026: How Pinterest Analytics can Boost your Blog with Kate Ahl from Simple Pin Media

Welcome to episode 26 of the Food Blogger Pro podcast! This week marks the 6th month anniversary of the FBP podcast – so exciting! We’ve learned so much in the last 6 months, and we’ve really loved sharing it with all of you. Thank you thank you for being our loyal subscriber!

This week on the podcast, Bjork is talking with Kate Ahl from Simple Pin Media about Pinterest!

Last week on the podcast, Bjork interviewed John Cocoran from Smart Business Revolution. They talked about how connecting with influencers can really help your blog grow. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.

How Pinterest Analytics can Boost your Blog

For most bloggers (myself included), Pinterest Analytics are really just used as a comparison tool – how the blog did this week versus last week. However, Kate from Simple Pin Media specializes in digging deep into Pinterest Analytics to really see what works – and then she coaches her clients on how to use that information to grow their blogs.

In this insightful interview, Kate shares:

  • What Pinterest is and how it is used
  • How Pinterest out-performs other social media channels like Facebook and Twitter
  • How to get your pins to show up higher in search
  • What the difference is between a user account and a business account on Pinterest
  • How you should be using Pinterest analytics
  • How to use “content upgrades” to increase opt-ins on your site using information from Pinterest
  • The first thing Kate and her team do for a new client’s Pinterest profile
  • How to keep tabs on what’s trending on Pinterest
  • How to find the boards that perform well for you

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Bjork Ostrom: Welcome to episode number 26 of the Food Blogger Pro Podcast. Hey there, it’s Bjork. Yes, indeed, you are listening to the Food Blogger Pro Podcast episode number 26. Crazy that we are already here. Today we’re going to be talking with Kate Ahl from Simple Pin Media about Pinterest. Believe it or not, Pinterest is an important strategy for building your blog, especially if you have a food blog. For those of you that have been following along with the Food Blogger Pro Podcast for a while, you know that we had previous podcasts that focused in on Pinterest. It was actually episode 19 with Susan Wenner Jackson from Ahalogy talking about some general Pinterest strategies. We’re going to do a little bit of that in this podcast as well, but one of the things that kids kind of talk about is Pinterest Analytics. She’s going to be talking about how you can use Pinterest Analytics to discover more about your content and what content is working well. One of the things that I found really interesting that Kate talked about in this podcast was how she uses Pinterest to help her clients build an email list. I think you’ll really find that valuable when we get to that part in the interview. Without further ado, Kate, welcome to the podcast.

Kate Ahl: Thanks for having me, I’m excited too.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, it’ll be great. We’re going to jump into some really specific topics around Pinterest. We’re going to be talking about Pinterest Analytics and some really good content that people can take and take action on. Before we do that, I want to take a step back a little bit. We’re going to still talk about Pinterest, but on a super high level. I’ll explain why I’m asking this. I feel like sometimes what happens is bloggers or brands, we get so far into something that we kind of forget to take a step back and say like, “What is it that we’re actually doing?” My first question to you leading it off, tell me this Kate. What is Pinterest?

Kate Ahl: Such a big broad question, I love it! Pinterest is basically at its core this … I like to think of like a magazine. Before we had these physical magazines or we would tear our pages and we would put them into binders. It’s basically this big online place where we can tear out pages, or pin things that we love that we want to revisit in the future, or that will make our life easier, or that we’re inspired by. We call it a search and discovery network as well because people are going onto Pinterest and they’re searching for … Not to use a super big fruity term, but their dreams if you will. When I’m dreaming for my future house remodel, or what I’m going to wear in the fall, or how I’m going to business build using my blog, there’s a lot of people who use it over there to curate ideas for future business growth. Essentially, it’s just this big platform of ideas and I kind of think it as the new Google with images. Instead of getting these text links, we’re able to engage with just images. That’s how I describe Pinterest to people who just don’t understand it or they’re confused by it. They think it’s just weddings and nails, and it’s certainly not just towards that type of category or recipes, it’s geared towards any idea. I just like to think of it as this big bucket of ideas basically.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s interesting, and I feel like it has that kind of association of how it started where when I heard about Pinterest, it was like, “Well, it’s you know, it’s like …” Like you said, like weddings and maybe DIY and makeup. Wow’s, that for girls, right?

Kate Ahl: Yeah. Oh, totally, yes!

Bjork Ostrom: I was like, “Well, this is what we do for a living. I should probably get on and try it on a little bit.” I did, and I was like, “Oh my gosh. There’s all of this other content.” This was obviously a few years ago. There was inspiring photographers and there was obviously the tech community that was on there posting about different technology related stuff. It’s this, Like you said, this huge pool that you can draw different ideas and inspiration from. What I find so fascinating is that it’s all very visual. Needless to say, it’s all image based. There’s this huge shift with the internet in general, social media, things like that, going to a very visual way of communicating and I think that’s evidenced in Pinterest’s growth through the years, just how quickly it grew, and a big part of that being the visual concept of it. We know what Pinterest is, we’ve talked about that. In case anybody is totally in the dark or for those that are so far in it that they forget to take a step back and think about it at a high level. Tell me this, with a understanding of what Pinterest is, why is it important for brands or blogs to be on Pinterest?

Kate Ahl: I think number 1, it is because of the search factor, because we see Pinterest has evolved from, like you said, this first coming out as this invite only platform where it just seemed like you’re sharing ideas into this place where we search for ideas now. If you are a brand or business and people are using Pinterest, let’s say, more than they are Google, and I don’t know those numbers for fact, but I just know what people tell me, that they go there if they’re going to look for something first before they would Google it. That’s really important for you to have your product over there, because then people can not only … Let’s see you set up a board, you need to have boards, and then you need to have pins, and then you … That’s when people can really start to engage with you. I really do think that if you’re not at least … If you haven’t set up a board over there with at least your products, or your pin, or your recipes, or whatever it is that you provide for your audience, you’re really missing out on another piece of your audience that could be over there.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s interesting. It’s interesting to think about it in the context of search, and I think that so often, obviously we think about Google as the place to go for search. Oftentimes, there’s these other social media like areas where people go to search. I think of Youtube as another example where if you want to learn how to do something, a lot of times people will go straight to Youtube to figure that out. In this case, with Pinterest, if you want to learn or get inspiration or ideas, which what you said earlier for a certain project or recipe, you go to Pinterest because it’s so easy to engage with that content visually. There’s a really small nuance to the difference between, or maybe it’s not, maybe it’s a huge difference, between a Google search result and a Pinterest search result in that with Pinterest you have such a strong visual landscape that you can look through and find inspiration from.

