2018 UPDATE: BoardBooster (referenced below as a Pinterest scheduling tool) is no longer approved or supported by Pinterest. I’ve switched to using Tailwind instead.
From September 20th to November 20th, Side Hustle Nation generated 479 visits from Pinterest.
The next 2 months, from November 21st to January 21st, Side Hustle Nation generated 11,733 visits from Pinterest.
Why the sudden 25x increase?
It was anything but an accident.
I just followed the steps Rosemarie Groner shared on our podcast recording late last year.
At that time, I knew almost nothing about Pinterest other than:
- It was mostly for women.
- It was about pretty, vertically-oriented pictures.
So to increase the traffic 25x from this one social media source I was a total newbie with, I had to follow some pretty specific instructions.
(That barely visible orange line at the bottom is my “before” traffic.)
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How to Generate Traffic from Pinterest
Here are the steps I followed.
1. Set up your account as a Pinterest business account.
If you already have an account, you can switch it to a business account and keep all your followers and data.
This is free.
2. Create at least 10 boards with at least 10 pins each.
Organize these around topics your audience might be interested in. I have mine loosely based on the categories of the Side Hustle Nation blog: Amazon FBA, Freelancing, Software and Apps, etc.
Don’t make the mistake I did and pin your own content to these boards. Use them to feature other cool content you find on Pinterest.
(Some of mine still don’t have 10 pins on them. It’s a work in progress!)
3. Create “pinnable” images for your best content.
Although there are hundreds of posts in The Side Hustle Nation archives, I started with only the highest traffic posts. If a post was already popular pre-Pinterest, I figured the content should do OK over there as well.
How do you find out which posts get the most traffic?
In Google Analytics, go to Behavior > Site Content > All Pages to see which pages and posts of yours have the most views.
I also looked in AWeber to see which posts or podcast episodes were performing the best in terms of email opt-ins, and prioritized making images for those.
Then I tried to make images that were 1000 x 1500 pixels, and included some text to say what the post was about.
I made most of the graphics myself, and as you can see, they’re not amazing, but they were good enough for this experiment.
This was a time-consuming process for me so to accelerate it, I did hire out some help on Fiverr and from a graphics specialist in the Side Hustle Nation community.
Here’s one that the graphics specialist made:
See? Way better than mine!
Total cost: $95.
4. Create a “Best of Your Site” board and make it the first board on your page.
When you’ve got some nice images made, you can add them to your “Best Of” board in one of two ways.
First, you can add them directly from your hard-drive. This is mostly what I did because I knew it would be the highest resolution graphic, and to be honest, I was nervous about adding all these big image files to my blog posts.
When you do that, be sure to hit the “Edit pin” button to add in the URL you want the pin to point to. Otherwise it won’t link back to your site!
Here’s my “Best Of” board with some recent pins at the top:
The second way to add these images to your Best Of board is to add them to the corresponding posts on your site, and then use the Pinterest browser extension OR your social sharing toolbar to pin them.
5. Activate Rich Pins
This feature is only available to Pinterest Business accounts (see #1 above). What it does is displays the title of your post along with your little favicon below the pin, basically making it look more legit.
See? There’s Rosemarie rocking the Rich Pin :)
The set your account up for Rich Pins, you need to use Pinterest’s tool to validate that your site has meta tags, which if you’re running WordPress, I’m 99.9% sure you already do.
Validate, hit “Apply now,” and your pins shall be enriched within an hour.
6. Identify Group Boards
Finding group boards — and automated pinning to them — is the secret sauce to unlocking all this Pinterest traffic, especially if you have very few followers on your own account.
I had less than 100 Pinterest followers when I started this experiment, and now only have 660. The amount of followers you have doesn’t matter.
There are a couple ways to get this done.
First, you can use a Pinterest Group Board search engine like PinGroupie.com, which is free, to search for boards relevant to your various keywords.
For example, I searched “skiing” and found these results:
PinGroupie will show you how many followers each group board has, as well as some other metrics you can use to gauge the level of engagement.
In general, the more likes and repins the better, and the more collaborators there are, the more likely you are to be accepted to pin to the group board. More on that below.
The other way to find relevant group boards is to simply check out the Pinterest profiles of other prominent “Pinners” in your niche. For example, I jumped over to The Penny Hoarder’s Pinterest page, and found several potential groups to add to my list.
You probably already know the other personalities in your niche, so they should be easy to find.
Group boards are identified by the little icon in the upper right. If there are 2 little avatars, it’s a group board. If there’s nothing there, it’s a solo board that only The Penny Hoarder (or the respective account owner) can pin to.
