How WordStream Got the World’s Attention Through Effective Infographics

I think we can all agree that infographics are:

  • Simple but not plain;
  • Short (typically) yet relevant;
  • Colorful yet still full of meaningful content; and
  • Readable in just a few minutes but, like all other properly executed SEO tools, able to deliver a ton of traffic to your site!

Nearly all of the big online publications launch infographics every day, and naturally, WordStream wanted to get in on the action themselves.

They got a rather late start in the game, but they spent their time productively by watching how everyone else did it to find out what worked and what didn’t.

And then the time came when they felt they had enough knowledge on generating traffic through SEO and making something that had the potential to go viral.

WordStream applied the lessons they learned and launched two graphics that ultimately proved to be successful.

They were confident they were going to get people’s attention through their output after having done the necessary research and incorporated what they knew would be effective.

They had no idea, however, that the amount of traffic and brand exposure they would end up enjoying was far beyond their initial projections.

Case in point: one graphic that initially received a lukewarm response and which they thought would force them to go back to the drawing board eventually got published on CNN.com and other official news sites and tech sites around the world.

I do not like to simply rest on my laurels, though. I want to share WordStream success with others, which is why I want the whole world to know how they pulled off what some called the impossible in order to inspire others to do the same.

I now present to you this infographic case study so that you will know the 4 steps WordStream took to generate traffic through their two successful infographics campaigns, namely, Google Flops and Failures (which, ironically, almost ended up as a failure) and Internet Privacy.

Ready:

Here you go:

Step One: Make Sure Your Topic is Fresh and Relevant

Of course, you can’t have an infographic campaign, let alone a successful one that brings in traffic, without a topic that people would love to read about.

It can be anything as serious as politics or as lighthearted as a humorous event that happened in real life.

Also, we learned early on that WordStream resulting infographic needed to evoke some sort of emotion for it to really make people interested enough about it to share with others.

You have a much bigger chance of achieving that goal if your topic is not only fresh but also capable of making an impact on people in the present time.

WordStream then started brainstorming to determine which topics had the potential to be shared again and again. They eventually ended up with only two: Internet privacy and failed campaigns by search engine leader Google

You might be surprised at this point as to their choices of topics. After all, why would WordStream want to talk about two things that people are already familiar with?

They are, first and foremost, an internet marketing software provider, and so they agreed that the chosen topics were indeed relevant to their line of business.

However, they decided that these topics would generate enough buzz for other equally important reasons:

  • Internet Privacy – Their customers love to spy on their competitors to know what they’re up to, but they themselves don’t want others spying on them. They knew for a fact that the same applies to people in general.
  • Google Flops – The search engine giant has left their competitors eating their dust so many times that any news about their poorly made business decisions is received with great delight by the competition even though it does very little to affect their standing.

In narrowing down their chosen topics, they also asked for help from those who were not part of their company.

Chris Angus, who owns Warlock Media (the SEO Company whom they contracted to design their infographics for them), was more than happy to share with them what his own experiences about topic selection:

“When choosing a concept, we pick ideas that are topical while being able to illustrate large numbers, comparisons, and disparities.”

In other words, the topic they choose for their infographic must be flexible enough that it could be explained effectively with the help of numbers, particularly comparative and/or historical figures that told a story.

Chris explains further:

“Of course, the concept needs to be interesting and entertaining, while the data creates the story and path which visitors will follow from start to end; hopefully enjoying themselves along the way!”

After selecting the topic, WordStream needed to do research—A LOT of it. They would never forgive themselves if they had launched an infographic based on data that they themselves weren’t sure about.

Therefore, it’s not just about getting as much data as they could. They needed to be careful about where they got their data as well, and oftentimes, the most convenient sources turn out to be anything but.

Chris Angus related to them people’s tendency to use Wikipedia as a source despite the questionable accuracy of the information under many of the entries on the site.

And then there’s also the danger of the topic becoming less and less appealing as you’re working on making an infographic based on it.

Thankfully, WordStream didn’t encounter this problem while working on their campaigns, but it could just as easily have happened to them.

