Social Media

The Surprising Pinterest Marketing Strategy That Really Works

There are a frustrating number of marketing advice posts that say they’re going to help you drive 10 million website visits from Pinterest. Most of them have ideas that’ll get you max 10 followers in a week. Don’t worry, this post is not that. You’re in good hands, because we’re going to improve your Pinterest marketing strategy using proven techniques.

Why should you care about Pinterest marketing for your business?

Pinterest is basically the leading visual search engine network. If a big part of your marketing spend goes into branding; if you have unique visuals; or if your product matches a popular interest niche on Pinterest, consider investing in this social media channel. Here’s why:

98% of Pinners report trying new things they find on Pinterest. & 87% of users have purchased a product they saw on Pinterest. Click To Tweet

Quick navigation table of contents:

  1. Create a Pinterest marketing strategy
  2. How to grow Pinterest followers
  3. How to design better Pinterest pins
  4. Create the best Pinterest SEO
  5. Make a Pinterest advertising strategy
  6. What to learn next

First, set your Pinterest marketing strategy:

1. Do an audience analysis.

See how much overlap Pinterest’s audience has with yours.

Then, consider what Pinterest is trying to achieve, and how it’s positioning itself. Jon Kaplan, Head of Global Sales at Pinterest shared three things with Adweek he thinks brands will pursue, from which you can infer how Pinterest could help your brand, how to get the most out of the platform this year, and whether it’s an audience fit:

  1. Context is king, and brands should care about the emotional quality of where a brand shows up. That means you should be sure the feeling Pinterest evokes aligns with what you want for your brand.
  2. Authenticity – more companies will act on values that matter to them. (For example, REI encouraging folks to go outside on Black Friday vs shop.) That means you should help people learn, do, and make on Pinterest, because that’s what they’re there to do.
  3. Brands need to show they’re listening the hardest, too. Ensure you’re responding to follower comments and photos that they share.

2. Do a competitor analysis.

See what your competitors are doing and how many followers they’ve earned. How many boards do they have? How many pins per day? What do the pins look like?

3. Set a main purpose for Pinterest.

Do you want to reach users (brand awareness), convert users (product purchase), or engage users (website visits).

I’d recommend using the channel for engagement – with an eye on website sessions and email capture as your main metrics.

4. Set smart goals for you Pinterest marketing strategy.

Or stupid ones. I don’t care, just set a goal!

You can base your target traffic numbers after what you’re seeing on Facebook or Twitter, assuming you’re already on one of those. Shareaholic published a study that showed Pinterest as the #2 social media traffic referrer behind only Facebook, driving more than 5x as much traffic as many referrers as Twitter.

5. Create the plan.

Set your plan. Implement it, and then analyze results to make adjustments throughout the year. Start by getting new Pinterest ideas:

Get Pinterest marketing ideas from their products used tab on their success stories page
  • Visit Pinterest’s success stories section to see what other brands are having success with.
  • In Success Stories use the “Products used” filter to see all the product options they have available. Google/search the ones you don’t yet know anything about.
  • Check out the “Tips” section of the Pinterest blog.
  • Get advice from Pinterest’s brand new Pinterest Academy.
  • Learn about the engineering problems they’re solving at Pinterest to align your content to what they care about most.
  • Join Facebook Groups for Pinterest marketing (look at the founding date – want it to be older, number of members – want it to be 500+, and number of recent posts – want it to be active in the last 30 days, to evaluate which to join)
  • Read the rest of this post!

Here’s how to grow your Pinterest followers:

Up next, we explore how to grow an audience, and make your content contagious.

1. Find friends

Start with what you know. There’s a “Find Friends” option for Pinterest. Follow your Twitter and Facebook friends, and they will find you.

2. Join & create group boards

You can find group boards quickly by searching on PinGroupie. Be sure to filter by clicking the “Request to Join Button” to ensure the resulting list of groups will let you join. Only join groups that are super relevant to your content topically, and groups that are not sharing spam.

Pinterest used to rely much more on groups, weighting their content higher in search results but does not as much anymore because they realized the system was being abused. However, similarly to how Google still cares about links out to other sites because you’re helping them map the Internet, Pinterest does still care that you’re being a good member of the community by helping the right groups. And participating in a positive way: comment, react, share quality.

Alternatively you can also invite others to pin on your own group board. Just create an open board, which allows other users to add their pins. Just give them pinning access by adding their name or email (consider adding colleagues, customers, and followers from other social channels). You, as the creator, get to approve/reject/edit what shows up, and don’t worry: your contributors aren’t able to change the board name or description.