Kate Ahl: Yeah, and I think it’s also important to note that there’s a big audience on Pinterest that is … They’re reader based, they’re looking for articles. I even know talking to a lot of my friends that aren’t in the business of Pinterest that use it for as a user does, they will tell me a lot of times that they read articles on Pinterest all the time. Whereas they don’t Google something to look for a topic, they just go onto Pinterest and they kind of follow the rabbit trail, but I love that idea that they’re finding great article content there which says that that’s an important piece beyond just recipes, or weddings, or whatever, that people are going there to get inspiration for life things, whether it’s parenting, or money, or any of those things that have to do with your home or your life. If you’re listening to this and you’re thinking, “I just write articles, it’s not really applicable.” It’s absolutely is applicable, because I know that many people are doing that over there.

Bjork Ostrom: That makes a lot of sense. I want to actually tie that in to a quote that I saw from your about page. You said that with Simple Pin Media, you work specifically with Pinterest and you talk about how in a lot of ways it outperforms Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. Why is it that Pinterest in your eyes is a more powerful platform than those other social media platforms?

Kate Ahl: I don’t think it’s more powerful because it’s difference, it’s not your typical social platform. There’s not a lot of interaction, which to some people, that can be good. That can be good for them to just go on there and kind of fly around, if you will, instead of … When you get onto Facebook, you’re getting a lot of people interaction and not-

Bjork Ostrom: Mm-hmm (affirmative), it’s a little more social.

Kate Ahl: Exactly, it’s more social, whereas Pinterest I think is just so unique in its own right that it continues to grow simply because of the amount of content that can be put on there. Yeah, I know that it just there’s just more and more users. I think that’s whole search factor is that it continues to grow because you can search for pretty much anything over there. That’s why I love it the sense that you do remove that social piece of it, there’s not that pressure, if you will to respond or to have people weigh in on what it is you’re posting. That’s my kind of, I guess, assumption about it.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s interesting, and I’ve never thought about that, but there is I think the potential for people to feel obligated maybe on Facebook to respond to comments or on Twitter to respond to people who tweet at them, whereas Pinterest, just like you said, the nature of the platform is much more content focused as opposed to social focused. Obviously, there’s a lot of nuances to the word social, what does that mean, but just not as much interaction, which is interesting.

Kate Ahl: Yeah, and I think Instagram has a little piece of that, and I think there’s again that visual piece, so I see Pinterest and Instagram have a lot of crossover. They’re growing kind of at a very similar rate as well.

Bjork Ostrom: One of the things that I wanted to ask about specific to the search side of things and then specific to food content within search, knowing that a lot of people probably go to Pinterest, and I don’t have any facts to back this up, this is total gut-

Kate Ahl: Okay, got it.

Bjork Ostrom: I should say assuming that people go to Pinterest and search for certain recipes that they’re going to make, do you have advice for people that are creating food related content in terms of how they structure their pins or their boards or things like that on Pinterest in order to show up higher in search results?

Kate Ahl: Yes, there are a few ways that people can do that. Number 1, I love the search bar on Pinterest when I’m trying to figure out what to name things or what to put in the description. If you go to that search bar, you can put it in whatever it is, and you can see the similar word prediction that you would on Google. That will give you some keywords as to what people are already searching.

Bjork Ostrom: Interesting, and do you know it, does that order those in the terms of popularity? If I search for chicken, and it showed Chicken Alfredo underneath where it like auto populates, is what you’re talking about?

Kate Ahl: Right, right, yeah, mm-hmm (affirmative).

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, would that mean that Chicken Alfredo would maybe be a popular key word for chicken?

Kate Ahl: Yes, definitely.

Bjork Ostrom: Oh, interesting.

Kate Ahl: Then when you put in your search, and let’s you say put in chicken, then all of a sudden you get all those tiny guided search boxes that are up at the top of the page, those are keywords as well. There is some idea that those go from popular from left to right, like the most highest search would be on the left, I’m still doing some digging on that, so I can’t say that for sure, but those key terms that are up there are really, really important. If you’re going to make a, let’s say you have a chicken recipe with spinach or a healthy chicken recipe, it’s really important to add in those key terms, because people are searching those type of terms when they’re looking for whatever chicken recipe you have and-

Bjork Ostrom: Right, interesting, when you say add those terms, where would you be adding those?

Kate Ahl: You want to add those terms into the alt text portion of your photo on your website first. That’s a big thing that people overlook is when they create their post and they put their photo in, they forget to put in what it is in the alt text portion. Then, you just end up with a blank or image 08315 or whatever, which then, if people are coming to your website and they’re sharing this awesome chicken recipe, there’s no description that would go on Pinterest, because Pinterest will pull the alt text portion of the photo. You want to put in chicken recipe or chicken spinach recipe, and then add a little bit more of maybe some more keywords that might be in your post.

I suggest you maybe take a little sentence or two and then add that in there as well, so that when Pinterest searches for this pin, they’re not just searching the name, but they’re searching the description, and then they’ll also search your boards. Let’s say you have a chicken recipe board, Pinterest is going to look at that as well, as well as the description on that board. It’s kind of a lot of places that you want a key word, and that can be overwhelming, but I suggest that you first start with your post and make sure that your picture is described so that your people can share it and it will continue to be shared the way you want it to be shared with the keywords out on Pinterest.