If it did happen, though, it will be much easier for them to scrap the idea early on and then go back to brainstorming than to put in more time, money, and effort just for the sake of completing what was begun and end up doing what Chris Angus calls “flogging a dead horse.”

Sam Hurley digital marketer, personal branding expert & founder of Optim-Eyez reiterates that; selecting a topic for your infographic is no different than the process for awesome article topics!

  • Research popular topics by entering broad keywords into BuzzSumo and filtering by content types.
  • Once you have a few ideas, double check to see if these topics have previously been transformed into infographics — Then follow the below process for each:
  • If they haven’t been transformed into infographics: Why not? Is the subject too narrow? Or is there untapped potential..? Research further via Google and keyword tools.
  • If they have: Check for positive signs of popularity (social shares, backlinks etc). After whittling down the successful infographics, create a new spin on the topics or use the same concept — But no matter what you choose — Just make your infographic better than any other in existence!
  • You should also ask your audience what topic they would love to see converted into an infographic (a super solid social presence makes this process 100x easier)

According to Sid Bharath founder of Thinkific.com; the best infographics are those that put interesting data into a visual format.

Therefore the best topic for an infographic should be something around some data you’ve got, especially that data no one else has access to.

If you’re a software company, collect data on how customers are using your software.

If you sell physical products, maybe do a survey around purchasing patterns in your industry.

For example, my company, Thinkific, is an online course platform, so we would create infographics on topics like how to increase your course engagement rates, or different pricing strategies for a course.

Step Two: Create and Publish Your Infographic

WordStream came up with an idea on what they wanted to share to people and they gathered the data they needed.

The next step was incorporating everything in a graphic that was not only informative but also engaging enough that people will want to read it all the way to the end.

To achieve this, they needed a title, a header section, and a theme that could easily get people’s attention.

For example, for the internet privacy graphic, Chris suggested they use an impactful line (in the form of a question, which further raised the level of its impact on readers), a theme inspired by George Orwell’s classic novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (i.e. “Big Brother is watching you.”), and an oversized human eye flanked by two generic-looking surveillance cameras, as shown below:

They agreed that the use of the eye and the surveillance cameras was a natural fit for the message they wanted to convey about people spying on others (and being spied on themselves).

Of course, WordStream needed to include the supporting statistics as well, but they knew that having to read a bunch of numbers and lengthy paragraphs could easily bore a lot of people. They were able to overcome this issue, though, as Chris explains:

“Wherever possible we communicated the statistics in as simple and visual way as possible. It has to be easy to scan down the infographic and get the basic idea with as little effort as possible.”

Here are some screenshots of what they did to achieve this:

As you can see, the relevance of the figures was emphasized when they incorporated visual indicators such as bar graphs and pie charts.

This was to give their readers a much clearer idea of the data that the numbers represented.

Also, this was to help WordStream make readers realize why they felt the topic they chose was so important.

But this was only the first half of the graphic, and their readers still needed to learn more about what they wanted to share with them. They needed to entice them to go further through the graphic.

The title, the header, and the theme had done their job; it was now time for the next player to step up to bat.

You can see from the screenshots above that texts accompanied the numbers and their respective visual representations. This approach was necessary because it told the story behind the numbers.

And because it told a story, it would encourage anyone reading the graphic to go further, which in turn would lead them to other relevant information explained through text and emphasized by the appropriate images:

They decided that the infographic should end with a section explaining to the reader that the first few parts were not really what the graphic was all about.

You read that right. What the infographic was really driving at was something that had potentially far greater implications than did relatively minor instances of violations of people’s privacy:

Step Three: Use Email Outreach to Get Your Infographic Noticed and Shared by the Right People

WordStream infographic was now done and ready to go viral, but they still needed to get word of it out to their target audience.

First, they identified sites and blogs that were relevant to their campaign and therefore had a strong propensity to link back to them.

They ran queries through Google and Google blog search using various permutations of the search terms “internet privacy” and “online privacy.”

Part two of their plan of attack involved connecting with the highly influential people behind the authority sites, news outlets, and blogs that were not only relevant to their campaign but also enjoyed a lot of traffic.

