Cutts: Infographic Links Might Get Discounted In The Future

In an in-depth interview between Eric Enge and Google’s head of search spam, Matt Cutts – Cutts said that Google may discount the value of links generated by infographics.

Matt Cutts told Eric:

This is similar to what people do with widgets as you and I have talked about in the past. I would not be surprised if at some point in the future we did not start to discount these infographic-type links to a degree. The link is often embedded in the infographic in a way that people don’t realize, vs. a true endorsement of your site.

Why? Aren’t infographics great linkable content? They are but as Matt said, he finds that often infographics are misleading and outright wrong. Matt said, “They get far off topic, or the fact checking is really poor. “The infographic may be neat, but if the information it’s based on is simply wrong, then it’s misleading people,” Cutts added.

So what does that mean for our The Periodic Table Of SEO Ranking Factors? I doubt Google would consider that infographic to be considered “off topic” or “really poor” in terms of fact checking.

But Matt does have a concern with how infographic designers and owners encourage other webmasters to link to the infographic.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Google: SEO | Google: Web Search | Infographics | Link Building: General

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About The Author: is Search Engine Land's News Editor and owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm. He also runs Search Engine Roundtable, a popular search blog on very advanced SEM topics. Barry's personal blog is named Cartoon Barry and he can be followed on Twitter here. For more background information on Barry, see his full bio over here.

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  • http://twitter.com/stonetemple Eric Enge

    Part of Matt’s concern was that the links are often embedded and hidden.  But there was also a concern that the infographic acts like a shiny object (my words, not his) that people embrace without realizing that the info is wrong, or really caring about there the link goes (making it less of an editorial vote for the site getting the link).

  • http://twitter.com/DavidWallace David Wallace

    So now Google wants to police graphical content and decide which content is reputable and which is not? Sounds like they are getting closer to a “God complex” than ever before. Why not let social voting decide? Sure there are a lot of crappy infographics, both in regards to the in formation (or mis-information) being displayed as well as aesthetically. But there is also good content and bad content, good videos and bad videos, etc.

    Infographics that are poorly designed or that are mis-leading will often times not go far socially. With Google trying to look harder at social signals as a sign of authority of good content, you think they’d take the same stance with infographics rather than throw the baby out with the bath water. Just another “bully” stance in my opinion.

    On another note, I see good infographics earn a ton more traffic from social networks than Google could ever send anyway. Pinterest is a fine example of this.

  • depietrijojo

    How about the theory that the search quality team makes the rules harder when the seo game starts to get slightly little easier?

  • http://twitter.com/charliehay Charlie Haycock

    Sure, hack research-gathering that leads to misleading graphics have no business in the fray, but why undercut the efforts of those who create rigorously fact-checked infographics?

    Using that logic, G should also consider diluting links from articles written by lazy journalists.

  • http://www.isoosi.com/ Carlos Fernandes

    I agree David. It should be left to the masses to decide what is good or not. If somethign is off topic or wrong it will not fly for long and not be linked to for too long. We don’t need Google to tell us. This move would penalize those that create very helpful graphics and spend a ton of time doing so. It is CONTENT for god sake’s.

  • Ana Luiza Bergamini

    Exactly my thoughts. So Google has to overlook people’s votes now and decide for them what’s good and what’s not?

  • http://steveg.com/ SteveG

    This is no different than widgets, gadgets, plugins, theme packs, icon packs or any other ‘thing’ that people can attach a link to. When a graphic designer puts link in his wordpress theme it makes sense. When an antique store puts a link in an infographic about cats and dogs because cats and dogs get shared a lot, you have a problem.

    Any and every link fad gets abused and devalued at some point. Why? Because people are lazy and want to use the new thing that seems to be working because they burned the old thing to the ground.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=552920061 Samuel Bachman

    So if widget, directory, forum, infographic, footer, blogroll, and other types of links are now bad, what is good? Only text links as citations inside content like articles and blog posts? I agree that the latter links are the best, but the entire situation is confusing.

  • Brent Csutoras

    Do not forget, this is the same Google who made an Infographic for multiple Take Action campaigns - 
    http://www.google.com/takeaction/past-actions/. 

    What Matt is saying is fine, that they do not want to see embed codes or people abusing the creation of Infographics that are not worthy of the actual link. 

    We have already seen this policed without Google’s comments in that most sites will not publish Infographics that are not high quality and I have not seen that embed code work in forever. 

    So for me this seems like a big non-issue that is being sensationalized a little bit. 