Bjork Ostrom: Great, yeah. For those that aren’t familiar, WordPress is a popular blogging platform that most people that listen to this podcast probably use. When you create a new image, you can enter in the alt text, alt standing for alternative. The original idea with those was like if a website can’t load the image for whatever reason or if people have images turned off, it would show the alt text so people know what the image is about. If people are visually impaired, they would have a screen reader which would tell them what the image is. Now, there are different companies that are hooking in to that as long as that data is there and Pinterest is an example of one of those and it pulls that as the description default. A lot of times, my assumption would be that people would go to your page, they would pin it, and it’s like, if there’s a description there, they’re not going to take the time to edit it and change it. Is that right?

Kate Ahl: No. Yeah, I always tell people think of … My mom is in her late 60s, she is not interested in changing the description, and she’s not even going to think about it. Think about a woman in her late 60s and is she going to do it. Nope, she’s not. You want to make sure and have it done for her.

Bjork Ostrom: Right or a man in his late 20s, like-

Kate Ahl: Exactly, that’s a good point too.

Bjork Ostrom: Like, anybody, really, you know?

Kate Ahl: Yes! Anybody, like most people are just not going to. I don’t even do it, you know if I’m pinning for fun, if you will, which is pretty rare, I tend to even overlook it, because I’m looking for a specific topic, I’m in a rush, and I’m not really paying attention.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. That’s a great tip and a reminder to people to that, that alt text is so important. One of the things that I want to ask you about that is kind of related to this, but a little bit of a tangent before we dive into some of the Analytics conversation. I’m curious to hear your story with Simple Pin Media. I think the reason it ties in is because a lot of people that are listening to this podcast are doing their thing or wanting to do their thing and you have done your thing with Simple Pin Media. This is a quick little quote from your about page, but you said, “Started on a whim when we were living on a thousand dollars a month” and you say, “Hint, that doesn’t support a family of 5.” Which makes sense, and then you said, “It grew into a full-fledged social media company in 18 months.” I’m curious to know about that and as you’re telling me, you can imagine the people that are out there kind of wanting to do their thing or starting to do their thing, and maybe tie in any advice or insight that you’d have for those people that are looking to get started building something.

Kate Ahl: I was working with a friend who was a blogger, she was a frugal blogger. She knew the tight situation that we were in and she said, “You know, Facebook has just changed their algorithm, what do you think about starting to look at Pinterest?” I’d actually already been managing their Pinterest page for about a year and a half or so, so I understood how it worked. I thought, “That’s crazy. No one is going to want to hire a Pinterest manager.” Because I know that bloggers especially, you operate on tight budgets. Not only are you risking investing in someone with your money, but you’re risking investing in someone with your voice. I knew those 2 things were really difficult, but I thought, I’ll research it and try everything. I asked 2 of her blogging friends, I said, “Will you just try this and we’ll see if it works. If it doesn’t, we’ll just forget it ever even happened.” It was so successful in the sense that I was really able to coach them as to how to create really good content for Pinterest.

That was really an element I hadn’t anticipated when I was thinking about just Pinterest management. They were so, I think excited about the fact that somebody was really walking them through it, that they just continued to share my services with other people. Slowly, I took on another one and another one, it’s still in the back of my mind was just a side gig. It wasn’t really anything I ever thought could explode into a full business. Then, late that summer, of 2014, I think I had 6 clients, and my daughter was actually suddenly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and we were in the hospital and I thought, “I need some help because if … Now that I am growing.” Excuse me. “I need some help to really help me continue to grow this.” I hired a friend and she …

I explained what I did. She had no background in online work, but she was a genius when it came to visual and she was very artistic and she got it really well. I had in November of 2014, 2 really big recommendations from larger bloggers with fairly large audiences. My email just kind of blew up and I thought I don’t know what to do with this. I don’t know how to grow, this is ridiculous. I hired another person, and at that point the same friend who had suggested the idea had hired a business coach. She said, “I really think you need to invest in this if you want to take Simple Pin to the next level.” I had to make a decision at that point. Did I want to invest the time and the money to take a risk on this panning out into something legitimate? We made the decision as a family that we wanted to do it and that was the best decision I’ve ever made.

Bjork Ostrom: Interesting, and that’s hiring the business coach.

Kate Ahl: Hiring the business coach, because he was able to see things that I couldn’t and give me systems and processes that I wasn’t even in the framework of my mind. I was jumping way ahead to writing a course or something like that and he said, “Wait a minute. We have to really get your firm foundation established before you can do any forward movement.” Had I not somebody tell me that, I would’ve been a hot mess. It would’ve never grown.

Bjork Ostrom: Do you have one thing that you feel like has been the most impactful outcome from working with the business coach, like one mindset change or recommendation that he made?

Kate Ahl: Yeah, I think the biggest thing is to look at the time that you’re spending on the little tasks, whether it was email or spreadsheets or anything like that. Think about how you can automate some of that, so I’ve automated a lot of my emails and a lot of the response … I get a lot of emails from people asking me questions and I was actually writing each and every email, which was taking me forever.

Bjork Ostrom: How do you automate those?

Kate Ahl: I actually use a program called Yesware.com. It’s free, I use the free version and that, just being able to categorize which emails are going out, I can choose whether it’s to my team, whether it’s to a new contact, whether it’s to an existing client, I am not spending the majority of my time doing that. That was a big one.

Bjork Ostrom: Does that segment the email or it actually respond to the email? I’m not familiar with Yesware.

Kate Ahl: Yeah, so what it does is it basically, I can create a template, and when somebody emails me I can insert that template and add their name and that’s it, and then send it off. Nope, it doesn’t send for me, but-

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, but it has a templated response to the common emails that you would send out instead of having to type them every time.

