Infographics by no means have the novelty factor they once did but there is still plenty of mileage in them from a link and brand building perspective. Never forget that us digital marketers operate in our own little bubble and what seems old-hat or obvious to us can still be fairly cutting edge in some markets.
The following is our step-by-step guide for infographic promotion:
A few quick thoughts
- Pay attention to the design – one of the pillars of a successful infographic is that it is nice to look at so make sure you hire the very best designer you can – avoid infographics that make us all irritated.
- Infographics for the sake of it – infographics should be the method of presenting a concept rather than the actual concept. Infographics for the sake of it aren’t cool.
- ‘Going interactive’ isn’t a necessity – contrary to what feels like common wisdom at the moment, ‘flat’ infographics are not dead and you don’t have to reinvent the wheel with some HTML5-scrolling-parallax-flashy-graphic. Of course, they are an option but a great visualisation of a popular topic with some targeted outreach is still a winning strategy.
PHASE 1 – Concept
The promotion of your graphic really does start before your designer has even fired up Photoshop.
If you build ‘hooks’ into the graphic from the outset, it makes promoting the thing infinitely more fruitful.
Working up the idea
Successful infographics need to have a solid underlying concept otherwise all the outreach in the world isn’t going to make this thing fly.
The way we come up with ideas is to discuss with the client their goals and expectations, we’ll then brainstorm some initial concepts and discuss these with the client.
A key consideration for us at the idea stage are to ensure that the concept fits well with the client – unrelated topics often feel contrived.
Map each market
Once we have a handful of refined concepts we map and assess the potential markets for each of these. This will include looking at the key people who might be interested in sharing and hosting your graphic, we look at the graphics already out there (and whether we are bringing something new to the market) and we will also look at how well previous closely related graphics performed.
Very often we’ll contact a few of these individuals to get their take on the concept and ask if they have anything to include perhaps a favourite case study or maybe even a blog post they have on their site. We find that this makes outreach once the graphic is done much easier since the individual will feel like they have a stake in the success of it.
Followerwonk is a quick and easy tool for doing this.
PHASE 2 – Settle on the idea and get it done
Refine the concept and the target markets
Make a decision on the concept that you are going to run with and nail down the different target markets. We’re generally thinking about the bloggers and websites who are going to host the graphic when we talk about the ‘target market’.
Obviously enjoyment and uptake by the ‘end user’ is important but a lot of that takes care of itself if you produce a top-notch graphic and reach the right publishers since they’ll know their audience better than anyone and will likely only help promote something they are behind 100%.
Even if you think your infographic is going to have widespread appeal, at this stage you really need to pin down the specific markets you will be targeting so that you can tailor every bit of work after this point to your prospective link partners.
Targeting everybody is targeting nobody. We usually aim to target around 2-3 different audiences with the graphic to maximise the linking opportunities e.g. finance blogs and parenting blogs if for example the infographic discusses the cost of raising a child.
A poorly researched infographic is dead before it even got started.
Be meticulous and thorough in your research so that you have all the data you could possibly need to create a great infographic. You can always whittle down the data and work out the key points to highlight (see structure & design below).
Capitalise on the promotional potential of this step also by selecting sources (perhaps slightly less well know bloggers) who you can reference and then ego-bait later in the process. Don’t let it compromise the integrity of your work but definitely keep this in mind.
Structure & Design
The structure and design of your graphic are really important factors when it comes to promotion.
Design is not my area of expertise which is why we always hire really great designers to put together our graphics (and this is why you should to).
A few things I do know:
- Make sure your graphic flows well – you want people to read or scan, top to bottom and then take action (either sharing or embedding).
- Identify the key data points that are going to really drive interest – make sure these are highlighted and obvious.
- Make sure your graphic looks on brand – not only does the idea need to fit well with the client but it also needs to look like it came from the client.
- Your copy is important – text heavy infographics are definitely decreasing in effectiveness but including explanations of data is important and considered use of copy can help drive engagement.
PHASE 3 – Setup for success
Now you have a finished graphic there are just a few more things you’ll need to do before you launch it…
Select your image hosting carefully
Nothing destroys the momentum of an infographic promotion like a website going down or the image breaking.
Ensure your hosting setup is robust or host the image somewhere else for example AWS.
Make sure you have code and make sure it works
We always include the HTML embed code with the infographics that we create and promote as it reduces the friction for readers to embed and share the graphic on their own site.
The Embed Code Generator by SEOgadget is a very handy tool that will allow you to generate the code with ease.
