The Marketer's Guide to Pinterest SEO

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Katie Burke
Katie Burke



Once viewed as a niche player in the social space, Pinterest has become one of the fastest growing social networks ever, harnessing both an increased user base and its exponential growth as a referring site to become a considerable force in the marketing world.

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Free Resource: 12 Pinterest Templates for Business

Equally important for businesses to consider is the buying power behind Pinterest: Pinterest users purchase items more often and in greater quantities, spend more money, and shop more frequently than any other social network. So if your initial trial of using Pinterest for business has yielded positive results and you think Pinterest is a viable social media marketing platform for your business, you know what the next step is, right? Optimization!

To get you started, below we’ll outline 10 great tips to optimize your business' Pinterest presence for search.

1) Choose an Optimized Company Username

In November 2012, Pinterest finally launched Pinterest business accounts, which make registering for a business account (or converting a personal account into a business account) easy and painless. Going the “business” route also makes it easier to verify your website, add links to your Twitter and Facebook accounts, and add Pinterest buttons and widgets to your company site or blog. For more detailed information about how use Pinterest's new business accounts, check out the free HubSpot ebook, A Guide to Pinterest's New Business Accounts here.

The first thing you should do to optimize your Pinterest business account for search is to make sure your company name is straightforward. The field to indicate your company name has no character limit; but the challenge often comes with your username, which is confined to 15 characters. If your full company name fits -- fantastic! But if it doesn’t, choose something memorable, keyword-conscious, and easy to spell that is also clearly associated with your business. For example, The New York Times has amassed over 44,000 followers using the username "NYTimes," while Martha Stewart Weddings in the Middle East chose “MSWeddingsME” to differentiate itself from other Martha Stewart properties, but still capitalizing on search traffic for weddings.

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Furthermore, be sure to verify your website. Log in to your Pinterest account, and go to ‘Settings.’ Check to ensure you’ve listed your website here before clicking the ‘Verify Website’ button.

2) Optimize Your Page's 'About' Section

The Pinterest 'About' section provides you with 200 characters of prime keyword real estate, so use this space wisely. In addition to being descriptive and keyword-sensitive, your 'About' section should also be simple, succinct, and specific. Two hundred characters is plenty of space for a keyword-rich overview that covers the who, what, and where of what you do, so use it smartly -- and don't forget to add your website URL in the space provided!

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3) Include Links Back to Your Website 

Pinterest re-pin links used to be “dofollow” links, but last year, following standard practice with other social networks in the space, Pinterest adopted “nofollow” links. In other words, these links do not pass any SEO authority. But even those these links won't give you any extra oomph in terms of SEO, we still recommend optimizing for user experience and brand awareness. After all, what good is search engine optimizing your Pinterest presence if you're not ultimately driving users back to your website?

Always include a reference link back to your website with your pins, and if you re-pin a post that features your content or products, edit the description to include a full link (just don't use a URL shortener here, as Pinterest is known to mark pins containing shortended links as spam). Including a link back to your website will not only reinforce that the image is associated with your brand, but it will also open up a direct pathway to purchase (for ecommerce) or learn more (for services).

Etsy is a great example of a Pinterest presence that excels at mixing great content from other sites with products featured on its own site. In doing so, Etsy always includes a direct link to purchase the item on their site along with the username of the specific Etsy shop owner. A great example is Etsy's pin featuring a humorous burrito card, which includes a brief overview of the card under the image and a direct link to see the product on Etsy in the link's description.

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Think of links in Pinterest as providing the next step for pinners -- where they can find the image they loved enough to click, re-pin, Like, or comment on. Use links to make that distance between the pin and the content/product as short as possible so you can improve the experience of your users and eventually drive more traffic and awareness to your site -- social signals that search engines may end up picking up on in their algorithms over time.

4) Differentiate Your Pinboards

By default, Pinterest offers some general pinboard options to get users thinking about how to bucket and organize their pins into different boards. For businesses, however, getting more specific and unique in your board descriptions is critical to helping you get found on Pinterest. According to a study by RJ Metricsmore than 3% of pinboards are titled “For the Home,” followed by “My Style” and “Products I Love,” all three of which are default board names recommended by Pinterest.

