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.

studiopress on Pinterest

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

  1. 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.
  2. Use Pinterest for linkbuilding outreach campaigns. Thunder SEO’s Monique Pouget wrote a terrific guide on creating linkbuilding personas with Pinterest.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

Related Topics: Channel: Social | Search & Social

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About The Author: is the Senior SEO Manager for the agency, Red Door Interactive.

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  • denverwinegirl

    Great article.One of the few I’ve read that make sense; I’m weary of the ‘how to’ articles that make it clear the writer is only sharing how we can best pin them to insure they get all the social media juice they expect from Pinterest. Very nice.

  • http://www.facebook.com/katie.friedson Katie Friedson

    Can you please clarify – here you say there is a do-follow link within the pin’s description?  Is this true? 

    “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.”

  • http://insocialwetrust.wordpress.com/ Gisele Navarro Mendez

    Thanks for quoting my blog post, Jordan! I’m happy to read I’m not the only one trying to understand a social platform and its likes/dislikes, making sure I’m adding value to the community when joining it instead of blindly sharing links here and there. And as you’ve mentioned before, Pinterest’s real power goes way beyond its link juice!

  • http://www.blueglass.com Jordan Kasteler

    Thank you!

  • http://www.blueglass.com Jordan Kasteler

    Glad you agree, Gisele!

  • http://www.blueglass.com Jordan Kasteler

    Heh, since time of writing that pin description has been changed to “nofollow”.

  • http://twitter.com/rebeccasbrain Rebecca Denton

    Actually it is showing signs of slowing. SIGNIFICANTLY. Down to 5% increase March from 51% in Feb. 

  • http://twitter.com/rebeccasbrain Rebecca Denton

    Reference: http://www.businessinsider.com/uh-oh-pinterests-growth-is-slowing-2012-4

  • RohanAdvani

    pinterest may not be great in the seo sense but it is quite beneficial in bringing a chunk full of traffic, have experienced lately , the timing,the content and the audience does matter (when,what,who) for the pin.

  • http://twitter.com/MoniqueTheGeek Monique Pouget

    Wow Jordan, awesome post! I love the StudioPress and Copyblogger examples you cited, and the list of “7 Constructive Ways to Use Pinterest” is spot on.

    It’s great to see recommendations that support participating in the community vs. using and abusing it. It’s totally true that people are often looking for a quick traffic boost or more links, but Pinterest is so much more than that. I truly believe Pinterest is a gold mine of marketing research data, and there is lots to be learned from the types of things that are getting Repinned and shared around the web. It’s also a great place to build your brand, albeit slowly but surely.

    Looking forward to more Pinterest insight, and appreciate the thoughtful round-up of actionable tips. Also, thanks for mentioning my Pinterest post! Pumped to hear you found it helpful.

  • http://www.blueglass.com Jordan Kasteler

    And that traffic brings SEO via links and shares, right? Theoretically at least.

  • http://www.blueglass.com Jordan Kasteler

    Thanks Monique! Glad you liked it and glad you could benefit from the link to your great post.

  • http://twitter.com/PinReach PinReach

    Thanks for mentioning PinReach! We are super excited to bring insight and relevance to Pinterest activity and have so much in store.

  • http://www.blueglass.com Jordan Kasteler

    Thanks for a great service!

  • http://twitter.com/techandtourism techandtourism

    Any comments on the growing PInterest spam problem? Or how to combat spam followers that offer no value to your brand?

  • http://www.whoislisalomas.com Lisa Lomas

    Hi Jordan, I for one did not join as the terms were not leaving any room for creative persons, taking away most of their rights.  I now understand it has been reviewed but only to their means to shut some people up.  I think everything has SEO advantage if done correctly, however I tend to think your still better to build relationships………………………unless its your business.  Many are raving about it however I am not sure they know what they have signed up to.

