give upIf you work in online marketing, or work anywhere near the internet at all, there’s a good chance that you’ll be well acquainted with infographics.

They have become the link builders’ weapon of choice in recent years, with infographics about every subject imaginable springing up on every website, blog and social network across the web.

It’s fair to say that the humble infographic has become a little, shall we say ‘over done’ in recent times. However, this doesn’t take away from the fact that they’re still a highly affective link building tool.

They’re relatively low cost, they’re a great way of getting lots of information across, they can be applied to virtually any subject, they look pretty, can be hosted anywhere, and they’re extremely sharable. What’s not to love?

On the other hand, a rubbish infographic will almost certainly be a waste of your time, energy and budget. It’s a simple formula isn’t it? – Create good content, get rewarded with good links. Not if Google has anything to say about it.

In a recent interview between Eric Enge and Google’s head of spam, Matt Cutts, Cutts suggested that links generated from infographics may be discounted in the near future:

“This is similar to what people do with widgets as you and I have talked about in the past. I would not be surprised if at some point in the future we did not start to discount these infographic-type links to a degree.”

A big part of this impending decision, it would seem, is the fact that much of the information found in infographics is factually incorrect. Cutts stated:

“The infographic may be neat, but if the information it’s based on is simply wrong, then it’s misleading people,”.

He has a point, but I doubt very much that the factual reliability of an infographic will, or even could affect the value of the links it generates.

Anyhow, it seems Cutts has a bigger issue with infographics, with the way that infographic owners encourage others to link to their content.

“The link is often embedded in the infographic in a way that people don’t realize, vs. a true endorsement of your site.”

From what I can make out, Cutts is saying that some people use infographic embed codes to link back to their site, but not always to the true source of the infographic, which is misleading, and therefore against Google’s (cryptic) rules.

Naturally, Cutts’ comments have sparked a lot of debate within the search marketing community, and I’d have to a agree with the vast majority when I say, I think it’s ridiculous to totally discount infographic links.

Typically, a good infographic will get multiple links and mentions from good sources. If the information is wrong, or the design is poor, people will be less inclined to share it. If there was ever a good time for Google to put its mysterious ‘social signals’ to use, then surely this is it? Let the community’ decide what’s good or bad.

At the end of the day, an infographic is content. All types of content are open to a degree of manipulation from spammers, but this shouldn’t mean that those producing the good stuff should be punished too. IMHO, of course.