We nearly always include a byline to the graphic but be careful with the anchor text you choose just in case your graphic suddenly gets embedded all over the web (YAY!) and you end up attracting a keyword level penalty (NOOO!).
Where should you host the graphic?
The obvious answer is your website or your client’s, however, recently (in situations where the client’s brand was less well-known) we have had some good results by giving big name websites or bloggers “the exclusive” on infographics and using their website as the platform for outreach.
Obviously there is absolutely nothing wrong with hosting the graphic on your website or your client’s and this is a smart option in most situations.
PHASE 4 – Identify your prospects
Think at this stage in terms of prospect categories. If you have followed this process so far you will already have a fairly good idea of the market; who the influencers are, which websites host graphics and so on. You may also have a number of individuals who were involved with the graphic coming together.
Now you need to really nail down your link prospecting plan. Here are the categories we generally focus on:
- Bloggers (sub-categories; industry A bloggers, industry B bloggers)
- Key influencers (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.)
- Media (journalists, both traditional and digital)
- Involved in the research (any individuals that helped you put it together, acting as a sounding board etc)
- Infographic galleries (quick wins in terms of links, not always immensely valuable but many are often pretty good)
- Your rolodex (the personal or professional connections you can leverage to really push this graphic.)
Since late last year, we have also been using a technique which we picked up from the guys at SEOgadget where you reach out to publishers that have hosted your graphics in the past but didn’t attribute it to you – this has worked equally well for us. See here for full details on the process. This would obviously be another category all on its own.
I count this as a standalone phase because we found that if we weren’t structuring our link prospecting effectively it took much longer and was much less effective – breaking it down and concentrating hard on a very specific area makes the task much more manageable. It also helps to start thinking about your prospects as categories since the method and style of outreach is often very different.
PHASE 5 – Link prospecting, research & evaluation
We create a Google Docs spreadsheet when we start the prospecting stage and we separate into tabs according to their category e.g. blogger industry A, journalist and so on.
We will include all the usual information such as name, contact details and company but we also include detailed notes on why the individual is suitable for being contacted for example they may have written an article on the topic previously or shared an infographic by your competitor.
How to find link prospects
The Link Prospector tool from Citation Labs is a fantastic piece of kit if you are looking to build extensive and effective outreach lists.
Using the “Find Content Promoters” report you can source an abundance of prospects to contact who may be interested in embedding your content.
Remember to keep your prospects carefully organised to make the actual outreach far more effective.
You can also source prospects by analysing the link profile of any infographics that have been published previously using your site explorer tool of choice. (I like Ahrefs.com).
How to find the key influencers
You may well be familiar with the fantastic tool which is Followerwonk. This service allows you to identify the key individuals in a given industry and will even sort them by influence.
Prospecting the media
Journalists can be hard to get hold of.
The Link Prospector tool will bring up a number of media websites that may be interested in hosting your infographic, BUT remember it isn’t the sites that are interested in your infographic, it is the writers so you need to find and research the right people.
Glean as much information as you can from the article to enable you to build a picture about the writer (and record those details in your notes for outreach).
One of our favourite services for finding more information about journalists is to use Journalisted.com. Unfortunately, this website is UK focused but it is essentially a search engine of journalists which allows you to find all their articles and contact details where applicable in one place.
As a last resort, we sometimes email a department catchall email but address to a specific journalist.
Use Paddy Moogan’s list of infographic galleries found here as your starting point for sites that need to be submitted to.
Very often you don’t even realise who you actually know or are least connected to, we use MentionMapp as a quick and easy way to visualise your relationships.
You can also use Snap Bird to search your own friends and followers on Twitter to see who is tweeting around the topic of your infographic.
We simultaneously prospect, evaluate and research. Using your favourite SEO toolbar you can quickly sift and sort the opportunities not only just into the tabs but also organising according to value. Only you’ll know the specific metrics that matter in your campaign.
Doing your homework
Develop an understanding of your prospects using all the information publicly available to you. High value prospects are worthy of investing time in – build a picture of the content they are interested in and make useful notes about the prospect to bring genuine context to your outreach pitch. See this excellent post on the BlueGlass blog – Required Research for Better Blogger Outreach.
PHASE 6 – Contacting
Making contact and actually securing a successful outcome is definitely the most challenging aspect of this whole process.
Nearly all of our contact is made via email or by social media in private (e.g. direct message on Twitter).
Recently we have been focusing much more on contacting via Twitter first as this often gets them intrigued but it isn’t always possible to do so, especially if you are working behind the scenes for a client.
Keep it simple and focused on your message. In my experience mentioning anything about a link in the subject line is likely to get your message auto-filtered into spam or manually deleted by the recipient.
