Infographics: Why They Fail For Link Building

We’ve all seen them: too much of them. They filter through our Twitter stream, pop up in our News Feed, and infiltrate our search results. My dear friends, we are in infographic overload, and if we don’t do something now, it may be too late for us all.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not against infographics completely. I’d be hypocrite if I were because at 352 Media Group, we use them for our clients and ourselves. They do work — well. But more often than not, they fail— terribly.

I’m not saying we’ve done all of ours 100 percent perfectly, but that’s a key part of link building: learning from your mistakes and the mistakes of others, and then improving upon them.

So, in an effort to prevent you from making the same mistakes and maybe, just maybe, saving infographics before they fall off the deep end like Charlie Sheen, here’s what I’ve found to be the top reason why (most, not all) infographics utterly fail for link building.

Infographics Display Data That Sucks — Even In Picture Form

I blame infographics for dumbing us down even more than reality television. They expect that people won’t understand even the simplest data and put it in picture form that just complicates it even further.

Tom Morris said it best: “Did someone really sit down one day and think ‘you know, unless we have the market share of the iPad illustrated as a pie chart shaped as an apple, people will think this statistic is too dry’?”

Infographics and data visualization should make it easier to understand something. Credit Loan’s infographic on Obama’s economic stimulus plan did a great job at this.

Obama Economic Stimulus Plan

Your infographic will fail if your data is terrible. What makes bad data?

  • It’s dishonest, misleading or downright wrong.
  • Wikipedia is your main source.
  • It’s outdated (more than 12 months old).
  • No one cares about the topic.

Infographic Design Is Abysmal

Yes, abysmal.

I thought we had finally realized that just because your cousin knows Photoshop, it does not make them qualified to design anything for your business. That doesn’t seem to be the case with infographics. If your infographic contains clip art, pie charts, bar graphs, or an abundance of typography, go back to the drawing board.

Think Brilliant did a great infographic about infographics that calls out some serious design flaws that are found on almost every visual representation. If you can’t find a creative way to design something, don’t design it at all.

Infographics Are Often Done By Questionable Companies

When buying links was popular, text link brokers were popping up to facilitate the process. Now, there are infographics providers who do the same thing. But when text link brokers started selling infographic services — because I can imagine their text link sales have dropped considerable over the past year — that was immediately a red flag.

Not all infographic companies are shady, so don’t write them all off. Look through some of their other work. If they also post statistics about how their infographics fared, even better.

Infographic “Promotion” Needs Promoting

When planning your infographic, if under “Promotion” you have “We’ll promote via social media,” you should be vanquished from the SEO club. Social media is not a strategy: It’s a tool, and infographics today aren’t using it properly.

Infographic promotion is not sending out a few tweets a couple of times a day to your 1,000 or so followers and hoping for the best, but that’s what it’s become recently.

Stumble Upon Paid Discovery gets you a couple of days worth of spikes in traffic, but won’t get you long-term results like you’re looking for with link building. If anything, it should be used as a supplement to your other promotion tactics.

Don’t just do a blogger outreach campaign casting a wide net with hopes to snag the Mashables, the Huffington Posts and the TechCrunches. First aim, then shoot.

Infographics aren’t all bad but enough of them have been done so blatantly bad that it has tarnished their reputation. And it should go without saying that if you do the opposite of all these things, you’ll have a solid infographic link building strategy at your hands.

Do you think infographics can be saved? What can people do to save them?

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Link Week Column


About The Author: is the director of digital marketing at 352, a digital agency creating websites, software and marketing campaigns. Follow her on Twitter @erinever.

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  • Shari Thurow

    Hi Erin-

    I cannot tell you how much I disagree with your basic premise. I use infographics for link building and have used them successfully since 1995.

    Maybe your basic premise should be about usability. Usable and useful infographics are fantastic for link building and communication. The people who build them? Maybe they are just not qualified to do so. And pretty don’t cut it (please pardon the grammar).

    Edward Tufte is one example of a person who understands infographics. Good course at:

    This I agree with, “Infographics aren’t all bad but enough of them have been done so blatantly bad that it has tarnished their reputation.”

    Kind of like what black-hat SEOs have done to the search industry. Believe me, I know that infographics work quite well. I recommend using them when it is appropriate and necessary to communicate more effectively…but never at the expense of the user.

  • Bill Ross

    Great post Erin,

    “Infographic “Promotion” Needs Promoting”. I think that is true for all types of content and one of the fundamental mistakes businesses make when it comes to link building and gaining metrics.

    Most businesses still have the mentality that if you build it they will come. This mentality has shifted from “if I build a website people will come” to “if I write content (text, video, infographics) people will come”.

    There is alot of great content out there that nobody has ever seen because of the lack of “marketing”, and some really crappy content that because of some great marketing or social strength, gets alot of visibility.

  • rkomarnicki

    While you make a point to tell us what is not a promotional strategy for inforgraphics you never explain what is a valid way to promote infographics and content. Can you further explain what ways you promote your clients’ content?

  • http://logan9497 logan9497

    While your article makes sense and I feel that poor design of an infographic cannot provide valuable linkbuilding (who wants to link to an infographic that sucks). I have used a few infographics and developed a linking campaign for a company I worked at and found that the inbound links were of some good quality. The infographics were very good and informative. Here is one:
    and the info is very good.