  • http://www.seo-theory.com/ Michael Martinez

    How about the theory that too many search marketers are lazy and irresponsible and they just beat any good idea to death and ruin it for everyone?  Yeah, that’s what I’ve been saying for years.

  • http://www.seo-theory.com/ Michael Martinez

    I have been warning people for months that Infographic spam would show up on Google’s radar.  If you don’t stop obsessing over links and turning every linkable asset into spam, you have no reason to complain when Google and Bing take action to downplay the influence that the spam accrues through overuse, misuse, and lazy marketing.

  • http://www.seopros.org Terry Van Horne

    I’d say even the links you think are good are bad if they are on crappy review blogs and other “make moneys online” type sites. I think the problem is not new… it is age old in this field…not enough people really know crap content from the good value add. For most spam is merely ”sites positioned above me” and has nothing to do with a real evaluation of their content.

    If you think it is just confined to Inforgraphics…think again… if it’s a trend or fad technique…it’s already at the tipping point

  • Scott Eggenberger

    How would Google determine what infographics are good and based on good facts vs. spammy infographics without manually reviewing each one? Hasn’t Google said they want good, usable content? In the free online space, it’s only fair to include a back link to the content’s origin much like a footnote cites an author in print.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    How about the idea it’s strange to say last month not to count links out and then this month read that yet another type of link might be getting counted out. I’m exaggerating, but it kind of feels like we’re getting to the point where Google will be able to say that only X, Y and Z links count.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    They won’t. They can’t. What they can do is see that some infographic is being embedded or linked to with all the same anchor text and decide to discount those links. They might be savvy, too, and decide to discount the links of they can somehow detect that the anchor text makes no sense to the infographic (imagine some payday loan company runs a popular infographic on Oscar winners with the anchor text about payday loans. They might be able to figure out some of that).

  • http://www.facebook.com/Aussiewebmaster Frank Watson

    seems Google could get more information clarified if they honestly used a neg button – what happened to the info they gathered from the block this site option? never really hear much about it – guess they have privacy issues

  • http://www.facebook.com/Aussiewebmaster Frank Watson

    love how we use age old now – most people working in the space are under 30 – age old is getting younger – the computer age seems to have generations evert 3-5 years

  • http://www.facebook.com/Aussiewebmaster Frank Watson

    agreed Danny – they can filter – guess the announcement was an attempt to slow it down and give them time to address

  • Chris Koszo

    Very interesting. I always knew this discussion was coming. However, I feel that Matt Cutts is referring to embedded, and perhaps disguised/hidden links that are included with infographics and unknowingly re-published on the web. Discounting these links to some degree would be a great move, as long as it’s done with caution.

    Those who make awesome infographics (and awesome is a prerequisite for a viral infographic anyway), need not be worried because:

    a) reputable bloggers, authors and journalists tend to include a link to your homepage and/or infographic page regardless if it’s in the embed code or not. They must cite their sources :) They also usually just hotlink or rehost the original infographic image, rather than use the embed code anyway.

    b) your infographic image can be made into a link itself, even if you don’t include a text link w/ anchor text. You’ll pass less PageRank value, but you’ll also leave less of an infographic footprint while still getting a link.

    c) if you’re infographic is on-topic, you should be fine. Don’t stress about anything said in these comments. Google will more than likely filter out infographic links based on irrelevance, rather than footprints.

    Still worried? But still want the links? Just make the full-size version of your infographics BIG. Think in thousands of pixels. If anyone wants to share it, they’ll have to add a manual link to the original page that hosts the image because they want their people to enjoy it. Note: adding a link is usually not enough of an inconvenience for people not to post your infographic. Plus all links you get this way will be unique, especially on forums where many infographics inadvertently end up.

  • http://twitter.com/Winooski Nato (Nate Orshan)

    Yeah, we have to distinguish between the canonical infographic on site A and the myriad copies of the infographic on sites B through ZZZZ… I doubt Cutts is saying that you may not be able to rank via a canonical infographic in the future. 

    As SEO wisdom goes, if a piece of content is compelling enough, people will link to it, Tweet about it, Facebook share it, Pin it, etc. Rankings ensue. Shakespeare wrote, “at the length truth will out”, but in our context he might as well have written, “at the length good content will out”.

