Linkbait and the Incredibly Virality of Infographics

An interesting phenomenon in some of the popular social news aggregators like Reddit, and Digg is the appearance of infographics. Well-designed infographics are like crack to Digg, Reddit and StumbleUpon users. (Actually, while StumbleUpon is not my expertise — perhaps this is even more true of StumbleUpon since pictures do well over there). Basically the formula is interesting facts + visually stunning digital art = viral insanity.

To illustrate this point I’m going to share a number of infographics, which also serves to familiarize you in the overall format and common themes.

  1. A friend of mine put this infographic together – 12 facts about bottled water (PIC)2,190 Reddit votes. Bonus: This one has very thorough criticism by the Reddit community, despite being so successful.
  2. Striking Infographic: Tallest Mountains to Deepest Trench (Gives good sense of Deepwater Horizon drilling depth)1,618 Reddit votes. This one got posted and was successful, twice (with the second post getting ~280 votes)
  3. how to spot a concealed weapon. Infographic710 Reddit Votes.
  4. Which Health Supplements Are Backed by Science?[Infographic]1078 Reddit Votes. This one also, interestingly enough, had another interactive, presumably flash based version which I didn’t see on the front page — though it may have also hit. It occurs to me that the links in the comments to the other versions may have also been placed there by someone who knew the content producer.
  5. 1 Pixel = 1 Million Dollars. [Infographic]811 Reddit Votes.
  6. Music sales on different media types. [Infographic]322 Reddit Votes. This one was produced by the New York Times. Cool.
  7. Europes Web of Debt [Infographic] – 325 Reddit Votes
  8. How to predict the weather (Infographic)434 Reddit Votes

One of the more salient features that seem to be important that I notice is that data is represented graphically to scale at every opportunity. Another is that on many sites (the smart ones) they offer the opportunity to put the infographic on your own site, so long as you use the code they provide you, which then links to their site — hence, the term linkbait.

Anything with more than 600 votes is like… insane on fire, and almost certainly means it exploded on at least one other major site. Above 1,000 is beyond my knowledge with the exception of rumored sick level of virality (i.e. 100,000+ unique visitors — never seen this level personally). Often times things pertaining to important global events is what can rock these huge numbers. I’ve heard Twitter trending topics is another good place for ideas.

Make sure to also read my post describing the aftermath of a Digg front page hit. … and also check out The Oatmeal — a popular webcomic that launched his career largely via websites like Digg and Reddit. He’s since gone on national TV, published a comic book, and also been hired by Reddit for illustrations.

Update: I ran across this page giving infographic design tips and examples! Check it out!

Useful SEO Tools and Links

Just starting a post to compile useful tools, with a short description of why they’re useful. Most of these were compiled by going on a huge stumbleupon spree using very specific tags (in this case “seo”). I would say this experiment was very successful, and I’ll be using StumbleUpon in this manner in the future.

Scripts, WordPress Plugins, Firefox Plugins, etc.

  • “Link Building Pro” (seox.com) – A javascript for automatically inserting a source link  with keyword rich anchor text to the clipboard if someone copies ANYTHING from your page. Good for SEO, and encourages people to list you as a source. Discovered from the SEO tag on stumbleupon.
  • Cross-linker – WordPress plugin that may no longer be functional, worth a shot however. Turns all instances of a phrase throughout a blog as a link to a pre-defined URL.
  • wp db backup – A plugin that automatically backs up a wordpress database.
  • Breadcrumb NavXT – A wordpress plugin that adds some nifty navigation/link hierarchy thats useful for SEO and usability.
  • Intense Debate – A wordpress plugin that alters the commenting system, allows comment email subscription, reply by email, and comment threading. Increases reader  engagement. View the features page here.
  • Digg Digg – A wordpress plugin that immediately inserts all the share/bookmarking buttons on your posts and pages, and allows custom formatting options. Very useful. Not restricted to digg as name might imply.
  • Better Google Analytics Firefox Plugin – Will take a snap shot of a report and export it to google docs.
  • Firefox addon to turn off google personalized search.
  • Seoaddons.com – A long list of firefox addons, cms mods, and other SEO-related goodies. My personal favorite found from here was a firefox addon called KGen which shows you the keyword composition of pages you’re viewing so you can scope  out the competition.
  • Google chrome plugins for SEO

Informational Articles

Keyword Analysis

  • Spyfu.com – Keyword that gives approximate traffic to website/keywords, and adwords price range for hits. Pretty cool.
  • Google Alerts – A useful tool that allows you to setup emails watching for keywords. Sets up an RSS feed for your use OR sends you daily/weekly emails. Can use advanced google search operators (big key to success there).
  • Nichebot.com – A pay membership service that helps with appropriate keyword targetting.
  • Keyword Discovery (Trellian) – Another membership site, similar to wordtracker or nichebot, but surprisingly expensive. $200/month.
  • Google Keyword Research ToolGives approximate amount of monthly trafic, as well as average cost per click rate. In order to see the CPC information click the “Choose columns to display” drop down, and click show all.
  • Google Trends – Information on  keywords that are hot right now.

Video Sites

  • blip.tv – Video hosting website. Allows clickable links to be placed within  the videos.

Useful Pay Services

What is the “Digg Effect” Like?

The “Digg Effect” has been something of legends among some web development communities. It’s been known to crash websites, and this is what the term actually specifically refers to usually.

Speaking first hand (as of approximately a month ago at the time of this post) I can say with certainty now that a website on shared hosting, and the wp-supercache plugin installed for wordpress (which I mentioned in my top plugins for wordpress post) can survive it. I was very pleased with how wordpress held up under the stress in this arrangement.

Actual Traffic Screenshot (from Google Analytics)

As can be seen in the image just two days before the website had 0 visits, and then shortly after an initial surge which ended up totaling about 34,000 visits over the stretch! Pretty good! Not so impressive is the attention span of the average visit — the traffic only stayed for an average of fourteen seconds. Not very long. What is notable, however, is the traffic does continue for a long number of days after that having a steady slow stream which is far better than baseline was with the very last day totalling about 34 unique visits. This probably had much to do with the enormous number of facebook shares, reblogs, etc., and a general slight SEO/boost in the search engines, which I briefly mentioned in my backlinking tips post.

Viral Side Effects from Digg

This was some of my favorite parts of the traffic. Many of these visits were strictly side effects from people viewing the site from Digg, then immediately sharing it on facebook or twitter. This was made particularly easy for them by intelligent placement of share buttons.

Interesting to note that while Reddit was responsible for more than 20% of the traffic, pulling in over 7,000 visits, you can see the actual vote count on the post from Reddit is relatively low at 33 upvotes. The amount of traffic Reddit delivers is very specific to the actual subreddit submitted to (in this case reddit.com/r/pics). Having seen the amount of traffic just 33 votes can get you on Reddit, if you use a little imagination you might be able to come up with your own numbers on what kind of traffic infographics that get several hundred votes get.

The only two sites that did not pull in a lot of traffic was StumbleUpon and Google Buzz. StumbleUpon is notorious for being unpredictable and in some circumstances dumping far more traffic than even Digg and all of the others.