This post is geared towards food bloggers wanting to grow their readership, but it should also be useful to non-bloggers and non-food bloggers who want to use Pinterest more effectively to find and share interesting, visually-based content across the Internet. Don’t know what Pinterest is? Go here to Pinterest HQ and find out what the fuss is about. Also, over and above everything I write here, pin for the love of it. If you don’t enjoy Pinterest, consider cultivating another sharing platform to grow your blog traffic. For everyone else, go grab a big mug of tea and settle down for a long read.
This isn’t one of my usual posts with a rambling preface before I get to what you really came for, the recipe. Well it is rambling (very), and it is a recipe of sorts. A recipe to grow your blog through the visual bookmarking tool that is Pinterest. At the end of this post I hope you will be able to have as much confidence in using Pinterest as you do whipping up your favourite recipe.
The reason for writing this is that I was lucky enough to be invited to a Pinterest workshop earlier this year. I was initially very excited about sharing everything I learned with you. My cute little Pinterest-branded pen and notebook were poised and ready for action. But I got shy. Not because what I learned wasn’t valuable to me, but because I hadn’t been practising what I was going to be preaching. I would have felt like a fraud.
Even now I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, an expert at Pinterest. I’m not an expert at anything except perhaps procrastinating. But Pinterest is something that I have passively benefited from for some time now, and I want to become better at it. And I want you to become better at it too. If you want to.
Aside from the ubiquitous “search engine”, the biggest referrer to Food To Glow is Pinterest. And it is the same for many bloggers I know. This fun, colourful little place, with its user-created memo boards for the digital age, is how many bloggers get their traffic numbers to rise like the best soufflé. You want some of that too, don’t you?
Truthfully I’ve done not very much to deserve this traffic. I have however had a few pins do very well for a number of years (known as “evergreen” pins). For awhile now however I’ve known that there is much, much more that I can do to get even more out of Pinterest. More repins, more shares, and ultimately more interest in my baby, Food To Glow.
Pinterest was the fastest growing social media platform of 2104, so it behooves all bloggers to get onboard the Pinterest train. This post is as much an aide memoire to myself as a potential help to you. At the end I will invite you to leave comments about your own best tips for getting more out of Pinterest.
So, with a delicious mixture of expert advice from my favourite pinners, fab insight from my time at the Pinterest workshop, and a little noodling around on the Interwebs, here is my not-so-expert recipe to “be more Pinteresting.”
Why not just starting pinning right away? Or pinning like you always do (er, I always do)? Well, effective pinning as opposed to willy nilly pinning (my “strategy”) will start a tidal wave of interest in not only your pins but also your blog. Once people come to your blog from a pin you have posted from your blog, hopefully what they see will make them want to stop for awhile and read your awesome content. And pin some more stuff. SEO gold. Potentially.
Get a Pinterest account. First of all, if you have a blog and you don’t also have a Pinterest account, go sign up. In the UK, sign up through UK Pinterest. And don’t just get a normal account, get the Business account. And if you have a regular one, change to a business one. It’s free, and with it comes some very useful analytics to tell you who is pinning your stuff, what are your most popular pins, and how often is it repinned. Use this information to know your audience and create more content that gets shared. There are other benefits, but these are the most obvious.
Even if you don’t have an account people can still pin from your blog, but an account makes it much, much easier for them to do so. You also want to make sure that all of your images are pinnable. The little branded “P” hovering over an image? That means it is pinnable. When that gets clicked it takes you straight to Pinterest for saving and sharing. Luckily the communication between WordPress and Pinterest makes it easy. This article in WordPress Support explains it all. You can also code up a customised Pinterest “hover button”, but that is a bit beyond my abilities right now.
Create a profile. Like Twitter, where the “egg” for a profile pic doesn’t get much love, Pinterest wants you to be a real person. If you haven’t already done so, pop on a picture of yourself (not your blog logo), write a brief but compelling summation of you and what you like to pin and key words – and don’t forget your blog url – and you are good to go.