Kate Ahl: Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: Cool. Yeah, we use a program called TextExpander that’s similar. A huge time saver, and we have on the Food Blogger Pro Team, we have a couple people that do a lot of emails. Beth, our customer happiness specialist is her official title, but she has a lot of, what I’m sure is similar to you, where emails back and forth. She has TextExpander and she talks about how much she loves it. I think that’s super helpful and the reason that I wanted to ask, obviously it’s not directly related to Pinterest, but I think it’s a little side topic that’s inspiring for people to hear, people that have taken their thing and grown it into a business, and you’ve done that. I wanted to make sure to hit on that, at least a little bit. I appreciate you sharing that, I think that’s helpful. Okay, I’m going to do this transition here. You’re talking about your business, and now we’re going to talk about businesses on Pinterest. You see what I did there?

Kate Ahl: Yeah, I love it! Love it, good job.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that was pretty weak, but we’ll roll with it. One of the things I’m interested in is the difference between a user count on Pinterest, like you talked about your mom going on and setting up a Pinterest account, and a business account on Pinterest. Can you contrast those a little bit?

Kate Ahl: Yeah, so a user account would just be you go onto Pinterest, you log in with your email, sign up, and you start creating boards and pinning however you want. People usually title their boards, “I love this!” Or “Yum!” Or whatever, it’s really fun.

Bjork Ostrom: Cute animal pictures.

Kate Ahl: Yeah, the topics are just all over the map. There’s no rhyme or reason. When you have a business account, you would do that same process with signing up with your email, but then what you would do is you would verify your account and turn it into what we call a business account.

Bjork Ostrom: When you say verify your account, what does that mean?

Kate Ahl: What you would do is, when you go into, I think it’s business.pinterest.com, they will give you a way to add a certain part of code to your site so that Pinterest knows, “Oh, you’re actually a legitimate site. We can trust the content that comes from you, and we can now give you Analytics.” I am terrible at technical stuff, so I had-

Bjork Ostrom: Okay, which is probably good for people to hear that, yeah.

Kate Ahl: Yes, exactly, it is. Somebody mentions the word cPanel, and I’m like, “What?” I’m just done, I’m out of there. All they do is they will … When you go through the process, it’ll say, “Confirm your website.” They’ll say, “Paste this code into …” I don’t even know what it is, because I stopped reading. You would paste that code in, and then that’s how you would become verified and that’s also you would gain access to Analytics. I had a developer do that for me. If somebody is technical, they can do it themselves, Pinterest will walk you through it. In addition to that, you also want to gain access to Rich Pins which, Rich Pins will also take a little bit of code from your site and you can find that all under business.pinterest.com if you search Rich Pins, they’ll walk you through everything in getting validated. It’s just another way to say, “Yes, you are a legit business and you’re here to do business. You’re not just a typical user account.”

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, the code piece, to explain that a little bit, it’s exactly like you said. It’s just verifying that, like if we’re going to say, we want to see Analytics for PinchofYum.com, Pinterest is going to say, “Well, we’re only going to show you that if you actually own that website. The best way to validate that you actually own it is taking this code and like putting it onto the website.” Then, they can be like, “Okay, we see that you have put this unique there. You actually own it, so now we can start showing you Analytics for that site.”

Kate Ahl: Yeah, and it’s also a really good way to make sure that nobody else takes your name.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure, right, right, yup. The your name on Pinterest, like the username, sure.

Kate Ahl: Yes, correct.

Bjork Ostrom: A real quick tip for that if you haven’t validated your website, one of the plug ins that we use and recommend on Food Blogger Pro is called Yoast SEO. The name changes, but if you were to look in the WordPress plug in area, you could search for Yoast SEO. They have an area there called social, and you can actually just paste that in to the plug in in WordPress and press save. You don’t have to go in to the cPanel or do any FTTX access or anything like that.

Kate Ahl: Yes, that is much easier.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, right. You can if you love geeking out on that stuff, but if you use Yoast you can do that through that. We’ve opened up, let’s say we’ve verified a site, we’ve opened up access to Rich Pins and Analytics. I’d really like to focus in on Analytics and one of the things that I think is so interesting about Analytics, whether it’s Google Analytics or Pinterest Analytics or Twitter Analytics, any type of Analytics is that so often we don’t really use Analytics for what it is, which is critically analyzing the data. We’ll use it as very rough estimates of like what is my traffic at? Usually it’s just an indicator of like, “Am I happy today, or am I sad today?”

There’s so much more that you can do with Analytics and if you are sad because you look at your Analytics and they’re not what you want them to be, you can then use them for a positive and say, “What can I take from this and learn and then apply to help things work a little bit better?” When you get into an account and you look at their analytics, can you give a high overview of the first places that you look in terms of the health of a Pinterest account?

Kate Ahl: Yes, the first thing that I look at is their Pinterest profile. I want to look at are they getting repins, what are their top pins, what are their … They do have average daily impressions and average daily views, but I’ve learned that-

Bjork Ostrom: Can you explain the difference between those?

Kate Ahl: Yeah, I can. Average daily impressions would be how many people actually see your pins. Average daily viewers would be how many people see your pins. While they’re good numbers to look at, and you’ll like them especially if the arrow is pointing up, I find that they don’t always give a good indication of traffic coming to your website. What I like to think of them is … It’s basically how many people are scrolling past your pin. They haven’t actually done anything with them, we don’t know if they’ve clicked on them, we don’t know if they’ve repinned them, they’ve just seen them, so that’ll-

Bjork Ostrom: Maybe, technically, they could maybe not have even seen them. It just appeared on the screen, is that right?

Kate Ahl: Exactly, exactly. Impressions I hold loosely, if you will. I’ll look at repins, okay what’s happening in the last … I take the last 30 days. I’ll look at are most of the repins other people’s content or are the repins my client’s content? If it is my client’s content, what content is it? Is it seasonal, it is also the same stuff that’s driving traffic over to the website. I’ll kind of cross those 2 and compare them to see where’s the traffic coming from. Repins are also a sign of intent, so they tell us that somebody was interested, they might not have engaged with it yet, but their plan is to engage with it later. That’s especially important if you’re selling something, okay they repinned it, but did they do anything with it, and why didn’t they do anything with it? How do we maybe add more to the image or add more to the description that might encourage them to click over and take action.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure. Do you have an example of a client, you don’t have to use the name, but where you recently went in and did an analysis like this and some of the changes that you made because of what you learned?

