The Beginner’s Guide to Pinterest (Part 1)

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Very few websites have seen the meteoric rise of interest and engagement that Pinterest has, and – as you might expect – this rapid adoption offers plenty of potential for website owners to get their content noticed.  But what is Pinterest, and how can you use this innovative new website to promote your own content in the increasingly noisy digital environment?

Let’s take a closer look at how to use this fun new social bookmarking program to promote your website effectively…

Essentially, Pinterest is a visual way to organize your internet bookmarks.  Instead of simply saving interesting links to your browser’s bookmark menu or making use of list-based social bookmarking services, Pinterest allows you to create image-heavy “boards” where you can capture and sort interesting links by group, as well as share your curated links with your followers.

The first step to using Pinterest is to score an invite, as the program is not yet open to general registrations.  The Pinterest website allows you to request an invitation, but since this process may take several weeks, you can also ask friends who are current members for an invite or post your request to the Pinterest Facebook page for an immediate response.

Once you’re inside, you’ll likely find the site’s set up to be overwhelming at first, as your first login will greet you with every item your Facebook and Twitter contacts have pinned recently.  Don’t panic – once you spend a little time exploring the site, you’ll find that the way it’s set up makes intuitive sense.

To really understand how Pinterest works, start by installing the “Pin It” button to your browser’s bookmarking toolbar and creating your first board.  Keep the topic of your first board relatively narrow – for example, “Recipes to Try” or “Styles I Love.”  Remember, you can always expand the subject of your board, but ultimately, you’ll likely find that narrowly-defined board topics are most useful to you and your followers.

Let’s walk through an example to get an idea of how Pinterest is used…  Say you keep a list of inspirational blog posts that you like to read when you’re having a rough day.  In this case, consider creating a Pinterest board titled, “Inspirational Blog Posts,” which will provide you with a visual collection of these posts that you can reference when you need an extra kick in the pants.

To load your Pinterest board with the posts you’ve already collected, visit each post on your list and click the “Pin It” button from your browser’s toolbar to add it to your newly created board.  Pinterest will automatically grab an image from the post and add it to your board, where you can reference it at a later date.  As you continue to come across inspirational blog posts, you can make sure these pages are tracked by clicking the “Pin It” button again to store new posts on your Pinterest board.

By now, you should be starting to see how a site that enables readers to share web pages amongst each other in this way offers some interesting opportunities for site owners.  In fact, the power of Pinterest as an SEO and social bookmarking tool comes from two specific elements:

  1. The fact that Pinterest users can quickly and easily share “Pins” amongst each other (contributing to an effortless, viral expansion of brand awareness), and
  2. That every image used as a Pinterest pin retains a source link back to the original page from which the image was collected – no matter how many times it’s shared.

Basically, when one of your followers sees a pin you’ve posted and likes it, she has the opportunity to “re-pin” it, making the pin accessible to all of her followers as well.  If a pin is interesting enough, it’s possible for the content to go viral as it’s shared amongst different groups of people.  This has substantial implications for the use of Pinterest to build your brand and increase awareness of your offerings across a wide network of users.

In addition, every time you create or share a Pinterest pin, you’re forming a back link to the original site, which can then be spread throughout your social networking connections.  As of right now, these links are still “do follow”, lending a tremendous amount of authority to links from the site, although there’s speculation that the company may convert these links to “no follow” in the future due to the potential for link spam (as in other social bookmarking sites).

Here’s how to use Pinterest in order to safely and ethically promote your website on this new social networking site:

1 – Share your own content via Pinterest

If you run a blog, you can create a board that’s specifically related to your blog, as well as Pinterest pins for your favorite pieces of content from your site.  Your Pinterest followers can then subscribe to this board and “re-pin” your posts to their own profiles, allowing awareness of your content to spread virally and result in a steady stream of new back links to your site.

Of course, you shouldn’t create a pin for every single post you write.  This looks “spammy” and may cause people to stop following your board if you pin too often and clog up their profiles.  Instead, create pins for only your best content to increase your chances of getting shared.

2 – Position content on your site for easy sharing on Pinterest

Just as you’ve added social sharing buttons to your site to enable readers to easily upload your content to Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites, you can also optimize your content for effective sharing on Pinterest.

The first thing you’ll want to keep in mind is that Pinterest is a visual network.  If you don’t incorporate images into your posts, your content can’t be automatically shared on Pinterest (although users can add it manually if they’re so inclined).  For this reason, it’s important to add an aesthetically-pleasing, relevant image to each post to make your content as attractive as possible on your readers’ Pinterest boards.

Depending on your niche, you may also find it valuable to integrate a “Pin It” button directly onto your pages.  Adding this feature to your product pages, best blog posts or other important pieces of content will increase the number of times your content is shared on Pinterest, as well as give you control over the specific images, descriptions and links that are associated with your pins.

3 – Increase back links by “reclaiming” pins

Occasionally, you’ll find content from your site shared on Pinterest without a link back to your site, which can occur if your content is syndicated to other sources like blog directories, Google Shopping and other aggregate sites.  By searching Pinterest for relevant brand and product keywords, you can find these pins and contact the owners to request that the link be modified, dramatically increasing the number of Pinterest links pointing back to your site.

Because Pinterest has mostly been used to share personal interest items (like recipes, home décor ideas and shopping lists), there’s a tremendous opportunity for webmasters to obtain a “first mover” advantage by being among the first to showcase their content on Pinterest.  If you haven’t already, take a look at this fun new site and get started pinning – you’ll be amazed at the amount of traffic and interest this seemingly-simple site can generate!


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