  • Erin Everhart

    I think that’s a good point, Shari. It’s not that infographics fail: It’s that the people who do them fail. And it’s exactly like what Black Hat did to the tried and true SEOs. And I imagine that there will now be Black Hat infographic tactics and definitely Black Hat Search+ tactics to manipulate the system.

    Rkomarnicki, I think that’s a post in and of itself to cover properly promoting an infographic,. I’ll add that to cover in my next column.

  • Bill Ross


    In response to your question I would say many of the same tactics that are used for basic white hat link building (blogger outreach, social outreach, guest blogging) coupled with some additional ideas such as using sites like,, or even, or niche infographic directories might be of value.

    It’s about creating a great product (or in this case infographic) and marketing that product for sales (or in this case link and social metrics).


  • dcogger

    Am I alone in thinkg the argument of this post would be better displayed as an infographic?

  • dannyashton

    Yep infographics fail at linkbuilding.

    Everyone should just stop making them. They are awful at getting high quality editorial links for your target keyword. They are shockingly bad at cutting through the noise to get the attention of bloggers and webmasters.

    Move along now… nothing to see here. Get back to begging webmasters for links because “your so relevant.”

  • Shari Thurow

    Erin, if you don’t mind, I’ll take the bait.

    Mr. Ashton, perhaps you should learn what infographics are and are not before you make blatantly ignorant and derogatory comments. Graphs are infographics. Illustrations are infographics. And there are many different types of graphs and illustrations. There are other types, of course, but these 2 seem to be the ones that people are most familiar with.

    That being said, there are plenty of design and usability guidelines into making effective infographics. Edward Tufte is a good start for reading materials and lectures/webinars.

    IN YOUR OPINION, infographics are awful at getting high quality editorial links. Back up your opinions with evidence. What infographics have you designed or contracted to have designed? Did they meet usability and design guidelines? Was the proper infographic selected to best communicate content? And, if the proper infographic were selected, did the designer label and format it correctly? Did the website owner or SEO label and format it correctly?

    It’s easy to make blanket statements out of ignorance. I’m sure I’ve made plenty of blanket-mistake blunders. Not on this topic. Take a class or two, read some good books, and learn from them. Or hire someone who is more knowledgeable or skilled than you about infographics.

    It’s okay to admit when you don’t know something.

  • Shari Thurow

    Examples of good infographics (illustrations) can be found on the Medscape and Mayo Clinic websites. Wall Street Journal formats and labels graphs extremely well.

  • Bill Ross


    Thanks for responding to Mr. Ashton. If community members can’t be productive (does not mean they have to agree) with their statements, they should just withhold from writing anything. Medscape and Mayo Clinic do a very good job of producing and labeling their information.


  • basfiji

    “When planning your infographic, if under “Promotion” you have “We’ll promote via social media,” you should be vanquished from the SEO club. Social media is not a strategy: It’s a tool, and infographics today aren’t using it properly.”

    If Social Media is a tool why would you not use it as tactic to help promote your infographic? I would say if it’s the only way you are promoting you should be vanquished, but not if it’s a TOOL you are using.


  • Steve Tay

    @sharithurow I just wanted to thank you for mentioning Edward Tufte, I was not familiar with his work and it looks like an amazing contribution to data visualization. Hopefully he will visit Toronto for a workshop soon but until then I’ll be reading his books.


  • http://mklofurno mklofurno

    I agree with Shari. IMO – [and people will probably get mad at me here] I think the marketing/search marketing press [search engine land, search engine watch] is probably the most guilty of smearing info-graphics on everything.

    It is absolutely a great link building tactic but if its used too much, it looses its effectiveness. People are consuming more and more information online today. Some subjects can be covered more succinctly within the normal range of tactics such as traditional advanced organizers/chunking techniques.

    If you have a large info-graphic which makes me scroll down the page forever and keeps me from being able to scan the text of the article efficiently, I get annoyed and bail on the article. So maybe you get a link or two but you have trained me not to look at your info-graphics.

    I only really want to click into an image and view it more closely if its information I really think its valuable. Since I have been designing web sites and started in online marketing back in 1997, I am just not your average reader/user.

    Just my opinion. Mary Kay Lofurno

  • Shelli

    There have been a few articles over the last few months taking about the death of infographics and that they are becoming the scourge of the internet. Anything that gains popularity through success is always vulnerable to abuse and eventually over exposure. The culprit for the current round of infographic bashing is undoubtedly the rash of cheap, badly designed infographics lacking any research, imagination or skill. Unfortunately there are a lot of them circulating and this is damaging the genuine examples of outstanding work. But this is what happens when you buy cheap.

    The secret to a good infographic campaign lies with the planning and research. You have to think WHO you are creating the piece for and WHY so you can consider WHAT you want to achieve from the campaign. I feel that many marketers lack in the thought and planning stage so have no clear strategy as to why they are doing a campaign. If you plan well, research well and execute well you can’t go far wrong.

    Yes, I am a content marketer and produce infographics so you could consider me biased but IMHO anything of genuine interest, well done is always going to be a crowd puller. Try not to be so focused on the crap that clogs the wheels and think about what can be produced with some thought and imagination that people will read, share and link to. IMO there will always be room for great quality infographics.

    dannyashton, please try and contribute something other than a provocative statement with no substance or consideration.

    Shari Thurow, nice response to dannyashton and great comments.

  • Gareth Mailer

    Am I the only one who thinks Danny Ashton’s comment was quite blatantly sarcasm?


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