At this point, all I’m doing is making a list of my “target” group boards — boards I think would be relevant to the content of Side Hustle Nation. In my initial effort, I had a list of 23 boards that I compiled into a Google Docs spreadsheet.
The columns you might consider in yours:
- Group Name
- Pinterest URL
- Number of Followers
- Board Administrator
- Board Administrator Contact (more on how to find that below)
- Board Rules
7. Request Group Board Invites
Identifying these boards is just the first step. Unfortunately, you can’t just hit a button and become a collaborator; you have to request an invite from the board administrator.
Eventually you’ll add columns for whether or not you asked for an invite to the board and if you were accepted.
The first step in making these requests is finding out who’s in charge. Thankfully, Pinterest makes it super easy. For each group board, the list of collaborators is shown in the top left corner of the page. The first account listed is the board owner.
Many boards will have instructions in the description on what to do to request an invite, as the Saving Money board example does above.
Important: Follow the board by clicking the red “Follow board” button before reaching out.
If no instructions are given, click the link of the board owner to reach their personal profile page. Follow them. Often there will be a website listed where you can find a Contact Us page, or begin guessing common email addresses like email@example.com to see if Rapportive or another email validator tool recognizes it.
Here’s an example of one of my “request for invite” emails:
I’m just trying to be brief, polite, friendly, and drop in a little “social proof” because I have very little of it on Pinterest yet.
Important: Send these emails from the email address tied to your Pinterest account.
Alternative: If you can’t find contact information from a board you really want an invite to, you can send the board owner a direct message on the Pinterest platform. I did that a couple times and it worked fine.
In my initial outreach effort, I asked to join those 23 boards. I was accepted to 11, rejected from one, and ignored by 11.
But those 11 I was accepted to pin to pushed my nominal “reach” on Pinterest from my less than 100 followers to over 80,000. (Adding up the followers from all those group boards.)
8. Automate Your Pinning
Important Update: BoardBooster is no longer approved or supported by Pinterest. I’ve switched to using Tailwind instead.
Board Booster is a very affordable service to automatically pin to these group boards on your behalf. You can even start out on a free trial, which is what I did before jumping up to their $5 a month plan.
Rosemarie recorded a very helpful video on how to get your account set up and begin pinning:
Important: Don’t go crazy here when you’re just starting out. Don’t pin irrelevant content or flood a slow-moving board with your stuff. Follow the rules for each group board and expand accordingly.
9. Add Pins for New Content
With each new post you publish, create a new pinnable image for it and add it to your “Best Of” board — assuming it’s worthy.
Then you can add those new pins to your Board Booster secret boards to generate an automated steady stream of traffic back to your site.
10. Maintenance and Optimization
Let the automation run for 3-4 weeks. Watch your Google Analytics to see the impact to your traffic numbers. Mine started out slow but has been fairly consistent and growing over the last two months.
Another cool feature of Board Booster is they will tell you the average performance of pins to your group boards and show you how yours did.
Here’s my scheduler dashboard, and you can see how the average number of repins varies by group:
If you click on one of these boards, it will show you your last 20 pins to that group board:
What you want to do here is look for the duds; the pins that are performing worse than average for the group. Rosemarie explained that if you remove those from your pinning queue, your more engaging pins will cycle through more often, getting you even more traffic.
If you’re not quite ready to give up on a pin or post just yet, you might try re-doing your image or re-writing your description text for the pin.
Traffic Results and Impact
There are a lot of positives of this experiment — and a few negatives, which I’ll get to in a moment.
But first, let’s look at the good stuff.
- The percentage of traffic coming from social channels grew from just 6.1% to 15.9%, reducing my reliance on Google.
- Pinterest quickly became my #1 social media referral source, far surpassing the traffic I get from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+ combined.
- My female readership increased from 40% to 44.4%.
But Pinterest isn’t all rainbows and butterflies. On average, visitors from Pinterest spent less than half the amount of time on the site as other visitors, viewed fewer pages per session, and had a higher bounce rate.
The risk in that these “engagement metrics” may factor into Google’s algorithms; signaling that the site isn’t doing a good job of keeping people around. This isn’t a huge concern at the moment since Pinterest still accounts for less than 10% of my overall traffic, but it’s something to be aware of and to keep an eye on.
My main goal with the Pinterest experiment is to generate incremental exposure for Side Hustle Nation, and especially the podcast. I think it could be a good channel for new readers and listeners to discover the content at the “top of the funnel” and become followers, subscribers, and fans.
Ready to give Pinterest a shot? Did you implement Rosemarie’s advice from the podcast? How are your results so far?