Kate Ahl: Yeah, we do a client review, or not actually … We do client reviews, but we also a complete Pinterest page review for people. There was actually a blogger who came to us and she was a food blogger and felt like she was just all over the map. She wanted to see exactly what type of recipe content her Pinterest users were interested in. We looked at what was getting the all time repins, we looked at where were people pinning her recipes to. We found, actually, that her audience really liked healthy breakfast, healthy snacks, and cocktails, which was such an interesting thing.

Bjork Ostrom: All at the same time.

Kate Ahl: Yeah, I know, right?

Bjork Ostrom: The ultimate breakfast.

Kate Ahl: Exactly, a Bloody Mary and some eggs. She was actually able to cross compare that with the traffic coming to her website and realized, “Hey, those are actually my most popular posts, so I’m going to start creating a little bit more content in that, those niches, those genres if you will.” She could pin more of that and then we can look at creating more boards around that. Maybe she didn’t have a healthy breakfast word, okay we can start creating that for her and pinning more healthy breakfast pins to that.

Bjork Ostrom: One of the things that people often ask us, and it’s kind of the ultimate question, right? It’s how do I get more traffic? It’s such a hard question because there’s 9,000 ways to do it, but one of the things that we often recommend which is a little bit of what I hear you saying is look at User Analytics, whether Google, in this case it’s Pinterest, and see what’s working and then see if you can replicate that in some way, shape, or form, or kind of double down on that. It sounds so simple to go in and kind of repeat your success, but a lot of times I think that we overlook that and we just get into the content engine. We’re like create more stuff, create more stuff, or see what’s working for other people, which I think there’s a place for that, but I think it’s easiest to start with what works for you which is what I hear you saying and I think that’s so wise.

Kate Ahl: Yes, it’s definitely important. I will say another example is we have a client who’s been with us for a long time, and she, all of her recipes that are really a made from scratch type recipe but have an easy twist to them like a 5 minute bread or easy chicken lettuce wraps. We realize that all of those recipes over time were performing the best and then she was able to actually create a really great email lead magnet for her blog that talked about making recipes from scratch. We could really target that Pinterest audience with putting that freebie, if you will, on all of those pages that were driving the most traffic.

Bjork Ostrom: Can you explain that a little bit in detail in terms of what that looked like, because I think that’s a really cool concept.

Kate Ahl: Yeah, so for example we had this no need bread recipe that had basically exploded. I think currently it has like 25,000 repins on it, and it still continues to perform well. What we realized was we could actually create this lead magnet that had maybe that recipe and 5 others that were never posted anywhere on the blog.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure, brand new recipes. Real quick, I know this is high level, but can you explain of a lead magnet for those that aren’t familiar?

Kate Ahl: No, that’s good. Basically what a lead magnet is is you’re trying to capture Pinterest traffic onto your email list by offering them a freebie and something that they find useful or so awesome that they want to sign up for your list.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, it’s cool because I think that an important part of building a business online is having an email list that you can talk to whenever you want as opposed to social media, it’s like you can pin stuff or you can put stuff on Facebook or Twitter, and there’s not quite as much of a guarantee as it’ll get to people in a way that email will. That’s really smart, and I haven’t thought about it in the context of doing that on Pinterest, so I think that’s great. Anyways, continuing on, you created this, I’m guessing it’s maybe a PDF that you have.

Kate Ahl: It’s a PDF, yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: Okay, and then what do you do once you have that PDF?

Kate Ahl: Then, what we do with that is we do 2 things, 1, we create a pinnable image for that landing page for that lead magnet, so that we’re not only … It’s 5 recipes made from scratch. We’re pinning that to see if that can also gain equal amounts of traffic, and then we’re taking that link or maybe what they call as a lead box and we’re putting it on those posts that are already getting traffic from Pinterest. Basically, what you’re saying is, “Okay, this person is coming from the no need bread recipe and landing there. Hey, if you want more made from scratch recipes, click here, and we have a free download for you to learn more about making more recipes from scratch so that you’re capturing it kind of from all angles.”

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, great. Just to review, to make sure I’m understanding correctly, you go in and you see a pin that’s performing really well and a lot of times will do is they’ll stop there and be like, “Yes! I have a successful pin!” And feel really good about it which is great, but to take that context of doubling down a little bit further, what you then do is say, “Okay. How can we, number 1, create a lead magnet or something that will help us incentive people to sign up for an email list, how do we create that lead magnet, and then create an entirely new page for that on the blog?” Is that right?

Kate Ahl: Yes, correct.

Bjork Ostrom: That would be the landing page where people can sign up for it. Then you put a pin on Pinterest that leads to that landing page, but you don’t stop there, you also take that free PDF and you go to that blog post and you say, “Hey, do you want more? Click here to download our free 4 additional recipes that you can’t get anywhere else that are matching the subject.” I think what’s so smart about that is so often the traffic from Pinterest has the potential to be a one and done, where somebody comes, they look, and maybe they repin it and they come back to it later, and then revisit it when they want to remake that recipe. What that’s doing is it’s taking that initial view and potentially turning it into somebody that signs up for your email list and is a part of a subscriber or maybe you have what they would call an autoresponder series, which is emails that get dripped out to somebody after they sign up. I think that’s awesome and the-

Kate Ahl: It’s really cool too, sorry to interrupt, but it’s really awesome too because we focus a lot on getting these big, gigantic email lists. What has been great for her is she’s targeting in on these people she knows wants the made from scratch easy recipes and so she can start to engage with just those people on this smaller email list, and then eventually give them continually more of what they want. She finds that the open rate is actually … Which the open rate is how much people actually open the email instead of just sitting in inbox. She gets a higher open rate on those than she does with the really big mass email list that’s just kind of all over the map.

Bjork Ostrom: Interesting, yeah. One of the companies that specializes in kind of lead generation, it’s actually a Twin Cities company, Minnesota company, so they’ll do like meet ups and stuff at their office, but it’s called lead pages.