3. Tap into other audiences

Encourage pinning it for later. Within fleeting mediums where you already have a presence such as Twitter, Facebook, and customer support email signature files, you can encourage people to “Pin it for later” by using that text as a CTA, and including a link to a pin you’ve already created.

Make it easy. Embed pin buttons on your blog, so readers can quickly share your images and posts.

Take advantage of Tailwind tribes. You can join 5 tribes for free and add up to 30 pins in those tribes per month.

4. Post consistently as part of your Pinterest marketing strategy

Pinterest is great because your work has longevity, meaning you’ll see some amount of fairly steady traffic back to your site even if you stop pinning in the future. This is because Pinterest has implemented a Smart Feed algorithm, which displays pins to users long after they have been pinned. The catch is: consistency is really important.

Similarly to Google, Pinterest wants to be able to rely on you for a steady stream of great content. When you don’t show the love to them, they don’t show it back. As seen below, during the summer when I invested in a regular cadence of consistent Pinterest posting, there was a nice traffic spike. However the nice upward trend declines once the regular posting stops, and it falls back into evergreen maintenance mode.

It’s not just a fluke, because Buffer shared a similar experience: “We’ve gone from pinning once or twice a day to pinning 10 times per day. As a result, we’ve seen 150 percent more engagement on Pinterest.”

There are a few easy ways to keep posts flowing fast:

  1. Connect your social media accounts to your Pinterest account so you can easily automate cross-flows of posting.
  2. Schedule pins out in advance using tools such as Tailwind or Buffer. On Tailwind you can also enable SmartLoops which pin your pins to a set of boards, and then start repinning all over again – giving your pin more chances as being seen.
  3. Create a secret (private) board and collect pins ahead of time so that you can login and post them anytime you need to.
  4. Change your environment to make it a habit: Open the Pinterest tab first thing every morning or make it your browser’s default landing page.

When it comes to when to post regularly, the best times to post are 2pm-4pm EST and 8pm-1am EST. Other research by Hubspot says Saturday morning is the best time to post.

Regardless, automate what you can. Check out IFTTT formulas for Pinterest here.

Now, you’re ready to differentiate your pins’ creative design:

Check out your highest value customers’ Pinterest boards to see what types of pins resonate with them, and what types of designs they’re repinning. Then, try to mimic those, because people like people like themselves, and as a result they’ll feel more open to your brand. After that, make a few small changes, to make your pins stand out a bit.

1. Use Rich Pins to add extra context

Yes, precisely as their name indicates, these pins will make you the next Richie Rich. Rich pins let you to include additional details about your website on your pins.

Glamour’s Pinterest referrals grew more than 6x, making Pinterest their second source for social traffic, when they started using the Save button and Rich Pins. “Rich Pins helped Glamour provide more context about an idea, because more information displays directly on the Pin. The Save button made it easier for Glamour’s readers to save Pins directly to their own boards, right from Glamour’s site.”

To use these pins, just verify your site and include meta-data. There are a few rich pins types including: App, Recipe, Article, and Product. Get set up here:

  1. Visit this page.
  2. Pick the kind of Rich Pin you want.
  3. Add the appropriate meta tags to your site for the specific type of Rich Pin.
  4. Validate your Rich Pins.
  5. Apply to get them approved.

2. Make your graphics light and long

Test a diverse range of graphics

Use Upwork or Fiverr to create custom drawn images. Or find diverse photos and graphics on Canva, free graphic libraries, CreateHER stock photos, TONL, or Humaaans graphic library.

Use smart colors in your pins based on findings from Curalate:

  • Images with multiple dominant colors have 3.25x more repins than those with a single dominant color
  • Very light and very dark images are not repinned often; shoot for a middle-of-the-road saturation and brightness
  • Red-toned images perform higher than blue-toned images

Optimize your graphics for the spaces they’ll be in using the right sizes:

  • Profile images: 165 x 165 pixels.
  • Pins in feed: 238 pixels x adjusted to height.
  • Expanded pins: 735 pixels x adjusted to height.
  • Pin boards: 238 x 284 pixels
  • Cover image: 217 x 146 pixels
  • Canva‘s Pinterest template is 736 x 1102, which makes it pretty easy.

3. Include a CTA in every pin’s description!

Not just in the URL box! Include a CTA sentence in your pins’ description, as well as the URL you want the reader to visit. Use words such as re-pin, learn more, and share it within your post description.