They were well aware that they needed to adopt a more personal approach when dealing with these influencers.

They get email requests as well as link begs from various people almost nonstop, so their goal was to get them to notice them before anyone else.

Their approach was simple yet effective: they sent each one of their prospects a personalized email telling them that they admire their work (They really do.) and that they would appreciate whatever help they would give to get their message across.

They were pleased with the responses they got, and the results that followed made them even happier. Their graphics got front page visibility on sites such as Digg, Reddit, and Stumbleupon, which helped relevant blog owners and site owners to find out about them and what they were plugging.

But they didn’t stop there. They knew they had to keep exerting effort to spread the word. As Chris Angus explains:

“…the best analogy I have is to compare it [to] riding a bicycle. It needs to have enough energy to keep moving forward and keep going, if there isn’t enough initial energy it’s not going to go anywhere and you’ll fall off…”

Shane Barker a digital marketing consultant told me that, email outreach is easily the most effective and non-intrusive method of promoting your infographics, (and your blog posts as well).

At Gifographics.co, they design, create, and promote eye-catching infographics and gifographics.

And the following infographic promotion strategies have worked remarkably well for them.

Create Infographics from Top-Performing Content

Influential figures and websites can help you leverage your infographic marketing by sharing them on social media, and/or publishing them on their websites.

Here’s how:

Find them. First, make a list of influential people, and reputable websites in your industry.

Find their best content. Next, look for top-performing content created by the influential people and websites.

Create an infographic. Turn their content into an eye-catching infographic or gifographic.

Reach out to them. Email them to let them know that you loved their content so much that you turned it into an infographic.

Ask them to check it out. Send them a link to the infographic on your site, and ask for their feedback on it.

Make it easy for them to share. Ask them to share it on social media if they like it. Make it easy for them by including a click-to-tweet link.

Encourage them to publish it. Provide them with an embed code for the infographic, and offer to write an introduction for it if they’d like to publish it on their site.

Reach Out to Relevant, Reputable Websites

To promote an infographic you’ve created from your own content, or for a client, you can reach out to reputable, relevant websites.

Here’s how:

Find them. First, make a list of relevant, reputable online publications and blogs.

Reach out to them. Email the website’s editor, and tell them how much you enjoy their content. Mention a specific post of theirs, relevant to your infographic content, if possible.

Tell them about your infographic. Let them know you’re reaching out to them because you’ve created an infographic you think their audience will love.

Highlight the benefits. Tell them how publishing your infographic on their site is an excellent way for them to provide their readers with fresh, visually engaging content.

Tell them about the value to their readers. Mention how their readers could benefit from your infographic. What will they learn? What value does it offer them?

Make it easy for them. Provide them with an embed code for the infographic, and offer to write an introduction for it if they’d like to publish it on their site

Adam Connell stresses that, Most outreach emails suck. And they can be boiled down simply to “Hey person I don’t know, give up your free time to help me.”

This is a big opportunity because it makes it fairly easy to craft an outreach email that stands out.

Try formulating your pitch as follows:

  • Personalization – It takes a few moments to find out the name of the person you want to contact.
  • Help the recipient – This could be simply letting them know about a glitch on their site or sharing the content. You might say “Loved your post on X, shared it with my X thousand Twitter followers.” Of course be sure to @mention their Twitter handle when you share.
  • The ask – Be crystal clear about what you want them to do for you.
  • Make an offer they can’t refuse – This is where you say what you’ll do if they agree to help you. A great line to use is something like “If you publish our infographic, we’ll share it with our X thousand followers and add it to our paid traffic campaign.”
  • Sign off – Let them know who you are. Link to your social, your website etc.

Using this approach is a little more difficult to scale but it means that you send less emails and get more positive responses.

Ron Medlin the director of digital marketing at Trevelinokeller.com recommends that you enter the topic you’re covering into Buzzsumo, filter the content type to only show infographics, select your time frame you’d like to look at, go through the list and view backlinks, download the backlinks, extract the domain name from the complete URL using this formula =LEFT(url,FIND(“/”,url,9)), find the email address of the website owner using the chrome extention from Hunter.io, and finally utilize a tool like Gmass.co or Buzzstream.com to outreach to this list.