Kate Ahl: Oh yeah, I just got lead pages.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, so they’re a Minnesota company which I’m always like, “Yes! Lead pages, I always want to promote them.”

Kate Ahl: That’s awesome.

Bjork Ostrom: They call that concept and maybe this comes from somewhere else, but like a content upgrade. If you are on a blog post and you really like the information, how can you offer people a content upgrade where they can then take whatever it is to the next level. Maybe it’s a recipe and it’s a chocolate chip cookie recipe, and the content upgrade is 5 ways to make the best chocolate chip cookies that last a month. Maybe you wouldn’t want that, that’s irrelevant. I’m food illiterate, which is so ironic that I do a food blogger podcast. The idea is you’re offering a upgrade within every blog post, or as you’ve mentioned the most popular ones that allows people to then become more of a lifetime customer or have that potential to opt in to an email list and to interact with those people. What you were saying, that I thought was interesting, with this individual, was they have, do they put those people into a specific list where then-

Kate Ahl: They do.

Bjork Ostrom: Then they only talk to them around the subject for which they signed up for. Can you explain that a little bit?

Kate Ahl: Yeah, for example, this list … In particular this is a frugal blogger, they run from deals to frugal living to recipes to DIY. This allows the list to just be home making and recipes, they don’t get any of the other frugal stuff, they don’t get any deals, they just get recipes and home making which is what they are coming from Pinterest wanting anyway. You’re not kind of over saturating them with too much information that they don’t need.

Bjork Ostrom: Got it, yup, that makes sense. Just out of curiosity, do you know what email service that was? I think it’s always interesting for people to hear.

Kate Ahl: Yeah, it was get response and that’s the one that I actually use with lead pages as well. I had just switched over to them, and so far I like them.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s a little bit, get response is what we use for Food Blogger Pro [inaudible 00:39:42], an email service called Active Campaign which is similar and I think also different than Get Response, but the idea is you can segment people based on their behavior, is that right?

Kate Ahl: Yes, correct, mm-hmm (affirmative).

Bjork Ostrom: One of the recommendations that we make for people that are just getting started with their blog is to start with maybe something that’s a little bit more simple like, MailChimp or Aweber if you don’t have as much time to do like the really heavy email marketing, but even with that, you can like, let’s say with MailChimp, when people sign up for a list, they don’t neccesairily have to sign up for your generic list, they can go into a sub list which would be something like chocolate chip cookies for instance. You can start to understand your subscribers and where they’ve come from a little bit more which I think is an important concept.

Kate Ahl: Yeah, I started with Mad Mimi which was just, it was free, and it was easy, and I didn’t have a budget at the time. It was a really good intro for me to understand emails and how to interact and they had different lists too. I love the free part, especially when you’re not making any money.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, right, yup, yup. MailChimp is the same way, they have that free category when you’re [crosstalk 00:40:56]-

Kate Ahl: Yes, that’s true.

Bjork Ostrom: Any of those would be a good place to start, that’s great. Let’s say this, you have a new client, they come on board, and you do an analysis of their site. What are some of the most common things that you see people doing wrong, like blogs and brands, where you know it’s the first place that you can look and make a quick tweak for them to up their Pinterest game a little bit.

Kate Ahl: Yeah, so the fist thing we do when we onboard anyone is we do what’s called a small clean up of their Pinterest boards. We go through and we make sure that every title is optimized for search, meaning that it actually has search terms in it, it’s not just using the term yum for a recipe board.

Bjork Ostrom: Right, right. Do you have an example of a before and after for that one?

Kate Ahl: I don’t off the top of my head, I’ll just do-

Bjork Ostrom: You can make one up.

Kate Ahl: Yeah, I’ll make one up. Let’s say for example, a food blogger came to us and she had started with her personal page, it kind of merged into business, and then you get just this mishmash of 200 boards that don’t really make sense, but yet, she’s heavily focused on baking. What we want to do is we want to get rid of any board that doesn’t have anything to do with recipes or with baking. If she has a board about cats, the great thing is that Pinterest has a feature now where you can take an existing board and move it to secret without losing followers, whereas before you had to delete a board and you potentially lose followers.

Bjork Ostrom: You lose all your cat people.

Kate Ahl: You lose … Exactly! Well, now, you get to kind of keep your cat people and you get to keep your cat board to pin and nobody will see your pin.

Bjork Ostrom: Everybody wins.

Kate Ahl: Everybody wins, it’s great! We’re going to get rid of those first and then we’re going to go through and we’re going to look at do the boards that she has existing, do they match up with her categories on her site. Let’s say bread making is huge, does she have a bread recipes board? Does she have a bread tutorials or does she even have a board just for her content, which would be the title of her website. We’ll also create that as well, and then we’ll make sure that each board has a description, that again, uses keyword terms. The biggest thing that I see over and over is people don’t add descriptions to their boards, and they don’t categorize them, they’re just left into the other category which is a huge miss because Pinterest is starting to move towards interests. They want people to start following interests instead of people.

Bjork Ostrom: Can you explain that a little bit?

Kate Ahl: Yeah, so when you go to, for example, when I was talking about that search, the guided search boxes at the top that come up after you search a term, if you click on those, the URL changes to Pinterest.com/explore/chicken. Then, you get this huge list of chicken recipes that aren’t neccesairily from the people you follow, they’re just from every chicken recipe that’s been posted on Pinterest, starting with the most popular.

Bjork Ostrom: You’re almost following the category versus somebody’s board.

Kate Ahl: Exactly, and if you sign up for Pinterest emails, which I suggest that everybody do that.

Bjork Ostrom: Where do they do that?

Kate Ahl: I think that you would do that, it’s … You know, that’s a great question, I just got onto them. I think that if you go to business.pinterest.com, there is a place for you to start getting their emails and also I’ll send you the link. I don’t know off the top of my head, because they just started coming to me.

Bjork Ostrom: Okay, yeah. We’ll put that in the show now, if you go to foodbloggerpro.com/blog, we’ll have this podcast episode, you can click on in the show notes with anything that we’ve mentioned here, so people don’t need to remember that.