The thing about boards. You can never have too many boards. Or too many pins on those boards. One board can beget many boards. Christmas is a prime example: Christmas appetisers, decorating projects, home decor, present ideas for teachers, what to eat on Christmas Day, Christmas leftover magic, etc…
There is some debate on whether all of your content should reflect a specific interest – so as a food blogger it should all be about food and related topics such as food photography or tips on blogging. But I think pinning on wider interests makes you a more real person to potential followers. I follow boards of others that aren’t related to food but are of interest nevertheless. I think others are also like that. I truly don’t think a variety of board interests puts people off. The exception is if you are an actual business, selling things. Don’t mix business with pleasure. Anyone think differently?
On a related issue, you can make private boards that only you, or those invited by you, can see. People make these for household projects and other time-limited, and personal, projects or interests.
Add a Pinterest browser button to the browser you use the most. Rather than going directly into the Pinterest site and into your account to have a pinning session, when you see something pinnable click your browser button and the titles of your boards will pop up; you select the best one onto which to pin the content. Super easy. Also add a social media sharing icon, and a “follow me on Pinterest” option (with your Pinterest board underneath – I need to do this!).
Pin your blog. But mind your manners. What I mean is make a board for your blog, and title it with your blog name. Have it be your first board, your lead board, right at the top where anyone noseying around your profile will see your blog board. You would be surprised how many bloggers don’t do this. Every time you publish a post immediately pin it to that board. Use your best image. More on how to make and choose your best images below. But don’t pin to loads of boards at once. That’s a bit spammy and anyone who is following all of your boards will get sick of seeing it. Share your repins across the week, and at different times of the day and night, by using one of the scheduling apps like Tailwind, Robovy or Buffer (Buffer has some great articles too). You can do this for all pins, not just ones from your own site. In fact, it’s better that way. I still haven’t started scheduling my pins, but it is on the top of my social media must-do list.
Okay, basic practicalities out of the way, you want to get pinning effectively. In addition to the tips I picked up from Lizzie at UK Pinterest, I’ve enlisted the help of some of my blogging buddies to help you out. These woman have got Pinterest down to a fine art, and I am so pleased they have given us some advice. I just need to be disciplined to follow it myself.
Be More Pinteresting – The Details
Pin what you love. Make sure what you pin is also beautiful. The best boards are inspiring, with lush images that draw people in.
Pin regularly. And don’t just re-pin, find things on sites and pin directly from the source. Pinning directly from the site itself makes sure the pin doesn’t lead to spam sites or to broken links. Look back at older posts on your own site that you love and pin the best image (remember: beautiful), writing up a description in the space denoted by the hovering pencil image.
Be useful. Pin how-tos, lists, infographics – anything that seems useful rather than just beautiful or aspirational. The best pins are one that intersect what is beautiful, useful to you, and useful to fellow pinners. Don’t forget about you. Blog traction is nice but make sure the pins are actually useful to you.
Share the love. Only posting your own content is considered spammy. Comment on pins, have a mix of your own content and others’ content on all relevant boards (except your own blog board obviously), press the like button, too! An 80:20 mix of others’ content:your content is about right.
Most people pin but don’t leave a comment, so stand out by commenting. If someone comments on your pin, go over to their boards and return the favour. It is also a good idea to create group boards and invite like-minded people to pin to it. Try and find other group boards to share your and others’ stuff. If you join a group board or create one yourself take the time to like pins and comment on them too. In essence, do unto others as you would be done by.
Love your pins. Give your own pins some love by liking them and even commenting on them. I don’t yet do this but apparently it does lead to the pin becoming more visible to others. The best approach with this is to find out what others are pinning from your site and give these some extra love. If you want to track what is being pinned from your own site, pop this url into your address bar (amending with your blog name): http://pinterest.com/source/YourWebsite.com/.
Break up your pinning sessions. Opinion varies on how much to pin in one session but it seems to be no more than about five pins in five minutes (remember, your board followers will get a notification so don’t go too crazy). Some people have big pinning sessions at the weekend or in the evenings, but best practice seems to be break up the sessions into smaller frames, say a gap of 10 minutes to make a cup of tea. That’s where the scheduling apps really come into their own.
Nail those descriptions. Give context, don’t use hashtags (it doesn’t work on Pinterest), and give wider options than just what they see. If you pin a vegetable bake, don’t just have the recipe name as the description. Write a chatty paragraph (up to 500 words, but I would limit it to 150) telling folk it is freezable, a family favourite or anything you know to be true and useful about it. If it is gluten-free or vegan, say that here. Another thing is highlight aspects other than the recipe. If you use a vintage tablecloth, mention it. People searching for vintage tablecloth images will find you. Good descriptions help people find you. But no hashtags!
