Infographics Ignorance – Throwing Out The Champagne With The Cork?

Topics: Links

Google just keeps it coming. The latest shocker in the SEO world revolves around a recent interview of Matt Cutts by Eric Enge.

It’s a great post and well worth the in-depth read. Also worth noting is that midway down the page, Matt mentions that Google may start to discount links from infographics:

“This is similar to what people do with widgets as you and I have talked about in the past. I would not be surprised if at some point in the future we did not start to discount these infographic-type links to a degree. The link is often embedded in the infographic in a way that people don’t realize, vs. a true endorsement of your site.”

That’s right. You could create a gorgeous piece of content that people willingly share across the web, and Google may place lesser value on it simply because it’s an infographic.

BUT WHY? Well, let’s first try to look at this from Google’s point of view.

[Some] people are abusing infographics.

The art of a good infographic lies in creating irresistible imagery and content that users are compelled to share across the web. This isn’t bad in and of itself, but oftentimes, users might thoughtlessly copy the “shareable code” from the graphic and place it on their website, without fully understanding what they’re really linking to.

Abusing them? How?

Whenever you see a pretty infographic that you are encouraged to embed on your website, there’s normally a line of convenient code to use. All you need to do is cut and paste!

<a href=”http://www.website.com/cool-infographic”> <img src=”http://www.website.com/images/cool-infographic.jpg” alt=”Cool Infographic”> </a> < a href=”http://www.website.com”> keyword</a>

See the orange line of code and keyword above? Yeah. The code has a sneaky line inserted where, in addition to the infographic, the user is also sharing an additional link using a specialized keyword in the anchor text.

The user thinks they’re just sharing a cool picture and linking back to it. Not also linking to another page that may or may not be related to the original infographic.

Infographics are “shiny”, too easy to share, and probably count for less of an editorial vote.

In Cutts’ opinion, users may have a tendency to randomly share lots of different infographics, but the thought put into these shares is worth less than a normal editorial citation. Google wants to put more value into links that people put more thought into.

Infographics can be misleading and/or inaccurate.

Cutts’ also feels that some infographics may get off topic and lack appropriate fact-checking. This can mislead or manipulate people into endorsing statements or positions (via a link) that they may not fully understand.

OKAY. I can understand why Google feels the need to take some action here. That being said: I sincerely hope that they will approach this with the algorithmic subtlety that it fully deserves:

Many infographics are excellent content worthy of the buzz they inspire.
Matt Cutts himself recommends that the best way to become known online is to build something excellent.

The goal of many legitimate infographics is to build something excellent, that inspires, amuses, and/or educates users, and compels us to share the experience.

Penalize abuse, not creativity or originality.
I hope there is a way to parse out the spammy from the stellar here. If an algorithmic lens is going to be applied to infographic links, then this should be done with painstaking precision and care. Look at the precise arrangement of code, keeping it on topic, the number of shares, the overall trust of the parent domain, and more. Maybe count the link only, but ignore the anchor text? Who knows.

Let’s hope Google can figure out a savvy way to accomplish this. Because in response to questions on Search Engine Land as to how Google is going to be able to exercise some discretion here, Danny notes that:

(Google) won’t. They can’t. What they can do is see that some infographic is being embedded or linked to with all the same anchor text and decide to discount those links. They might be savvy, too, and decide to discount the links of they can somehow detect that the anchor text makes no sense to the infographic (imagine some payday loan company runs a popular infographic on Oscar winners with the anchor text about payday loans. They might be able to figure out some of that).”

In the meantime, Cutts recommends that webmasters create high-quality, on-topic, accurate infographics that do not mislead users in any way.

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