Welcome! This FREE tutorial will walk you through step-by-step how to create premium quality infographics and precisely how to promote them so that you can generate coverage on big name websites like Forbes and Mashable – sending a surge of traffic to your website.
- Infographics 101
- How to come up with ideas
- How to perform & organize research
- How to organize your information
- The fundamentals of Infographic design
- Infographic Promotion
The purpose of this section is to introduce infographics and give you a clearer answer as to why you would want to invest in producing and promoting one.
Much of the information in this module really is 101 (as the course title suggests) so if you are a complete beginner to the idea of infographics then don't worry, we've got you covered! We'll be starting here with the "Why".
If however you are already familiar with the concept of infographics, you can use much of the information in this section as a tool to convince your boss or your client on why they should be investing in infographics.
6 Reasons Infographics are so effective
- Your audience has a short attention span - and that's getting shorter all the time, with the average adult switching 21 times between devices every hour it is really hard to capture and maintain the attention of your audience. That's where infographics come in because close to 50% of our brain is involved in visual processing which means that we can attach meaning to an image far more quickly than we can text (hence why most warning signs we see on the road are visual).
- The Principle of Continuity - A common response to the notion that our brains react well to visuals is, "why not just invest in photos instead of an infographic?" It's a great question, however numerous studies have shown that people absorb and retain information much better when text and images are present. It is the principle of continuity and is exactly why children's books are so effective at communicating their point - they have a very clear visual element and some simple text to reinforce what is happening. Infographics achieve that balance between visual engagement and textual information.
- Brevity in an age of Information overload - Not only are we suffering from shorter attention spans. We are bombarded throughout our day with messages and information. The equivalent of an astounding 174 newspapers is forced upon us every single day. Infographics help cut through the noise by presenting complicated subjects in an easily digested way - your audience will love you for it.
- Infographics are more engaging than plain text - As opposed to a monochrome text page, introducing colour to the equation increases audience engagement levels. Other elements such as charts, icons and small visuals further help to draw in your audience and hold their attention by conveying the story to them in a way that no news article ever can.
- Infographics are inherently shareable - whether it's a juicy stat, seductive headline or the fact that most infographics have the option to easily copy and paste an embed code... infographics can spread all over the internet like a wildfire. And when 50,000 links are shared every minute on Facebook alone (source), that is a real sea of content to compete with. Infographics can help you rise above the noise.
- Infographics need to be shared when they're talked about - Another exciting feature of a content asset like an infographic is that it simply cannot be covered by a blog or news outlet without being featured within their article. They might not include the whole piece but in order to bring context to their comments they will need to include your infographic or at least the important sections. This greatly increases your chance of a brand mention and a link to your website, both of which can be great for driving traffic to your website and improving your visibility in Google.
INFOGRAPHIC MYTHS DEBUNKED
The aim of this lesson is to cover some of the most common misconceptions about infographics.
The internet is bored of infographics
If that's the case then why does Google record a consistent increase in search volume relating to the term (year after year)?
Infographics can get your website penalised by Google
Google is well-known for publicly denouncing types of backlinks that it struggles to algorithmically identify and process. The propaganda machine then takes over and warns the average website owner away from the tactic despite the potential benefits.
Matt Cutts (Google's Head of Webspam) said back in 2012 that Google in the future may look to discount links earned from infographics. Read the interview here. This was blown out of all proportion by various search engine optimization blogs but Matt clarified:
some infographics “...get far off topic, or the fact checking is really poor."
"The link is often embedded in the infographic in a way that people don’t realize, vs. a true endorsement of your site."
It is very clear that Matt and Google's concern is with infographics that are poor quality and manipulative. If you are producing premium quality infographics (and we'll assume you are given that you are taking this course) and you aren't attempting to shoehorn keyword specific links in the embed code then you really have nothing to worry about.
GLOSSARY OF TERMS
The world of infographics has quite the lexicon and we think in order to better understand how to achieve success with infographics we need to cover the basics so as to eliminate any confusion later down the line. This lesson in particular is one you may want to keep handy so you can refer back to it at a later date when reading through the other materials.
Concept - a loose collation of ideas for an infographic, where the data collection phase has not begun. A concept can be presented to others for feedback.
Content Asset - a conceptual asset that belongs to a website.
Coverage - the sum total of websites that have published your infographic.
Data Visualization - the act of presenting data visually through the use of graphical representation, as opposed to text.
Domain Authority - a rank within a niche that indicates the quality of a website or domain.
Ego-bait - content produced with the intention to provoke a reaction of a certain person or group of people, usually authorities or market influencers. Any reaction or subsequent conversation will result in your content or “asset” being discussed and shared.
Infographic - a combination of visual graphic and text elements that are arranged in such a way so as to convey a story or concept.
Influencer - people or bloggers that other people in their industry or niche turn to for direction. Influencers have established some authority in a niche or industry and often have the ear of decision makers.
Newsjacking - piggybacking or attaching to a news story or event that is currently in the spotlight, with a view to your content being used in tandem with the story or event.
Outreach - all efforts that go into reaching out to prospective websites for infographic placement. Those with proven proficiency in this area are termed "outreach specialists".
Placement - when an infographic has been posted or shared by a third party website or blog.
Primary Data - data that is sourced by you, where you or your organisation can be quoted as the primary source and author or publisher of the data.
Secondary Data - data that has been sourced and made available by others.
Source - the origin of informational data. A source is where data is originally published and is subsequently cited, referenced or attributed in all future iterations of the data usage.
HOW TO COME UP WITH INFOGRAPHIC IDEAS
This lesson will run through how you can get the ideas flowing (before refining them).
Devising a concept is really an art and a science which is why we've split these two elements down into two lessons. Initially we believe it is important to think as big as possible, really get inspired and let your imagination get carried away before you then whittle down your list and refine your final concept.
So let's start with how to get the ideas flowing:
This process is very much about opening your eyes and mind to the goings on around you. There is likely inspiration all around you for infographic ideas. You just have to be open to them finding you.
