Infographics: Dead—or still a useful tool for communicators?

Some say the impact of the infographic is weakening and urge brand managers to look at other forms of content. Not so fast.

A recent report from Clutch, a research, ratings and reviews platform for business services, suggests the pulse of infographics—at the heart of many content marketing strategies—is weakening.

To paraphrase Mark Twain, are reports of the death of infographics greatly exaggerated?

In a Clutch news release, Rand Fishkin, founder of SEO software organization Moz, practically delivers a eulogy for infographics:

“The age of infographics is dying, and most of them are quite bad,” Fishkin is quoted as saying. “The ones that have success do so in a slightly manipulative way. The embed gets linked back with very particular anchor texts that take advantage of search algorithms.”

The Clutch report cites a study by Moz and Buzzsumo, provider of a content discovery tool, that makes the case for content marketers to re-evaluate their dependence on infographics. Why? Because content that garners social shares typically is geared toward entertainment—listicles, videos, quizzes—whereas content that secures backlinks and earned media is geared toward information, such as research-oriented articles and opinion-based journalism, the study says.

A Clutch survey of content marketers found that 19 percent of organizations seeking to generate brand awareness rely on infographics; meanwhile, 14 percent of the organizations concentrating on SEO and lead generation are likely to produce infographics.

So are those organizations way off the mark in adhering to an infographics strategy? Not in the least, says Brian Wallace, founder and president of infographic design agency Nowsourcing.

A different view

Wallace maintains that infographics are not dying—they’re thriving. In recent years, he says, many brands have only just begun to adopt infographic strategies at a time when do-it-yourself tools are making the creation of infographics easier.

Wallace points to a 2016 study by the Content Marketing Institute to back up his stance. The study showed that in B2B content marketing, the effectiveness rating for infographics rose more in one year than any other tactic—from 50 percent to 58 percent.

“I would say there was a brief period of time a few years ago that Google scared people out of the market and questioned the ability of infographics to get links,” Wallace says, “but well-made campaigns continue to outperform.”

Wallace dismisses criticism by Fishkin and others as being driven in part by “follow the crowd” clickbait articles declaring that infographics are dead, SEO is obsolete and blogs are ancient history. He insists that those who make that type of claim haven’t executed a professional, well-thought-out content marketing campaign.

“Content marketers should look at an infographic as a special event for super-premium content to use as part of their overall integrated marketing strategy,” Wallace says. “It should fit in with the cadence of their regular social, blog, webinar, email and tradeshow/event content.”

As growth marketer Sujan Patel noted in a 2016 post for the Content Marketing Institute, infographics, despite their omnipresence, remain effective when done well.

And you don’t necessarily have to hire an outside firm to create them. For instance, the in-house content marketing team at my employer, LawnStarter, regularly produces infographics on a shoestring budget, such as this piece about the emerging New Orleans-Baton Rouge “super region” and this piece about the windy weather in Tallahassee, Florida.

Today, infographics and other visual content are alive and well, and no one should be preparing to bury them six feet under.

What do you think? Are infographics on their deathbed or will they continue to thrive?

John Egan is editor in chief at LawnStarter, an Austin, Texas-based startup whose platform connects homeowners with lawn care professionals. A version of this article originally appeared on Muck Rack, a service that enables you to find journalists to pitch, build media lists, get press alerts and create coverage reports with social media data.

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