Break through the pinboard name clutter and be specific and keyword-conscious in the selection of your board names. If you’re an interior designer, replace “For the Home” with “Modern Kitchens” or “Children’s Bedrooms” so that potential search terms align more closely with what end users might be looking for and increase the likelihood of standing out from the massive clutter of default --or just plain unoriginal -- board names.

5) Speak Your Customers' Language

Pinterest is not a place to play inside baseball and use expressions that are unique to your company. Your 'About' sections and board names should all be optimized using terms your target customers and buyer personas actually use in their everyday lives. Being relevant on Pinterest means understanding what your customer is looking for, what he or she is most interested in buying or pinning, and what related industries or topics the pinner might be seeking out. It should not feel like an advertising board for your products; instead, it should feel like a comfortable space that’s curated around the style, needs, and lifestyle of your potential clients.

One great example of speaking your customers' language is fashion brand 2 Penny Blue. 2 Penny Blue is a high-end fashion brand specializing in blazers, but instead of only pinning items they make and sell, the company’s Pinterest boards are centered around the types of style and advice that 2PB clients might want to emulate, including a board called “Style Muses” featuring Audrey Hepburn and Gwenyth Paltrow, accessory boards packed with current trends, and pins like a guide to navigating champagne cocktails.

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When you think about your Pinterest boards, consider your customers' buying habits, average age, and lifestyle, and build your pinning strategy around their terminology, interests, and potential search terms. For example, if you’re a real estate broker, Pinterest is a great place to pin images or videos with helpful tips for buying a home, but it’s also a great place to showcase your knowledge of your community. Boards featuring local schools, attractions, restaurants, and parks will help potential customers understand the markets where you sell and build trust that you understand their needs. Create authentic boards that connect to your clients and how they live, and use terminology that is straightforward and relatable. The search engines, your audience, and Pinterest will thank you for it!

6) Use Your Pins' Descriptions Wisely

The biggest opportunity for text-based content on Pinterest is the description area for each individual pin. Here, the platform gives you 500 characters to work with, which users can fill with anything from recipe instructions, to notes and commentary, to credits for other vendors, to location and usage information ... and more

When describing your pins, include terms that your users will relate to and use on their own, add links to the original product or content, and consider adding instructions on product usage or care. The great balancing act with descriptions is ensuring that you include relevant keywords, relatable context, and easy-to-follow links to the content featured in the post. For example, real wedding website Style Me Pretty has almost five million followers on Pinterest and some of the most liked and re-pinned content on Pinterest. In addition to choosing beautiful imagery that’s relevant to their audience, they also tailor their descriptions perfectly for SEO. Their pin showcasing do-it-yourself noisemakers includes a link to the Style Me Pretty website for instructions, links to the photographer and stylist, and a quick overview of what pinners can expect (DIY noisemakers and escort cards) when they click through on the pin to the website.

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One of the single biggest mistakes companies make on Pinterest is being lazy about their pins' descriptions. Ignoring the descriptions altogether, using language that your customers don’t understand or relate to, linking to irrelevant content (or not linking out at all), or just repeating keywords over and over again is a great way to get lost in the SEO shuffle. Instead, focus on creating remarkable descriptions that help you stand out from the pack.

7) Make Sure the Images You Pin Have Descriptive File Names & Alt Text

Given that Pinterest is a highly visual platform, using interesting imagery that is formatted and named correctly can have a significant impact on the success of your boards -- and individual pins themselves. Many companies make the mistake of uploading photos using their default names. For example, an image named 1.13.13ShootImage722.jpg doesn’t help you at all in search, while a clearly named “Boston-townhouse.jpg” can help a search engine decipher what your image is about much more easily. Furthermore, if you pin an image from your website, make sure that image has clear alt text associated with it. The same rule we talked about with pin descriptions also applies here: Use naming conventions your customers will identify with. If a product you're pinning has an obscure name that isn’t broadly known or intuitive, skip it in favor of a potential keyword search term.

In addition, make an effort to size your images optimally for Pinterest. Pinterest does not place any restrictions on the height of an image, but it does constrict the width of images to 554 pixels. Dan Zarrella's analysis shows that taller images are more re-pinnable -- likely because they take up more space in users' Pinterest feeds -- so use that to your advantage. Make sure your images are properly sized for use on Pinterest, use high-quality, beautiful imagery, and keep in mind that in this case, height is a distinct advantage, so if you’re assembling a “recipe for technology implementation success” or an inspiration board of your company goals for 2013, create an image that is tall, visually interesting, and aptly named using appropriate keywords.

