Pinterest is a powerful tool for driving traffic to your blog, yet so few travel bloggers understand how it works. Many who currently use Pinterest aren’t getting as much traffic as they could.
I, too, was confused about Pinterest when I first joined the platform in January 2018. I heard other bloggers rave about how much traffic they were getting from Pinterest. But how? I’ve spent the last 18+ months studying Pinterest and experimenting with different strategies. Now, Pinterest consistently drives 25k sessions (35k-40k pageviews) to my blog every month. The best part is that I spend 1-2 hours a week to maintain that traffic.
From October 2018 through October 2019, Pinterest sent 250k page views to my blog. That’s 40x more than Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter combined!
In this post, I’m going to give a breakdown of how Pinterest works. Then I’ll share some of my best Pinterest tips for travel bloggers to help you get more traffic.
What is Pinterest?
Pinterest is a visual search engine with elements of a social network. It’s often called a visual discovery platform because that’s what it does; it allows people to discover content through images.
Pinterest functions similarly to Google but differs in that it also encourages human participation and often suggests content that users aren’t searching for. There are group boards where bloggers in the same niche come together to share their content and collaborate. Pinterest wants users to discover new ideas through other users.
How does Pinterest work?
Pinterest recommends content – in the form of images called pins – to its 300 million users based on what topics it thinks they’re interested in. It has an algorithm that tracks every user’s activity to determine what topics the person likes. Then it suggests new content to that person on a page known as the smart feed.
When you first sign up for Pinterest, it asks you to choose 5 or more topics you’re interested in. Right from the beginning, Pinterest gets to know you as a user, and it continues to pay attention to signals of what topics interest you.
Being a search engine, Pinterest also has a search function that shows pins in response to the user’s query based on a number of factors, including:
- The keywords used to describe the pin
- The boards the pin is saved to
- The image(s) used in the pin
- The number of times the pin has been saved
When a user searches for a topic, Pinterest shows the most relevant content that matches the user’s intent. It also recommends additional content to that person based on similar topics that other users search for.
For instance, if I search for ‘Madrid Spain’ Pinterest shows me colored boxes that display additional keywords related to that topic. The keywords are arranged based on search volume from left to right. In this case, ‘Photography,’ Things To Do’ and ‘What To Wear’ are the most search keywords about Madrid, Spain.
What makes Pinterest a great source of traffic?
I think Google traffic is fantastic and believe that bloggers should learn about search engine optimization (SEO). That said, Google places a huge emphasis on trust when it comes to ranking websites. That means that older domains with more backlinks tend to outperform newer websites on search results. This puts new bloggers or those who don’t have many backlinks at a disadvantage.
Unlike Google, Pinterest is not concerned about the age of your blog or the number of backlinks you have. It only cares about the quality of your content – your pins and boards. In this way, Pinterest levels the playing field for bloggers.
Another great thing about Pinterest is that the content you share has a longer lifespan than on other social networks. The chart below compares the lifespan of content across different social networks, and Pinterest comes ahead of every platform except blogs.
Infographic courtesy of socialmediaonlineclasses.com
What does Pinterest want?
Pinterest wants to consistently show and recommend new ideas to its users and keep them coming back. In order to do that, Pinterest needs content creators – like you – who regularly share new content on the platform. That means you should create pins for your blog posts – new or old – and share them on Pinterest on a regular basis.
One of your goals is for Pinterest users to save your pins as many times as possible. That indicates to Pinterest that the content is good so Pinterest shows that content to more people. Your ultimate goal though is to get Pinterest users to click on your pins and go over to your website. That’s what leads to traffic growth.
In addition to being a content creator, you also have another important role on Pinterest: you’re a content curator. That means it’s your job to organize content into boards by topic. For example, if you write about backpacking in Asia, you can create a board called ‘Asia Backpacking Tips’ and regularly save pins about backpacking in Asia.
For example, I write a lot about Spain so I have a board called ‘Spain Travel’ that I regularly save Spain travel pins – both my own pins and other users’ pins.
Now that you have a better understanding of what Pinterest is and why it’s a great source of traffic, let’s jump into my five best tips for using Pinterest to grow your travel blog.
