4 Tests That Boost Pinterest Ad Conversions, According to a PPC Expert

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Duane Brown
Duane Brown



In Q2 of 2019, Pinterest reportedly hit 300 million monthly active users.


The social media platform, which encourages users to share and pin image-based posts to boards for inspiration and entertainment purposes, is also seen as a place prospective customers can go to research various products.

While some Pinterest users pin posts about tourism activities to vacation idea boards, others looking for ideas for decorating their house or office might create boards related to home inspiration.

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Because Pinterest emphasizes imagery and creative inspiration, it's a great place for brands with visual marketing strategies -- like tourism, dining, fashion, or home improvement.

Through the Pinterest Ads Manager, brands can also create, launch, and test pay-per-click ads.

Pinterest is a great place for branded content, but as a PPC strategist who's helped brands experiment with and scale efforts on this platform, I know how tricky it can be to run a successful pay-per-click strategy there.

Because people on Pinterest want to be inspired and prefer to visualize items being used in real life, ads with promotional captions and basic product shots probably aren’t going to cut it.

You might have to think more creatively to run successful PPC ads on Pinterest, but you should still take this platform seriously if you're trying to experiment with new ways of promoting your products.

Why? Pinterest receives more than 2 billion searches per month, and roughly 600 million of them are done using Pinterest Lens tech.

Lens, launched in 2017, is like a reverse Google Image Search. When using the Pinterest app or desktop site, you can take or upload a photo of something -- such as a chair. Then, you can search for it and get directed to pins with that chair or a similar furniture item that might have a similar color or shape.

The images below show how the Lens works and what kinds of results it might send a user:

Taking a photo of a coffee cup with Pinterest's Lens Search option
Pinterest Lens search results showing photos of coffee cups

The Lens feature provides new opportunities to brands as people use it to find more information about the products they like or have seen in real life. In fact, many Lens searches relate to products across categories like:

  • Retail
  • Beauty and fashion
  • Food
  • Travel
  • Auto

If you're targeting anyone under 60 years old with your campaign, odds are that a portion of those people will find themselves on Pinterest as they research and look for inspiration for their next purchase.

But just running campaigns and hoping for success isn't enough. You always need to find a way to experiment with, track, and improve on your performance.

As you're building out your Pinterest marketing strategy, there are two major areas that I would test first: Audience targeting and A/B testing.

Like any online ad strategy, identifying effective target audiences and posting quality content will have a major impact on how well you are going to do on Pinterest.

How do you know which audiences to target or what content is considered good? You run experiments.

Below, I'll walk you through four Pinterest advertising experiments that focus primarily on audience targeting and image testing. I'll also highlight the results I gained from testing Pinterest ads for Fun & Function -- a brand that sells toys and products designed for children and young adults on the autism spectrum.

Targeting Your Pinterest Ads

Running ads on Pinterest is similar to runnings ads on other online platforms, like Facebook. This means you'll similarly want to identify and leverage your target audience.

To help you with audience targeting, the Pinterest Ads Manager allows you to upload contact lists. When you launch an ad, you can then select this list in your targeting settings and Pinterest will show the content to users that created an account with a matching email address. You can also direct your ad to be shown to a group of Pinterest users that share similar demographics and interests with people on your contact list.

For further audience targeting, you can also use place a Pinterest tag code on your own website. A tag code, formerly called a Pinterest Pixel, is a unique piece of JavaScript that allows Pinterest to track purchase behavior information about your own website visitors.

With the data Pinterest's tag code collects, the Ad's Manager can create more lists of people that you can target your ads to.

Like Google Ads, the Pinterest Ads Manager also allows you to target different audiences with keywords or create ad groups (or a group of multiple ads) for each PPC campaign.

Below, I've highlighted two experiments you can do to find out which audience targeting strategies will work best for your ads.

Experiment 1: Target ads using remarketing lists.

Fun & Function wanted to bring in more revenue, grow audiences, and target prospective buyers beyond Google and Facebook. Since the toy brand already had remarketing lists -- or lists of contacts that had shown interest in buying its products -- I knew that targeting these contacts and similar audiences on Pinterest was the smartest first move.

Remarketing lists include people that have done something to show interest in your product. For example, these lists could include contacts of prospects who've called you, people who've abandoned carts, previous customers, or marketing email subscribers.

When it comes to targeting an audience on Pinterest, it's usually most effective to leverage and upload remarketing lists. This allows you to send an ad to people who've shown interest in your product, which could remind them to purchase it or make them want to research it more thoroughly.

When I began working with Fun & Function's Pinterest ads, I uploaded these remarketing lists:

  • Site Visitors for 30 days and 60 days
  • Visitors Starting Checkout in the past 30 and 60 Days
  • Purchasers in the past 30 and 60 days

By building and uploading the email and contact lists above, we were able to increase conversions on Fun & Function's Pinterest ads by 30%.

