By Brian Dean published July 22, 2013

5 Steps to Create Compelling Content Through Infographics

content marketing historyThey may not be the red hot content marketing format they were a few years back, but that doesn’t mean that your brand should be ignoring infographics as a means for creating and delivering compelling content. In fact, now that the buzz has died down a bit, there’s more room on the web for your quality infographics to stand out.

Whether you’re new to infographics or looking to squeeze more brand recognition, back links, and traffic from your efforts, this step-by-step guide will show you how to develop a winning topic, find the data you need, and get your infographic content in front of the people who matter most.

Step #1: Find an in-demand topic

Your first — and most important — step is to find a topic that’s in demand.

Note that I didn’t say “hot topic.”

Sure, you can craft your infographic around a popular topic, but it’s not necessary in order for your infographic to perform well. There are plenty of infographics on evergreen topics that make for compelling content (and even go viral).

The key is finding a topic that your audience cares about. It can be the “big thing” in your industry, or just something that your user base has a vested interest in.

Here are a few resources you can use to zero in on the right idea:

  • Google Trends: If you want to go the hot topic route, you definitely want to do some research on Google Trends to see what information people in your industry are currently searching for.

How it works: Just head over to Google Trends and enter a few keywords that make sense for your niche. Let’s use a bakery as a business example:

baking search

Scroll down to the “related terms” area and click “rising:”

baking-related terms-rising

This will show you topics that are growing in popularity:

baking-topics growing in popularity

Looks like an infographic about gluten-free baking might be a topic worth pursuing, as searches for this term are trending upwards.

  • Visua.ly: Visual.ly is the web’s most popular infographic database. Looking at other infographics on relevant topics that have performed well can give you a quick sense of where consumer interest lies for your industry.

How it works: First, head to the visual.ly homepage and look for the “topics” area. Click on the topic closest to your niche:

visual.ly-topics-food

Then, organize the results that will be generated by views. This will show you the most viewed infographics in your category:

organize-most viewed infographics

The results will show you what types of infographics on your industry have been successful —  which can help you identify opportunities for original topics and approaches.

  • Industry forums: It’s a little old-school, but industry forums can still be information gold mines when it comes to identifying in-demand topics. If you don’t know of any relevant forums for your industry, just Google “your keyword” + “forum” or “keyword” + “Powered by vBulletin”:

cooking-forum search

How it works: Looking at the number of views and replies in the search results will provide a snapshot view of which relevant forum threads are getting the most attention:

number of views and replies

If your business already has an active presence on a particular industry forum, you can even create a conversation thread that asks community members what topics they are interested in seeing infographics on.

Step #2: Compile your data

Once you have your topics ready to rock, your next step is to gather the data you need to fill your infographic with compelling content. Of course, how you go about this depends on the type of data you want to include.

  • Informational infographics: If your infographic will present tips and insights (rather than statistics or hard data), you simply need to collect the information you want to include from the resources you have at your disposal — such as your own website or company data, your blog, other industry-related websites, or even your team’s own expertise.

How it works: Here’s an example on the topic of writing the perfect blog post:

topic-the perfect blog post

  • Google News: Google News is an infographic data seeker’s paradise. It aggregates the most up-to-date information on the web all in one place. And its strict editorial guidelines ensure that the data you find is legit and trustworthy.

How it works: To give it a try, just head over to Google News and enter some of these search strings:

“keyword” + “study”

“keyword” + “industry study”

“keyword” + “market research”

compelling-content-infographics-social-media-study

And see what interesting data you find that might fit with your infographic’s theme:

study links-infographic theme

You can also use these search strings in Google to find older — yet still incredible — data:

social research-google search strings

  • Twitter searches: I love Twitter search because it usually reveals content that doesn’t show up in the first few pages on Google or Google News.

How it works: Just head over to Twitter’s search page and enter the same keywords that you used to search Google News. Look for hot news items you may have missed:

twitter-search page-social

  • Google Scholar: Google Scholar is another gold mine for infographic data.

How it works: Just enter your keyword into Google Scholar and sort through the results:

The best part about Google Scholar is that most of the papers you’ll find cite dozens of other research studies, which means that they’re doing all of the hard work for you!

  • Older infographics: There’s nothing wrong with digging through older infographics for information and inspiration (as long as they’re properly cited, of course).

How it works: Pinterest is of the best places to find a slew of infographics in any niche. Just put in “keyword + infographic” and see what comes up. Keep your eyes peeled for infographics with lots of facts, figures, stats, and references:

pinterest-infographic search

Step #3: Invest in a stunning design

Unless you’re a professional graphic designer, I don’t recommend a DIY infographic. Considering the hundreds of infographics published every day, you really want to invest in your design so it will stand out from the crowd.