Immerse yourself in:
Think tangentially. Whilst there might not be anything that immediately springs to mind in your specific market, there could well be plenty of new ground to cover in a closely related market. A nice and easy way to get yourself thinking about market tangents is to head to Wikipedia and navigate to a page about a topic in your industry (or of course multiple pages) then scroll to the "See Also" section to see if this helps connect some dots in your mind.
Tools to help you get inspired
- Buzzsumo - this tool can be used both as a broad inspiration tool as well as for refining your concept when it comes to the science of ideation (a later lesson).
- Creativity 101 - the free eBook from Shelli Walsh to help you get creative.
- Visual.ly - their community section allows free submissions of infographics and can serve as a useful source of inspiration particularly as you can see which ones are getting views/faves/comments.
- We strongly suggest you take a look at this blog post from Chris Winfield. It covers a step by step process for how you can come up with more ideas in your day to day life and it can easily be applied to your infographic ideation.
- Stacey Cavanagh's presentation from BrightonSEO - skip to slide 29 for the really good stuff about ideation.
THE SCIENCE OF SELECTING A CONCEPT
At this stage you should have a variety of "half-baked" or loose infographic concepts, topics you would like to conduct a little more research on and then refine further before making your final selection.
Step 1 - Research the topic
It is vital that you are able to find information on the topic. Not just basic information either, you need to be able to find statistics, data, factoids and more. Additionally these shouldn't just be the ones anyone can find with 2 minutes of Googling. At this stage you are looking for deep resources that you can skim now and will explore later more thoroughly when you are compiling your research report for your chosen concept.
It is worth noting here however that if you can't find information on your topic then this could be a huge competitive advantage as it may mean either the topic is under-served or you have the opportunity to bring some unique data to the market with some primary research. However, please be aware of the costs and complexities often involved with gathering primary data.
Step 2 - Research competitors and their success
Mark Twain said "There's no such thing as a new idea" and by and large he isn't wrong. There is likely to be a piece of content, on the concept you are researching, that is out there already. This is often a good thing as you can assess the competition and see if the piece you have planned is going to surpass their standard. You can also dig into how their content has performed. Learn from their mistakes and build on their successes. See the useful tools list below to find out how to analyze their social shares and backlink profiles.
Step 3 - Rate your ideas
Many of our more experienced content ideas team are able to whittle down ideas based on gut feeling from the little bit of research that they do. However this isn't possible for everyone to do and luckily there is a really easy framework that will help add structure to your scoring. It is called the NUF test and you can find more information on how to use it here.
Step 4 - Finalize your concept
You're nearing the stage where you are committing to just one concept so it is vital that you round off this idea before you fully move ahead with it. This means coming up with a working title (to start you thinking about killer headlines), defining the parameters of what you'll be covering and gathering up all of the lovely sources and resources you've found as well as potential prospects you've stumbled upon whilst doing your preliminary research.
- OpenSiteExplorer / Ahrefs / Majestic (or your tool of choice) - each of these backlink explorers will allow you to see how many links a given piece of content has got. This will help when it comes to rating your ideas as you have a clearer idea of levels of success in a given topic area.
- Buzzsumo - quickly analyze which topics and content have performed best based on social sharing metrics.
THE PILLARS OF A GOOD IDEA FOR AN INFOGRAPHIC
In this lesson we are going to cover the fundamentals of a good infographic idea.
Mike King pointed out that when it comes to content, mediocrity doesn’t scale. Nowhere is this more true than in the world of infographics. How many graphics do you think pass over the desks of editors at the various top-tier online publications each week? I can tell you that the answer is A LOT.
Infographics just don’t have the same novelty factor that they once did, they’re not a shortcut to guaranteed coverage. Avoiding mediocrity during every step of the process is crucial.
This starts with a solid concept. Here are what we consider the pillars or fundamentals of a good idea for an infographic:
#1 - Relevance
Many spirited discussions could be had over what exactly relevance (in this context) means. It is certainly a hard concept to pin down because you can bridge topics very easily with a bit of creativity. For example two seemingly unrelated topics "Small Business" and "Fitness" can easily be connected with a piece of content about helping Entrepreneurs to Stay Fit.
Granted this is a fairly obvious example, but it does reinforce the notion that relevance is a fairly loose term. We consider it to be a key fundamental of a good concept and we determine how relevant an idea is by considering it from a user's perspective. If the average internet user came across an infographic about subject X from client Z, would they think it was weird?
It is painfully obvious when a brand marketing team is trying to hijack a newsworthy event with an infographic that is at best tenuously related to the company they are marketing.
#2 - Interest
Relevance is of course important but a great infographic concept will always be on a topic where there is clear interest. This means you need to balance pillars #1 and #2 to arrive at a concept which is relevant, yet not so relevant that it is bordering on so niche, to the point where only your work colleagues will want to read it (and even then they only want to read it when they're on company time!).
#3 - Evergreen timeliness
As a company, we typically avoid topics that are flash in the pan. We look for concepts that are timely and that will have longevity because creating an infographic is rarely a 24 hour process, which means if the news hook you are relying on has been and gone then you are left with a piece of content that is probably going to be of interest to very few people.
#4 - Multiple Audiences
As we've said before, relevance between topics is more often than not just one small bridge away. If your concept straddles two or even more niches in a credible way then you may well be on to a winner. This will mean your pool of potential prospects you can reach out to for coverage in the promotion stage is an order of magnitude larger than it would be if your infographic appeals to only one niche of bloggers. An important caveat to this is that appealing to too many markets will mean you actually appeal to none as your infographic may become so diluted that it isn't really relevant to any of the various audiences you were hoping to reach.
#5 - Shareability
This pillar is about striking the balance between a concept that is interesting and one that people will feel comfortable sharing.
