Infographic Clean-up as Link Building Outreach

Following up on Oli’s excellent post (6 Steps to Making Your Infographic Work), I’m going to be expanding on the post-publication aspect of the infographic process, which I’ve been tinkering with over the past month. If you are at all involved in outreach, then infographic clean-up is a great way to spend your time sourcing placements, beginning relationships and getting links while you do it. It’s also a nice way to get a foot in the door at some authority sites beyond your original placement. Going exploring also lets you really see how your work is performing in the wild. I thoroughly recommend it. You can do what I’m suggesting whenever you want, and done well, you’ll get you the satisfaction of knowing you’ve efficiently built a lot of quality links and contacts with relatively little effort. Done on behalf of a client, you can demonstrate your attentiveness in looking after their investment, showing it continues to pass benefit to them months down the line.

I can get links for little effort?

Oh yes (unless you’ve just finished scraping the barrel with this method). If you haven’t done this recently then it’s definitely worth picking up again: although republication velocity will tend to decrease over time, it is unlikely to outright stop. It takes very little time to check up.

If you jump on clean-up the days following release you can potentially get a lot of links from both the scrapers and the honest folk later down the line. You’ll notice in your explorations that most will attribute someone, even if it is more often than not the site it was first placed on or the one on which they found it. These people are very likely to attribute you with the right approach. Others will watermark it “copyright originalfanfictiondonotsteal.com”, though even these people will attribute you if you ask nicely.

So how do I do it?

The process I’m using is pretty simple:

  1. Find out who has your stuff, but hasn’t linked to you.
  2. Decide whether you want them to link to you.
  3. If you do, ask them to link to you.
  4. Get Freebies.
  5. Repeat.

Who has my content?

I’m rather ham-fisted when it comes to my searching, but I’ve been experimenting with what works for me, as should you. I’ll tend to start with a few variations of the original post title on the original placement, and the title of the infographic itself (since they are often different). Many websites will tag posts “[Infographic]”, making it more helpful than not to include this term in your searches. These searches will give me some preliminary idea of the impact the infographic has had. I’ll then go on to searching in the manner I would if I couldn’t remember either of these things (since many instances of republication will further alter the title). I might start on an old infographic of ours with these searches:

  • Server headers 101
  • Server headers 101 infographic
  • Originalplacement.com server headers infographic
  • Server headers infographic
  • Server headers infographic “via *”
  • Variants -“anchor text”
  • Variants -“client name”

After you’ve made a start with this data you can use Google’s very handy reverse image search functionality. You can do a grand MozBar .csv export of these searches and work through the data, but I suggest you open all of the search results in new tabs, regardless of quality, for a few reasons. Firstly, to gather more data, it’s useful to know who they’ve attributed and why. Some of these linked to sites I’m likely to have missed by my own searching. Provided you don’t delete your search history, you’ll also be able to easily keep track and on top of new link opportunities (the pristine blue links that appear in your search results) when you check back a few days or weeks later.

Do I actually want them linking to me?

You should now have an impressive collection of people who have published your content but have not attributed you, along with some up to date data of people who are linking to you. Get it all in a spreadsheet. You can use whatever metrics you’d like to filter this data and prioritise your outreach. My own guideline is ‘slightly less than I would like for article outreach’, but this is fairly arbitrary and a little conservative. You can go as low as you feel is worth it, remembering that compared to article outreach, for instance, the links/time return is very favourable.

Anyone you are considering outreaching to, make a note of in that spreadsheet. You might also wish to include here a blacklist of sites that are appealing given the metrics but don’t make the cut for whatever reason.

Now that your data is filtered and your outreach prioritised, you can begin. With any luck, your work has been uniquely republished by more authority sites than you were aware of and you have some pretty powerful links out there waiting for you.

How should I ask them to link to me?

Woah there! Before you contact them, you’ll need to collect their contact details. I like to do this all at once whilst updating my spread sheet before tailoring and sending off a bunch of emails, this way I have all these details for the future. Any details I can’t find quickly I’ll earmark for a deeper, more creative search later. Your focus (since you have now filtered for quality), is on both links and relationships. Your contact from here on out is at an advantage to ‘cold’ outreach because:

  • They like your stuff, or at least think their audience does. They’ll already be well disposed.
  • You aren’t asking for very much, and what you’re asking is completely reasonable.

When you do make contact, include the URL of the placement on their site as the subject line. This seems to work very well for improving response rates – but I’ll keep testing. Further, when you are requesting a link, make sure to include it. Asking for “a link to our website” rather than a URL is just asking to be ignored. Always save them as much effort as you can.

As for the tone of your email, outrage and threats probably do work on some people (they’ve stolen your content, damnit!), but will most likely sour any potential for future relationship. I haven’t tried this approach yet, and probably won’t because these relationships are the bulk of what I’m trying to achieve. Just considering what my own response to this approach would be dissuades me:

 

I'm on the internet

But I can’t afford a lawyer! How do I make them listen to me?

