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Fresh Off the Rumor Mill! Google May Devalue Infographic Links

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InfographicIf you’ve been a marketer on the interwebs for even a short period, then you are likely all-too-familiar with infographics. You know them when you see them – check out the template in the picture on the left and you’ll shake your head in agreement. “Ohhh yea,” you’ll think, “I saw one of those gizmos last week. Pretty cool!”

True, they were pretty cool. Right up until a handful of overachieving search marketers smelled a trend and jumped on it like a pack of rabid dogs.

Infographics were once a novel way to display relevant information and the evolution of a process, but they’ve rapidly morphed into the most over-used tool on the ‘net. Now everyone and their momma has one of these bad boys on their site, and the fad has blown up fast enough to land smack-dab in the middle of Google’s radar.

It seems that Google is having a field day with links lately – consider the recent blog network take-down, slaps for links from content mills, negative marks for links from low-quality sites… the list goes on and on. Infographics are rumored to become the newest victim of the Big G’s sledgehammer, which many expect to come slamming down on the illustrations within a matter of weeks.

Matt Cutts Alludes to Google Devaluing Infographic Links

Search Engine Land broke the news about this possible move by Google in a post a couple of days ago. The post pointed to a lengthy interview that Eric Enge recently conducted with Matt Cutts, who heads up Google’s webspam team. During the interview, Cutts talked about the rise of infographics and the possible devaluing of links within them in the near future. Cutts noted: Matt Cutts Talks InfographicsAh. So that’s it, Matt? It’s the fact-checking that concerns you? The problem with that explanation, for me, is that you can apply Cutts’ logic to many other kinds of content on the Web. There’s no such thing as content police (although Google seems to be gunning pretty hardcore for the title). No one will bang down the door of a webmaster who chooses to publish less-than-factual material – which is precisely what makes information on the Internet such a minefield.

How are factual errors in infographics any different from the logically flawed information floating around in the billions of plain vanilla articles online today?

It just seemed fishy. That is, until I stumbled upon a later portion of the interview – and when I read this quote from Cutts, it turned on the light bulb in my brain: Cutts on InfographicsThe truth comes out… it’s all about the links. It’s not so much the lack of value in the infographics themselves that Google has the problem with – it’s the hidden links buried inside. When people share the content, they’re inadvertently sharing links to a site – a site which they may not have shared links to otherwise. During the interview, Cutts had this to add:

“The other thing that happens is that people don’t always realize what they are linking to when they reprint these infographics. Often the link goes to a completely unrelated site, and one that they don’t mean to endorse. Conceptually, what happens is they really buy into publishing the infographic, and agree to include the link, but they don’t actually care about what it links to. From our perspective this is not what a link is meant to be.”

Purposeful Links to Great Content

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – this is game-changing time in the world of search marketing. Either get on-board or go home. All the old tricks are falling by the wayside in favor of something more real… something truly organic. It’s the rise of great content in the SERPs by way of high-quality links to (or “votes” for) a site and good content with minimal on-page SEO.

Blog networks are gone, link blasts are dead in the water, and the search engine bots are becoming extremely sophisticated. Lots of people love to hate on Google and Cutts, and I drink a fair share of that Kool-Aid myself from time to time. However, on this and a few other issues, I see the point.

Think about it.

Infographics with awesome vector images that carry readers’ eyes down a webpage are novel and they’re a fairly new type of content. They look cool and they have great visuals and statistics, so audiences are already inclined to trust the information. A writer with even a moderate amount of wit can whip up a little engaging writing for the illustration, then – voila – an infographic is born that’s ripe for viral sharing.

This makes the infographic a very dangerous thing, because people inherently trust the information, and thus, they will share it in greater numbers. Do you see the plot thickening? A shrewd webmaster could order one of these flawed infographics, distribute it through some key channels, and suddenly people are plastering it all over Facebook. All the while, there’s a link back to a website buried in the infographic – and that site has absolutely nothing to do with the infographic itself. Crazy, right?

This was exactly what Cutts was warning against. An entire infographic industry has sprung up quite literally overnight, and this change, if implemented, would effectively kill it. As for value provided for a webmaster, I personally believe there’s still great use for infographics.

Green SEO! How to Repurpose Devalued Infographics

The idea is to build a brand and become an authority in your niche. That’s the name of the game now – it’s why you need to do everything you can to add real value to your site. In the same interview, Cutts emphatically noted that small-time webmasters can absolutely become leaders in their niches and hang with the big brands: Matt Cutts on BrandingSo, what the heck does this have to do with devalued infographics, right? Bear with me – there’s still a use for infographics if Google does in fact take their link value away. The point is this: Becoming an authority in your niche demands you have a slew of great content on your site – and when you have a mix of embedded videos, podcast interviews, articles, question-and-answer sections, and a communities such as forums on your site, you’re well on your way to achieving authority status. Infographics, in this case, will add another dimension of rich content to your website or blog that will encourage visitors to “vote” for you site by linking to it naturally – which was precisely the original intent.   

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