  • http://twitter.com/Swish_Plastic Swish Plastic

    Great article. I’m sure a huge number of people out there are focusing on the ‘magical SEO wand’ that they think Pinterest is. This pretty much sums it up: 
    Pinterest Is A Community, Not A Tool

  • Santosh Yadav

     Thanks to explain and tell do not miss use new social plate from for   self promotion

  • http://twitter.com/AndreeaC_T Andreea Cojocariu

    I absolutely love this post and going to link it in my newsletter to my clients this week. So many people are jumping on the Pinterest bandwagon. It has it’s place and I personally like it. However, just because it’s the third most popular site doesn’t mean it’s a godsend as you mentioned. I’m seeing so many companies spamming boards just because they think it will help their SEO. I tell my clients to first consider their target demographic. Right now it’s mostly women. I’m sure we’ll see men use it more later, but right now, since it’s mostly women it may not be a great fit for everyone. And sometimes, just having the Pin-it button is enough to encourage website visitors to share, which I think is more valuable…true link building.  Anyway…absolutely love this post Jordan :).

  • RohanAdvani

    yes jordan perfect , i agree , theoretically as well as practically it can fuel up the seo process a bit .

  • http://www.blueglass.com Jordan Kasteler

    Unfortunately, that’s a dilemma across all of social media. Pinterest has had an issue with affiliate marketers but has taken measures to clean that up a bit using redirects and nofollows.

  • http://www.blueglass.com Jordan Kasteler

    Their terms have been a big issue for many especially for large brands that want to participate. While they’ve modified to appease they still have more room to go here.

  • http://www.blueglass.com Jordan Kasteler

    Exactly! Thanks!

  • http://www.blueglass.com Jordan Kasteler

    I’m glad you liked it and am honored. Thanks :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=513711798 Lisa Pratt

    I loved this article.  As a 23 year old female SEO, I started using Pinterest for fun and then realized the benefits it could have for my brand after.  It frustrates me to see other SEO’s talk about Pinterest as a miracle network, but when I go to their boards they have pinned nothing more than a single photo of an uninteresting gadget.  Thanks for emphasizing being a regular contributor (not a shameless self promoter) and focusing on using it as a brand building tool. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Brandon-Swenson/1040355618 Brandon Swenson

    Nice to see the Utah SEO Pro on top of his game ;) Nice post Jordan! Your right, Pinterest is a Social Network, it’s a community. You definitely have to give, and give quality in order to take and reap benefits. Well put ;)

  • http://www.blueglass.com Jordan Kasteler

    Thanks Brandon! I haven’t had anyone call me “Utah SEO Pro” in awhile ;)

  • http://www.blueglass.com Jordan Kasteler

    Glad you had takeaways from it, and thanks for your response!

  • Brandon Swenson

    Yea, we had a unique run in awhile back after I put up http://www.utahseopros.com lol. Bet ya liked how I tried to network back with ya though right ;) lol

  • http://www.eBizROI.com Rick Noel, eBiz ROI, Inc.

    Great post Jordan. I agree with all your
    points, especially focusing on your market segment instead of non-relevant
    traffic. The Copyblogger vs. StudioPress was a great illustration of the
    different outcomes in terms of engagement due to interest-based targeting.

    Your statement, “ Be present. Get
    followers by engaging with others. Success takes time. There are no shortcuts —
    only hard work” is the mantra of all successful Internet marketers. 

    Many times in the more shady segments of the
    Internet marketing industry, people are lead to pan for fools gold (translated
    - get rich while you sleep type approaches). No work = no reward & missed
    expectations.

    In social media, just like in offline
    business relationships, you have to earn the right to promote your product or
    service. Share valuable content you curate that is of interest to your target
    audience. 

    An analogy is the person at a dinner party
    who only discuss themselves and never allow others to get in a word
    edge-wise. Inevitably, you will notice rather quickly that all party
    goers begin avoiding the narcissistic conversationalist. 

    Listen as much as you talk and add value to the conversation and gather your
    market research (totally agree with Monique Pouget on this point). 

    We have found that pinning curated (others)
    content at a ratio of 4:1 is a good goal and has been a fairly successful
    engagement model. Thanks for sharing.

  • http://www.blueglass.com Jordan Kasteler

    Thanks Rick! I like the 4:1 ratio tip!

  • http://www.ianhanson1979.blogspot.com/ Ian Hanson

    Monique Pouget’s post was helpful, so was yours. But some SEOs are hard to teach, they will keep polluting the community and you will have to keep up the good work of writing a few articles of this sort once every while. Love your writing style.

  • http://www.medecure.com/ Rohit Pendharkar

    Thanks for providing information which has not only clear the concept of the website but also help to contribute valuable  things  for other website. Any community needs to do healthy discussion rather than leaving some non sense comment. I do agree with you and thanks for this article. 

 

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