How to Use Pinterest to Build Your Audience

Candace Napier Ross is a former fashion designer turned full-­time freelance graphic designer and social media marketer. She opened her Creative Market shop in 2016.

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Candace in her home office.

Candace is a Pinterest marketing expert, and if you aren’t very familiar with Pinterest yet, it is a platform for collecting and arranging your favorite images and ideas. But its benefits go well beyond creating aesthetically pleasing boards. Over time Pinterest has flexed its muscles and positioned itself as one of the most powerful visual search engines on the web.

In this post Candace is going to teach you about

  • Getting started on the platform.
  • Give you tips that can help your profile stand out.
  • Using keywords to improve the SEO of your pins can make a huge impact.

Candace is going to take the post from here to teach us the incredible skills she has learned on her journey.

Getting Started on Pinterest

My first experience with Pinterest was back in 2010. I found that I could use Pinterest in my fashion job to save runway images and easily organize trends. It was similar to a digital scrapbook, but took MUCH less effort than scouring magazines and pinning them to a corkboard.

At this point in my life, I only used it to collect fashion trends during fashion week — which happens twice a year — and sometimes used it sparingly to save home décor inspiration, outfits, and beauty looks.

Transitioning to Pinning with a Purpose

In 2013 I quit my job to be a full-­time freelance graphic designer. It wasn’t until a few months into working with my first big freelance design client, STYLECASTER, that I was asked by the Editor-­in-­Chief to work with our social media girl on custom Pinterest graphics. The goal was to get higher engagement and click-­through rates using text overlays on Pinterest images (rather than plain pin images alone).

I was super fascinated with analytics and figuring out different ways to move the needle. Over time I began to learn what really worked visually — it was so rewarding. When our social media editor left the team my Editor-­in-­Chief asked me to step in temporarily until they could find someone. I was so infatuated with the SEO aspect of the job and flexing my left brain that I knocked it out of the park.

Prior to this I had minimal SEO knowledge, but I read a bunch of online articles, e-­books, and watched Youtube videos. They never hired a replacement. Four years later I’m still their Pinterest Account Manager.

Pinterest as a Professional

When I first started my new role as a Pinterest Account Manager I was already aware of how big the opportunity was because Pinterest was always Stylecaster’s number one traffic driver. It constantly came up in meetings. But it wasn’t until I really started to see the growth in numbers month‐over‐month that I realized how incredible it was as a marketing tool. Not only was it the top traffic referral driver, but it was completely free to use!

If you’re about to pivot from using Pinterest as a user to using Pinterest as a business, you NEED to school yourself on SEO (check out the downloadable cheat sheet to learn more about SEO!).

Free Pinterest Cheatsheet


Get your cheatsheet

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Get your cheatsheet

Pro tips for Pinterest growth

Download this handy guide full of reminders to help you run your account like a professional.

Also included with the cheat sheet is a free Photoshop Pinterest image template! You can add your own images inside this template to quickly and easily make custom graphics for your pins.

When you’re pinning for fun you aren’t thinking about whether or not people can find your pins. As soon as you switch into business mode you need to be thoughtful about every board title and pin description. I’d recommend a complete SEO overhaul. Go through your entire profile and optimize it for search. Use keywords so people can find your content.

Pinterest’s Special Sauce

What sets Pinterest apart from other social platforms is the fact that it’s evolved into less of a “social media platform” and more of a visual search engine — it’s very much like Google. When you start to think of it like that, you can see how you’d immediately adjust your strategy. It’s less about “socializing” and more about fresh content and really good SEO.

Top Pinterest Tips for Success

Subscribe to the Pinterest newsletters. Anytime they have platform changes, new case studies or trend reports, I get an email. I also follow a lot of “Pinterest Marketing” Pinterest boards. Hubspot sales, Ahalogy, and Tailwind also publish reports and helpful blog posts.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

  • Not using SEO. (noticing a trend?) 😉
  • Not pinning consistently.
  • Pinning 100% of your own content which appears very spammy / sales‐y and not genuine.
  • Pinning horizontal images — vertical works best.

Built in Features to Help You Succeed

  • The Pinterest guided search bubbles can be used for keyword research!
  • Rich pins: Pulls metadata from the pin source and displays it directly on your pins (some built-in SEO!). There are four types of Rich Pins: app, product, recipe, and article. If you’re a blogger your blog headline, description, and byline will appear in bold above your pin descriptions. If you have rich pins set up on your shop, pinners will see real-time pricing and "sold by" info. If you’re selling an app, pinners see an install button right on the pin and can purchase without leaving Pinterest! Learn more about rich pins here.
  • Analytics: Use this information to find out which pins are performing best, what topics your audience is most interested in, and pivot accordingly.
  • Promoted Pins: This is an advanced tool. If you don’t have a ton of experience promoting posts on other social media platforms I’d hold off! You don’t need to promote pins to have success on Pinterest. If you want to test it out, read up (*add link to promoted pins info on pinterest blog) on how to get the most out of promoted pins.
  • The Pinterest for business blog + case studies.

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Example of a rich pin.

  • Utilize the the guided search bubbles to help you figure out which keywords to use:

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In the above example you’ll see that the keywords in the bubbles are
the most popular search terms in relation to “font download”. Say you’re
selling a free, handwritten typeface, you might describe it like so:

“FREE font – download this modern handwritten typeface designed by
(@yourpinterest). Perfect for instagram quotes, faux-­signatures, and logotypes with a personal touch. Click through to get this downloadable on Creative Market.”

Competing Against Established Brands

Let’s face it — you will always trail far behind anyone who already has millions of followers. But there is no reason you can’t carve out your little piece of the pie. When it comes to follower count on Pinterest, some say it’s a ‘vanity metric’ because you could have 200 followers and still end up in the search results. That’s the thing about SEO, if you optimize your content and you are pinning consistently, it doesn’t matter how many people are following your dashboard because anyone can find your pins on the search pages.

Figuring Out Which Boards to Create

Create boards that appeal to your target audience. Think about what is valuable, inspiring, or helpful to them, and create boards around those topics.

Measuring Your Impact

If you’re trying to track traffic from Pinterest to your website I’d set up a Google Analytics account and monitor Pinterest referral traffic there. If you’re simply trying to track your follower growth and engagement (repins, likes, comments) you can use Pinterest native analytics for that! If you’re looking for something more advanced you can sign up for a third-­party scheduling platform like Viraltag or Tailwind, both are reasonably affordable.

Changing Your Game Up

If you’re pinning consistently and not seeing any results I would do an SEO deep dive. This might mean that people can’t find your content because it isn’t properly optimized. I’d also take a look at your feed and make sure it’s visually appealing and that the images are optimized. People want to save beautiful, aspirational or useful pins — nothing else.

Using What We’ve Learned

In this post we’ve learned about the importance of treating Pinterest like a visual search engine. This means optimizing pins to use keywords to help your SEO, organizing boards that are helpful and relevant to your audience, and creating content that is visually appealing and has a strong call to action to get people to click.

If you have additional questions, or want to share what you’ve learned, leave your thoughts in the comments section. Pinterest is always evolving and together we can stay on top of the changes.

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