For the last few years, we’ve been seeing infographs make their way around the web.  They can actually do quite well, if done right.  If that’s the case, infographs can be proven to be effective, easy on the eyes, and can be a much easier way to digest information.  It’s great for SEO.

But now, at this point in time, more and more infographs are becoming less effective, and are now just becoming eye candy with the hopes that it’ll lead to some links.  But how do we know the difference between today’s infograph and a real visual asset?  In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Moz’s Rand Fishkin will explain why visual assets are better than infographs.

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition to of Whiteboard Friday. This week I’m going to take a stance. It’s a little bit of a strong and contrarian stance. I’m going to say that I really, really dislike most infographics. In fact, not even most. The vast majority of infographics I strongly dislike. And that said, I really like visual assets. Today I’m going to try and explain the difference to you and show you why I’m a huge believer in one and such a disrespecter of the other.

So the typical infographic and the thing that frustrates me about it so much is that it’s really designed primarily to get embeds, to get links, potentially to get some traffic and build some branding. But it’s actually not optimized for a lot of these things. In fact, because the medium has both become so overused and because the execution on many of them is such poor quality, I find that they often hurt more than they help. Because of that, I’m not a fan.

So here is your typical infographic. How obsessed are Facebook users with celebrities? Oh my gosh, look, 35% have liked a celebrity’s page, and look, more and more people have liked more and more celebrity pages over time. Here’s a picture of some people, and here are words in some graphic format that’s really hard to read and unnecessary illustrations on the side just to ornament this thing up.

Then they hope that someone is going to pick it up and embed it on their news site, and occasionally this stuff does work. In fact, for a few years now it has worked. The challenge is it keeps going down and down and down. It’s reaching a point of diminishing returns, and I think that’s because audiences are really tired of the infographic format or are getting very tired, especially more sophisticated and savvy audiences, which for a lot of B2B and even many B2C marketers, let’s face it, we are reaching those areas.

Also, these things can be tremendously burdensome to try and put on a web page. They’re hard to read a lot of the time. So it makes it challenging even when someone does embed it. Google has said specifically that they’re looking at algorithmic ways that they can work around infographics that get embedded that people didn’t really mean to or intend to link back, and they are merely doing a link to the infographic because of the embed itself.

This kind of stuff, eh, I’m just not about that. I don’t think that most of us in the inbound marketing field should be about that, despite the potentially positive impact that something very similar can have.

So these are visual assets. There are many different kinds of visual assets. In fact, I would say infographics, traditional infographics are just one type of visual asset and possibly not the best one. In fact, probably not the best one in my opinion.

Photos, just a collection of pictures from relevant and interesting people, events, places, even concepts that are illustrated, these get picked up. They get shared around the web. They’re useful for social media networks. But they’re also useful to have in a photo library that people might take and use for all kinds of different reasons.

Charts and graphs that illustrate or explain the numbers behind a story or a phenomenon, these can be incredibly useful, and they get picked up and used all the time by sources that want to quote the numbers and even by sources that originated the numbers that are looking for visual ways to represent them. This is a phenomenal way to build value through visual assets.

Visual representations, I do stuff like this all the time. Think of the SEO Pyramid. It starts at the base with accessibility, and then we talk about keywords and links, social, user and usage signals, and all that kind of stuff. I’ve done some visuals like that on Whiteboard Friday, things like the ranking factors by distribution through the pie chart explaining those different things.

I’ve done stuff like the T-shaped web marketer, talking about going deep in a particular niche, but having a lot of cross domain expertise. These are not high-quality graphics. They’re made by me. I use Flash 6 to make these things, because I learned Flash way back in my days as a web designer. I’m lazy and have not learned to get good at Illustrator or Photoshop in particular. Yet, they get picked up and sent all over the place, and you can see visual assets doing the same thing in all sorts of niches.

Comics, illustrations, or storyboards that tell a narrative visually, incredibly popular and get picked up all the time. Screen shots; even just a simple screen shot with some annotation and explanation, examples of what to do, how to use it, how to interpret that information, layering on top some data, these types of visual assets have huge caché and value.

You get a lot more opportunity from these kinds of visual assets, in my opinion and experience, for links, for referencing, being referenced by media outlets, by industry resources, by third parties, by people in your professional or personal sphere. You have more of an opportunity for embeds because they’re much simpler to embed, and they can be useful in so many more places than an infographic, which really needs to take up an entire post about it if it’s going to get referenced at all.

They give a lot more value to people. They’re simple to consume, to understand, and they’re useful and usable in ways that infographics often are not. And, a lot of the time they’re far simpler to execute. It doesn’t take a graphic designer to produce a ton of these different types of resources. It often doesn’t cost very much, if anything at all, to make them, and that means you can produce a far greater quantity of visual assets than you could of infographics and have potential there to get links, to get references, to build your brand in really authentic ways.

So I’m sure there will be some vigorous debate and discussion in the comments, and I look forward to it. We’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

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