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SEO friendly data visualizations

How do people publish data visualizations online? Mostly, in one of two formats:

  1. a static image (including static SVG), or
  2. using JavaScript to generate an interactive graphic

Clearly there are some UX perks to the latter but how do search engines interpret these? Well, in both cases the underlying data will not be indexed. Static images will not have the data included at all and the JavaScript approach is usually based upon a data object which is contained in the JavaScript source (and, hence, not indexed).

Clearly an SEO faux pas but is that really a problem? If you have lots of good quality text then who cares about the data in charts? You can always add metadata, such as an alt tag, so just treat a data visualization like a picture. Right?

Well, that might¬†be good enough. But consider an article which talks about the German economy in 2014 and features – as well as lots of good prose – a line chart showing inflation, month on month, of several major economies in Europe as a comparison to Germany’s.

What if a user searches for “UK vs Germany inflation”? Is the¬†article relevant to them? Probably, yes. Now, if the line chart was a raster image or was generated from data locked away in some JavaScript the “UK” part of the query wouldn’t be considered a hit for the article. Doubtlessly, that would substantially damage the ranking on Google / Bing / Other.

Factmint Charts is different in its approach. By progressively enhancing HTML tables the raw data is fundamentally visible. Visible to search engines; visible to browsers that don’t support SVG or have JavaScript disabled. If our fictitious article featured a Factmint Line Chart then the search engines would have indexed the names of all of the major economies used as a comparison. The page would be considered more widely applicable and, fundamentally, organic search traffic would increase.

The Progressive Enhancement approach is the cornerstone of the Factmint Charts philosophy and SEO is one very good reason for that.