Common reasons people won't share content are that bad language is used, the topic is too risque or the topic polarizes opinion. You need to consider carefully what your infographic is going to contain when it is finished. Stirring up a little debate is absolutely encouraged but be warned about picking sides on issues that the internet feel strongly about, it can really backfire.
#6 - Unique
If your idea for an infographic has already been done, there is no value (for you or the internet at large) in rehashing the topic and publishing anyway. If an infographic on the topic already exists then how is yours going to be better (see pillar #7 below), how will you be able to sell the piece when it comes to promoting it. If the concept doesn't have a clear value proposition at this stage then no amount of research or design is going to make it fly.
#7 - Does it VIE?
Does it add value? Or is it going to inform? Or is it going to entertain? It needs to do at least one of these things and knowing which one it is going to be can help shape the rest of the process.
INFOGRAPHIC RESEARCH - PRIMARY OR SECONDARY DATA?
- Primary Data - Primary research consists of a collection of original primary data collected by the researcher. It is often undertaken after the researcher has gained some insight into the issue by reviewing secondary research or by analyzing previously collected primary data.
- Secondary Data - is data collected by someone other than the user. Common sources of secondary data for social science include censuses, organisational records and data collected through qualitative methodologies or qualitative research.
Please note - For the purposes of simplicity, throughout this program we refer to primary data as anything collected by YOU and secondary data as anything collecting by SOMEONE ELSE which you've found (online for example). We are aware that some academic institutions would disagree with our classifications but we don't want to muddy the waters at this stage.
Which is the best?
Well that very much depends upon your budget, timeframe and your market... only you can really answer this question, however here are some general guidance notes on both types:
In our experience, primary research can be a fantastic catalyst in securing press coverage however think carefully before going down this route because you need to ensure that your data is A) Valid and B) Accurate. If the sample size is too small or there are holes in your research then you will face a grilling from editors and journalists. Then all that work that went into presenting the data and promoting the graphic will be for nothing.
Secondary research forms the majority of our research work because thankfully the internet is a wealth of easily accessible data. Conducting surveys isn’t always necessary, so don’t feel like you are ducking out of work by opting for secondary research. You also have the opportunity to collate various reputable sources and it means you have them to reference should a link prospect question the accuracy of a fact.
WAYS TO COLLECT PRIMARY DATA
Conducting primary research can be expensive and time-consuming,, however thanks to the connectedness of the internet, it might not take you as long or cost you as much as you might think. We've got a few tips, tricks and hacks that could land you with some great primary data in just a few days.
Why go the extra effort and expense of conducting your own surveys? Well, primary research can be a fantastic way of securing press coverage because you have exclusive information. This can very often open doors to publications that just wouldn't consider running your infographic if it were full of secondary information.
As Matt Gratt suggests "tools like Google Consumer Surveys, Ask Your Target Market, and Mechanical Turk enable marketers to do academic-quality research in time periods measured in days – using only their credit cards".
- Google Consumer Surveys - our service/tool of choice - pricing varies but it is free to complete a survey (or at least there is no subscription to the software required) you just pay per respondent. The price is typically $3.50 per completed response and you can select your audience based on a wide range of criteria (as well as developing questions to help your target audience self-select). Being too specific in our experience does lead to much longer lead times however we have found the Insights team at Google to be most responsive and helpful when it comes to surveys that are dragging on, they will often pause efforts and help you get to the bottom of why you aren't getting responses.
- Survey Monkey - monthly subscription for the software followed by a charge per respondent (calculated according to a variety of factors) - clean interface, very easy to design surveys. Slightly slower response rates compared with Google Consumer Surveys.
- Google Docs + Your customer base - free, all you need is a Google account in order to create the simple survey (responses will be collected in a Google spreadsheet) and then of course you need a fairly large customer base to contact and ask them to complete the survey. In most instances you will need to provide an incentive for them to complete your survey such as a prize.
- VoxPopMe - Their consumer insight solution
Designing your survey
- Wording - Clarity in your questioning is essential. Ensure your language choice is unambiguous so as to avoid inaccurate responses.
- Sequence - Consider the flow of your survey very carefully and make sure that questions are grouped in a logical fashion.
- Variety of Format - Make your survey interesting and engaging for every respondent with a variety of question formats. Google Consumer Surveys makes this really easy.
- Consistent values - If you intend to use scales throughout your survey then keep the values consistent so as to avoid any confusion.
- Check for Bias - Make sure you're not asking leading questions.
Finding the story in your data
As School of Data suggests:
"Sometimes you will start out to explore a dataset with a given question in mind. Sometimes you start with a dataset and want to find a story hidden in it. In both cases visualizing the data will be helpful to find the interesting parts."
Very often the raw data that you get back will be quite cumbersome and complicated to immediately see through and identify what is going to be interesting. It can be useful in these situations to work up a number of questions, hypothesis or perhaps commonly held beliefs. Then you can seek to arrange your data in such a way that you'll be able to answer those questions, prove/disprove a hypothesis and challenge/support widely held beliefs.
If you are looking for some more advanced reading on data journalism, we recommend this article - Data Journalism: How to Find Stories in Numbers
Augment your own data
We always recommend adding to your own data by checking with a wide range of other sources to ensure you have all the information, and to really build up a compelling story. For example, you could explore Scientific American, Science News, EurekAlert! or Newswise.
A GUIDE TO SECONDARY INTERNET RESEARCH
Research forms the meat in the sandwich that is a wildly-successful infographic; the two pieces of bread being the strong idea and the premium-feel design.
Internally we view the following as key when conducting secondary research for an infographic:
- Verifiable facts
- Reputable source
- Emotion/reaction triggering
- How might it look visually?
In this lesson we will be exploring each of these in a little more detail:
Find up-to-date/verifiable facts from reputable sources
Research gathered through secondary data can be more work, but it is frequently cheaper. You can often secure excellent levels of coverage for the finished content piece simply by piecing together data into a “packaged story” that can be “sold” to publishers. Also, if you can dig deeper to pull out a good factoid, then you have just as good a chance at coverage with an infographic consisting only of secondary data as you do with one created from primary data.
