To Infographic or Not Infographic: That is the Question

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An infographic is an entertaining way to grab your audience’s attention. They are bold and colorful; they present information in small “visual bites” with the goal of retaining the reader’s eye through the complete message. The reason that infographics were developed is because consistent data has proven that a person’s average attention span lasts eight seconds and that people rarely read an entire web page (StatisticBrain.com, “Attention Span Statistics”). To combat this lack of attention, infographics were born, and in the last two years the Internet has been overrun with them.

There is no question that a clever content writer and graphic artist can create an attention-grabbing infographic that will curl your toes. These vibrant charts can do a good job of simplifying a concept that is complicated or difficult to understand. My personal favorite infographic designer is Matthew Inman, author and cartoonist from The Oatmeal. He has been designing his version of infographics since before the term “infographic” was coined. He has a wonderful collection of grammar posters, including “Ten Words You Need to Stop Misspelling,” that every writer should read. He combines humor with fact and presents these boring grammar mistakes in a fascinating manner. His work displays the advantage an infographic has over plain text. By combining a picture with written copy, the concept portrayed is easier to swallow and internalize.

The two problems with infographics become apparent when you peruse the witch’s brew of infographics polluting the Internet. Most infographics are merely a way to regurgitate another iteration of the same old stuff, and they are not SEO friendly.

Misuse of the Infographic

Because marketers are visually oriented, and see the benefit of combining images with copy, the infographic has become the new way to present every idea. While infographics are pretty, after a while they all blend together and lose their impact, which degrades the reason for using an infographic in the first place. With the propensity of Internet users to copy and share, it is easy to see dozens of infographics a day appear in a Facebook or Google+ news stream. They have become commonplace which basically means that they are boring. If readers are snoozing when they see an infographic, well, you know what that means; the fad has hit the skids. It just doesn’t know it yet.

The Search Engine Dance

Webmasters that are using the infographic for SEO purposes have missed a crucial point about infographics. An infographic is info presented as a graphic—a picture or image—therefore, they are treated by the search engines as images. While you can set them up as an image for SEO purposes, giving them a title and alt definition, the copy on an infographic is ignored by search engines. They do not see it at all.

Search engines treat images separately from text. Search engines can “read” text and interpret it via their algorithms; they cannot read the text on an image. Therefore, unless the text is repeated adjacent to the infographic, it might as well not be there at all for SEO purposes.

Therefore, if you have the magic combination of images and words to zap difficult concepts into thick-skulled human brains, you should use an infographic. However, if you are trying to get your target audience to your site via SEO, you should go back to plain old content.

Paula A is a freelance writer who has been writing on the Internet since 2008. When she is not writing, Paula creates and maintains websites, searches for handmade art treasures and nibbles on chocolate to keep herself motivated.

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