Go vertical. Make most of your posts’ main pinnable images vertical. Add text and overlays too, but don’t go overboard. Canva has a pre-made template for Pinterest (press “more” in the line up of media options.). Repin and source others’ vertical and high-quality images too.
Be consistent with “branding”. For your own images aim for consistent or complementing colour, typography and type of image (e.g. overhead shots, or 3/4 shot; use of space/negative space). Here’s an interesting article on Curalate on image features that stand out on Pinterest. You can make custom fonts on my favourite free editing site, Picmonkey.
Pin lists. Everyone loves lists. Blog your own list posts (e.g. 10 freezer-friendly meals) and find other useful ones to pin. Everyone also seems to like infographics, too. I’m not so keen myself but they provide great blog traffic as you have to go to the source to properly read them.
Themes. Seasonal pins are Pinterest gold. If you have a Christmas board, start updating it soon. Move themed and seasonal boards up to the top of your boards as appropriate, moving them down when the time has passed. And for themes and holidays, make additional, complementing, boards (see The Thing About Boards, above).
Keep on top of trends. Spiralising, matcha tea, aquafaba, insect protein (!), fermenting – all key food trends, so if trends are of interest to you create a useful board to help yourself and others know more about the trends you’re up on. Pinning from authorities on the topic to begin with is a good idea too.
Jac at Tinned Tomatoes – Jac’s best tip for SEO is, “schedule pins with useful information in the text box. It really is important. Also tick the ‘post to Twitter’ box so when you pin it’s sent out by you on Twitter. This always create interest in my twitter stream which means I am promoting both my Twitter and Pinterest.”
On pinning to group/community boards Jac advises to “always pin other people’s content to group boards, not just your own and while you are there repin some of the recipes to your own boards.”
On what she knows now that she wishes she’d known earlier: “check each link leads to the original post and not just to a blog page or a unrelated website. There is nothing more frustrating than a pin that leads nowhere or to the wrong place.”
What is your best creative tip? “Over-expose food photos, shoot in portrait and use Picmonkey to add (tasteful) text to your pins.”
Sally at My Custard Pie – Sally’s best SEO tip is to “write naturally and consistently about your core topics. Make sure your key words are in your bio as well as in the pin descriptions.” That last point is one I need to check on my bio!
When I asked Sally what board she pinned to the most, she said that she thinks, “it’s more about timing. Pin relevant stuff to relevant boards e.g. Christmas themed boards 5 weeks and the lead up before Christmas day.” I must do that one.
Sally’s top creative tip is to “Curate your boards as you would an art gallery or your own blog.”
When asked “What is your top pin and why do your think that is?” Sally said “It’s the Texas brisket barbecue recipe. I think it’s because most of Pinterest’s audience is in the US (and this is an American recipe).” That’s such a good point. Pinners are international, with the US (60%) followed by the UK being the top Pinterest markets. If you want to get noticed pin what has general board appeal but also regional appeal too.
Sarah T at Maison Cupcake – Sarah had a lot of great things to share, so I will reprint her answers.
1. For those new to Pinterest, what is your best tip/advice for getting started?
>> If I was starting afresh I’d have far higher quality control. It’s easy to frantically pin anything when you start because you’re desperate to fill some boards up. So I’d say ditch the default board titles on the new profile and focus on more specific things to curate. There are so many people pinning to exactly the same themes on Pinterest ad nauseum that if you curate some things that are more specific and relevant to your brand they will stand out.
2. What do you think are the main elements to the perfect food/recipe pin? What is the best way to get more re-pins?
>> Very strong clear pictures, preferably portrait aspect images (which show up bigger) are obviously key. If it’s a traditional recipe, styling and ambiance are crucial otherwise people will pass over yet another apple pie. But if it’s something more inventive this is less important. I like how some peoples’ pins are always “branded” so well you know before you read the description whose they are. These ones always leap out in my feed. Getting Rich Pins also helps reinforce your brand.
