SearchLove is over, and my head is either full of new stuff to try out or I’m nursing a really bad hangover. There were some great talks on the first day from Justin Briggs, Will Critchlow and Rand Fishkin, as well as a few which were a bit thin on the ground. For me, the one that really stood out as being awesome was Mark Johnstone’s ‘Beyond Linkbait: First Steps to a Content Strategy’, which contained loads of actionable tips.
Mark’s talk focussed on how to create really good infographics, the kind that get links and social mentions (lots of them). It also covered tying in visual content with an overall marketing strategy, so it’s not just that ‘weird thing done by our SEO agency to get links’, and rolling out a series of pieces on a monthly basis as part of a content strategy. In this blog post, I’ve summarised the key points from Mark’s talk, which I think provide a great starting point for those wanting to create quality visual content.
Be an expert – or find one!
You have to be an expert in your chosen topic to design a great infographic; you have to know it inside out and to be aware of the missing information that your target audience craves. If you approach the topic as a beginner, you’ll come to realise that what you find interesting is old hat for your knowledgable audience.
Not an expert? Not a problem. Find someone out of your friends and work colleagues who is. A neurologist was enlisted to help create the zombie infographic above. I’m not a huge zombie fan but I still really wanted to check it out because it’s such a great angle!
Learn from journalists
Perhaps the idea of coming up with a story or an angle is fairly new for some of us in SEO, in which case we should learn from journalists, who have been doing it for donkey’s years. Make friends with people in the industry and ask them how they do it. One possible solution is to brainstorm all the questions that someone could ask about a particular topic. A good infographic should always answer a question.
Choose the right angle
The difficult step is choosing which angle is best to turn into an infographic. There are no rules, but it should be a question that’s hard to answer and really interesting. If you’re finding gathering data too easy then you must be on the wrong track, as it should be a nightmare!
Tell your mates what you’re working on down the pub and see how they respond. If their eyes light up, maybe it’s the sort of thing that will be exciting to people in the digital social space too. If it leaves them cold, maybe this is an early sign of a flop. It’s useful to get a fresh perspective as you may be too close.
Get the format right
Does it work as an infographic or would it be better as a blog post, video – or something else? Don’t underestimate the importance of getting the format right. Mark’s example was an infographic mapping the evolution of Western dance music. As a regular image it contains perhaps a bit too much information, so they decided to animate it. This ended up costing more in time and money, but it was worth it as it generated loads of links for their client and it’s a great piece:
Don’t make the same mistake twice
Develop a checklist of what makes a good infographic and use this to make sure you’re on the right track during development. As you gain experience in creating visual content, you can use your successes and failures to add to the list. Ask yourself questions like:
- Is it simple?
- Is it interesting?
- Is it unique and differentiated?
- Is it sharable?
Where to now?
A recurring message throughout SearchLove 2012 has been ‘stop doing stuff purely for rankings and start doing some real marketing shit’. Don’t spend a day making a lacklustre infographic like this Batman one, which adds no real value and can be seen as a manipulative attempt to get links. Take the time to produce something that people will love, which will earn you links and get you social mentions as well as being good PR.
It’s a big ask. It involves managing your client’s expectations, as a piece of visual content can’t be guaranteed to succeed. It involves managing your workflow to create the right conditions for creativity (maybe something like Google’s 20% time policy?). It involves a lot of time and money. It’s basically a riskier strategy, but I know which one I’d choose.