  • http://twitter.com/jimboykin Jim Boykin

    now infographics will be black hat..hehe…99% of what people are doing to get links is “black hat” now..no matter how white you think you are (ya know they guys who say “I’m white hat…I do infographics and guest blog post…yada yada). There seems to be hardly any (if any) “Legitimate links” one can proactively get…if you think there are, you’re only kidding yourself…whatever you think is legitimate, people will flock to, and google with then say “that’s black hat too”. SEO = Black Hat…no matter how white you think you really are….and yes, virginia, it’s still all about links…no matter how much you hate it Danny…it’s just a game of “what links will google count” being the deciding factor….is there such as think as “Legitimate Link Building”….not really…is there such as thing as “White Hat SEO?”..I don’t think so if you’re doing anything to attract backlinks..but hey, this is good for google…and it wipes out tons of short cut SEO’s.

  • http://twitter.com/DiviFernando Divi Fernando

    Yes I agree. People are eager to recoup losses from the Penguin update and rely on SEO ‘experts’ for ideas (not to blame them, Google says nothing about WHAT TO DO it only says WHAT NOT TO DO off late)

    Informative link building articles have one thing in common “INFOGRAPHICS”, and Google is not blind to the fact that it would be abused any day in the near future by desparate webmaster, hence this attempt to slow it down. 

    If they really are trying to control every manner in which webmaster link build these days that sure is going to backfire.

  • http://www.facebook.com/geno.thampi Geno Thampi

    Who said infographics are for SEO and link building? You cannot just say infographics are black hat just because Matt Cutts has said Google is about to discount infographic links. I am not sure if you noticed this.. They are discounting infographic “links” not the entire concept of infographics. In fact the infographics are not meant to carry links. I would say, infographics are not even meant to be in HTML versions where the links can be embedded.

    If you consider infographics as black hat, you should stay away from online videos or any other type of media. These media are not meant to carry links WITHIN them. Instead, they should be just published online and then should be spread naturally by the public.

    If Google hates infographics, “who cares”, the people love it. What is the most shared content within the social media? Again, infographics are not about the links, people love infographics and share them. The attributed brand reaches real people. Using infographics is not another link building strategy. If you have been using it for solely link building, you need to worry about this statement by Matt. On the other hand if you were spreading your brand along with some relevant information, keep doing it….. There is no better option than the infographics.

    I understand that Google is trying to discount the “hidden LINKS” in the infographcs and they are not flagging the infographics as spam. However, Matt, when you make a statement, please detail it or everyone would have all these misconceptions. They now feel that Google is just deciding what is good for them. Just like this Google toilet http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hrontojPWEE

  • http://www.facebook.com/geno.thampi Geno Thampi

     Infographics are not for link building from anchor texts or for the search engine bots…. They are for real people who like to share interesting images and information…. As you had said Chris…. publish infographics without hidden or anchor text links. As they are shared, you would get natural reference to you brand….

  • http://twitter.com/3doordigital 3 Door Digital

    Surely good infographics will get links, poor ones won’t… let people make a million infographics if they want – only the ones that stand out will do well. I really don’t see why Google should have a problem here. They should treat them like any other webpage – is the content unique and are the links earned naturally?

    If they want to discount the value of links from ‘infographic’ blogs and directories where anyone can get links, then fine, it makes sense. To say we may devalue links that infographics receive is pretty ridiculous IMO, may as well just say ‘we may devalue links received by awesome content/web pages that loads of people loved, linked to and shared’.

  • http://twitter.com/3doordigital 3 Door Digital

    My login keeps messing up :)

  • Rajesh Magar

    Ooh Barry,

    Your article title been shocked me for moment that Links been get discount in future and instantly I started thinking that how I’ll going to survive in that situation. But thank god picture is not that critical as I think about.

    And yes this true that nowadays Infographic is one of the powerful tool to attract large number back-links in return.  And as from my prospective Google hate that thing like- when it’s become so much easier to build back links, Google not felling comfortable with that. And that’s the reason they planning to discount those thing.

  • http://www.seo-theory.com/ Michael Martinez

    Matt could always just stop giving the SEO community early warnings. Maybe people will look back on those halcyon days of Google outreach to the Webmaster community and say, “*sigh* – If only we had not treated Google so badly for giving us early warning signals that perhaps too much emphasis was being placed on grabbing links at any cost.”

    Most Websites don’t need that many links.  They never did.  And given how many links have been discounted through the years, the age-old SEO philosophy of “Pedal faster and harder!” should be laid to rest.

  • http://twitter.com/liamhgfisher Liam Fisher

    This seems to set quite a worrying precedent. I can kind of understand the part about ‘hidden’ links, but what Cutts is saying about the factual accuracy of infographics just seems wrong to me.

    Google isn’t supposed to be evaluating websites’ rankings based on how ‘true’ Google judges them to be. It’s supposed to rank them on the kind of user experience they provide. If poor fact checking is a factor in reducing the value of infographic links, then why not the same for the countless other mis-informed sites on the net?

