Higher Education SEOInfographicsLink Building

Higher Education Marketer's Guide to Infographics

By August 5, 2013 No Comments

Infographics.  We’ve all heard of them.  Some hate them, some love them.  No matter what side you’re on, you can’t deny that they still work – really well actually.
This especially holds true for colleges and universities, who have the reputation, research, and resources to produce highly sharable and very interesting infographics.  Additionally, webmasters and bloggers may not be interested in infographics from unknown brands but will jump at the opportunity to feature an infographic from a .edu.
My question is, why aren’t more marketing teams making use of them?
In today’s world of higher education, especially for online graduate programs, you must be doing something to set yourself apart.  The market is far too competitive and growing by the day, making the organic search landscape as volatile as ever.  Search engine rankings are still vital for programs to drive and generate high-quality traffic, and the days of relying on basic on-page SEO are gone.  As you’re probably figuring out, your link building strategy must be natural and very well-rounded, and that’s where infographics come in.
The problem is, as most of you know, there are a lot of bad infographics out there.  Marketers think they can quickly throw one together and magically start generating links and social shares.  In reality the topic, content, and design can make or break an infographic.  Additionally, you must have a clear distribution strategy that effectively targets the relevant websites you need but at the same time reaches as large of an audience as possible.
Below I’ll show you why you need to make infographics part of your organic marketing strategy and walk you through, start to finish, how to effectively create and distribute them with the goal of influencing your organic presence.

Why you should be using infographics

When it comes to SEO and rankings, back link diversity is huge in today’s world.  Social signals are also important and definitely play a factor in Google’s eyes.  Fact is, you can’t put all of your eggs in one basket when it comes to where your links are coming from and when utilized effectively, infographics are the perfect solution.  They provide the perfect mix of relevant natural looking links from niche specific sites and major publications, along with a slough of Tweets, Likes, Shares, Pins, and Comments.
Through the use of infographics, you’ll not only be positively influencing your organic presence, but also driving traffic and brand recognition at the same time.  Win – Win – Win.  What are you waiting for?

Infographic Creation, Start to Finish

Topic Research and Creation
The key to a quality, sharable infographic starts with the topic.  For me, this is the most important part of the process and will determine how effective your infographic will ultimately be.  When researching topics, you must always keep in mind the end goal – share ability.  What will your target audience be interested in learning more about?  You must also keep in mind a broader audience, because ideally you’d like the infographic to appeal to as many as people as possible.  Are there any newsworthy or larger conversations around the program you’re creating the infographic for?
Tools:
1) Alltop.com – Alltop is an aggregator of the top blogs/website that are regularly updated for just about every topic under the sun.  Scan through each category and the blog topics under each.  Which ones stand out?  Are there any topics that are talked about more than others? This is the first place I go to get a gauge on the industry and what’s being talked about.  Not to mention it’s also a great way to find and document potential blogs to target during the distribution process, so keep an eye out.
2) Google news – Throw your infographic topic ideas into Google and see what current news topics render.  This is great for identifying larger trends in the industry and spotting some ideas you many not have thought of.  I personally like to click-through and read some of the articles and usually uncover some new ideas for topics as a result.
3) Google search – search for major publications, journals, or other reputable sources.  This is a great way to get a pulse on the perspective industry and the major topics they’re talking about.
4) Google trends – Google trends is great for gaining an understanding of what people are searching for and is very helpful once you’ve narrowed your list of ideas down to a handful of potential subjects.  Throw them into trends to see if any are relevant now or increasing in relevance.  If you can produce an infographic that corresponds with what’s in the news or what’s popular, you’re life during the distribution phase will be much easier!
5) Schedule time to chat with a professor in the program – This is especially true if you’re at a research university.  These faculty can be a great resource for understanding the industry as a whole, what interests them, and any emerging topics that would be interesting.  Some may even be working on something that could contribute directly to your infographic, who knows.
Tips for Infographic Topic Creation:
1) If possible, try to take advantage of topics that are popular now (if you can turn the graphic around in a timely manner)
2) Ensure the topic is relevant to your target audience
3) Ensure the topic will appeal to as broad of an audience as possible
4) Always keep distribution in mind – ask yourself “will webmasters in the niche be interested in this topic?”