Good sources of raw data include:
For more info on each of these sources (and others), see The Data Resources Resource by Sean Revell.
The internet really is your oyster though. There are plenty of amazing companies putting out research through their company newsrooms, research organisations and niche publishers just waiting to be found and their research collated and cited.
Always look for the most recent data set. Outdated data can hamper the effectiveness of an infographic and could even be damaging to your or your client’s brand if the end result is misleading. Don’t have blind faith in Google’s ability to surface the latest set of results for you. Often a quick search on Google surfaces a data set from 2011 on page 1, but if you dig to page 2 or 3, or even within the result’s website, you might find the same study with data from 2013 or even 2014.
Also, be very vigilant in ensuring the validity and authenticity of the sources you are getting your information from. We all know we can’t believe everything we read on the web, but you need to be absolutely certain about the facts that you are associating with your brand or your client’s brand. (That’s particularly true if you want to take your infographic to the big publishers, and why wouldn’t you?!)
- Dig for data that’s hard to get. Surface the parts of a story that it is hard for others to find.
- Read very carefully. Absorb information with care. “Nothing feels worse than working hard on a project, then seeing it picked apart because you didn’t connect the dots,” wrote Josh Smith for Fast Company.
- Don’t be afraid to switch tracks as the research develops. It may become clear that the original story you were aiming to tell isn’t relevant based on the data you have found or that it doesn’t quite tell the story you’d like to tell. Don’t be tempted to manipulate the data or omit important facts as you risk losing credibility with publishers and their audiences.
- Choose sources who will share. Include some sources that you know you can ego-bait for help in promoting when the infographic is ready.
Thinking about this at the research stage is going to put you lightyears ahead of the game when it comes to promotion as you will have built in "hooks" that increase your chances of the piece being shared organically after you've done a bit of initial seeding.
“The more emotion the content evokes, the more viral it will become,”
- People will share content that is emotionally charged e.g. anger, sadness, awe, surprise.
- Emotionally charged infographics (and other forms of visual content) statistically have the best chance of being shared and "going viral" as the speed of emotional activation is much faster.
Jonah Berger determined that there are 6 key drivers that shape viral content - he labelled them STEPPS:
- Social Currency - peer popularity of the idea
- Triggers - daily reminders of the idea
- Emotion - how much it inspires an emotional reaction
- Public - high levels of visibility
- Practical Value - humans want to share visual information
- Storytelling - a compelling/"sticky" narrative
Conducting research in contemplation of the above will ensure that your finished infographic will (hopefully!) have viral hooks built in.
- We will be talking more about structure in the "writing" course however it is worth considering how the infographic is eventually going to look when you are compiling your research as you want facts/stats that are going to visualize well. Wordy explanations or complex data might mean you need to find alternative sources that are going to help you better tell the story.
- To keep an infographic free from clutter, more often than not you can simply include a list of the source domains (or titles of the reports) at the end of the infographic. Then keep a list of full URLs that you can share with link prospects or members of your audience if they need to verify anything. If someone makes a particularly juicy or controversial comment, however, consider citing its source right next to it. This lends credibility to the infographic.
CHECK YOUR WORK
Internally, we have a dedicated research team with a plethora of quality control processes together with an individual who is responsible for overseeing all quality assurance. That's how much importance we place on getting the research element correct for an infographic.
Feed quality in, and you get quality out.
Here are some points of guidance that are useful for checking your raw research before you complete your write-up:
- Triple-check all data/numbers etc., especially any that feel like outliers to you.
- Cross-reference any data OR if this isn't possible, read up on how the data has been collected.
- Make sure you have understood a particular topic and what a particular data point actually means... even though we try and avoid Wikipedia as a source, it can form a useful tool for trying to gain a better understanding of a topic from a factual/encyclopedia view-point.
- Think carefully about controversy - have you taken data from a reputable and unbiased source (or presented both sides of the argument). There is a great deal of propaganda masquerading as fact on the internet.
- If you've collected primary data, it is worth annotating any erroneous numbers so you can add explanatory notes at a later stage. Perhaps something is skewed because of a small sample size for example.
- Explore legal issues - you need to pick out anything that might be considered defamatory (and therefore get your employer or your client sued). If you are aware of these kinds of "edgy" stats, then you can always cover all the bases when it comes to compiling your final research report.
It's all well and good checking your own work but it is always worthwhile seeking feedback from parties around you:
- Clients/managers. This is obvious, really.
- Brand/legal teams. This is very important.
- Colleagues. They often spot things that you haven’t and often identify different angles or further avenues to explore.
- Prospective publishers. This is most important. You may be pleasantly surprised how receptive prospective publishers can be to you asking their opinion on a piece. This gives you a foot in the door to go back to them when the graphic is ready to go.
It is far easier to have everything in line before you get your designer involved. This way they are working with all the pieces from the start rather than retroactively having to add sections after they've already sketched out the design.
CRAFTING THE COPY
Infographics are of course visual pieces but as we learned right back at the start of the training; infographics are very effective at communication. This is due to the principle of continuity... the combination of images and text. This means that whilst you don't want oodles of text weighing down your visuals, some carefully crafted copy can be the difference between an average infographic and a wildly-successful one.
- Enticing introduction. As part of the research, write up the introduction that is going to sit atop the infographic to get people excited about what they are about to enjoy. Highlighting some of the key facts from your research and including them within the introduction is a good way to encourage people to read the entire infographic rather than just give it a cursory glance.
- Sections. Given that you likely want the infographic to tell a story or make a particular point, it is important that all of your research is assembled into a cohesive piece. Your designer can do this, or this can be the task of the researcher. The best case might be to have the researcher create a series of sections that the designer is then tasked with bringing to life.
- Determine the hook. Every infographic has a fact or statistic that really stands out and likely bonds the rest of the infographic together. That’s called the hook. At the research stage of an infographic, try to pick out that one fact and help the designer determine what needs to be important when it comes to the actual design.
