Pinterest is the current darling of social media, and for good reason. According to Experian Hitwise, it is the third most popular social network in the US in terms of total visits (21.5m visits in one week in January 2012, 30 fold increase vs. July 2011).

Pinterest is primarily considered part of an overall social media strategy, but whilst doing some SEO planning for a Client the other day I realised how well it could also fit within the SEO framework.

This blog gives my approach to using Pinterest to identify potential domains for link building and find relevant bloggers/influencers to build relationships with.

It’s deliberately simple because simple ideas are quicker to implement.

Step 1. Make sure you have clear targets

These will come from the standard planning you do for any SEO project with a hit list of keyword queries that you want to go after.

Why do you need targets?

Because heading into Pinterest with no clear goal and then trying to find the most useful content would be like finding a needle in a haystack.

There are so many contributors, boards and pins that you need to be able to use the search tools to refine the information and surface content relevant to specific subjects.

Step 2. Prioritise the keywords you want to build links for

Rome wasn’t built in a day. Link building is a long-term project, so you need to set realistic targets to grow quality links over time.

To get a ‘hit list’, I like to relate this back to commercial potential. My formula for doing this gives indicative data, not absolutes, so please bear this in mind. You need to calculate two potential uplifts from linking with other people:

Higher rankings leading to increased organic search traffic

Keywords you already rank for

For these you can take data from Google Analytics or other analytics tools. Look at:

  • The opportunity gap between the visits you currently get and total local monthly searches.
  • Estimate uplift in visits based on higher SERPs ranking due to improved link building.
  • Calculate the revenue uplift assuming the same average order value & conversion rate (this works best for retail e-commerce but you can use goal values for B2B sites).

Below is a snapshot of this in practice, used for a digital marketing agency (where conversion is submitted leads/consultancy bookings etc) to estimate revenue impact at keyword level for improved SEO.

This calculates the maximum revenue potential based on getting an impression for every search made for that keyword, using existing conversion rate and average order value. 

Keywords you don’t already rank for

Here you are looking for volume/value. Use tools like the Google External Keyword Tool and Google Insights to identify monthly search volumes and which of the keywords are trending (if search activity is falling off a cliff, you don’t want to go after that keyword as a link target).

You can then calculate commercial potential in one of two ways:

Where there is a close match keyword you already have data for, plug in the target keyword to the model above and use the metrics for the existing keyword.

Where there is no close match in existing data, use the top-level metrics for your organic search data (if you have used advanced segments to drill down into head/mid/long tail, use the most relevant data set).

The output

This will give you a (very rough) calculation of keyword potential. For the keywords that have the most potential, you now need to explore Pinterest to identify potential linking partners.

Prioritise keywords into High / Medium / Low:

  • High = strategically or commercially essential for the business to be highly visible in SERPs.
  • Medium = will provide commercial gain but direct financial impact lower.
  • Low = desirable to have dominance in SERPs but commercial impact will be low.

Step 3. Use Pinterest search tools to find relevant content

This is oh so simple. In the search bar, enter the keyword query you’re interested in.

Et voila, up pop all the pins that match your keyword search. You’ll need to play around with similar keyword searches to unearth the hidden gems.

Now you need to scan the Boards and People tabs to find visual matches that satisfy the criteria of what you’re looking for. As a general indicator, pins with the highest level of activity (likes, repins, comments) indicate ‘high quality’ content.

What you’re looking for is content that has a lot of social love because this indicates that the source is good quality.

Click on individual pins and look for two pieces of information:

  • Person who pinned it.
  • Referral source of the image.

Step 4. Evaluate the options and pick the ‘winners’

My definition of a ‘winner’ is a pin where either the person who pinned it represents a high quality target for SEO, or the referral website where the image comes from represent a high quality target (in the context of the keyword hit list you are targeting).

How to decide this

For people:

Assess pinners on the following criteria:

  • How popular are they on Pinterest? If they were to pin your content, what reach could it have?
  • Are they regular content contributors or are they ‘once in a while’? The more regular the better as they are more likely to build an audience.
  • How active are they on social media? What other social audiences could you tap into if they were interested in what you have to offer?
  • How good is their own website? Is it professional and would it be a positive association for your brand?

If they can tick the box for all of these criteria, this indicates that this person is worthwhile connecting with and encouraging them to use their social influence to increase the impact of your brand.

Please note, I’m not just talking about getting them to push you on Pinterest. I mean this in the wider SEO context, building proactive relationships whereby you can build links and social sharing via their web presence and audiences.

For referral websites:

Assess websites on the following criteria:

  • Is the website professional and well designed?
  • Does it get a good level of traffic? (only possible to qualify for large volume sites unless you find a web owner willing to volunteer this info).
  • Is the content relevant to your brand, products & services?
  • Would association with this website be positive for brand positioning?
  • Is there a natural fit for links to your website that would add value to the web owners and his/her visitors?

Relating this back to link building, there are certain criteria that determine whether or not a source makes a valuable link partner. A good link source:

  • Is contextually relevant.
  • Is visible to humans and search engines.
  • Provides original, high quality content.
  • Can be followed by search engines.
  • Comes from domains with good authority and trust.

Look at the direct traffic potential

This is a difficult one to gauge because free tools like Alexa only rank traffic for the top 1m websites, meaning many high potential blogs fall off the radar.

However, where you have identified a high traffic domain, you can check the data in Alexa and Google Ad Planner to see how their visits are trending.

Give each domain a traffic potential score from one (low) to five (high) based on what you can find and your ‘guestimate’ of how likely links from the domain are to drive traffic to your website.

It is logical to prioritise domains rated four or five as intelligently placed links on these are more likely to deliver traffic volume than links on websites with limited visitors.

Tip: put yourself in the shoes of the visitor. What type of person is likely to visit the website? Would they be looking to follow links to access more information? Or are they going to be a ‘in and out’ visitor?

Step 5. Get the ball rolling

This is the hardest part. You now need to give the people you want links from a genuine reason to work with you. This means:

  • Building a connection via Pinterest and their other social profiles.
  • Contributing to their communities.
  • Defining a value proposition.
  • Communicating this proposition once you have established a relationship.
  • Influencing them to increase the likelihood that they listen and respond.
  • Rewarding them for working with you.
  • Maintaining the relationship so the tumbleweed doesn’t set-in.

I’m not going to dive into persuasion techniques in this blog, I won’t be able to do them justice. For further reading, I recommend:

  1. Social Media Examiner - Cultivating better relationships through blog comments (relevant to your own blog + leaving comments on other bloggers’ blogs)
  2. SEOMoz – Buildng awseome relationships
  3. Successfulblogging.com – 8 ways to buld relationships with bloggers online (simple techniques that work).

Of course the best way to get Pinterest link love is to produce beautiful visual content that other people pin for you. Once you are established on Pinterest, you can use the trust and connections to reach out. 

How would you use Pinterest to support SEO targets?

From your experience, does my blog hit the mark? Have you thought about using Pinterest as part of a link building plan? Are you already using it?

I’d be interested to hear from you and hear how you are or plan to use Pinterest to support link building and SEO, or if you think I’ve gone mad and am talking complete nonsense.