If you caught yourself groaning when you saw this was yet another Pinterest post, I don’t blame you. The Web’s latest social media darling has taken both the Internet and the industry blogosphere by storm, and the network’s popularity shows no sign of slowing: the site is now the third most popular social network in the United States (according to Mashable).
As a result, our RSS feeds have been absolutely bombarded with Pinterest guides, praise, and how-to’s — including about eighty variations on using Pinterest for SEO. Get links! Increase your site traffic! Boost your social signals!
So hundreds of SEOs jumped on board the Pinterest train to take advantage of the dofollow links and heavy traffic referrals.
And…those same SEOs soon found themselves failing miserably.
Pinterest Is A Community, Not A Tool
These SEOs are failing because they still haven’t realized what every other social network has taught us in the past few years: in order to succeed on a social network, you’ve got to give as much as you try to take.
We call it a social media presence for a reason: you’ve got to be present and active in order to succeed.
If you’re only hopping on the Pinterest bandwagon for SEO benefits and nothing else, it’s time to hop off.
For Starters, Pinterest Links Are Now Nofollow
Most SEOs jumped on Pinterest to take advantage of the network’s dofollow links. As a result, new users pinned any image they could find on their site in order to take advantage of potential link juice.
Pinterest went nofollow in March 2012, but as Gisele Navarro Mendez points out in Why I’m Happy that Pinterest Links are Now Nofollow, that’s not such a bad thing :
“I’ve been an SEO long enough to know that every time a new social network offering dofollow links arrives, tons of ‘new users’ show up and start posting links without any intentions of adding value to the community” (my emphasis).
It’s common sense: Twitter accounts that retweet others, participate in tweeted discussions, and engage with new followers are vastly more successful than the Twitter users who only tweet their own links or blindly follow hundreds of users each day in hopes of gaining a few follow-backs.
Facebook users who post and participate on others’ pages receive more traction from the network than those who don’t.
Idle G+ pages flounder with little to no followers while active users have already amassed thousands of circle followers.
LinkedIn users who helpfully answer questions and participate in group discussions boast hundreds more connections than those who focus on shameless self-promotion.
So it’s common sense that Pinterest should follow the same principles…right?
Where Common Sense Still Fails
How many times have we had similar discussions over the years? Build connections, not links. Don’t spam. Join discussions. Be present. Get followers by engaging with others. Success takes time. There are no shortcuts — only hard work.
Yet we’re still having this discussion, and I’m still sitting down to write this post. When will we as a community learn that a SOCIAL network should be SOCIAL, and not just a tool for self-promotion? When will we learn that we must give value and quality to achieve valuable and quality results?
Not today, apparently. So let’s take a hard look at what Pinterest can and can’t do for your site and your brand…starting with the most important concept of all.
Use Pinterest As A Means For SEO Benefits, Not A Direct SEO Tool
There’s no denying that Pinterest does have some direct SEO power: a profile link to your website, traffic referrals, dofollow links to your root domain within the pin’s description, etc.
But these minor benefits pale in comparison to Pinterest’s real power: building a visual representation of your brand. Pinterest allows you to gain followers who are genuinely interested in your site, build targeted connections for linkbuilding, and increase your authority within your brand.
Instead of focusing on getting links from Pinterest, focus on getting links from other Pinterest users; instead of whoring your Pinterest out for traffic, focus on accruing a targeted, interested audience.
The Flighty Nature Of Pinterest Traffic
Yes, Pinterest sends massive amounts of referral traffic. But is that traffic helping or hurting your site?
As Tony Clark points out in Copyblogger’s Is Pinterest Traffic Worthless?, it depends on what you pin. In the case study, Clark reveals that Pinterest is the 3rd highest traffic referrer for the Copyblogger site…but the average user visit duration was just 32 seconds with a bounce rate of a whopping 91.7%.
Copyblogger experienced a lot of mainstream traffic from popular infographics like 15 Grammar Goofs That Make You Look Silly, but that generic traffic did little to nothing for Copyblogger Media.
By contrast, consider the success of Pinterest for StudioPress, a Copyblogger Media-owned site that specializes in premium WordPress themes. Though Pinterest is only the #29 referrer for StudioPress, the site’s visitors from Pinterest have an average duration time of 5:28 and a bounce rate of 49.9%.
The reason? StudioPress operates a concentrated, brand-targeted set of pinboards that appeal only to people interested in StudioPress’s products…giving visitors a clear reason to visit the StudioPress site.
Don’t grasp at traffic that will do nothing for your site. Don’t post a picture of a puppy or Ryan Gosling because you know it’ll get the repins. Aim on targeting the right eyes for your brand — it’ll do so much more for your site in the long run.
7 Constructive Ways For SEOs To Use Pinterest
- Connect with relevant users. Comment on posts, cc users with @mentions, repin original content, or “like” pins when it’s not appropriate to repin. Engage with other users as you would on any other social media site. One of Pinterest’s huge advantages is its relatively young age — your outreach efforts may get much more attention on Pinterest than they would on a saturated network like Twitter or Facebook.
- Use Pinterest for linkbuilding outreach campaigns. Thunder SEO’s Monique Pouget wrote a terrific guide on creating linkbuilding personas with Pinterest.
- Optimize your page to get found by other Pinterest users. Trick out your Pinterest page by linking to your website and optimize your “about” section with relevant keyboards.
- Expand your brand-controlled search results. When someone searches your brand, your Pinterest profile can appear in the SERPs along with your site and your other social media profiles, so you’ve now got another brand-controlled site to appear on the first page (always useful for brand reputation monitoring). Make sure your Pinterest page is set to show up on SERPs by ensuring “Hide your Pinterest profile from search engines” is switched OFF in your account settings.
- Focus on targeted, brand-friendly pins that will result in click-through traffic. Pin only for your target audience and pin images that encourage click-throughs (partial infographics or infographics with small text are great for this). Optimize your landing page to encourage Pinterest users to hang around or check out your services.
- Use Pinterest to curate useful content for your industry. Pinterest is an insanely effective visual bookmarking tool. Instead of pinning your own content, build your authority and add to the discussion by pinning relevant content from others.
- Always measure your successes and failures. Analyze your site’s Pinterest traffic to see which pins are effective and which aren’t. You can also use tools like Pinreach to measure your Pinterest profile analytics.
In Short: Pinterest Is Not Your Social Silver Bullet
…so stop treating it like one. Respect the medium. Add value to the community. And for Pete’s sake, stop acting like Pinterest is your SEO godsend. It isn’t — and you look like just another self-promoting SEO polluting a community for his own benefit.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.