If you’re only using Pinterest as the place to save gluten-free cookie recipes and beach cottage bathroom remodel ideas, you’re missing out. For small businesses, both online and local brick and mortar, there is huge potential to drive traffic to your website from Pinterest.
Although it is often lumped in with social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, Pinterest is actually a visual search engine. Yes, you can share images on Pinterest like you do on Instagram and Facebook, and it will refer traffic to your site. However, the way people use Pinterest and the way the algorithm delivers content is very different.
Here are some Pinterest statistics that should make you sit up and take notice of the platform:
People use Pinterest to plan moments in their lives and to research ideas. Much of Pinterest’s content is aspirational. People use it like a dream board of things they want to do and accomplish in their lives, personally and professionally. They are looking for products or services to fill their lifestyle and professional needs and enjoy viewing the images on Pinterest to get ideas and learn about trends. Given the way people use Pinterest to search and shop, most every business should investigate using Pinterest to expand their reach online.
Recently, Pinterest’s Head of Product Marketing, Sarah Hoople Shere, chatted with Alisa Meredith of Tailwind for about an hour and a half, sharing their latest updates and answering viewers’ questions. Hearing how Pinterest works directly from a key insider was extraordinarily helpful in understanding how their search engine serves up content. According to Shere, Pinterest is investing more resources to serve content creators and help them optimize their use of the platform.
In this article, I’ll share a few key takeaways and best practices to help you get the most out of Pinterest for your business.
Pinterest now has an option to navigate from your default Smart Feed to show pins from people you follow. This option to view pins in your “people you follow” feed (also known as the Following tab) gives the user more control over what they see in their feed. You’ll see the first few pins from people you follow, in reverse chronological order. If you’ve been using Pinterest for a few years, you’ll remember that you used to see pins from those you follow as your default. (Can I get a collective “yay!” that they brought that back?!)
You can think of this as Pinterest’s way of helping the platform be more social in that users have the option to view pins from people they know and follow - friends, bloggers, and businesses. It’s refreshing when you consider the changes to Instagram and Facebook and their algorithms which serve up content they “think” we want to see based on their algorithms.
As a content creator, this is a great way to get your content in front of people who follow you. Post consistently, and your followers will begin to recognize your pins and feel more connected to your brand over time.
Shere explained that the time of day that you pin doesn’t matter. However, the first 5 pins that you save each day will get the most reach. You may notice that your audience tends to engage more during a certain time of day. Watch your analytics to determine when that is, and then post those first 5 pins of the day at that time.
Shere explains that there’s no such thing as pinning too much. However, she advises that they prefer consistency over volume. It’s better to pin 5 images each day than to pin 15 on Monday and another 15 on Friday.
In the event that pinners do pin a ton of pins at one time, they’ve accounted for that with their new algorithm. In your followers’ feed, they will publish the first 5 pins that you post that day; then they will show 5 pins from someone else that your follower follows as long as those accounts have pinned that day, etc. Then further down the feed, they will show your next 5 pins after content from other accounts that your followers follow.
When you’re figuring out when new pins for that day will start to show up in your followers’ feeds, you need to know that the new day starts at midnight UTC (which is 8pm EST.) That’s when the “first 5 pins of the day” will show up in your followers’ Following tab.
In the past, pins with comments and photo tries were published underneath each instance of that pin, if it was pinned directly from the website. Now, they have consolidated comments into one stream. This shows that a pin has greater engagement than if the comments were spread out among several different pins from that one URL.
They’ve also added the ability to like and reply to comments. Pinterest is attempting to be more “social” by giving users new ways to engage with content. The comments and the “tried it” feature are great for content creators since they provide social proof that an idea is helpful or that it works.
Besides being shown to people who follow you, how do people find your pins? Shere explained Pinterest SEO and best practices for getting found on the search engine.
Here’s how your content gets distributed on Pinterest. When you pin an image, it gets shown to your followers first. Through the following tab, that happens more quickly than it did in the past. From there, Pinterest can gauge how well the pin performs and then show it to others through searches and recommended pins in their home feed. Shere noted that if you pin an image to more than one board, pin it to the most relevant board first. The pin from the first board will get shown to your followers.
Learn more about how the Pinterest Smart Feed works.
Shere’s number 1 piece of advice is to make sure the pin is engaging and relevant to your followers. They are the ones that will give the signal that it’s a good piece of content that should be distributed more broadly. Her second piece of advice is to follow universal SEO best practices to make sure it’s relevant to other pinners that might be interested in it.