By asking nicely. When putting your emails together, one thing to remember is that you are glad they have posted your content. This is (almost!) exactly what you wanted to happen. Treat it as a qualified lead. You can also be thankful for all the spam sites you’ll come across for not attributing you or your client.

Part of asking nicely entails that when someone gives you a link, you send them a quick thank you email. In their mind, they didn’t have to give you that link, but they did anyway. Down the line, they may remember you for it. And when I say “when someone gives you a link”, I don’t mean “when they email you to say they’ve given you a link (and actually have)”. About a third of the time your link request gets granted you won’t be informed – so make sure to check back periodically on everywhere you’ve outreached to. I’ve found infographics for multiple clients published without attribution on the same blog, and building a relationship speeds up the clean-up process substantially (you can tail the new request to the last email in the chain – either your thank you message or their response). Otherwise, you’ll sometimes find people citing you, but not hyperlinking their citation. When you contact them, make sure to thank them for citing you.

The most common reason for failing would be giving up in the face of silence (which happens less than you’d think). Be persistent, especially if you are emailing info@authoritysite.com rather than willsmith@authoritysite.com, as there are plenty of reasons why your message sent to an account managed by multiple people might get neglected. When you do get a response, you are most likely to get one through someone’s personal account. File this away in your Rolodex. You may otherwise get a name signed off from an info@ address. Again, remember it so you can put it in the subject line for future communication. A little trial and error and you’ll quickly discover a method that works best for you. You should also be persistent even if it’s a personal address; just ask politely for an update on your email (if they haven’t responded in a week, say). You can also try the other addresses on their websites. To avoid potential embarrassment, you should always check they haven’t already given you a link before you pull the trigger on your chase up email.

Besides being occasionally ignored, I’ve run into very few problems. One worth mentioning is: “But it doesn’t say the name of that [site/company] anywhere on [the infographic/where I got it]…” This is rare, but does happen, especially if you don’t have a watermark on the image, or they have discovered your image via someone who has placed their own watermark on the image. This happens rather a lot:

Classy

 

Having encountered MSpaint wizards like this, these objectors are right to be cautious – you could be a roguish link builder (I think a dishonest version of what I suggest would work well enough to be worth doing, if you’re into that sort of thing). In addressing this, more often there will be a chain of attribution cut prematurely. If they’re bothering to object, it means they are bothering to respond, and care about your response in turn. And since you aren’t a rake, showing them how the original placement links to you will (in my experience) satisfy them.

Now, if the site you are outreaching to is the sort of high value site you would want a future infographic placed on, you should consider either pitching or seeding your infographics in development. This puts you ahead of the curve in terms of the relationship. To paraphrase this sort of approach:

“Hey, glad you liked our [blue widgets infographic] enough to put it on your site, I’d be really grateful if you could attribute us for creating it (http://). We’re planning to produce some more stuff like [blue widgets infographic], should I throw some ideas your way later this month?”

Roughly, I’m reasoning that the offer of a future relationship (and free linkbait) gives them great incentive to attribute you right now. Importantly, they already like your stuff, and would probably like the opportunity to get that exclusive first placement of your stuff next time around. It’s very unlikely they’ll say: “No, I’m not going to attribute you this time because it’s my website and I do what I want, but please send me some drafts of other infographics you’re  working on so I can steal those.” More often they will say “Sure, send it over, oh by the way that link is now live, sorry about that.” If you are involved in article based linkbuilding, you can make similar offers, either for existing articles or to find out if they would be open to the idea.

Getting Freebies

So you’ve done your outreach and now you have your links. Neat.

youcanbemywingmananytimenoyoucanbemine.jpg

Now it’s time to hold your horses on those thank you emails. Is there any way to make this better? If you’ve published anything else, either for yourself or a client, that they might like then why not let them know in your response? (“Hey, thanks for linking to us for x, did you see the y we put out?”). I’ve had a good amount of success in follow up by pointing publishers to other related infographics we’ve put out, subsequently having them uniquely republished. I’ve tried this, along with seeding future publications, both before and after obtaining an attribution through request with roughly equal success. Usually you’ll get a “Yes please” or a “Yes please, hey I’ve made the change/ published that thing you mentioned”. But remember, just because you think they should like it, doesn’t mean they will. If the last email you received was along the lines of “BLOOD SUCKING SEO SCUM STEALING MY PAGE RANK FINE HERE YOU GO NOW GO DIE IN A FIRE!!!!!!!!!1!” then I’d accept this and move on. You weren’t meant for each other.

The greatest long-term benefit of clean-up is that the contacts you’ve been developing can now be messaged whenever you release an infographic they might be interested in for secondary placements, and since you’ve pre-filtered them for quality, you have an enviable collection of potential links following launch day that can be gained by a few friendly emails.