1. Understand what travelers are looking for on Pinterest
Pinterest is not the place to share travel reflections or personal stories. Travelers tend to go on Pinterest to find actionable travel advice and tips – what to pack for a trip around Europe, things to do in Cusco, or ways to travel on a budget. They may also be looking for inspiration, like underrated places to visit in Europe.
Pinterest users are 70% women so topics like female solo travel and travel fashion tend to do well. That said, men also go on Pinterest to search for topics like camera gear or Europe backpacking tips. Before you share something on Pinterest, think about how it would help users. Will it inspire or educate them? How will it make their lives easier?
2. Learn how to use keywords properly
Pinterest is a search engine so the keywords, or search phrases, you use to describe your pins and boards will determine your success to a large extent. That’s because keywords help your content get found on Pinterest.
If you want your intended audience to find your pin, you have to use the keywords they are searching for. On Pinterest, you can get away with less than perfect pin designs, but you will not succeed without the proper use of keywords. They are that important!
The great news is that keyword research on Pinterest is straightforward – much simpler than Google. You don’t need a keyword research tool. When you search for a word or phrase on Pinterest, it shows you related keywords, and that’s all you need. Your job is to pick out the most relevant keywords for what you’re describing.
These are the key places to include keywords on Pinterest:
- Your profile name
- Your profile bio
- Your board titles
- Your board descriptions
- Your pin titles
- Your pin descriptions
For instance, let’s take a look at my most popular board, Spain Travel.
The board title itself contains a specific search phrase that I got directed from Pinterest’s search bar. Also, the board has a description of a couple of sentences that incorporate keywords I found on Pinterest search results, such as ‘places to visit,’ ‘itinerary,’ ‘Barcelona,’ and ‘Madrid.’ I follow a similar process to write pin descriptions.
3. Create completely different pins for every post
One piece of advice I hear many Pinterest gurus give is to brand your pins. That means that you should use the same template and color scheme for all your pins. I disagree.
I think branding is important in business for cohesion and recognition. However, when it comes to Pinterest, I throw it out the window. The only branding I use on my pins is my logo.
For every post you write, you want to create multiple pins (I would say at least three) to promote it. I believe that your pins should look different from one another. Each type of design and wording will catch a different person’s attention.
Let’s take a look at three pins I created for my post, ‘Where To Eat in Madrid: 10 Must-Try Restaurants.’
In the above pins, I used different images, fonts, and wording because I want to appeal to different people. For instance, someone who is looking for a list of restaurants in Madrid would be drawn to the first pin while someone looking for an overview of the Madrid food scene would like their third. All the pins incorporate warm colors because they perform 2x better than cool colors on Pinterest, according to a Kissmetrics report.
The second pin performed the best out of the three so I know going forward to create more pins with that design. That’s another one of the benefits of creating completely different images for your posts. You get more information about what works and what doesn’t. Then you can replicate what works.
A note on pin descriptions
I should mention that it’s okay to use the same keyword-rich pin description for all pins you create for a post. I like to tweak my pin descriptions to tailor them to each pin. I write pin descriptions that are typically 3-5 sentences. They have a focus keyword and 2-3 other relevant keywords. For instance, the main keyword I wanted to rank for with this post was ‘Madrid Spain food.’ Then I added other relevant keywords like ‘restaurants’ and ‘paella.’ Here’s a pin description I wrote:
Pin descriptions are critical the first time you share a post to Pinterest because Pinterest has no idea what your post is about. For new pins you create for that post afterward, you don’t need to worry as much about the description.
4. Use incentives to get your pins to convert
One of the biggest challenges with Pinterest is creating pins that convert to clicks. One thing to keep in mind is that users will only click on your pin if what you’ve ‘advertised’ solves a problem for them. It’s your job to not only make your pins stand out, but also give users a strong incentive to click. Most Pinterest users are browsing on their phones. You want to them to pause, take a closer look at your pin, and click to your website.
I’ve found that a great way to get people to click your pins is to add an incentive, like a map or a checklist, to your post and mention it on your pin. For instance, my first viral pin was for my Walking Tour of Barcelona post. Largely thanks to this pin, that post has been shared 47k times on Pinterest.
I believe that one of the main reasons this particular pin went viral is because I included a map as an incentive. Anything that makes the user’s life more convenient increases the likelihood of clicking.
