes, SEL, SEW, SEJ and other industry leading sites.