When I started blogging I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t getting any traffic from Pinterest, despite pinning fairly regularly. I knew it was a key tool for food bloggers but I was confused and I wasn’t sure how to take advantage of this network. Eventually I learned the most important aspects of Pinterest and I changed my approach completely.
I don’t have thousands of followers on Pinterest (yet) and I am not the biggest expert but in less than 2 months I gained about 700 followers after being stuck at around 100 for a whole year! Obviously I wasn’t doing something right. If you are just starting with your food blog or you just want to increase your traffic using Pinterest, then these techniques will definitely help you. I wish I knew them earlier! Now after applying the below tricks, my number of followers and traffic is growing steadily every day. Here is a summary of what you will find in this guide:
- How to get more followers and traffic using Pinterest
- What plugins to add to your blog, as well as some other tricks that will help convert your reader into a Pinterest follower
- How to save time and schedule pins to multiple boards in advance
So why is Pinterest valuable to food bloggers?
Most of my traffic comes from Pinterest and it’s the most valuable social media for most food bloggers. The most popular category on Pinterest is Food & Drink and about 50% of the content on Pinterest is food related (if not even more). This means that most of the people there are searching for recipes and they love pinning beautiful food pictures. It’s important to remember that in order to succeed with Pinterest you have to pin good quality content. Quality content will always get pinned!
How to get more followers and traffic using Pinterest
1. Group boards
Group boards are your best friends! With the help of group boards you don’t just reach the people that follow you but also the people that follow the group boards. You might have 100 followers only but with a few popular group boards you can reach thousands more! There is no group board directory on pinterest so it’s difficult to find new boards. Luckily I found this site, where you can search for different group boards by category. It also lists the owner of the group board so you can contact them and request to join their board. Make sure to follow each group board’s rules, normally described under the title. With the help of group boards you can gain more followers and visitors to your blog, especially if you are just starting with Pinterest. Some of the best group boards I am part of are the Vegan Community board, where anything I pin gets lots of repins and also the Permanent Health Kick board where I pin not only healthy recipes but some other food-related articles as well.
2. Go vertical
Don’t bother pinning horizontal pictures, they will hardly get noticed. Vertical images work best, especially tall images with more than one picture. This type of picture collages are the mos t popular pins on pinterest. This is because there is a higher chance for your picture to get noticed, simply because it’s bigger. Often these pins include different pictures from the making process of a recipe and the title of the recipe as well. The most popular recipe on My Food & Happiness so far is the Crispy Oven-baked Falafels. This is because the pin seems to be very attractive and it was pinned over 50k pins (as of March 2016). I create an image like this in Photoshop for every new recipe on the blog, it’s an absolute must for me, although I don’t necessarily add that many pictures. Below you can see my 3 most popular pins and on this board on Pinterest you can see some of my other pins.
Crispy Oven-baked Falafels PIN: 50k + pins
Mediterranean Quinoa stuffed butternut squash PIN: 20k + pins
How to easily bake crispy fries and other veggies in the oven PIN: 9k + pins
(as of March 2016)
3. Describe your pins
The description of the image is just as important as the image itself. Make sure to add a good description that includes key words about your pin. Try to write a description of about 100-200 characters . This way your pins will appear in search results if the description of your pin matches the search criteria. Think about the sort of phrases a person would use when they are looking for a recipe like yours on Pinterest.
Alt and Description tags on your images
Do not ignore your Alt and Description tags! When you add a picture to your post, make sure to populate these two with a good description of your recipe. Most Pinterest plugins (more on plugins further below) use the text in either of those two tags to populate the “Description” of your pin. This way when people pin images from your site, the Description of their pins will be pre-populated with the text you want and there is a better chance of this pin to appear in search results. Here is the description you get when you pin one of the images on my Sweet Jacket potatoes recipe:
4. Create different boards
This sounds like an obvious one but it’s worth emphasizing. The more boards you have, the more interesting your profile will look. Arrange your boards so that your best are on top. Feel free to move them around as the seasons change. In winter you might want to have a “Comfort food” board that is displayed at the beginning of your list but towards summer you might want to move that down and place a “Salads” board on top. Also, I always have a general My Food & Happiness board on top that includes pins from my site only.
5. Implement “rich pins”!
For food bloggers rich pins are a must! Rich pins allow Pinterest to index your recipe ingredients, cooking time and number of servings and list them as part of your pin on Pinterest, see an example below. If your blog is on wordpress, you are probably already using a recipe plugin. This is a requirement for Pinterest to be able to “read” your recipe. Recipe plugins structure the data in a universal recipe script, which allows search engines and sites like Pinterest to extract the right metadata. You can apply for rich pins here but make sure that your site has the correct setup first. You can use the validator to check if Pinterest can extract the metadata correctly. The approval/rejection won’t come instantly I remember I waited about 1-2 months to get approved.
Rich pins are extremely useful for Pinterest users because they give an overview of the recipe. I think it works very well when the user sees a small list of ingredients or a short cooking time. It’s particularly useful for users with special dietary requirements and those that are trying to avoid a particular type of food e.g. dairy, sugar, gluten. With rich pins they can instantly check if the recipe contains any ingredients they would not use. Pinterest not only extracts the ingredients from your site but also organises them in different food categories and automatically adds a dietary label e.g. Gluten-free, Vegan etc. In addition, Pinterest probably uses this metadata in the algorithm that lists the search results when the search option is used.