Rinsing & Repeating:

After your first skirmish, periodic reverse image searches will get you very far, especially if you delve beyond the first few pages of results. As in life, keeping on top of your records and lowering your standards will get you even more success. Over the months, you will probably begin to see diminishing returns in link volume for your efforts, so you can scale back how often you keep tabs and get to work on some more link bait (or go chase those infographics you put out before 2010).

Further Thoughts:

As you’ll discover, republication of English language infographics on non-English websites (without attribution) happens a lot. A deeper dive into some reverse image searches will help you find these. Whether you think they are worth pursuing is up to you, as the return on investment for your time won’t be as obviously beneficial. Undoubtedly, if you have a successful infographic, you have links from more than English-language speaking countries. Linking to English language sites is predominantly a one way street. Interestingly, several of our own infographics have been translated somewhere down the line into Chinese and Russian (where they go on to be significantly successful):

 

Translated SEOgadget server header responses

I don’t speak either language, unfortunately, but I’ll certainly be experimenting with different approaches to getting these links. For finding these fan translations of your own infographics (a decent success benchmark – you’ve made something worth putting more than 5 minutes of effort into stealing), the best place to look is beyond the first few pages of a reverse image search. If you’ve had any success doing this, let me know!

Another area I will be experimenting with is requesting different anchor texts when I ask for attributions and how different methods impact my success rate – I’m asking them to do more, after all. Usually I wouldn’t suggest sculpting the anchor text, since the laissez-faire approach leads to some natural variations around brand anyway, but you might broach this sculpting by sending two pre-formatted sentences over with your request – “Either something like [x] or [y] would be great”.

And there you have it, some insight into how you might approach your own infographic clean-ups, a few tips to squeeze out even more benefit and some ideas for the future.

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11 thoughts on “Infographic Clean-up as Link Building Outreach

  1. James Carson says:

    Hi Oli – nice post… I have this problem quite a lot working at a publisher as a lot of people think it’s okay to scan in pictures from magazines and then publish them on their blog, even though we don’t even have the rights to do that!

    Anyhow, rather than slapping DMCAs all over the web and offending pretty much everyone, and basically causing a massive hassle for no particular gain, I formulated http://www.jamescarson.co.uk/socialsearch/2011/08/22/a-winning-12-stage-hustle-process-for-link-building/ – it was really successful.

  2. SEO in Kent says:

    Hi Oliver.

    There’s some great advice in this post! Sending link requests to people who are using your content may seem a little obvious at first; but it really does work. We’ve been able to secure some great high-value links for our clients with this method.

    Syndicating your work with RSS feeds is also another great way to get your content out their, simply by including a link within each of your posts.

    Best wishes, Alex.

  3. OliverM says:

    Thanks for the kind words Alex, and good to hear it’s working well for you. I’ll be testing some more methods over the coming months and will report back if (hopefully when) I have any interesting findings.

  4. John says:

    Oliver –

    Great stuff here man, and it’s wonderful to see you guys writing on the Gadget blog! I really like this post, as it’s quite accessible for all and gives some really good actionable tips about recurating your content and getting some extra links out of your work!

    The reverse image search is something one of my clients has been doing for a little while now (it’s an ecommerce site), and they are getting a lot of branded links back from people attributing their websites as the source. It’s such a clutch strategy and I’m glad that you are finding it useful.

    Cheers –

    John

  5. richard says:

    Such a fabulous read! Just read your intro again. probably the 5th time i’ve re-read this post. Great work and wonderfully written :-)

  6. Arun Agrawal says:

    Terrific ideas on developing incoming links. We can easily adapt them for any valuable content, just like infographics. I will definitely use them in my next project.

  7. OliverM says:

    Thanks John, glad you liked it (and have had similar experiences), I tried to keep it as accessible as possible. I’ll hopefully be doing another post in the new year to follow up. The strategy can also work pretty well if you have a company flickr under CC that people can steal from at leisure. Hmm…

    Cheers,
    Oliver

  8. Dirk says:

    Thanks for great ideas. I will visit here again. Im German Seo.

  9. I like what you’re doing here and it’s quite inspiring… but why not put more energy into preventive measures that would increase the odds webmasters will credit the infographic properly + link to the source, without need for your follow up intervention? Something as simple as showing embed code next to the original source will sometimes work like a charm… akd xkcd, or youtube!

  10. OliverM says:

    Hey Pedro,

    Embed codes are something we do push for, though authority sites are often hesitant to include them (must push harder?), and webmasters will often just copypaste the low resolution thumbnail . The other Oliver’s post (linked to at the top), talks a little about this. Conspicuous branding can also help, but again has disadvantages in placement and design. Another option is being listed as creator in the sources section. This can speed along the attribution process, but doesn’t really impact how the content spreads, for good or bad.

    Thanks for your thoughts and for checking out the blog!
    Oliver

  11. Ketan Raval says:

    yeah, it is always good to find who is using your content.. & I agree that link back is really very less that someone is asking for :)

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