Visual link building?
You’re probably expecting another long-drawn guide that involves the creation of infographics.
True — infographics are great for creating link-worthy content. But we already have truckloads of infographic link building guides out there on the web.
In this post, we’ll give infographics a hard pass.
We will, however, discuss another strategy that can help you build quality links using images.
I’m talking specifically about interactive maps.
Not familiar with the term? Then let me start off this guide with a quick introduction.
What are Interactive Maps?
As the name implies, an interactive map is a visual representation of a location that users can interact with.
A regular map that can tell you “where” certain places are within an area. It’s simple, but it’s also incredibly useful.
Interactive maps take things to a whole new level by loading up the visual with tons of more information.
Done right, an interactive map can:
- Maximize the value of visual content while taking up less screen space
- Help users find the information they need quickly — thus, improving user experience
- Set your brand apart from other sites that only rely on traditional content formats
Here’s a pretty robust example published on LuminoCity3D.com — World City Populations 1950-2035.
Publishing an interactive map will also do wonders for your SEO.
Just like infographics, interactive maps can also attract a lot of high-quality links. After all, any data-rich visual can supply content creators with facts to support their points.
Since interactive maps are as data-rich as you can get, having one on your website should help generate natural backlinks.
Of course, you can get the ball rolling faster by launching an outreach campaign to relevant link sources. It’s also important to utilize other link building strategies to maximize your overall search traffic.
Interested in utilizing interactive maps for link building?
Without further ado, let’s talk about what you should do.
Creating Interactive Maps for Link Building
If you run a big-budget website, you probably already have an idea of how to create an interactive map.
You either turn to your in-house coding team or outsource a professional HTML5 developer.
In which case, you can skip this section completely and start planning your interactive map content.
There is, however, a much faster and more budget-friendly option when it comes to creating interactive maps:
Use cloud-based interactive map builders and create one yourself.
Building simple interactive maps with Google My Maps
Google My Maps can help you build a simple interactive map that provides details on pinned locations within minutes.
Despite the free price tag, it has a handful of features that will help you build unique and informative maps. You can create different layers, add travel routes, place markers, and more — without writing a single line of code.
Google My Maps will also assist you in embedding your interactive map into your website. All your work can be done using one, drag-and-drop interface that only takes a few minutes to learn.
Creating something more advanced with a tool like Mapme
If you want to build interactive maps that are branded and more link-worthy, Google My Maps simply won’t cut it.
What you need is a better-equipped platform like Mapme to build interactive maps tailored to your brand’s objectives.
To use Mapme, you start by filling in your interactive map’s details. This includes its title, description, branding image, and “Action Button” if you’d like to add a call-to-action.
The next step is to include the locations you want to pin on your interactive map.
All you have to do is click ‘Add Location’ and use the built-in search engine or type in the address manually.
Upon entering locations, the live preview of your interactive map to the right should update immediately. This will help you determine right away if you’ve entered the right locations.
You should also be able to enter details for each pinned location as you add them. You can customize how the marker looks, the location’s description, the action button URL, and so on.
Mapme also allows you to upload media to help users learn more about the location. The materials you can upload are images, videos, PDF files, audio clips, and additional interactive media in various formats.
What kind of media should you use?
To make your interactive map a linkable asset, it must contain relevant data that other content creators can cite.
For example, the interactive map below includes a simple visual, description, and action button that points to the data source.
With a little creativity, you should be able to build an interactive map for all types of data. You just need to learn how and where to plug the information in Mapme.
Don’t forget to configure your map’s settings to modify its appearance, sharing buttons, embed overlay, and layout. You may also specify the “Basemap Style” you want to use, which essentially determines how your interactive map looks.
If you want, you may also add custom CSS to give your map a more unique look.
Finally, you can control how users unravel your map’s data by creating categories.
These allow you to choose between two modes: “Legend/filters” or “Storytelling.”
Before you choose an option, be sure you understand the type of information you want your interactive map to convey. The “Legend/filters” option, however, suits most interactive map projects.
Put simply, it allows you to group related locations according to whatever criteria you find relevant. Users can also click on a category to quickly find locations they might be interested in.
That should wrap up the mini tutorial on how to use Mapme.
If you need something even more powerful, consider checking out Mapbox. This allows you to create hyper-customized maps with more advanced interactive features.
Examples of link-worthy interactive maps
Great — you now know how to build interactive maps.
The question is, what should your interactive map be about?
You can’t just create a map that describes locations and expect backlinks to come pouring in. Rather, you must first look for relevant, statistical data that makes sense when presented via an interactive map.
The only problem is, looking for data that can be weaved into an interactive map is trickier than it sounds.
For your inspiration, here’s a quick roundup of interactive maps that deserve the links they’ve earned:
1. Where the World Wants to Go On Holiday — TravelSupermarket
2. What Powers the World — GoCompare
3. NukeMap – Future of Life Institute
Promoting your Interactive Maps
Got your freshly made interactive map ready?
To make your efforts count, you must follow up on your interactive map creation with relentless promotion.
Here are three things you can do right now:
1. Reverse-Engineering Images to Identify Potential Link Sources
Performing a “reverse image search” on Google can benefit link building in two ways.
First, you can look for posts that may include your original image but don’t link back to you.
Classic content theft right there.
But instead of an aggressive stance, one can take a more cordial approach and request for the link you deserve.
To perform a reverse image search, fire up the Google Images search page. It’s the one with the “camera” icon within the text search field, which doubles as the ‘Search by image’ button.
Clicking this button brings up a small window where you can specify how you’d like to proceed.
Under the first tab, you may enter your image’s URL and have Google scan it from there. Alternatively, you can upload the image file yourself under the ‘Upload an image’ tab.
Use whatever method’s convenient for you at any given time.
Whichever you choose, Google should present you with matching images within seconds.
That’s a neat way to find websites where you can gain backlinks and free website traffic.
However, that’s not the reason why you need to know about Google Images right now.
Our goal here is to look for potential link sources for your interactive map.
The three steps involved here are:
- Look for infographics that present the same data as your interactive map
- Use Google Images to look for sites that link to that infographic
- Reach out to the referring domains and show them your interactive map
If you’re familiar with the Skyscraper Technique, you should have an idea of how to perform these steps. If not, I suggest you check out the linked post here by Brian Dean to know what to do next.
The important thing here is making sure your interactive map is way better than the infographic you’re trying to replace.
2. Promoting your interactive map on Q&A sites
Q&A websites like Quora have become powerful avenues for content promotion in recent years.
Simply search for questions that you can answer using data from your interactive map and craft an expertly written answer. This answer should, of course, contain a link to your interactive map — surrounded by paragraphs of useful text.
Quora’s built-in search engine should come in handy for the first step.
Let’s say you made an interactive map about the number of Twitter users in a country. Just type in a question like the one below and you should be one step closer to your goal:
3. Promoting your interactive map on the “Data is Beautiful” subreddit
In case you’re not familiar with Reddit, a subreddit is a specific forum within the site dedicated to a topic.
“Data is Beautiful” is a subreddit for data visualizations of all shapes and sizes — from interactive maps to visual timelines.
Any data visualization, including your interactive map, has a place in this subreddit. As long as you made it with care and accurate data, you should be able to garner some upvotes.
That’s it — the essentials of creating and using interactive maps for link building.
For more tips on promoting your interactive map, check out the strategies laid out in this post. I suggest looking at the “Content Promotion / Post-Publishing” section.
A lot of marketers may feel out of their element when dealing with interactive maps for the first time. But if you really want to outpace the competition, you can’t spend another second in your comfort zone.
Hopefully, the guide above will help you get some success. Good luck!