Kate Ahl: Yeah, it’s probably under your profile actually, now that I’m thinking about it. You can opt in and out of emails if you go into your settings and then profile. Anyway, your emails will start coming. Every so often, you will get interest emails that will say, “You should start following gluten free. You have a lot of gluten free pins.” You click to follow that and then all of a sudden, you’re seeing everything that anybody is pinning under gluten free.

Bjork Ostrom: Oh, interesting, which is a big change from following individualized content, where it’s like my cat board. Then you’d be following the general cat board, which almost like, or maybe this is off, you can let me know, but it would almost be like following a hashtag on Instagram or Twitter as opposed to an individual interest.

Kate Ahl: Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: Do you know why? What is the reason for Pinterest changing to that?

Kate Ahl: I actually don’t know. I think it probably plays in more to the search factor then it does anything else, because they want to continue to create these awesome search tools, and I think that’s just another way that they can say “Here’s gluten free, here’s all the pins that are part of the gluten free search that you just did.” It’s just, again, another funnel.

Bjork Ostrom: I wonder if this is, again, me hypothesizing, but-

Kate Ahl: I love it.

Bjork Ostrom: I’m totally guessing when I have no factual evidence whatsoever, but if I wonder if part of it has to do with their ability to show ads versus like, if you go into a specific board, I think people would be more protective of ads or sponsor content or something showing up with an individualized feat as opposed to the more generic category. It’s easier to show that and to base ads on those tricker keywords.

Kate Ahl: That’s really important too, I think you’re right on with that, even though we’re hypothesizing here. When you do a promoted pin, which we’re not going to talk about that now, so I’ll just touch on it just real quickly, you get to pick at least, I always suggest 30 keywords and so that does play into where those promoted pins end up. I think you’re right with the ads.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s interesting. With any social media platform, it’s interesting to notice how the platform changes as ads are introduced. Facebook is an example of this, earlier in the podcast you mentioned changing the algorithm, what does that mean? Well, Facebook changed what type of content shows up in your feed, and one of the reasons, again, people assumed, you have to be on the inside to truly know, but one of the reasons they assumed that they were pushing down content from pages or brands was because they wanted them to pay to have it show up higher. It’s interesting to track along with different platforms as they tweak their algorithm in order to potentially earn more income from promoted content or ads or things like that. It’ll be interesting to track and along and see how that impacts. We did a huge rabbit trail, and that was my fault.

Kate Ahl: Yeah, I know, so back to-

Bjork Ostrom: It was really good, yeah, so back to some of the tweaks and updates that you make.

Kate Ahl: The tweaks on the boards, yes. Yes, the descriptions, making sure all of that is optimized as far as search goes. Are their terms in your titles, your descriptions, and choosing a category, are all of those going to benefit your business and getting more of who you want to find your content? In addition, a lot of people in the beginning joined these group collaborative boards because they were able to drive a lot of traffic. You could get, let’s say you had a follower number of 1,000, but you could join a group board that had 10,000 followers. You could pin over there and you would get great repin rates. Well, we’ve seen that really change over the last year, and so what I suggest or what we do right away is we look at all those group boards and evaluate are they actually still performing well? Are they getting you the repins that you want and the views that you want? If they’re not, they’re kind of dead weight.

Bjork Ostrom: By dead weight you mean useless in terms of time, like it’s not worth it?

Kate Ahl: Correct, it’s not worth it, and-

Bjork Ostrom: How do you know if something … Like, what’s your cutoff for worth it or not worth it?

Kate Ahl: I look at a few things. One, how many contributors are on the board. If there are like 1 to 2,000 contributors, that tells me right away that the feed on that board is moving so fast that you’re not really getting good views of pins anyway. I would probably leave that board. In addition, there’s a chance that it could get marked as spam, because you never know … There’s a lot of spam users that can get on to Pinterest and Pinterest is really good at trying to get rid of them, but some get through and so the chance that a board gets marked as spam could be likely. If you’re a contributor on there, that could affect your account.

Bjork Ostrom: Okay, can I pause here real quick, because just this last weekend we had this huge influx of people emailing. They’re like, “We can’t pin from Pinch of Yum, it’s marked as spam.” Is that connected with that and what’s happening there?

Kate Ahl: I can’t say for sure, but I do know that over recent weeks, Pinterest has made a ton of changes and with that, we’ve seen a lot of accounts get marked as spam. We’ve also seen some accounts go away completely, and so what I think is happening is there’s a lot of glitches in their system as they’ve added new tools. This is just one of those things that went glitchy this last weekend. Unfortunately, it affected a lot of food bloggers, in particular.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, it was interesting because we were like, “Well, I don’t know what’s happening with it.” Our stance like, it probably shouldn’t be, but our stance is usually like, “Well, we’ll wait and see if it fixes itself as opposed to panicking.” Which it did.

Kate Ahl: That’s a great stance.

Bjork Ostrom: It resolved, but it’s hard especially for a site like Pinch of Yum which is my wife’s food blog, Lindsey’s food blog. A lot of the traffic comes from Pinterest and not neccesairily our account, but it’s like, “Oh, well, that would stink if your account got wiped out or marked as spam for some reason.” It’s interesting, maybe that was tied in to the group board stuff, who knows. We could hypothesize [crosstalk 00:51:28].

Kate Ahl: Yeah, it could be. That’s a lot of speculation, and I think when we do see things like this happen on Pinterest, whether it’s spam, whether it’s boards getting removed completely, we are left as a user … We are at the whim of Pinterest, and we don’t ever know really what the problem is. We do know that we can see they’ve added the new visual search tool, they’ve added a few other things, usually when that happens, we see this happen as well. It’s kind of just a product I think of a platform growing and changing.

Bjork Ostrom: Interesting, yeah, okay, great. That would be cleaning up the group boards area. You were talking about that, getting rid of group boards that are maybe over saturated or not performing well, looking at Pinterest Analytics and saying, “How are these performing?” Then getting rid of the ones that aren’t and then staying with the ones that are.