    If you start on down that path it seems to me that you won’t see many links passing value before long.

  • http://www.uniquelycrackers.co.uk/ Uniquely Crackers

    I agree with Danny here – are Google actually making generating links easier by inadvertently telling us that only x, y and z links count. This will lead to absolute gaming/spamming of these links. Then what? Is Matt then going to say well actually, we are now discounting links from x. Oh actually, we now discount links altogether? So unless your a brand or buy adverts, your getting nowhere in Google. 

    Google needs to look at its focus - what are they trying to achieve? Are they just trying to get everyone to switch to paying for adverts – as these seems to be the only way I can see its going. Is there another viable search provider slowly improving that could take some of the search monopoly Google has? IMHO Google is no longer serving the result I need when I search for a product/service – it does however shove a load of sponsored listings, local listings and other irrelevant results. 

    Personally, Bing seems to deliver much more accurate results, although the search volumes are small in comparison for business owners to effectively use it. However, maybe its the quality of the visit that counts over sheer volume? 

  • http://twitter.com/david_smet David Smet

    I think the arguments that Matt uses, are quite weak.

    1) “The link is often embedded in the infographic in a way that people don’t realize” 
    >> I believe blog or website owners do know how an image link works. I cannot imagine that much people don’t realize there is a link behind the infographic.

    2) “They get far off topic, or the fact checking is really poor. The infographic may be neat, but if the information it’s based on is simply wrong, then it’s misleading people,” >> While it might be true that some infographics are based on unchecked or false information, I think most infographics are based on decent research and studies. A trustworthy infographic mentions its sources. A smart reader checks these sources.
    >> Why would the information found in infographics be more “wrong” than other types of content on the web? What about video’s? Presentations? Or even text-only webpages? Are they always based on thrustworthy information?
    >> Won’t social sharing give Google sufficient information about an infographic’s quality? Doesn’t Google trust the audience to “select” the most thrustworthy infographics? 

  • http://www.uniquelycrackers.co.uk/ Uniquely Crackers

    I agree, there are lots of really good and valuable content out there in the form of infographics. Maybe they could count a good one as being good if it is also backed up with a decent block of content, and the link (if any) is in this instead of hidden/embedded? 

    There a re lots of directories around that accept any old infographic, as long as you wish to pay. So I can see the point in discounting these, as effectively its just a bought link, which is against the policy. 

  • http://twitter.com/dannyashton dannyashton

    Bring it on.

    Just more FUD from Google… how are you going to use an algorithm to discount naturally given links for an infographics? 

    Using a share code that links back to a “non-relevant” page with a keyword anchor is bonkers considering how Penguin has been targeting direct anchor text.  

    Infographics should just link back to the page with the graphic… but remember that most  ”top end” sites won’t use embed code as they want to write a story about it – (Try filtering all those variations Mr Google)

    Yes, embed code links from crappy infographic only sites are going to get filtered soon… and this is a good thing as they where spammy as hell anyway. 

    The reason, I create infographics for my clients is get links from sites that would be very hard/expensive with any other method. 

    Long term, Google is always going to trust authority sites so just make sure your infographics are hitting the big name sites. 

    The only people who should be worried by this are producing irrelevant mediocre graphics only to get keyword anchor texts… 

  • http://twitter.com/AlesiaKrush Alesia Krush

    Looks like the take is on link bait here. I guess Google doesn’t care if
    I use viral stuff for promotion, as long as it doesn’t get me a
    gazillion of easy links along the way.  I feel that Google wants to
    differentiate between a situation when users link to content because it
    has serious value and a situation when people simply link to a piece of
    silly, scandalous inforgraphic.

    But then, again, what about really helpful infographics? Should they be buried as part of collateral damage?

  • John Ryder

    Danny AShton ” Just more FUD from Google… how are you going to use an algorithm to discount naturally given links for infographics?”

  • http://twitter.com/supaswag Ingo Bousa

    This is not about infographics, this is about embedded ‘hidden’ do-follow anchor text links. 

    And talking about infographics.. It’s like the new article directory submitting: 5% great content, 95% rehashed regurgitated badly researched drivel. Fact. I see a lot of ‘infographics’ that are nothing more than bits of copy next to some pictures scraped from the web and the only real reason for it’s existence is the embedded link. Yawn..

  • Pete Morris

    I feel that Cutts point is legitimate, in that most infographics I’ve seen don’t make it obvious that there is an underlying link.