The most important place to use keywords is in your descriptions. Think about what your audience searches for on Pinterest. Use those keywords in your descriptions, with variations of the keyword phrase. Include keywords about the pin as well as keywords around the theme of your pin. A good example of a keyword rich description is: “This chocolate fondue recipe is great for your next chocolate-themed birthday party and will have chocolate dessert lovers begging for more.” Great Pinterest descriptions include very specific topical keywords as well as broader search terms. You want to avoid keyword stuffing though so that your description is natural and engaging.
You can do quick keyword research within Pinterest by typing in a core keyword in the search bar. Similar to the way Google recommends keywords, Pinterest will recommend keywords under your search query. This will give you an idea of keywords that pinners are searching for.
If you click on one of the suggested search terms, you can drill down further and discover related keywords and themes that you can use in your content and your pin descriptions.
Your pin description should match the blog post title. Pinterest wants users to have a good experience. When they click your pin image to open up the article, they want the article to live up to the expectations the user has for the link they are opening. The content of the pin should match the content of the landing page or blog article.
To increase click-throughs to your website, direct readers where to go by using calls to action. Ask them to click to read the article or click to see the recipe. Also be sure to include your URL in the description and in the URL field when pinning new content.
Use keywords in your profile, board titles, and board descriptions. Cover all of the ways someone might be looking for your pins, your boards, and a person like you. Include keyword-related hashtags.
Yes, Pinterest now supports hashtags. When users search by hashtag, the pins are served in reverse chronological order. So, fresh pins appear at the top of the search. Pinterest has found that pins with hashtags do get more distribution the first day they are pinned. You can add up to 20 relevant hashtags to a pin description. Focus on semantic hashtags – general themes that people will search for. Pinners search for hashtags and click on hashtags within pin descriptions, so they are using hashtags to discover fresh content both ways.
A brand new pin, whether it’s from a new article or an old article, is considered fresh content. Your followers will want to see fresh content from you. It doesn’t matter if you’re using a scheduling tool or pinning natively on Pinterest, all content is treated the same. If you’re using a scheduling application, you don’t need to worry that your content will be served up less frequently.
A common question among Pinterest users is, “Should I delete underperforming pins?” Shere’s answer is “no.” Pins with a low number of repins will not hurt your other pins’ chances of being distributed. She also advises that an underperforming pin that doesn’t do well initially may gain traction later on. There’s no value in spending time deleting underperforming pins.
If you’re wondering which holds more weight, having your image pinned directly from your website or re-pinned, there isn’t much of a difference in how Pinterest evaluates the pin’s engagement. You want both as they both signal to the algorithm that the pin has value to those looking for ideas about your pin’s topic. Both direct pins and repins will help your pin show up in search and as a recommended pin in the home feed.
Use analytics to determine what pins are most engaging and relevant to your audience and make adjustments. You’ll need a business account to view your analytics. You will also want to claim your website on Pinterest and embed the code on your site, as well as enable rich pins.
Followers are a small portion of the people you reach on Pinterest. In your new business profile, check out the number of followers you have and your total reach. Most of your pin distribution takes place with people who discover your content (through searches and their home feed) and aren’t yet followers.
Now that users have the following tab and can more easily view pins from people they follow, content creators may want to focus on creating content their followers will engage with. As mentioned before, engagement from your followers will signal to Pinterest that your pin should be distributed to more people. Shere advises that the quality of your followers is more important than the number of followers. It’s better to have a low number of highly engaged followers than a large number of followers that rarely engage.
To build your followers, Pinterest is rolling out features to help recommend you to pinners who like your type of content. To help Pinterest recognize that you are a high-quality content creator and that they should recommend you to pinners, make sure you have a business account, claim your website, pin regularly, and have an optimized profile and keyword rich board descriptions.
Other steps to draw followers to your account include:
The optimal ratio is 2:3, or 600x900 pixels. If you go taller than that, your pin may get lower distribution and may get cut off in the app. Squares also work, but vertical pins work better because you’re getting more space in the feed.
Regarding the content of the pin image, users are looking for help contextualizing the information. Using lifestyle images, tasteful branding, and limited helpful text which hints at the original content is suggested. Tasteful branding is adding a little brand awareness to your pin, including a small logo or URL and on-brand colors. It ensures that as your pin is distributed over time, that your branding isn’t lost (especially if pinners change the description of the pin) and people can always try to go back to the original source. URLs or logos are best placed in the bottom or top center of the image.
This is a common concern among local business owners. They think Pinterest can’t work for them. Shere shared some ideas to help local businesses get their content seen on Pinterest. She said that no matter where you are located, you should be able to reach pinners in your area. Focus on using hashtags and pin descriptions that include keywords and geographical terms that your target audience will be searching for. Use these terms in your profile description and your account name.
Is your business using Pinterest? It’s not too late to jump into Pinterest and see all that it can do for your business. They’ve made some great updates to the platform that will help us all reach our target audience more effectively.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published in May, 2018 and has updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.
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