Don’t forget to mention the infographic they previously linked to. Here are some great outreach strategies I like to use from Ahrefs.com/blog/outreach

According to Josh Haynam founder of Tryinteract.com, spend twice as long as you think you need to research any site before you reach out asking for a link.

By spending time actually reading articles on the site you want a link from, you’ll be able to send an outreach email that is not annoying and people can tell if you’ve spent time reading what they’ve written and that will make all the difference in the world.

When I asked Josh Steimle, CEO, of MWI for his best advice, here’s what he told me:

When it comes to promoting an infographic through email outreach, I’m as much a fan of quantity as anyone, but I go for quality first, in order to get quantity.

What I mean is that because I have written for a lot of publications like Forbes, Mashable, Entrepreneur, etc. I get a TON of emails every month from people who want me to feature their infographic in a post of mine.

The thing is, I can tell by the way they craft these emails that I’m just one of 500 or more writers getting the exact same email. As soon as I know I’m part of a bulk pitch, I delete the email.

I can usually spot a bulk pitch in about 0.5 seconds. Even if you customize the pitch, I can tell if you’re doing “bulk customization” or if you’re writing that email just for me.

If you want to get through to me (and other writers) then you have to take some time to get to know me, and write an email that’s for me, and only for me.

This doesn’t need to take hours, just a few minutes of extra research to know what I’m interested in, and what I’d be likely to write about.

Once you know this key information, then you can craft a pitch that will match what I want to write about, and that might not be what I was writing about three years ago, or even six months ago.

For example, three years ago I was writing a lot about entrepreneurship. Today, I cover two things; digital marketing and influence, and ideally both.

But if you don’t know this, you might pitch me an infographic on the startup scene in Shenzhen, China, which is personally interesting to me, but I don’t write about it.

If you spend just a few minutes to get to know me, you’ll know that to get through to me you need to connect your infographic to influence, personal branding, thought leadership, and digital marketing.

Then I’m much more likely to work with you on crafting an article that does a great job of promoting your infographic, and you’ll get the big exposure you’re looking for. Quality first, in order to get the quantity.

According to Bill Widmer, Infographics are an awesome way to get tons of social shares and even backlinks.

For example, Brian Dean gets backlinks with his Guestographic method (which I’ve used with pretty good success).

For raw content promotion, I’m a huge believer in developing relationships with the top people in your industry.

Get their input and include them in your infographic – and make sure it looks amazing and makes them look great – then just ask them to share and link to it. Nine times out of ten they’ll be happy to.

Perfect example: Venngage made me this infographic on creating great looking blog posts.

In it, I included advice from Andy Crestodina, a content marketing expert and founder of Orbit Media Studio.

He was more than happy to share it because it looks good and it made him look good.

In the end, it’s about providing value to the person you’re asking to promote it. That could mean linking to them, making them look good, helping them promote something in return, or simply complimenting them on some great work they’ve done.

Step Four: Assess the ROI of Your Infographic

As with any internet marketing company worth its salt, WordStream set some measurable objectives so that they can check if their infographics campaign was effective or not.

One of their gauges was their return on investment (ROI). In other words, they wanted to know if the money and time they invested in the project were enough and if they made efficient use of these.

Long story short: the results they enjoyed were outstanding. In fact, they did far better than they thought possible.

Instead of boring you with the nitty-gritty of it, though, I’ll simply provide a summary of how they reached, nay, exceeded each of the three goals they set for themselves:

  • Their infographic got on the front pages of 3 major social book marking sites, namely, Digg, Reddit, and Stumbleupon; their target was to get on only one.
  • They earned 79 links (out of nearly 3500) from authoritative sites of PR4 or higher; they initially aimed for just 20.
  • Hundreds of the leads they generated were because of the infographics; they were gunning for 75.

Now I don’t know a lot about input-to-output ratios, but I can proclaim with confidence that, from the results they got, they were very efficient in how they used their available resources.

