I cringe every time I see someone spamming some new infographic on Twitter or Google+. While some of them are clever and amusing, particularly in the beginning, some of them are clearly a stretch with shoddy graphic design and lack of any worthy (or accurate) content. Not only that, so many of them lately have nothing to do with the site in question and are simply created for link value, because obviously that infographic on Angry Birds addiction really fits into the content theme of a low fat recipes site.
While infographics got their start on news sites, even well before the internet was around (remember back in the pre-internet days when they used to pop up occasionally in newspapers), infographics really took off this past year as a great way to get a significant amount of traffic, and of course, links. But as all SEOs know, any worthy “lots of links fast” strategy tends to be used and abused. And wow, they are definitely getting abused.
But for all those SEOs out there pumping out infographics at an alarming rate for all their own – and their client’s – websites, you can bet many of them haven’t stopped to think about the long term consequences, only the short term link gain. Short term is traffic (yea!) but long term could end up being a bit more sketchy.
True, many SEOs argue that links via infographics are quality links. And while some of those links might be quality, just as many of not more are pretty poor quality. It would take nothing for Google to flip a switch and discount a majority of those links obtained via infographics.
How Google can spot the infographic footprint
Images are already indexed in Google in the image search – along with the image size – so it wouldn’t be a stretch for Google to add some sort of penalty (or not so much penalty, but maybe a signal to discount links) for landing pages where an image length is longer than 1500 and wider than say 500 or 800 pixels, because that is an image size not used often for anything but infographics. While not all infographics are the long and skinny, a fair amount of them are. And I am willing to bet when you oh-so-conveniently included the copy and paste code for your infographic that you failed to include a no-follow tag (of the dozen or so I checked, none included the no-follow attribute in the code, which Google would argue that all webmasters should do when they are unsure of the quality, or legitimacy, of an incoming link.
They could also go further with the larger landscape infographics, using OCR technology (which we know they have the ability to use on images) to be able to differentiate between photos and infographics.
It could also potentially be used as a signal for the dreaded over-optimization penalty. And in that scheme of things, one or two infographics could be kosher, while a site rocking 30+ (and yes, there are definitely sites with that many and more) infographics could be a little more suspect, especially if those infographics aren’t linked to from the main site. A fair number of infographics sit on orphan pages that link to other pages on the site, yet no main pages on the site link to the one with the infographic one – particularly the types that are spamming Angry Birds infographics on a recipes site.
Spying on the infographics your fellow SEOs & competitors are sharing
And does the evil side of you want to know how many SEOs are using and abusing infographics, aside from the ones you notice spamming them on Twitter? Simply add one of the many “SEO expert” circles into Google+, make sure you are logged into your Google account, and then do an image search for infographic. At the top of the page will be all those spammy infographics than SEOs have shared, showing through the wonder that is Search Plus Your World. And yes, the spam team can easily add those same SEOs into their circles and see this too, if they wanted.
Likewise, hit up Pinterest, add a bunch of SEOs to your friends, and see what infographics they have pinned. And this also works well for checking what infographics competitive websites are pushing, especially when they are doing the Angry Birds on a recipe site type infographics that you might not otherwise notice.
Should you bandwagon?
If you haven’t jumped on the infographic bandwagon yet and are tempted to, weigh the pros and cons of tossing a no-follow on the copy and paste link code you provide. And yes, infographics can send a ton of traffic just from the sharing, especially the creative and well done ones, aside from the benefits of the links. Some will argue that a Google penalty would be a stretch, it isn’t too farfetched that Google can simply tweak their algo to discount those infographic links anyway.
Going the way of the dodo bird?
Are infographics for links a dying art? I am sure we will all be annoyed by them for years to come, the same way link bait persists. And yes, they will clearly be effective for getting the initial traffic from people sharing them… and rediscovering and resharing them again later. But don’t count on those links you gain benefitting your site from an SEO perspective (aside from the straight clickthrough traffic), especially because we know that Google is leaning towards discounting the benefits of all kinds of links when it comes to their algorythm…. can you say hello social? You need to think ahead whatever the next big link gain thing is…. Or is it already here and you don’t know it yet 😉