- Consider the Serial Position Effect. An individual’s ability to recall an item on a list is affected by that item’s position on the list. In short, some psychologists agree that recall is far, far higher for the first and last items in a list (“primacy” and “recency”). It’s worth arranging your research so that the designer puts your killer stuff in the first and final sections.
Keep text simplified
- If you are working with secondary information, instead of rewriting copy in your own words, simplify the content in the source down to just the facts.
- You don't necessarily need complete sentences but rather just complete ideas.
- Get the copy down to the simplest way of saying it, that still makes sense. Full sentences may be needed sometimes, but bullet-point style works.
Avoid qualifiers and cliches (they just waste precious words)
- Cliches/idioms/colloquial such as:
- informal language used in spoken conversation
- come a long way
- at the end of the day
- sure has, sure does, etc.
- list of cliches to avoid
- Qualifiers: like: very, rather, little, much, a whole lot, etc.
Take Care when Rewriting Research
- Chances are that some of the sources collected at the research stage will be full of opinion. Arguably, there is no place for opinion in an infographic, particularly not when re-written opinion can read awkwardly.
- If you are writing up facts, there is no need to re-write a "fact", (facts aren't copyright-able).
Things to keep in mind when writing/editing
Now that you've got a written draft of the copy that is going to be the make-up of your infographic, you need to review it thoroughly looking for the following:
- Read it like you don’t know anything about the topic:
- Try to put yourself in the mindset of “an average internet user”
- What needs to be clarified? Perhaps with design direction for a callout explanation to be included
- Edit with “The expert” mindset as well.
- Try and put yourself in the perspective of someone who is a true expert on the topic, what additional information would they like? Which details are they likely to obsess over?
- Make sure everything is accurate and thorough.
- Does it give actionable advice?
- Does the actionable advice make sense?
- Can you follow the advice, understand and use it?
- Legal issues:
- Libel: Watch for anything that could be considered defamatory/could possibly get the client sued.
- We covered this in the research phase but is incredibly important that you proceed with caution when it comes to any facts or snippets of information that could land you in hot water. Add disclaimers wherever applicable.
- Is the language clear and concise? - can any words be removed or alternatives used.
- Look for awkward sentences and wording - this may occur as the result of trying to paraphrase/rewrite a source.
Include design direction
It may sound odd to issue advice to a designer when — if you are anything like most of our writers — you aren’t qualified to own a copy of Photoshop. But bear with us. During research, you will often find examples of closely related infographics and get ideas for how it could look. Therefore as part of the research document, include examples of infographics that you like and dislike.
This ensures the end product meets your own expectations and it also ensures the designer benefits from your research and avoids creating a graphic that is "me too".
HOW TO DEVISE KILLER HEADLINES & SUBHEADINGS
On average, 8 out of 10 of people will read your headline but only 2 out of 10 people will see the rest of your infographic. This means that your headline has the biggest audience by a country mile. So to generate as much engagement for the piece as possible you need to work hard to ensure the title of your infographic draws people in and the magnetic subheadings keep people focused.
We frequently produce double-digit numbers of alternative headlines before we settle on the right title for a piece. It is also worth noting that there doesn't seem to be a perfect point in the overall process for striking the right headline, it just comes to us whether that be when we are working up the concept or polishing up the final design. However it comes to you, it is essential that you put a lot of time into crafting the right headline... after all, publishers like ViralNova have made a living off of taking other people's content and giving it a better headline then watching it go viral!
Here is our internal swipe file on creating killer headlines and subtitles:
5 key ingredients of a clickworthy title (source)
- Curiosity - Your title should be clear enough that people know what they're going to get when they click, but also leave an element of curiosity - so you almost can't help but to click.
- Benefit - Benefit is congruent to differentiation. On the whole, people will visit a page because there is some sort of benefit to them. Useful content, entertainment, or even content that will make them look good if they share it.
- Emotion - People also act on emotion - excitement, fear, hope. Your title should conjure the right emotion in viewers.
- Appearance - if you can get your titles to look aesthetically pleasing, even better i.e. not running to 3 lines where 2 is possible with different word-choices.
- Expectation - This is where you need to have some serious alignment and harmony between what you promise in the title and deliver with the content.
10 surefire headline formats (source)
- Who else wants [blank]?
- The Secret of [blank]
- Here is a method that is helping [blank] to [blank]
- Little known ways to [blank]
- Get rid of [blank] once and for all
- Here is a quick way to [blank]
- Now you can have [blank]
- Have a [blank] you can be proud of
- What everybody ought to know about [blank]
- Do [blank] just like [blank]
Not all of these are relevant/applicable to creating an infographic but frankly many of these can be adjusted to fit your needs, particularly if you add in an element of your data to really embellish the headline.
Writing headlines that get results (source)
- Be USEFUL to the reader,
- Provide a sense of URGENCY,
- Convey the idea that the main benefit is somehow UNIQUE; and
- Do all of the above in an ULTRA-SPECIFIC way.
This time we have a podcast for you to listen to on creating magnetic headlines.
THE NON-DESIGNER'S GUIDE TO DESIGNING AN INFOGRAPHIC
In the interests of making premium quality infographics that don't irritate people, paying attention to the design really is so important. The following lesson has been created by a non-designer with experience managing and overseeing designers. So we will try and avoid getting too technical. The important thing to remember is you don't need to know Photoshop to get value out of this information.
A few notes before we get started:
- Hire a designer/agency - you really do get what you pay for. Granted you can pay a large amount and get someone who is unreliable and fairly average but if you are thorough in your inspection of their portfolio and you get a good feeling when you have an initial discussion with them then the best advice we can give is to go for the best designer your budget will allow.
- Infographic design tools - many of the tools you see such as Infogr.am and Piktochart are excellent pieces of software but in our experience they have a time and a place. If you are hoping for significant coverage on highly authoritative websites then you are going to need a custom design.