3. Do you have a pinning routine/strategy? If so, please describe.
>> I try to make sure 80% of what I pin is other people’s stuff. There’s no greater Pinterest turn off than a profile where all they do is pin their own latest blog post on 30 different boards on the same day. I want to look at what other user’s tastes are, see what they’ve discovered not only see them just marketing their own posts. Likewise I try to have a mix of pinning to my own boards and group boards. My own boards might be smaller with less engagement (although some trounce some very big boards indeed) but developing your own boards is ultimately more important for growing followers and getting people to stick around on your profile exploring your “finds”.
4. How do we – mere pinning mortals – get noticed by Pinterest influencers such as yourself?
>> I most notice pins that are great pictures with clear descriptions pinned to clearly defined boards. For new accounts to follow I find those people who produce very strong work of their own tend to have excellent taste curating other sources.
5. How long per session and per week do you spend pinning?
>> I tend to do an hour or so at a time several times a week. I don’t see this so much as a social media chore as useful research – at least it is if you are being focussed what you’re looking for rather than clamouring to repin something everyone has already seen. Actually the more time you spend on Pinterest, you realise it’s a much smaller place than you’d imagine. I kind of wish I could click a “hide” button on some images that appear in my feed week after week because they’re so popular.
6. What is your top pin – the one that not only gets the most re-pins but also the most blog traffic? Why do you think that is?
>> It’s a diet smoothie which is somewhat ironic for a site that’s mostly baking and desserts. Yet I often hear health food bloggers complaining it’s their cake pins that perform best!
7. What is your best SEO tip?
>> Really describe what’s in a pin. Don’t just say, “Wow I must make this”. Not only will other people be more likely to have your pins show up in their searches, you can search your own pins within Pinterest and find stuff you pinned aeons ago in seconds.
8. What is your best creative tip?
>> PicMonkey will let you use your own fonts from your PC so there’s no need to limit yourself to their selection. I cringe when I see my old pins using PicMonkey default fonts…What board do you pin to the most?
>> I try to have a good spread as this way you get better info from analytics which boards are performing the best i.e. if you only pin to 3 boards your analytics will make it look like the others are tumbleweed when this isn’t necessarily the case. So you need to pin a fair few pins to a board over a period of time to assess whether it’s a good board or not. And if a pin you like doesn’t get much engagement on a particular board you can always move it to another board later on.
9. What is your advice about joining community boards (any pros or cons you have noticed).
>> Only join ones that really excite you. It’s better to have fewer boards you pin to a lot than hundreds you only pin to once in a blue moon. As a host of several community boards I’d encourage people to be especially mindful to not *only* pin their own stuff. Check the board rules and don’t just link dump your own stuff. Use them to share genuinely engaging material. This is what makes a community board a useful resource.
10. What do you always do now, pin-wise, that you wish you had done earlier?
>> Type descriptions. Always. And improve descriptions when there already is one. That way you stand more chance of being the version of that pin that comes up in searches.
11. What do you think is the secret to your success? Or, to re-phrase, if you are shy about this question: what is the secret to “winning” at Pinterest? Anything else you would like to add??
>> I think you get out of Pinterest what you put in. You need to actively use Pinterest as an inspiration archive and resource rather than somewhere to only promote yourself. Use a browser bookmarklet or pin buttons to pin things from outside Pinterest rather than only repinning what’s already in there. Hopefully people land on my boards and think “OMG there’s so much stuff I love here”.
I couldn’t have said it better myself.
Thanks so much to Lizzy Sibley at UK Pinterest, Jac, Sarah T and Sally for their invaluable insights. Lovely life and style blogger Lynsay at misswestendgirl.com – a fellow workshop attendee – has a terrific post on getting started with Pinterest. Much less wordy too! I’m following Lynsay’s stylish Pinterest account for some much-needed guidance! Cutest haircut in the world. I also like these articles from cleanandscentisible.com, theblogmaven.com and successfulblogging.com.
Oh, and if you want to follow me on Pinterest and find out what I am pinning from others, here I am. If you follow my boards do me know in the comments and I will be sure to follow you back and include you in my next pinning spree.
If you have an appetite for learning more from a top Pinner, have a view of Taming Twins blogger/super pinner, Sarah Barnes‘s delightful, honest video on how bloggers can get more out of Pinterest.
My fellow blogger’s blogs!
Jac at Tinned Tomatoes
Sally at My Custard Pie
Sarah T at Maison Cupcake
Sarah B at Taming Twins
Please let me know if you have found this article useful, and add your own thoughts on getting more out of Pinterest. Thanks!