Kate Ahl: Yeah, and you can see in your analytics which boards perform the best for you. I would suggest going there first.

Bjork Ostrom: Where is that?

Kate Ahl: That’s under your Pinterest profile. You can find it in under repins or clicks. I tend to look at clicks first because I want them to click through to our websites. You can kind of cross compare to see, and that’ll give you a good indication right away of which board’s performing well for you. You can also see your own boards. If there’s a board you haven’t pinned to in a while that has just 10 pins on it, I would also suggest deleting it or moving it to secret. Pinterest likes really active boards, so if you have 200 boards, but you’re only pinning to 50, I kind of think those other 150 as, again, dead weight. You’re not doing anything with them. I suggest that people keep the number of boards under 100, and even under 75 is good.

Bjork Ostrom: Great, so total boards on your Pinterest account.

Kate Ahl: Correct.

Bjork Ostrom: Ideally under 75.

Kate Ahl: Yeah, which is hard for people, really hard.

Bjork Ostrom: Right, but the idea is otherwise it just becomes too much and then you have these like lots of potentially mediocre performing boards.

Kate Ahl: Correct, yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: Anything else that you would do right away when you go in and look at account? Under review, you talked about optimizing some of the titles, the descriptions, we talked earlier about alt tags, really great, about moving boards to private if they’re not active or potentially just deleting them, leaving groups boards if they’re not performing well. Any other kind of quick action tips or would those be kind of the primary things?

Kate Ahl: We change up the board images. We like to change those up pretty often, and we make sure that a seasonal board is at the top. For example, if you have a big Christmas board, we want to move your Christmas board up to the top.

Bjork Ostrom: When you say exchange the board images, you mean kind of the poster image.

Kate Ahl: Yes, the poster image, and I-

Bjork Ostrom: Okay, can you change that frequently when you-

Kate Ahl: We do, we try to change them once a month.

Bjork Ostrom: Once a month, okay. You would change up and that’s just to keep things fresh.

Kate Ahl: Yeah, you would just edit the board cover. That’s the official term.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure, so it doesn’t look like it’s essentially the same thing every time you go.

Kate Ahl: Yes, and people will look at a board cover pin or a board cover photo, and if they love it they’ll end up clicking through to the board to try to find that pin. I’ve done that.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, for sure, awesome. Wow, Kate, so much good stuff. This is-

Kate Ahl: A lot of information.

Bjork Ostrom: I feel like people have a long action item list here of things that they can be doing.

Kate Ahl: Yes, I need to draw a diagram.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, and I feel like we can continue talking about this stuff for a really long time, but I want to be respectful of your time and also know that it’s a lot of information that we’ve covered. Two things, first question would be anything else that you want to leave people with in terms of things that they could be doing with their Pinterest account or even just maybe inspiration for people that are getting started and looking to build their own thing? It’s kind of a broad question, but just kind of closing thoughts from you.

Kate Ahl: Right, I would say the biggest thing with Pinterest is there’s a lot of information out there about strategies to try, things to do. I would suggest just looking at your account and focusing in on your tribe and your people and your readership and kind of stay that course, try not to get too distracted by the squirrel, if you will, because the squirrel always isn’t business building. Sometimes your tribe will give you more business bu9ilding information then someone else will. Remember, what someone else is talking about is really what works for them.

Bjork Ostrom: Yes, I think that’s so important.

Kate Ahl: And so Honing in on what works for you.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that’s so wise. To try and replicate somebody else’s success maybe a good place to start, but the reality is it’s successful because of who they are and what their voice is like and what their content is, so it’s going to be different for everybody. I think that’s wise advise. Before we go though, I want you to talk a little bit about Simple Pin Media. We’ve mentioned it a few times, but can you tell us a little bit about what you do and then different services that you have to offer if anybody’s interested?

Kate Ahl: Yeah, so we’re essentially a Pinterest management company. We manage your Pinterest page so that you don’t have to, so that you can work back on your business. In that, we coach you as to what your people like, what they don’t like, and how you can optimize your website as well. If services aren’t what people are interested, we also do reviews of your account so we can tell you kind of some of the information we talked about today, what they like, what they don’t like, so that you can really get started. Then we also do consults for people who just need to talk through their strategy or come up with a new one and then we do board clean up, and we even build Pinterest boards for people who have never been on Pinterest before.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure, that’s great. You can be found where?

Kate Ahl: At simplepinmedia.com.

Bjork Ostrom: Perfect, simple.

Kate Ahl: Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: Great, Kate, hey, really appreciate you coming on the podcast today. I know that people are really going to enjoy it and find a lot of actionable information. Also, I’ll mention this real quick and we’ll link to it, but at Simple Pin Media, you have a lot of resources there if people want to learn and find out more information, so I’d encourage people to check that out.

Kate Ahl: Definitely.

Bjork Ostrom: Thanks so much for coming on the podcast, Kate, really appreciate it.

Kate Ahl: You’re welcome.

Bjork Ostrom: All right, have a good day.

Kate Ahl: All righty, bye bye.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s a wrap for episode number 26 of the Food Blogger Pro Podcast. At the end of every one of these podcasts, I usually take a little bit of time to do a little plug or a promo. I want to take a minute right now just to say thank you. I know that these podcasts, hopefully, they’re valuable for you and you get content out of them and information, but it also is a little branch of this business that we’ve built around food blogging. We couldn’t do it without you. I just want to say thank you, whether you listened to the podcast, or comment on the blog, especially if you’re a member of Food Blogger Pro. We just really, really appreciate the fact that you are part of this community in whatever way, shape, or form that is, it means a lot to me and Lindsey and the team here at Food Blogger Pro. Hope you guys have a great week and have fun spending time with your family if you’re doing that over the holidays here. We’re going to be back next week, same time, same place, make it a great week, guys, thanks.

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  1. HOLY CRAP BEST EP SO FAR!!!! Thanks, Bjork! This Ep made me realize Pinterest is SEO, and then I checked my stuff dang it… I do all the common mistakes…