Regardless of who ultimately designs your infographic, here are some best practices you’ll want to keep in mind:

  • Use a maximum of 10 data points: Any more than this can get overwhelming, which means that your readers may not absorb or retain the information — including the brand that provided it to them.
  • Use cool visualizations: Your infographic shouldn’t be comprised of a bunch of boring pie charts. In fact, it’s best to avoid using any traditional pie, line, or bar charts at all. However, if you feel you must use visualizations like these, make sure that you put a unique spin on it, like this:

twitter stats-cool visualizations

  • Use high-resolution images: I still see a lot of blurry infographics out there, and it’s a definite no-no. Unless your information is being presented in a clean and clear way, readers will just move along.
  • Include a hook: Here’s a great piece of sage wisdom from Smashing Magazine: “Find your best ‘takeaway’ data. Create a stunning visualization. Make that the centerpiece of your design.” Here are a few examples that they pointed out:

include a hook

  • Tell a story: The best-performing infographic I ever created was for a client in the precious metal space. His infographic told the story of inflation and how it affected purchasing power. Not the sexiest topic, but it grabbed and held people’s interest so that they read it from start to finish — which made them more likely to share it.
  • List references at the bottom: You’d be surprised how many people say to me, “Brian, I loved that you did so much research for your infographic. Look at all those references!” A long list of references helps increase the perceived value of your data. So make sure you save some room for it within your design. As you’re about to see, these references can also help you get people to promote your infographic for free.

Obviously, there are exceptions to all of these rules (for example, this infographic from Entrepreneur.com has over 200 data points and still went viral). But they’re good rules of thumb to review during the design process.

Step #4: Promote your infographic

Start by creating an embed code: An embed code does two very important things:

  1. It makes it easy for more people to share your infographic
  2. It ensures that those who share your infographic are linking back to you

How it works: You can create an embed code fairly easily using this embed code generator tool:

embed code generator

Once you’ve entered all of the important information, copy and paste the code underneath or on top of your infographic.

The code will create a box of HTML that people can use to easily embed your work on their sites.

One word of warning: Don’t include keyword anchor text in your infographic link. If it goes viral, you will suddenly have hundreds of links with anchor text “Landscaper Tulsa” pointing to your site, making you liable for a Google Penguin penalty.

Social media: As with a blog post, social media is the first place you should turn to when you want to get the word out about your shiny, new infographic.

Instead of just posting a generic “Check out my infographic” message, consider giving shout outs to the people that you reference in your piece:

How it works: You can do this on Twitter, for example, by tweeting out to a few influential people or sites that you found helpful during your research process:

twitter-what's happening tweet

You can also use the “+” symbol in Google+ to grab the attention of influencers:

+cmi-google+

Infographic directories: Infographic directories can help generate buzz and momentum for your efforts. While the links from these directories aren’t very powerful on their own, they’re worth submitting to for the wider exposure they can offer. However, these services are usually not worth paying for, so make sure you only submit your infographic to free galleries.

Here’s are a few reputable directories that you might want to consider (courtesy of Neil Patel):

  • Visual.ly
  • Daily Infographic
  • Cool Infographics
  • Infographics Archive
  • Infographic Journal
  • Infographics Showcase
  • Visual Loop
  • Flickr

Step #5: Email the linkerati

Once you’ve got some buzz going, it’s time to reach out to your industry’s “linkerati” — the movers and shakers who have the power to send a tidal wave of traffic to your infographic.

You probably already know who these luminaries are, but if you want to cast a wide net, consider checking out Moz’s excellent FollowerWonk tool, which can provide a list of industry influencers in a snap:

How it works: Just type the topic of your infographic into the “Search Twitter Bio” bar:

search twitter bios

Then, identify the people who might be interested in sharing your infographic with their communities (more on that later):

industry influencers

You can also use Alltop to find other webmasters in your industry.

Once you’ve found them, it’s time to send them a non-pushy email. I recommend using a two-step sequence to maximize response rate. You can use the following template as a base, and customize it based on your recipient and your specific industry:

Email #1:

Hello [name],I want to start off by saying that I love [site name]! You may remember the comment I made on XX post last week.

Anyway, I know that you’re big on [infographic topic].

I just wanted to give you a heads up that I just created an infographic on [infographic title].

Considering you’re someone that loves writing about [topic], I thought you might be interested in seeing it. Please let me know if you would like me to send it over.

Email #2 (in response to a request to send the infographic):

No problem. Here you go: [infographic link]

I’d love to hear your opinion on it. And if you wouldn’t mind sharing it with your followers, it would make my day.

Either way, keep up the great work at [site name]!

Depending on your industry and the quality of your infographic, you can expect a 20 percent (or greater) share rate, with many of those shares coming in the form of a website embed. Embeds generally have fantastic click-through rates, and the resulting link provides more of an SEO boost than a social media share does (although it should be said that most people that embed your infographic will also share it on social media).