    I don’t think he was suggesting that Google will attempt to verify how legitimate the content is. The fact is, if it’s a technique that’s abused more often than used legitimately, then they have every right to discount it.

    Is an embedded infographic really a vote? Would the person embedding it link to that information on another site if it weren’t presented in that form? Probably not, in the vast majority of cases.

    At the end of the day, the most important question is this. Will end users care whether or not there are a dearth of infographics flying around the web? Let’s be honest. I think not.

  • http://twitter.com/dannyashton dannyashton

    Can you really imagine Google discounting links from the Guardian/CNN/USA Today story just because they link to an infographic page?

    I honestly think Matt Cutts is talking about the submission infographic sites that I talked about last month - 
    http://neomam.com/industry/6-reasons-why-i-banned-paid-infographic-websites/ 

    If your worried about Google filtering links in future then I would suggest not using any sort of embed code and then letting bloggers/reporters choose their own way to link to the graphic. 

  • http://twitter.com/dannyashton dannyashton

    Exactly! Without the embed code, infographics are no different to any other form of content. 

  • rgmz

    The hype about infographics is certainly one of the reasons there are so many “poor” ones, but discounting all infographics links because of quality seems ridiculous, even more looking at the SNR on the Web in general.

  • http://twitter.com/PetPets PetPet

    The smart play would be here to define what a Good infograph is. Make a push to helping others create better than content rather than focus your entire public campaign on penalizations and scare tactics. Just my $0.02. 

  • http://twitter.com/SEObryan Bryan Krause

    Discounting the value of links for infographs because some of them have incorrect data is a little absurd. Since when does the accuracy of the data have anything to do with link value. I’m not saying that the data should be allowed to be incorrect, but there are some GREAT infographs out there that are very accurate interrupt the data in very cool ways. Discounting the value of all infographs due to a few having incorrect data is just plain wrong.

  • http://twitter.com/YoungbloodJoe Joe Youngblood

    i’m sorry but this is getting ridiculous. If i give you something worth value to you I should be able to set the terms of that trade. GameTrailers and GamersTube do it with embedded videos, numerous websites have done it with infographics and widgets and some with wordpress themes. Does google not want people making content at all for use on other websites? That sounds just silly.

  • http://www.linkbuildr.com/ Linkbuildr

    Too many folks abuse the anchor text with their infographic and its a shame. Also too many “news/journalism” sites are being paid to post them without even really checking the facts either…It’s been a brewing recipe for disaster sadly but I imagine if you don’t bother targeting a “money anchor text” you’ll be fine. 

  • http://twitter.com/DustinNay Dustin Nay

    Of course! YouTube essentially embeds a link back to the video, though it may not be visible. When a YouTube video is embedded, it gives credibility to the video and helps it rank. Should it be different for other content? Google happens to own YouTube, and somehow that makes it ‘easier’ for them to track without having a visible link. Unfortunately, we don’t have a way for Google to credit the source of the content without it looking spammy– but YouTube is special.

    Anyway… sorta ranting here, but even if it is discounted, it must absolutely still count for something because they need to give credit for the source of the content. It’s more than fair to get a link back for embedded content. My two cents there anyway. :)

  • http://twitter.com/YoungbloodJoe Joe Youngblood

    That’s right. The savvy will notice that YouTube’s embed code switched to an iframe, right around the time it was discovered that iframe’s passed some value. If Google can hate on us for putting a link with content we distribute, then maybe all links that go to content they dont own on YouTube and Blogger should not allow that content to outrank the original.

  • http://twitter.com/katehuebler Kate Huebler

    This is so frustrating! 

  • http://www.facebook.com/bogglesmymind Chris Boggs

    I hate to agree with Michael Martinez :), but this IS  the fault of the SEOs that took a good idea and started spamming it. Some social media experts out there that used to be SEOs are particularly in love with this bandwagon, and it looks like it will now fail them.  Don’t get me wrong - I still feel that a good “real” infographic will generate the value it should based on an obviosuly natural linking/viral pattern, but it’s time to be thinking about infogrpahics as one possible content idea versus it being on the checklist of things to do each month.

    Yes, Matt said this was about the embedded links, but it does all boil down to the quality of the content not the embedded link, when you think about it big picture and translate here.

  • http://twitter.com/johnelincoln John E Lincoln

    Why even make a vague comment about this?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1239606526 Alireza Sefati

    I think the key is to make sure we change it up and we don’t have embed links or whatever. But what worries me is that Google now is giving itself authority to determine if content of infographic is right or wrong? Who cares I might want to link to an infographic that states wrong information who is Google to determine accuracy. They are in game of popularity not accuracy

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