Infographic Research

The research phase of the infographic creation process isn’t rocket science.  The main takeaway here: ensure you’re utilizing highly reputable resources for your research.  If possible, try to centralize your research around .edu, .gov, or highly reputable .coms.  Ditch the wikis, blogs, and other questionable sources.  Better yet, if you can tap into any internal research from one or more of the program’s professors and utilize that data you could really hit a home run.  That way you know you’re working with trustworthy data and during the distribution process you utilize that fact as leverage for the bloggers and webmasters.
Tips for Infographic Research:
1) No wikis, blogs, or other opinion based sources
2) Look within for research conducted by program professors or faculty
3) Don’t self-promote!  No one wants to share that…
4) Ensure your research flows well and tells a clear story
Bonus Tip: When starting your research, first map out the entire graphic by title, then fill in the holes.  In looking at the infographic from a macro perspective, you can get a better gauge of the story you’re telling and ensure it effectively illustrates the topic.
Example:
Title: STEM Education’s Largest Hurdles
Section 1: STEM Overview
Section 2: STEM Progress
Section 3: What’s preventing the STEM Initiative’s Success?
Section 4: The Future of STEM

Infographic Distribution

You’ve created a relevant and interesting title, conducted all of your research, and now you’re ready to show it off to the World.  This is where a lot of marketers tend to get a little lost.  It can be overwhelming to figure out where to start, but the sooner you can nail down a process the better.  I always recommend solidifying your process, then always working to tweak and refine the process.  As with everything else, some channels come and go so you must always keep your eyes and ears open for new ways to get your infographic out to the masses.
To help get you started with your process, here’s a brief overview of mine:
1) Submit infographic to infographic promotion websites
Some of my favorites:
http://visual.ly/
http://infographicjournal.com/
http://www.newsilike.in/submit-infographic/
A great list of additional sites: http://www.paddymoogan.com/2012/01/14/list-of-infographic-sites-for-link-building/
2) Submit infographic to myblogguest.com

  • This will advertise your infographic to hundreds of bloggers, and you get to pick who publishes it (before accepting, take a look at the bloggers site first to get an idea of the strength, legitimacy, and trustworthiness of their website)

3) Seed infographic on social platforms

  • Reddit
  • Stumbleupon
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • Google+
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Pinterest
  • Slideshare

4) Buy an ad on Stumbleupon or create a display campaign around the infographic

  • I wouldn’t do this for all infographics, just the ones that are highly relevant and interesting.  You can burn through your budget with this so please beware!

5) Have any connections or relationships in the news publication industry?

  • Pitch your infographic to writers at the major online publications
  • Writers tend to love great infographics – think about it, you’ve already done all of the research for them!

6) Research and create a list of highly relevant 40 to 50 blogs and websites that you can manually reach out to

  • When searching for these sources, I would recommend first starting out by searching for infographics around the topic or industry that websites have published in the past.  If they’ve published one before, there’s a good chance they’ll do it again.

Google search: “infographic topic” / “topic” blogs / allinsite:”topic” / allinblog:”topic” / allintitle:”topic”  – get creative!
Followerwonk: Great tool from Moz that can be utilized to find top influencers in a specific industry.  Seek them out and shoot them an email through their blog or website
A few tips:

  • Keep it personal – don’t mass email
  • Keep it brief – get to the point
  • Provide the embed code and attach the original infographic to the email
  • If you can’t reach them through email, try Twitter or Facebook but don’t overdo it!
  • Request the anchor text and URL you wish to use – I would recommend purely branded anchor text or a combo of branded and target keyword
  • Be sure to follow-up!

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