5. Focus on growing your personal boards
Remember that you’re a content creator and curator on Pinterest. Boards are the tools you use to organize content by topic.
There are two types of boards on Pinterest – personal boards and group boards. Personal boards are those that only one person, the owner of the account, can save pins to. Group boards are those that multiple people can contribute to. They allow you to get your pins in front of more people, who may save them, thereby expanding your reach.
But getting into group boards, especially the top ones, can be a hassle. You have to apply to group boards by emailing the group board leader or sending a message on Pinterest. Sometimes, you never get a response.
Rather than relying on group boards, think it’s more effective to focus on building up your own personal boards. You have more control over your own boards – the keywords and content – and you can create as many boards as you need. I have also found that personal boards are consistently my top-performing boards. That’s because I pay extra attention to make sure they are curated well, with only relevant content.
It’s best to create personal boards based on your blog content categories or the topics of the posts you plan to promote on Pinterest. You should have specific boards for the topics you write about. For instance, I write mainly about Spain so I have the following boards:
- Spain travel
- Northern Spain travel
- Southern Spain travel
- Madrid travel
- Barcelona travel
- Seville travel
Having specific personal boards that you can save your pins also makes it easier for Pinterest to understand what your pins are about. For instance, when I write a post about Madrid, I will manually save it to my Madrid travel and Spain travel boards. That way, I’m telling Pinterest exactly what my pin is about.
6. Use infographics to make Pinterest love you
Pinterest users love to save infographics. That’s because infographics condense information into a format that’s easy to understand. It summarizes the key points they need to know so they save it and reference it later.
As a travel blogger, you can use infographics to establish yourself as a great content creator in Pinterest’s eyes. Remember that the more people save your pins, the more valuable Pinterest perceives them to be. If Pinterest thinks your content is valuable, it will show your pins higher on search results and on users’ smart feeds.
Case in point: I created this pin for my post, ‘101 Free or Cheap Things To Do in Madrid’ and it has since been shared 3,000 times. It was time-consuming to create but consistently shows up at the top of Madrid search results.
Infographics don’t have to be fancy or time-consuming though. I created the second infographic above for my Walking Tour of Barcelona post in about 30 minutes. It has been saved over 10k times. Canva has over 100 infographic templates you can use to create one.
7. Have a plan and adapt as needed
In order to succeed on Pinterest, you need a solid plan for what you’ll do every day to get traffic. Every blogger who gets lots of traffic from Pinterest has a strategy in place. For instance, I created new pins weekly and pinned manually every single day for three months before I saw a traffic spike from Pinterest. A Pinterest strategy consists of:
- The content you pin
- The boards you pin your content to
- How often you pin
- When you pin
- Whether you use manual or automated pinning
There’s no one-size-fits-all Pinterest strategy. My strategy has evolved as my blog and traffic has grown. My recommendation is to start with manual pinning before using a Pinterest scheduler, like Tailwind. Actually using Pinterest will help you see first-hand how the platform works better than automating your pinning.
In the beginning, I tried scheduling my pins to Tailwind but had no idea what I was doing. Then, I spent three months pinning manually and things started to click. When you feel comfortable with Pinterest, then you can automate your pinning.
Today, I use a combination of manual and automated pinning to drive traffic to my blog. I use Tailwind to regularly schedule pins to my personal boards, focusing on my top-performing boards – Spain Travel, Portugal Travel, and Barcelona Travel. I schedule pins every Sunday evening.
I also manually repin my top 10 performing pins to my top 3 performing group boards. To find my top-performing pins, I use Google Analytics. I should note that repinning your top-performing pins is a strategy that works when you already have pins that are getting 100+ clicks per month from Pinterest.
I don’t spend as much time on Pinterest and my traffic still remains mostly constant. That indicates that once you’ve put in the work to establish yourself as a great content creator on Pinterest, then Pinterest will continue to reward you with free traffic.
Based in Los Angeles, Somto is a travel blogger and online entrepreneur. She is passionate about discovering ways to make money online and work from anywhere. In 2017, she started my blog, Somto Seeks. Thanks largely to free traffic from Pinterest, travel blogging has become her full-time job. Somto has worked with dozens of bloggers to grow their blog traffic using Pinterest. She has also been featured in various publications, including The Huffington Post and Travel Noire.