Now it’s your turn

There you have it: a step-by-step infographic marketing blueprint.

Even if you’re still not completely sold on the lasting power of infographics, I strongly suggest that you give it a go. It’s one of the cheapest ways out there to build high-quality back links and drive targeted referral visitors to the compelling content you create on behalf of your business.

For more tips on working with visual content marketing formats, like infographics, don’t miss this year’s Content Marketing World conference, September 9-11 in Cleveland, Ohio.

Author: Brian Dean

Brian Dean is the link building expert and SEO consultant behind Backlinko. There he publishes guides to help digital marketing agencies and small business owners get more search engine traffic to their websites using content marketing. When he's not publishing content and building links, he's usually backpacking. Brian lives in Berlin, Germany. Follow Brian on Twitter @Backlinko.

Other posts by Brian Dean

  • airpacinc

    GREAT info-packed post. Thanks for sharing actionable tips that we can implement right away!

    • Brian Dean

      Thanks for reading!

  • Tradeshow Coach

    Thanks for the very clear, easy-to-follow, and well laid out information.

    • Brian Dean

      My pleasure.

  • OfficeVP

    This step-by-step guide has good advice and details to help you develop infographic content. Get it seen and shared.

  • Diane

    Excellent article. Great info. Thanks so much.

  • Wes Ward

    Well done Brian. Excellent, process driven content. Filled a couple of gaps in my infographic process. Can’t wait to given the ‘embed’ tool a go. Thanks again, Wes

    • Brian Dean

      Glad you liked it, Wes. Let me know if you have any questions.

  • Sara Martin

    Just encountered you guys from a LinkedIn prompt – love your work!

  • Tangerine Digital

    Hi Brian. Your article is great and very useful in providing pointers for creating compelling content through Infographics. The way of using living examples to portrait the logic behind infographics is just commendable. We at Tangerine Digital (www.tangerinedigital.com) are really pleased to have easy and pointed information. We believe in delivering best quality Content Marketing tactics to our clients.

    Thank you so much for your help.

    Team Tangerine Digital

    (www.tangerinedigital.com)

    • Brian Dean

      Glad to hear that you liked the examples and thanks for reading.

  • Hugh McCabe

    Hi Brian. Thanks for a very informative article. I will keep all the pointers in mind when creating Infographics for my blog.

    • Brian Dean

      Thanks for reading, Hugh!

  • marketingpro

    You brought up some good points here.

    One thing that I don’t like about most infographics is that they are too heavy on data and stats. Too much stats and data can make the infographic seems boring and overwhelming.

    I think an infographic is more compelling when it tells a story using a combination of data, stats, images, and illustrations. The secret is to organize the flow of information and data in a way that it is telling a story with characters, problems & conflicts, and include some takeaway messages to resolve the problems. As most studies have indicated, story has a powerful effect on people.

    We recently did an inforgraphic on Internet privacy. Originally, the designer made it very data intensive. After adding the images and cartoons, it tells a better story. You can see it here, http://blog.hotspotshield.com/2013/07/22/who-is-tracking-you-online/

    • Brian Dean

      I agree 100%. I’ve been getting away from data-driven infographics and leaning more towards story or tutorial style pieces.

      • Joe Cardillo

        Amen – at Visual.ly we talk about this all the time. When we get the difficult question “how do I make this go viral” after trying to temper expectations we recommend many of the same things from this post, but especially to consider the narrative/story. Every single thing we’ve created that’s gone viral has had a narrative, either directly or underlying in a clear way.

        • Brian Dean

          Thanks for your insights, Joe! I had two of my client’s infographics featured on Visual.ly’s homepage. Although both had plenty of data, they were there to support an overarching narrative.

  • Waxahachie Chamber

    Love this, great way to connect with your market.

  • Beyond the Outline

    Thanks for the valuable article. I’ll get a lot of use out of the tools you listed.

    • Brian Dean

      Thanks for reading!

  • Joe Cardillo

    Really solid stuff Brian, especially the point about topics & strategy to focus on the right part of the long tail of SEO. Better engagement / results at that medium volume keyword / topic range than trying to compete at the very top level.

    • Brian Dean

      Glad you liked it, Joe! Yup, for most businesses long tail is the way to go.

      • Joe Cardillo

        Definitely – it’s funny how people sort of get a blank slate brain when they try something new. I tell people to think about big picture things they already know, and bring that to the table with infographics/data viz. Tactics vary by tool, but strategy you can apply anywhere.

  • http://www.dotlogics.com/ John Wilson

    Best way to get online visibility is by exporting the infographic in a HTML format which is SEO friendly. For more info visit dotlogics.com

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