For instance, consider how Jordan Kasteler speaker and marketing consultant describes his thoughts about evaluating the Infographic ROI:

It’s important to note that most people evaluate the KPIs of the static page the infographic is embedded on, but not the actual image file itself.

Many people have a thumbnail embed of the infographic on a static page which clicks to open a larger image in the browser.

For example, many people look at social shares and links a page gets but, if accessible, people will share or link to the .jpg/.gif/.png file itself.

If that’s the case then link and shares aren’t being attributed to the domain properly since files to transfer pagerank.

Not only do standalone image files not transfer SEO value, but there’s no internal links on an image file (by nature) to pass value through to.

To get around this I’d recommend

  • Making the infographic fit the page itself, thus not requiring a click or
  • Having the click be a hover (e.g LightBox) vs opening a new tab for the file or (if you want to be advanced)
  • Hosting the image file in a folder of its own and have a script in the folder that counts calls to the image so you can at least track views (but not shares/links).

If you find that people have linked or shared past infographics, by file name, then you can redirect (to pass value) those images to the static page and create a brand new image file for the infographic that’s free of links/shares.

This tactic will also ensure that you send people to the desired landing page vs just an image on your server.

William Harris Ecommerce Growth Consultant at Elumynt.com reiterates that; evaluating the ROI of your infographic depends on what your initial goal was.

Did you want to gain backlinks?

How many did you gain, how long did it take, how much did you spend, and how much would you have to spend to get that same number and quality of backlinks via another method?

What about traffic?

Or brand mentions on social media?

The return on infographics, or content marketing, or social media – should be calculated by the value – not necessarily the income.

How much is an impression worth to you if you were going to pay for it on Facebook ads?

How much would you pay for a link from CNN if you paid an SEO or PR company to do it for you?

Ultimately those values are driven by actual sales numbers for your company, but you can’t always tell how many sales came from that infographic.

Those links raised your overall domain authority, which helped you show up higher in Google searches for your keywords which turned into “organic” sales.

The infographic will never get credit for those sales, but the links you built with that infographic had a very real, very positive impact on the increase in that organic search performance.

Johnathan Dane founder and CEO of Klientboost.com told me that, they track conversion step in their conversion funnel through Google Analytics when it comes to their content and gifographics.

So when they decided to invest heavily in infographics and raise the bar by turning them into gifographics, then they saw an awesome return in regards to backlinks and conversions.

And it’s continuing to grow over time. You can see them all here: Marketing Infographic

According to Sarah Hewitson community & marketing manager at Neatly.io explains further: When you’re evaluating the success of your Infographic the key thing to have in mind is what your objective was.

Was the purpose of this Infographic to drive links or to increase your engagement on social channels?

Your objective will then determine how you measure ROI. For link-building, you might look to measure by an increase in rankings for the related keyword or an increase in organic traffic.

You should also always bear in mind the impact on the bottom-line. Did the increase in organic traffic increase revenue, and was this enough to cover the cost of creating the infographic?

A great read to check out is Grow and Convert’s post on the Customer Acquisition Cost of Content – this will help you work out the ROI of your content.

They Did It, and So Can You!

Now It’s Your Turn

Infographics are indeed fun yet informative means of discussing a certain topic and getting more people interested in it.

Whatever your ultimate goal is, a properly executed infographics campaign (which also includes spreading the word about the infographics themselves) has the potential to make the right people aware that you exist and that you have something worthwhile to offer them.

I’m not going to get your hopes up and say you’ll enjoy exactly the same positive results as WordStream did or that you’ll get it right the first time.

The key here is to find out what works for you and what doesn’t and then to craft your campaign accordingly, all the while keeping your goals in mind.

So get up and start brainstorming with your team right now! Who knows, your campaign may just be the next big thing and you might even enjoy much greater exposure than WordStream did. Good luck!

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Comments

  1. I love the detailed breakdown! Well done, Bill. It’s important to show how much goes into this work. Few people (1%? Less?) are willing to put in this kind of effort. Bravo!

    • Bill Acholla says:

      Thanks, Andy so glad to hear that. I’d love to see how these tips help entrepreneurs attracting world attention.

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