8) Incorporate Hashtags

That's right! Hashtags are no longer just for Twitter. In fact, hashtags on Pinterest not only allow you to organize pins by a specific theme or campaign, but they also make your pins a lot more searchable. For example, Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida knows that wedding planning is one of the most common uses of Pinterest. As a result, pins on their “Weddings @ Rollins” board, which includes photos of alumni getting married in various locations throughout campus, are organized using hashtags such as #RollinsCollege, #Knowles Chapel, and #Winter Park to ensure that brides searching by city, college, or a specific destination on campus can easily find images of their potential venue.

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This maximizes awareness of Rollins College's wedding venue offerings while staying top of mind for brides searching for those terms. And these integrated efforts have definitely paid off: The Weddings @ Rollins board ranks on the first page of a Google search alongside its homepage for the search term "florida wedding rollins," giving engaged couples great visual content to drive interest and purchase intent as they plan their weddings.

9) Leverage the Long Tail

As we know from the success of big brands like Amazon, Google, and Netflix, the long tail isn't just a niche strategy for small businesses. Take a page out of their books when you put your pins' descriptions together. For example, according to Repinly, food and drink still represent more than 11% of all pins, so if you’re trying to get found by pins about chocolate chip cookies or wine, just writing a short, literal description of your pin is not going to help you cut through the clutter and stand out from the pack. Instead, identify niche, long-tail terms that your customers might pin around, and get more granular with your descriptions.

Stumped about how to get more specific? Consider adding your location, product use case details, or the audience you’d like to target to help you master the long tail. Here are some examples:

  • Location: Mistral Boston includes its restaurant name and location right within its Pinterest username, then adds even more clarity by identifying its neighborhood (South End) and style of cuisine (French Mediterranean). Doing so helps them stand out in the space and assists pinners who are looking for great, high-end restaurants in the Boston area.
  • Use Case: RELAX Wines fills its Pinterest account with food recipes that pair well with their wines, backyard entertaining ideas, and even ideas for how to put your finished wine bottles to good use (e.g. wine cork ornaments, garden torches, etc). Help people understand creative ways to use your product or services -- it will improve your SEO while also providing followers with more context around usage.
  • Audience: The Seattle Seahawks football team is one of the top sports brands on Pinterest. By outlining specific gift ideas for men, women, and kids, they leverage the fact that 44% of NFL fans are now female to market holiday products, gift ideas, and specific, targeted holiday promotions, all of which helps fans and non-fans alike identify wish list items for their favorite Seahawk supporters.

When it comes to descriptions, think about long-tail keywords for your business and industry. Identify keywords that are slightly more specific than “chocolate chip cookies” or “insurance companies” to help people find you more readily, and to help you stand out from the crowd in search results. For more information about the long tail, check out our ultimate guide for mastering long-tail search.

10) “Pinjack” Relevant Search Terms and Images

Although the number and engagement of male users on Pinterest is growing, Pinterest’s core user base demographics skew toward female users, so “pinjacking” trends and events relevant to avid pinners can be a great way to increase your organic search. For example, one of the top organic Google search results for “DIY Halloween Costumes” comes not from Walmart, Target, or some costume shop, but from Goodwill Industries of Western Michigan.

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By combining highly shareable imagery from other highly trafficked sites, trendy costumes, and great board descriptions, Goodwill Industries has managed to improve its overall online presence and increase visibility outside of traditional terms like “Goodwill locations” or “shopping at Goodwill” by taking advantage of pinjack-able trends (think newjacking, but for Pinterest!) and timing around Halloween to maximize their online awareness and traffic.

The role Pinterest plays for businesses is growing every day. With 11 million users and growing, the network provides a unique opportunity for companies to leverage visual content, quality descriptions, and insight into customers’ lifestyles and needs while growing their reach and improving their organic search results. Just as with any website, your focus as a business should be on creating remarkable content and a strong community around your product, services, and brand. Happy pinning!

Image Credit: Peter Alfred Hess

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