Horizontal or Vertical?
It can be tempting to shy away from the standard vertical format to be "creative", and we have experimented with this quite a bit however in our experience. Vertically arranged infographics perform far better than horizontal ones because most websites are arranged to allow for content that is relatively narrow. For most blogs, a big horizontal infographic is hard to deal with (read: a barrier to them sharing) as the image will most likely overlap their sidebar.
Make sure any design gives prominence to the hook
Right out the gate you need your designer to be helping you to tell the story and create a piece of content that is going to be really shareable. You've spent all that time during the research and writing stages developing a hook (whether that's emotion, utility etc - go back and take this lesson if you haven't already) so it is vitally important that the final design communicates that killer stat.
Telling the story - think about the flow
If you've followed the course on crafting the copy for an infographic then you will likely have a good idea of how your infographic should flow in terms of sections and how one leads to the next. Ensure that your designer is fully aware of how you have imagined the piece. You do not want an infographic that jumps around between points and ultimately lacks cohesion.
Stay consistent with colors & fonts
Two things that set a wildly-successful infographic apart from an average infographic are the choice of fonts and colors. You need consistency throughout, yet you shouldn't be relying on either to dress up your information. A good font and color palette will almost go unnoticed, both will simply aid the user in accessing the information faster. There are some good notes on typography in this article from Smashing Magazine.
Show don't tell
Your infographic designer should already be conscious of this but when reviewing their work, always ensure that an opportunity to visualize something is never missed. It is very easy for a designer to throw in a bar chart or table with the stats that you found for them. Howevewr, not only is this lazy, it will impact on the effectiveness of your infographic as it means your piece could cross the fine-line between infographic and "a load of text and images shoehorned into a poster frame".
Use appropriate visualizations & vary them
Review the work of your designer and ensure that they have used the most appropriate visualization technique. We've worked with many designers and it is clear that many individuals have a favourite that they tend to stick to more often than they perhaps should. Consider how the data might look if presented in a different way. Also, think about how varying the types of charts used can help make the piece feel more engaging.
Use space sparingly
In most other aspects of web and digital design, whitespace is really important and something we actively encourage to help give prominence to the important content. With an infographic though you want to quite tightly pack these sections and avoid too much space around the content. This is because the user will already likely need to scroll quite a bit to take in the informational beauty you have produced, don't make them scroll through large blank sections.
How long is too long?
Many argue that your infographic should be no longer than 8000px, however in our experience an infographic can be either short and punchy or long and super-detailed. Both perform well. The content and presentation matter more than a "rule" for how many pixels an infographic should actually be. Plain and simple, make your infographic as long as it needs to be - no longer, no shorter.
INFOGRAPHIC BRANDING BEST PRACTICES
One common question we get when working on client infographic design projects is how much branding to use. It is something we usually have to push the client back on as too much branding can make the piece seem overly promotional which is a huge turn-off for many publishers.
- A simple "By" or "Presented by" and your company logo at the bottom is the best option.
- Most publishers are willing to play ball and attribute to your company so there is really no need to go overboard with branding.
- You may wish to include your logo or company name at the top of the infographic if you are presenting some internal findings for example. Use your judgement in this instance and only do this if you have a brand name to use as "Your-keyword-microsite.info" doesn't read well in a title.
- Incorporate other subtle branding elements. For example: consistent colour schemes, font choices and language used.
The overriding theme here is that your infographic is about providing value to the audience. It is not the right vehicle for trying to overtly sell products or services. Wrongly choosing to do so can can hamper the effectiveness of the infographic, meaning you actually generate less traffic (and potentially enquiries) than you might have otherwise done.
HOW TO PRESENT YOUR INFOGRAPHIC
Getting your finished infographic on to your website is a very important stage. Decisions you make here will have an impact on the success you experience during and after you complete the promotion.
Image Optimization & Hosting
If you are happy that your server is going to cope with the possibility of your infographic "going viral" then by all means host the infographic on your website and think no more about it. However we strongly advise you to host your image with a 3rd party provider such as Amazon Web Services, their service is dirt cheap (you pay entirely based on usage) and it is extremely reliable. This means you can add the image to your website but the file itself will be stored on Amazon's (likely far more robust) server.
If you are worried about page load times then you might also like to try a free tool called JPEGmini which shrinks the size of the image file so that it loads much quicker on your website.
An embed code underneath your infographic will help to increase the amount of pickup the piece gets following the initial seeding. This is because it makes it really easy for people since they can just copy and paste a bit of code that is generated for them and your infographic is on their website with the correct attribution already in place.
It used to be a real hassle sorting the code to make that happen but the good people at BuiltVisible have put together an embed code generator tool which you can use for free.
According to ShareThis, sharing via mobile devices increased by 35.6% in the second quarter of 2014. Infographics, in a standard image format, can be quite difficult to consume on a mobile device, however if you have someone convert the file into HTML they can make the elements responsive which means your users will be able to enjoy a proportional infographic regardless of which device they are using.
You can see an example of a responsive infographic (and why we think it is important to user experience) at responsive.infographic.net.
Blog or standalone page?
We get this question a lot, and frankly, it doesn't really matter all that much. We opt for standalone where internal politics make publishing on the blog difficult but where possible it makes sense to publish the piece as a new blog post because much of the structure is already in place i.e. there are social share buttons and the blog may already have an audience.
Include a write-up
It is worthwhile having your writer put together a short passage of text to introduce the infographic, perhaps explaining the "why we made this" and including any other interesting bits of information that didn't necessarily fit into the infographic itself. This serves two purposes, firstly it introduces the piece to any prospective sharers but it also helps with getting the page indexed in Google and helps Google understand what this big image is about so that hopefully it can start to rank for keywords relating to that topic and generate traffic and links all by itself... long after you've stopped proactively promoting it.