Try Copyblogger’s Email Marketing Essentials for more tips on writing great subject lines.
We simply cover the 3W’s
- Who am I
- Why am I sending this email to you
- What do I want
Persuasive body copy
You now have a few sentences to really drive home the conversion, explain in a little more detail the context of your email, what inspired you to contact this particular prospect.
Highlight some of their work that you like or respect (be genuine) and draw similarities between the stuff that matters to them and the particular graphic you are promoting.
Finish with a strong call to action making it clear what you want the prospect to do next. For example including a link to tweet the graphic if you are reaching out to a social influencer, linking to the page with the graphic and encouraging the embed and so on.
You can in most cases create an email template and customise according to your link prospecting notes in a way which personalises the email whilst ensuring there is a possibility of some scale.
Example Outreach Email
Here’s an example of an actual outreach letter we sent to a journalist at a UK newspaper which secured a placement on a number of sites…sometimes you strike lucky !
Further reading on outreach
- How to craft high-conversion outreach emails
- Outreach letters for link building
- Outreach emails from 4 industry link builders
Who to contact when?
- PRE-LAUNCH – Contact your rolodex get them excited and willing to help you launch this. Contact the bloggers and the media to give them the head’s up
- DAY OF LAUNCH – Contact the individuals who were involved with helping put the graphic together. Share with the key influencers to seed your graphic.
- POST-LAUNCH – Infographic galleries – don’t leave it too long but there’s no real need to rush to submit to these sites since they are pretty much guaranteed links but it can give you a nice set of links within a week or two of launching the graphic.
PHASE 7 – Extending the life of your graphic
Paid social media
There are various ways to pay for advertising your infographic (sites like Buzzfeed look good if you have the budget). We usually work with clients that don’t have several thousand to throw at advertising on one website so our favourite paid social media option is StumbleUpon paid discovery which is superb (as far as we are concerned) in terms of driving genuine engagement with content like infographics – we find it often leads to a flurry not only of visitors but also social media activity on other websites.
Infographics are a great source of guest post ideas as you can embed the graphic and write around 300-400 words (much less than a typical guest post) and still provide great value and insight to a new audience.
Highlight a particular piece of data, include data that didn’t make the actual graphic for one reason or another or just extend upon what the infographic is visualising.
This keeps the infographic ‘alive’ and allows you to write quite a few guest posts without the usual volume of words necessary. It also allows you to take your infographic to blogs that wouldn’t otherwise have hosted it i.e. blogs that don’t usually just publish infographics.
Monitor Google Alerts
This was an idea that Wiep Knol gave me for resurrecting failed linkbait but in theory this can also be used to extend the life of your infographic.
Setup Google Alerts to monitor for the relevant themes and keywords, this allows you to keep an eye on the topic and then potentially contact the publisher of a new article or study and discuss the possibility of referencing your infographic in their work as it likely brings additional context to their work.
Hypothetical Infographic Promotion Walkthrough
The following is a real infographic and is an illustration of how we could use the process discussed above to launch and promote it.
It ISN’T a real example of work from my agency because as much as we can sometimes provide examples in private to highlight the work we do, publicising the promotional campaign we have executed for a client could result in a loss of competitive advantage.
Obviously since this graphic isn’t anything to do with us we weren’t involved at the concept, research, design or setup stage but I do have a few points to make in these areas.
Nice choice of topic with a number of clear markets. It is topically relevant to the “client” Sortable.com which helps buyers find the right gadget/electronic item for them (which includes a tablet).
They have an embed underneath the graphic but it isn’t amazingly obvious and you have to copy and paste rather than being able to just click on the textarea box and hit copy. (It’s all about reducing friction!)
They have a good range of sources which might indicate that there were various parties involved in the pre-publication stage who have subsequently helped promote the graphic when it was published.
It is too early to fully determine the success of the graphic but it has appeared on Mashable which has consequently led to placements on Yahoo and ABC News by virtue of the fact that these outlets syndicate Mashable content.
Here is our hypothetical promotional plan…
I would approach this graphic by promoting to the following categories of prospects and tailor my outreach accordingly, e.g. focus on the iPad when talking to the Apple and iPad bloggers but focus on the environmental aspect of the graphic when building rapport with the eco-bloggers.
- Apple bloggers
- iPad Bloggers
- Data sources
- Infographic Galleries
Link prospecting & evaluation
*It is worth remembering that we don’t go into this much detail for every prospect but these are high-value prospects I have highlighted for the purpose of illustrating this example*
High-authority website, high-income tech-savvy audience which is precisely the type of crowd Sortable will be looking to attract.