4. If you’re a big brand, ask to join the brand new “Try On” feature

Pinterest just launched “Try On” — an augmented reality tool designed to help users find the perfect shade of lipstick, and it’s powered by Pinterest’s Lens visual search technology. “We’re doing something different from other platforms. Not only integrating with our skin tone ranges feature, so shoppers can fine tune their search to best match their skin, but offering visual recommendations for similar looks, based on the products and looks already saved to Pinterest,” a company spokeswoman said this week, elaborating “We’re starting with lipstick, and you’ll see more Lens launches from us in the coming months.”

5. Make your content & boards stand out

Here are a few simple ways to create original content:

  1. List boards: Create a board, with individual pins that make up a list. Here’s an example.
  2. Hunts: Make a scavenger hunt for pins by giving people a list of pins to find and share, to earn a prize.
  3. Contests: Hold a “pin it to win it” inspired contest, where viewers must share the pin in order to win something tied closely to your product. This can be viewed as spammy by Pinterest so do not use those words, just the concept.
  4. Rotating header: Update your profile header image on a regular cadence with a new offer or new featured customer to keep people coming back.
  5. Vertical instructables: Create long step-by-step how to visuals that to take advantage of the height you’re allowed within images. That’s a great way to dominate search results.
  6. Testimonials: Make a reviews board by gathering up notes from customer support emails, Yelp, Google, etc.
  7. Trends: Check out Pinterest’s top 100 trends from the last year, and make relevant boards if they apply to your brand. You could even make a trend board.
  8. Apply your learnings elsewhere: Test imagery styles for your pins, and then use the style that earns the most impressions and clicks to inform your visual style for your blog post imagery.

Also, use these top Pinterest SEO marketing strategies:

Pinterest Academy says 40% of clicks on Pinterest come from search results and related pins. So Pinterest SEO is incredibly important for getting your pins seen, and gaining followers.

1. Here’s how to pick the right Pinterest keywords:

There are a few ways to do keyword research on Pinterest. Here are some of the best:

  1. Autocomplete: Use pinterest search autocomplete (enter a word into the search bar and see what other options they propose) to pick your keywords.
  2. Audience interests suggested keywords: You can also use the related interests Pinterest suggests from their ad audience platform to decide what keywords to use: use the specific interest names.
  3. DIY-bent: Also keep in mind the purpose of the platform: people are there to learn and make, so Pinterest search results and algorithm skew towards surfacing DIY answers. So include “DIY” keywords where ever you can.
  4. Apply Google wins: Or, use the best of your Google keywords as Pinterst keywords. Test the keywords and titles that perform well in your Google Adwords or organic, on Pinterest.
  5. Pinterest trends: And finally, don’t forget to check out the brand new Pinterest Trends. As Pinterest shared, “Pinterest Trends gives a view of the top US search terms within the past 12 months, and a look into when top search terms peak so you can better understand how content performs on Pinterest.” Basically you’ll be able to see which terms people are using, a comparison of search volume for that vs other terms, and volume trends over time so you can take seasonality into account. Now you’ll know when to publish certain content, and can discover additional keywords to add.

2. Here’s how to optimize Pinterest for the keywords you pick:

  1. Profile: Include keywords in your profile user name (for example: Mr. Smith | The Best Apples | Golden Delicious Apples ) and in your profile description
  2. Boards: Add them in your board names and descriptions.
  3. Titles: Add your keywords to your pin titles.
  4. Descriptions: Add keywords to your pin descriptions.
  5. Files: Add them to your pin image files names.
  6. Images: If possible, show them in your actual image. Pinterest can detect what is in your image. So try to make exactly what’s in your image BE the keyword you want to rank for. For example, if you want to rank for selling apples, you should show apples with a for sale sign.
For better Pinterest SEO, include keywords in your profile user name (for example: Mr. Smith | The Best Apples | Golden Delicious Apples ) and in your profile description Click To Tweet