HOW TO FIND PEOPLE WHO WANT TO SHARE YOUR INFOGRAPHIC
Think initially in terms of “prospect buckets”, for example:
- Media - rather than targeting the publication, hone in on the specific person or team of people who are likely to have an interest in your infographic.
- Bloggers - think also in terms of sub-categories; industry A bloggers, industry B bloggers.
- Key influencers - very often bloggers too but some markets have prolific social sharers, or individuals with massive email lists who might help promote your graphic but not via their blog.
- Research sources - we have touched previously on the idea of "ego-bait" (encouraging people to share the infographic because it includes a quote or some kind of data from them), your research sources can be a valuable first line of outreach when it comes to promotion. Particularly if they have a significant audience and your inclusion of their work wasn't just self-serving but rather to add value to your infographic.
- Your rolodex + that of your team (or PR team for example)
By separating prospects in this way, we are able to use different approaches for each type of prospect, thereby increasing our chances each type of prospect sharing the infographic. Also, this encourages more thorough opportunity prospecting; as you have clearly identifiable types of sites that you are looking for and appropriate buckets to drop them into.
Tools & Resources to find link opportunities
- Link Prospector from Citation Labs – our team never leaves home without it. So many great reports including “find content promoters” and we love the custom reports where you can add your own prospecting queries.
- Ahrefs (or your link explorer of choice) – find similar infographics and dig through who shared them.
- Followerwonk – still my firm favourite for tracking down influencers and contributors to top tier publications on Twitter.
- Journalisted – handy for tracking down journalist details - pretty much UK only however
How to find opportunities for free
If you don't wish to purchase a licence for any of the above tools then you can still find prospects for free using Google search and their reverse image search as well as the community section of Visual.ly.
- Explore previous infographics on the topic using a broad keyword to surface results in Google and Visual.ly
- Identify infographics and use Google search to find websites which shared it (you can do this by performing a Google search using an operator like "title of the infographic" (in quotation marks) + infographic).
- You can also download the infographic and upload it into Google's Reverse Image search which will help you track down other places that infographic was shared.
- You can build out a list of websites that may well have an interest in sharing your infographic.
Here's an example...
If we head to the community submission section of Visual.ly and search for "gardening", there are quite a few infographics and we selected this one at random:
A quick search of Google brings up the following links (potential opportunities if we were launching an infographic about gardening soon?!)
If we throw that image into Google's Reverse Image search we bring up some more prospects, including a Twitter account (maybe they are an influencer who can help seed our infographic):
HOW TO SEND EFFECTIVE OUTREACH EMAILS
Outreach emails are probably one of the biggest challenges in the entire infographic promotion process. In this lesson, we will run through how to write ‘high-conversion’ outreach emails. By conversion of course I mean getting them to take the desired action.
As a source of inspiration, here’s an example of an actual outreach email we sent to a journalist at a UK newspaper which resulted in coverage across their stable of websites and in their physical newspaper.
It all starts with a mindset…
- Don’t be afraid of email – you will get some people ignoring you and you will get some people saying no but don’t let it get to you
- You are trying to offer them value so make sure the email conveys that
- Put yourself in their shoes – don’t be like 99% of other linkbuilders, make the effort, respect their time and pitch something worthwhile. If you've followed this course through then you'll likely be pitching a really top-notch infographic.
The humble subject line…
Keep it simple and focused on your message.
Try subject lines like…
- [The Title of the Infographic] - if you've spent a bit of time crafting an enticing title, why not use it in your outreach email?
- A visual on [Topic] - avoiding the word infographic in the subject-line can increase open rates in our experience as many editors get a lot of pitches for infographics to the point they become blind to pitch emails about them, if however you can get them to open your email and you have a compelling piece of content then you are on your way to getting it shared.
- It doesn’t hurt to swipe Copyblogger.com’s tips for more effective subject lines…Be Useful, Ultra-specific and Unique (that last one isn’t always possible when it comes to outreach emails).
Crafting a killer opening paragraph
Like a great album, your opening paragraph needs to be all killer no filler. There’s no need to promise the earth but you do need to attract and retain their attention. We find the most effective opening paragraphs cover 3 of the 5 Ws…
- Who am I
- Why am I sending this email to you
- What do I want
I have a visual that I think your audience will find useful.
You may wish to elaborate who you are although in many industries, getting to the point is appreciated.
Persuasive body copy
For many top tier prospects (websites with a significant audience) we will often write the email completely from scratch. We then move on to campaigns that involve a lot of personalization of templates – this allows us to send with a bit more scale when it comes to "2nd tier prospects" (less important websites who you would still like to be featured on but you don't have the resources to write an email from scratch for).
You can find the graphic here [add the link to the infographic] or I can send the file directly if you prefer?
It's recently been featured on [LIST SOME PROMINENT PUBLICATIONS]
Again, this is very concise. We will usually add some more detail where needed.
You want to close your email in a confident manner that makes it clear what you would like them to do next.
If you do go ahead and publish the piece, please can you provide a credit source link back to [insert the correct URL].
Please let me know if you have any questions or need any other info.
The above is very much the framework. If the individual you are targeting is a highly influential blogger or they are the editor of a significant publication then you will need to put more effort into researching and understanding them in order to build a relationship with them.
Do not just fire off hundreds of emails using the above template. The idea is that we have provided you with the bare-bones structure that you can add meat to.
HOW TO BENEFIT FROM WEBSITES THAT STEAL YOUR INFOGRAPHIC
Based on our internal data, as much as 20% of coverage for your infographic doesn't have the correct link or citation. That is pretty frustrating considering the amount of work that has gone into researching, producing and promoting such a piece of content.
We are certain that you find it flattering that someone likes your work enough to use it. Yet, we all know the internet is littered with pages using your infographics without your permission and, more importantly, without proper attribution. The aim of this task is to identify websites that publish your infographics without attribution.
We will then aim to secure an attribution link by emailing them and politely asking for the page to be updated.
