Visual Culture: Infographics in Marketing and SEO

As society’s appetite for visual information increases, the techniques used to deliver that information continue to evolve and expand. With the plethora of new information generated on a daily basis, it’s vital that we continue to develop innovative and appropriate ways to distribute that data to the masses.

Our culture has transformed into one that relies heavily on images to effectively relay information. Researchers found that when color visuals are introduced, the willingness to read increased by approximately 80%. So, it’s no surprise that sites like Pinterest and Instagram have continued to grow and surpass social media sites that rely less on images (watch your back, Twitter). Moreover, comprehension and retention rates jump 25% when text and pictures are used cohesively. And, for those reading directions that include illustrations, results improve by a whopping 323%. It’s clear that visuals are essential to not only those “pinning” their summer wedding, but also to the dissemination of knowledge.

Visual collateral has blossomed with the expansion of the Internet, as this medium caters to a level of graphic interaction unparalleled on a 2D scale. With the constant bombardment of messaging and images, 247 ads per day to be exact, it’s no wonder our society’s average attention span has decreased. With an increase in external stimuli throughout our day-to-day routines, it’s critical that your brand’s message is the one that sticks. When done right, infographics have the ability to hook a reader and keep them engaged, thus effectively propagating your brand’s message. So, how do you ensure your infographic will reach its full potential? Well, if you’re starting there, you’re already doing it wrong …

The fact is, an idea needs to exist on its own before being transformed into a visual masterpiece. The first question every marketer should be asking themselves isn’t “how can I make a cool infographic,” (or worse, “how can I effectively hide links in an image for mass link-building”), but instead, “what’s the best way I can get my idea or concept across”?

Yet it seems that many brands are using infographics as link bait instead, ignoring their true purpose and merely relying on a pretty image to carry their message (and link) through the blogosphere. It’s no wonder then that certain experts in the SEO industry have put the lid on infographics. In a Whiteboard Friday from November, Moz Founder Rand Fishkin states, “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.” Fishkin goes on to elaborate that although he supports visual aids, he believes infographics are overused and ineffective. But what many pointed out, is that infographics have gotten a bad rep, one that is much more reflective of the brands using the medium than the medium itself. You wouldn’t blame Kodak for the thousand of bad photos taken every year, would you?

Good vs. Bad Infographics

 

VS.  

Infographics can be a strong asset to a brand’s marketing campaign, if done correctly. If you have identified a powerful message best articulated through a visual aid, be sure to consider the following:

  • It’s essential to think about the function of the graphic before the aesthetic appeal. Does this graphic tell the right story? There must be a balance between each of the components such that if one were altered the message would be substantially less effective.

  • A good infographic stimulates deductions. Alberto Cairo, a professor at the University of Miami states, “…the goal of a graphic is not to make numbers “interesting,” but to transform those numbers (or other phenomena) into visual shapes from which the human brain can extract meaning.”

  • Show, don’t tell — when it makes sense to do so. A carefully calculated infographic will take every opportunity to visualize data rather than rely on a text-heavy design.

  • Perhaps one of the most important things to consider is your specific, intended audience and their interests. Who do you want to click “share”? How do they like to consume information? Thinking about who the infographic is for should come before any design-related decisions.

Only once you’ve answered these questions satisfactorily should you begin to actually design your infographic. Remember, the content must act as the backbone of the graphic, letting the statistics and references speak for themselves and transforming complicated vernacular into a more pure and comprehensible asset. Depicting your content, graphs, and statistics in a way that allows the reader to deduce additional information is the true sign of successful visual collateral. Sharing and links will naturally follow, leaving you better positioned for increased organic visibility and SEO success.

About the Author

Kelly Collins

Senior Brand Strategist - SEO

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