Remember when school teachers used to tell you that a picture tells a thousand words? Well now social media is telling us too…

Image credit: mkandlez via Flickr

In the same way that teachers don’t really want to read through heaps and heaps of work, web users now expect information on the web to be communicated to them as quickly as possible.

Google has responded to the average internet users’ increasingly short attention span by introducing page-loading speed as a ranking factor and now social media has seemingly responded with its own contribution; the popularity and success of images and infographics.

Why are infographics becoming so popular?

  • Infographics can be fun and interactive – providing a light-hearted break for social media users, here’s just one of many image visualisations from the hugely popular site The Oatmeal.
  • They can communicate an incredibly large set of data – displaying information in an interesting and meaningful way that instantly engages visitors. A recent example is this infographic to show the best value area to commute into London from.  
  • They’re different – every day we see page after page of black text on white backgrounds, which makes it difficult for us to remember every page we read, presenting information in an infographic on the other hand makes it easier to remember that information. How else could you explain the secrets of the mega shark?

So how do you decide when to use an infographic instead of standard text copy? 

I would recommend using infographics and data visualisations when trying to explain an interesting idea which uses comparisons or takes into account a lot of relatively dull or uninteresting data. 

For example, I don’t imagine the Mega Shark blog post being anywhere near as popular if it were a text article outlining all of the physics calculations!

Using data visualisation for SEO

So besides having an increasingly stronger response on social media websites how can you use infographics to your advantage? It’s common knowledge that images in general have a lower SEO impact than text copy, but there are a few ways that you can use them to benefit your site’s search engine optimisation, and this mostly comes down to the link bait potential that info graphics have – we are even beginning to see infographic posts such as this excellent cool social media infographics post, and this top ten infographics post

As an overview, the top tips to ensure maximum SEO benefit from your infographics should include:

  • Host the infographic on your domain, making sure you get the link credit.
  • Promote the infographic using social media bookmarking and networking sites such as StumbleUpon and Twitter.
  • Submit your infographic to data visualisation directories, to generate attention from designers and additional links.
  • Name the infographic file with relevant, hyphen-separated keywords, to try and influence anchor text for any links generated.
  • Host the infographic on image directories such as Flickr with a creative commons licence that requires anyone who uses your image to include a link to your website.

SEOmoz recently covered some great SEO tips on data visualisation too which is definitely worth a read. And if you’ve got any of your own tips, please feel free to leave these in the comments.