3. Explore other creative ways to optimize your Pinterest SEO:

  1. Use your best blog posts’ keywords: Consider making boards named after the keywords from your top trafficked blog posts or hub pages.
  2. Use Google’s related questions: Make boards with customers’ exact words from Google’s “more questions” and “related searches” sections.
  3. Use customers’ exact words: Make “pain point” boards using the exact words customers say (look at top ranking Google pages for your terms and see what words they use, and look at reviews to see how customers talk about the products).
  4. Use descriptive, specific words: Stay on top of Pinterest’s engineering blog to see how they’re thinking about visual search for products. Use these types of descriptive words in your pin descriptions.
  5. Spell correctly: Double-check your spelling in descriptions, because your words are critical to helping Pinterest’s algorithm understand pins.
  6. Reduce image weight: Be nice to Pinterest by making it easy and fast to serve your content. Limit your image file size to try to help with fast loading.
  7. Post to every board consistently: Post to each board consistently on a regular cadence so Pinterest can rely on you, and know when to scoop up your new content. This is the fastest way to see which boards you’ve been neglecting and haven’t posted to recently.
  8. Increase your time on page and conversions: Create the best possible landing page experience – i.e. match what your pin is saying and ensure the content it up to date, in order to send the signal back to Pinterest that your content is good.
  9. Add comments and reactions: Contribute to the community by commenting on exceptional pins and boards to build up your profile’s expertise. You can now even “react” to group board content.

Now, create the best Pinterest advertising strategy:

Up next, let’s dive into how to make the most of the great organic work you’ve been doing, by placing ads that spread your pins even further. Pick the type of pin that best matches your goal.

1. Pick the right type of advertising pins:

  1. Shopping pins show a price and make it easy to make purchase. The main difference between these pins and regular pins is that they have a blue “Buy It” button next to the red “Pin It” button. They’re available only to Pinterest Business accounts that use BigCommerce, Salesforce Commerce Cloud, or Shopify. Users can pay with a credit card or Apple Pay.
  2. Standard promoted pins are basically native/contextual ads, and feature a discrete “promoted by” label. These are best to use to promote articles and drive clicks to your website.
  3. Carousels feature two to five images that viewers can swipe through, similar to Facebook’s carousel ads. These are good to use when you want to show a new line of products, and are going more for brand awareness.
  4. Video pins: Video starts playing automatically as the user scrolls over them. And, apparently viewers are 2.7 times more likely to buy a product once they see a promoted video. However, videos don’t seem to get clicked a lot.
  5. App install pins: These pins allow users to download an app from the App Store without ever leaving Pinterest. This is the best format if your strongest content is an app.

You learn more about the specific pin types here.

2. Next, Pinterest advertising targeting simplified:

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to place ads. But more importantly, here are a few specific pro tips to improve your ads’ performance.

1. Audience: One helpful option is to use actalike audience targeting, which is similar to Facebook’s Lookalike feature and Google’s Similar feature. What’s great though, is that Actalike only requires a list size of 100 users to create the audience.

2. Devices: When picking which devices to show your ads on, I recommend going only with web and iPad so you don’t get “fat-fingering” erroneous clicks.

3. Budget: And, go ahead and bid high in the maximum bid section. Pinterest uses an auction model, which means you only pay more than it costs the previous highest bidder, up to your maximum CPC. So you’ll get as good of a rate as you would have, and earn the click more frequently.

4. Setup: Install your Pinterest Tag and the Pinterest Tag Helper, a Google Chrome extension that helps you ensure that your Tag is properly set up. The extension verifies that both the Pinterest Tag and Enhanced Match working so you get more accurate results reported.

Everything you need to know about Pinterest marketing strategy:

Let’s do a quick recap, shall we?

How do you market on Pinterest?

1. Create visually pleasing long images with a light background.
2. Automate consistent posting – up to 10 times a day.
3. Grow your followers by using SEO keywords in your pins, boards, and profile name plus description.
4. Join group boards and add comments and reactions.

How do I make Pinterest cute?

Use tools such as Canva to add stickers, gradients & illustrations to your pins. Use emojis in your pins’ descriptions.

How can I improve my Pinterest?

The fastest ways to improve your Pinterest include using Rich Pins; taking top-performing Adwords ads and make them pins, using Pinterest search autocomplete to name your boards, and using Canva to design long pins. Plus, use Pinterest Trends to post content at the right time of year.

Put your Pinterest marketing strategy to work

Up next, send a $7 tip to my Venmo tip jar: @megsterr Or continue to improve your social media by checking out some Twitter marketing tips.

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Bid high on maximum bid on Pinterest. Pinterest uses an auction model, which means you only pay more than it costs the previous highest bidder, up to your maximum CPC. Click To Tweet

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By Megan Mitzel

I'm the wearer of overalls behind the marketing advice website Marketing Overalls. I'm also a senior marketing director with more than ten years of experience leading acquisition and lifecycle marketing at successful startups. Before that, I got a business degree at UNC-Chapel Hill. Before that, I owned a seashell shop. And that's the tea on me.