Steven Sande (one of the TUAW editors) published this infographic in 2011 (http://www.tuaw.com/2011/09/29/infographic-illustrates-10-years-of-the-ipod/)
A quick search of the site also reveals that he has in the past written about eco-friendly accessories for the iPhone (http://www.tuaw.com/2011/01/03/bioserie-bioplastic-iphone-4-cases-review-and-giveaway/) and even just a few days ago did an update which covered some of the environmental impact Apple has (http://www.tuaw.com/2012/04/18/daily-update-for-april-18-2012/) so whilst he isn’t necessarily a real eco-enthusiast, he is at least open to these issues and likely sees their importance.
His Twitter handle is http://twitter.com/stevensande
No publicly/easily accessible email address but a contact form http://www.tuaw.com/contact/feedback/
Blogger is Patrick Jordan
Patrick appears to be involved in day to day management and will likely pick up the emails to the publicly displayed firstname.lastname@example.org address.
A quick search of the site doesn’t reveal any particular coverage of eco/environmental issues in the past. We can attempt to approach Patrick as a key iPad blogger highlighting the interesting new data that this graphic offers and how much his 17,000 readers are likely to enjoy this.
(This one intersects two of the markets = WINNING!)
EcoGeek appears to have a small editorial team which includes Megan Treacy who published an infographic last year (http://www.ecogeek.org/efficiency/3561-white-roofs-could-save-a-years-worth-of-global-co2)
Get confirmation for the email which is likely to be email@example.com based on the other email addresses publicised.
A quick search for eco journalists in Google reveals David Derbyshire at The Daily Mail/Mail Online (a UK newspaper) – http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/search.html?authornamef=David%20Derbyshire
He has written various articles on the environment AND a few on technology and apps so he definitely looks like a good fit for pitching.
He has a Journalisted profile http://journalisted.com/david-derbyshire
One of the sources is http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/blog/2010/may/24/how-green-is-the-ipad
A quick click over to that site reveals that the original article back in 2010 was by a writing duo called Leo & Lucy, it seems that they still have a series going on The Guardian covering eco-friendly living http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/series/ask-leo-lucy
They even offer up their email address firstname.lastname@example.org
Get submitting to these sites
Listen to his update from the other day (http://www.tuaw.com/2012/04/18/daily-update-for-april-18-2012/) and make a comment in the outreach email before bringing the discussion around to the infographic
You could in theory contact via his personal site http://www.dailysteve.com/contact/ but he clearly states that not to do this. This serves to highlight a good outreach rule which is to always question where to stop when it comes to seeking out someone’s email address or directly contacting someone. Sometimes they have contact forms in place for good reason so always respect their wishes.
Straight in with the email as this is likely to result in a positive outcome with relatively little friction given how close the graphic is in terms of the topic to the blog.
Also, communication with the blogger appears to be open with a publicised email address.
Prime via twitter > https://twitter.com/#!/mtreacy
If possible secure a firm email address to contact or tell her to look out for your email which will have further details.
The Daily Mail
We have plenty of contact details for David (See above), I would personally email him off the bat with a carefully constructed pitch highlighting how this graphic is relevant to him and his work at The Daily Mail.
I would probably directly ask about the possibility of a placement on The Daily Mail and whether or not “I’m talking to the right person” as he may be able to point us in the right direction if he doesn’t have any forthcoming articles for Mail Online or needs clearance to cover this for example.
I would offer up “assistance” to facilitate publishing explaining we are happy to help in any way we can in to help him publish e.g. adding some words to give the graphic context, resizing slight or something similar. Again, reducing the potential friction and making his life that bit easier.
Again, with this prospect, I would go straight in with the email seeing as it is publicly displayed.
I would certainly use the egobait angle with this pitch and thank them for publishing the original article before suggesting the idea of a follow-up article (featuring the infographic) to update a piece which is now two years old.
Extending the life of the graphic
- Google Alerts for Apple & environmental related news – highlight the graphic to bloggers and journalists covering the issue
- Guest posts about Apple & the environment – using the infographic as the conversation starter.
- StumbleUpon Paid Discovery
- BuySellAds.com – sponsored Tweets to extend the reach of your graphic by seeding to an engaged following. They have a section dedicated to “All things Apple” and for anything from $25 to $250 you can drop a tweet to the graphic.
This is just a quick hypothetical run-through of how we might promote the graphic if we were tasked with this. Obviously we’d need to play the numbers game and contact far more than the few highlighted above but I just wanted to provide an example of each to help illustrate the point.
Any questions? Let me know in the comments below