When running this list experiment, we found that the Purchasers list, noted above, helped us upsell more products to Fun & Function's previous customers. For precise targeting, we also could use lists to automatically exclude people marked as "Purchasers" from ads targeted at people on "site visitors" or "visitors starting checkout" lists.

Once you populate your own lists, I would start to test ads for each audience and see which group drives better performance. As you get started, you should also remember that people come to Pinterest to be inspired and research for future purchases. They're not always in the purchase mindset right away.

Let any test you run last for at least 30 days, which should give even the smallest brand an opportunity to see how Pinterest works for their brand.

Experiment 2: Test relevant keywords.

Once you've experimented with remarketing lists, move on to testing keyword targeting.

If you've run PPC ads on search engines like Google or Bing, take your best-performing keywords and use those as your first list of words or phrases you're going to use for Pinterest ad targeting.

Sometimes, when you target ads with just keywords, you might find that one keyword creates a large audience size. Having too large of an audience might mean that your ads are being seen or clicked on by people who might not be that interested in your product. It also might mean you pay more for an ad that's less effective because it's sent out to so many people.

To zone in on the most effective target audience, rather than promoting your post to the biggest audience, test out ads that use marketing targets, such as keywords and remarketing lists. This should shrink down your list size and give you a more specific group of people to go after.

Again, let tests run for 30 days. Testing different remarketing lists and keyword audiences is the best way to determine what's going to work for your brand on Pinterest.

Images and Creative Assets

Experiment 3: Test content that works well on Facebook Ads

Pinterest and Facebook are very similar in that they both use images and videos as their primary ad format.

If you've already used Facebook Ads, you should identify which imagery is already doing well on that platform. Then, bring those assets and strategies over to Pinterest. Use those images and videos in your first round of ads and see how they perform.

Your audience on Pinterest and Facebook might be very similar. But, sometimes your Facebook assets may not work on Pinterest. For example, one of the key differences you'll notice between Facebook and Pinterest ads is how lifestyle imagery and product shots perform.

If you haven't worked with visuals before, lifestyle imagery incorporates a product into scenes from daily life, while product shots are usually just photos of a product.

Need a visual example of lifestyle imagery? In this Target pin, the store uses lifestyle imagery by showing its products naturally within a room.

Pinterest post from Target showing products in lifestyle image

When it comes to lifestyle versus product shots, Facebook users will engage with ads that feature a product shot. However, we've found that lifestyle images do a lot better on Pinterest.

If your Facebook assets aren't engaging on Pinterest users, try the opposite approach where your Pinterest ads contain imagery that's completely different from what you've used on Facebook.

Experiment 4: A/B test different types of images.

The tests you do related to audience targeting should also be complemented with the testing of images and other creative assets -- like videos or infographics. Pinterest is a visual platform after all.

When I began doing A/B tests for Fun & Function, we wanted to determine which types of images we should make more of going forward.

To run our Pinterest-based A/B test, we created a series of ads that each promoted one of Fun & Function's cheapest or best-selling items. For each product, we uploaded four images into an ad group: two product shots and two lifestyle images.

We then showed all the Pinterest ad variations to users who abandoned their Fun & Function shopping cart or people who already bought a similar item. We found that lifestyle images produced 50% more conversions and revenue than ads with a product shot.

Aside from product versus lifestyle imagery, here are a few other creative asset tests you can run with your Pinterest ads:

  • Aspirational images: These images show people achieving something or completing tasks. Away -- a luggage company -- does a great job of showing off this type of imagery.
  • Single people vs. groups of people in images: On some platforms, people might be drawn to ads with multiple people in them over ads showing just one person. When you run A/B tests, consider making an ad group with a few images with a varying number of people.
  • Story and non-story based images for carousel ads: Test out carousel ads that have photos that work together in a sequence against carousels that have less connected imagery.
  • Short brand awareness videos vs. longer video formats: Some people prefer to see a quick video while other groups might enjoy longer-form more. Determine which preference your target audience has by testing these two formats.

Monitoring Your Pinterest Experiments

The key to successful Pinterest advertising is to test and see what works well for your brand. So, as you plan and launch each experiment, pay careful attention to the key performance indicators (or KPIs) that are important to your company. These success metrics could include micro or macro conversions, web traffic, or ROI rates.

As mentioned above, run each experiment for at least 30 days. This will give you enough time to get valuable results and actionable learnings from each test.

Even when you are hitting your KPIs and enjoying what Pinterest has to offer. Don’t settle and slow down. Continue building on your momentum and test out your audiences and assets.

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