There are 3 ways to accomplish this:
- The really quick & easy way - hire us to take care of it. We monitor your infographic and send out the emails. We only charge you if we successfully get the link.
- The quick and easy way - get yourself some credits in ImageRaider (our favourite tool for this task) and upload all of your infographics into their system. You can then quickly see which websites use them, visit their pages and check for the link, mark for follow-up if not.
- The free but manual way - full explanation below
How to do this manually
- Navigate to the infographic
- View the image URL or save the image to your computer
- Use Google Reverse Image search to find all the places online that have the infographic hosted
- Work your way through the list of results and check each one for attribution
- Extract a list of websites that you need to contact to ask for attribution
- Organize your hitlist by sites you do and don't want a link from e.g. if a scraper website has picked up your infographic automatically, do you really want a link from them? If not then no further action is required, just focus on the good opportunities.
- Repeat regularly or as required - we recommend periodically performing this clean-up exercise as even infographics from your archive are going to be picking up links.
See below for an outreach email template you can customize:
Thank you for including one of our visuals in your recent blog post [INCLUDE LINK TO THE BLOG POST WHICH DOESN’T HAVE ATTRIBUTION].
We always appreciate people enjoying and using our work but as far as I can see there isn’t any attribution to us as the source for the image. Would it be possible for you to update that post citing [INCLUDE LINK TO RELEVANT PAGE] as the source please?
Thanks in advance.
For maximum results, send the above email from your corporate/client domain such as "email@example.com" - it lends far more legitimacy to the message and in most cases may be enough for the website to start attributing correctly as they fear that if a company has an image usage department, they may well have a legal department as well!
HOW TO LAUNCH A PAID SOCIAL AMPLIFICATION CAMPAIGN
When it comes to infographic promotion, we focus on the two main platforms of paid social advertising; Facebook Ads and StumbleUpon Paid Discovery. We find both to be excellent drivers of broadly engaged traffic, social shares. In many cases this form of promotion also indirectly increases the number of backlinks an infographic earns.
First, let's cover StumbleUpon
Many seem to have forgotten about StumbleUpon but the website is still going strong and is the 158th most visited website on the internet according to Alexa. More interestingly though, it would seem (from our anecdotal experience at least) that many StumbleUpon users have their own website or control some kind of audience of their own (e.g. on social media). This means you're not just reaching interested people, you reach interested people with the power to share.
- Login to the Paid Discovery platform - here
- Fund your account with credits - you will pay a minimum of $0.10 per stumble (or person seeing your page where the infographic is located)
- Head to the Create a Campaign area.
- Follow the step by step process to narrow down your audience by age, location, gender and then the most important one... interests.
- You can select interest bundles or go for more precise targeting. In most instances we opt for the interest bundles to reach a wider audience
Will a StumbleUpon campaign always result in more shares and backlinks overall to your infographic? No, this certainly isn't a magic solution however it is a very affordable platform and, in many cases, with $50 you can dramatically increase the exposure of your infographic.
This is a much more sophisticated, complex and potentially expensive beast to tame.
It is relatively easy to get setup with a Facebook advertising campaign using their standard set of features and attributes. You can enjoy a great deal of success simply by utilizing the wealth of categorizations that are standard within the Facebook Ads platform.
The basics are explained here
You can target users who have an interest in a specific topic and simply create a series of ads that promote your content to them. For example, we recently created a piece about Bill Murray. We were able to reach close to 600 Bill Murray fans through Facebook in about 5 minutes and for just £75. This in turn generated close 250 likes of the piece.
This is Facebook advertising at its most basic level though and really we are only skimming the surface - let's now look into some of the more advanced and powerful options available to us.
Facebook Custom Audiences
Paddy Moogan from Distilled explains perfectly why the custom audience feature is so useful in promoting an infographic:
You can use a feature called custom audiences to define exactly who it is that you'd like to advertise your content to.
Why this is useful for content promotion
When it comes to promoting your content, getting a lot of traffic to the content is good, but ideally you don't just want random visitors, you want targeted visitors. Whilst it is unlikely that you'll generate loads of direct conversions from a single piece of content, you still want to attract visitors that you stand a chance of converting into customers at some point in the future.
As you can see above, you can get very granular with standard Facebook targeting. Custom audiences allow you to do even more and mix in data from your existing, non-Facebook customer lists too. This means that you can promote your content to an audience that is already somewhat engaged with your brand and is a little bit more likely to be interested in it. This is far better than a scatter-gun approach where you just try and get as many eyes on a piece of content as possible - regardless of how targeted they are.
For example if you have a newsletter subscriber list or database of customer email addresses then you can distribute your infographic to them via Facebook at a relatively low cost and without interrupting them with something like an email. Your customer base are already likely to be engaged with your brand and so may feel more compelled to share the infographic as a result. It can also dramatically increase the return on investment that you see from the infographic as this kind of exercise can boost sales in the short term by reaching your customer base and then placing your brand ‘front-of-mind’ in an unobtrusive and useful way.
Facebook Lookalike Audiences
The lookalike audience feature in Facebook works somewhat in harmony with custom audiences because what it allows you to do is essentially tell Facebook that “this is the group of people I already have a relationship with, please help me reach more people with similar attributes.”
That in itself is pretty powerful as it allows you to massively extend the reach of your brand using something you probably already have - a customer database. Again it allows you to reach these people in a fairly non-salesy way i.e. you are delivering something of value that is statistically probable to be of interest to them.
Another powerful way to use the lookalike audience feature is in conjunction with a Facebook conversion pixel. You can add one to the page where the infographic is hosted and setup tracking so that any user who visits the page and also happens to be logged into Facebook will be analyzed and a lookalike audience can be created by Facebook working behind the scenes to make connections between the types of users visiting your content and other users on Facebook.
There is a higher chance that the individuals seeing your advertising will have an interest in your infographic. This is really intelligent targeting in itself (and a super efficient way to use your social advertising budget), and it also means you can build a ready-made audience should you decide to launch a follow-up piece of content.