Rich pin title
Notice that the cooking time and number of servings are listed automatically below the recipe title:
Pinterest adds the ingredients below your image. You can see the different categories, the Gluten free label and a “Make it” button to prompt the user to make this recipe:
6. Don’t just pin your own photos
Pin content from other blogs as well. Don’t forget that the key success to each social media is to socialize and share not only your own content but others too. So when you see an image you like and it’s something your followers might like, pin it. If there is a Pinterest account you like, follow them. Just try to be an active Pinterest user. This is something I struggle with because I have a full-time job and I can’t spend much time on Pinterest during the day. I use scheduling tools to pin from my blog (more on this further below) but I try to find time to pin from others as well when I am on my way to the office or when I have a break from work. I just look at my Pinterest feed on my mobile and normally I see something I like almost instantly. Every pin counts so the more, the better.
How to convert a reader into a Pinterest follower
So somehow a reader got referred to your site, it might have been through Pinterest or another social media channel, how do you make that reader follow you on Pinterest? It’s great if you manage to convince them to subscribe to your newsletter but for a food blog, it’s also important to try to convert them into a follower on Pinterest, which might actually be easier. 70% of the referred readers on MF&H are from Pinterest so most of the people that read my blog are Pinterest users. For me, it’s much more valuable to convert them into a Pinterest follower rather than a Facebook follower because on Pinterest they are more likely to see my content, although some might argue otherwise.
1. Pin it button
It’s important to allow easy pinning on your site. Different “Pin it” options will motivate the reader to pin your recipe and will also make the process a lot easier. By taking the person to Pinterest, there is a very good chance that they might also decide to follow your profile and your pin will be shared with his/hers followers as well. Here are the two “Pin it”options I have on each of my posts:
1.1 Before and after each blog post I have a few social sharing buttons, including a Pinterest button that will allow the reader to pin the recipe on Pinterest. The wordpress plugin I am using for this is called Shareaholic:
2.1 I also have a “Pin it” button on top of each photo, which appears once the reader hovers over an image (not visible on mobile). I have created a green “Pin it” button that matches my site’s colour scheme, which isn’t necessary but I quite like it. Some might argue that the button should remain red so that the users can easily recognise it as a Pinterest option but it’s up to you. The wordpress plugin I am using for this is called “jQuery Pin It Button For Images” and it has lots of options. For example you can exclude posts where you don’t want this button to appear on the images and you can also add a minimum size, so that the button doesn’t appear on smaller images (like the cropped one below).
2. “Follow me” options
I made these two changes to my blog and suddenly I started seeing an increase in followers on Pinterest. Basically I am prompting the user directly to follow me on Pinterest in very simple ways.
2.1 I haven’t seen this on other blogs but I created a custom image in Photoshop that I manually add to each of my blog posts. I add it somewhere between the paragraphs and link it to my profile on Pinterest. It doesn’t take too much space and it’s not a pop-up that would annoy the reader. I will soon start tracking those image links on Google Analytics and as I am curious to see exactly what percentage of people click on it:
2.2 I also use a plugin on my primary sidebar (not visible on mobile) that shows some of my latest pins on my main board on Pinterest. This board contains only pins from my site. You can create a widget like this on Pinterest. Go to your profile, click on the Settings icon and select the “Make a widget” option from the drop-down list. Then copy and paste the code where you want this to appear on your blog. Besides the sidebar you can also place it right after each post as well.
How to pin even when you are not on Pinterest using scheduling tools
Even if you are not able to spend much time on Pinterest, you can use scheduling tools to pin your images at a particular time to particular boards. It’s a huge time-saver and I wouldn’t have so many repins if it wasn’t for pin scheduling! This way you can pin at the times when you are likely to get the best engagement. There are a few tools out there that will allow you to schedule pins in advance but not all of them allow you to schedule multiple pins to multiple boards (only one at a time). Here are the two sites I have used for this:
- ViralWoot is a free tool that works relatively well most of the time. You need to pay a one-time fee to unlock some of the more advanced features but otherwise it’s free. I used it for quite some time but occasionally some of my pins used to get an error and were not getting pinned at the scheduled time. After some time I decided to invest in a better tool even though it involves a monthly subscription. This tool is a good start to see how it affects your blog’s traffic.
- Viraltag is a platform you can use not just for Pinterest but for all your other social media accounts as well like Twitter and Facebook. It costs $24 per month but it’s worth it. When it comes to Pinterest they have some options that no other tool has. For example not only you can schedule multiple pins to multiple boards but you can also create Boards lists. Boards lists allow you to create lists of boards so when you want to pin an image to multiple boards, you just select the relevant list and you don’t have to select the boards one by one. You can also add a time interval between your pins so that they are not all pinned at the same time but within 20 minutes for example. This way I can be constantly pinning to 15 boards in a time frame of 6-7 hours and it takes me just 1 minute to set up!
This is everything I know about Pinterest from my personal experience as a food blogger. I am not the master of Pinterest but with the above tips I have been able to achieve some pretty amazing results. Do you have any advice yourself? Have you tried applying any of the above techniques? I would love to hear more ideas from fellow food bloggers so please comment below if you would like to share your experience with Pinterest!