242: Social Trends – Pinterest in 2020 with Kate Ahl

An image of a phone with Pinterest pulled up on the screen and the title of the 242nd episode on the Food Blogger Pro Podcast, 'Social Trends.'

Welcome to episode 242 of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast! This week on the podcast, Bjork interviews Kate Ahl talks about using Pinterest in 2020.

Last week on the podcast, Alexa interviewed Social Media Manager, Abby Bayatpour, about how food bloggers can be promoting their content on Facebook and Instagram this year. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.

Social Trends: Pinterest in 2020 

Today marks Part 2 of our two-part series on social media in 2020. Last week we focused on Facebook and Instagram, and this week is all about Pinterest.

Pinterest can be a huge traffic-driver for food bloggers. In fact, it’s consistently in one of the top three spots of traffic drivers for food bloggers.

That said, Pinterest is constantly in pursuit of making the platform better for its users, so it changes quite a bit.

That’s why we’re excited to focus on the best practices for Pinterest in 2020 in today’s episode. Kate Ahl is here to give you her recommendations for finding what’s trending on Pinterest, pinning fresh content, writing awesome Pin descriptions, using promoted Pins, and more.

A quote from Kate Ahl’s appearance on the Food Blogger Pro podcast that says, 'That could be an advantage for you – to share different "fresh" images.'

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • What Pinterest is focusing on in 2020
  • How going public changed how Pinterest works
  • What type of Promoted Pins work best
  • How to use Pinterest Trends
  • How often you should be pinning
  • Traits of successful pinners
  • What fresh content is and why it’s important for Pinterest in 2020
  • What you should include in your Pin descriptions
  • Whether or not you should be using Rich Pins

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Resources:

If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions for interviews, be sure to email them to [email protected].

Transcript (click to expand):

Alexa Peduzzi: Hey, and welcome to the Food Blogger Pro podcast. We are so excited that you’re here. Today marks part two of our two part series on social media in 2020, last week we focused on Facebook and Instagram and this week it’s all about Pinterest. Pinterest can be a huge traffic driver for food bloggers. In fact, it’s consistently in one of the top three spots of traffic drivers for food bloggers. That said, “Pinterest is constantly in pursuit of making the platform better for its users, so it changes quite a bit.” And that’s why we’re excited to focus on the best practices for Pinterest in 2020, in today’s episode, you’ll learn all about Kate’s recommendations for finding what’s trending on Pinterest, pinning fresh content, writing awesome pin-descriptions using promoted pins and more. So, without any further ado, Bjork, take it away.

Bjork Ostrom: Kate, welcome back to the podcast.

Kate Ahl: Thanks so much for having me out. I always love coming on here to talk with you.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, it’s fun to have these episodes where now over the years we’ve been doing this podcast long enough. We can have a rhythm to check in with some of the people that we consider to be experts in the field. And you being the ultimate example of that within Pinterest. And one of the reasons why these episodes are so helpful is because you know better than anybody else, that these things change and they change in a relatively short period of time. And it’s important that we stay up to date on these things. So let’s start out talking about that, at a high level, it’s 2020. We’re well into the year 2020, and Pinterest is 10 years old or over 10 years old. Pinterest as a whole, how has it changed and evolved over the last couple of years? And as creators, why is it important for us to continue to use Pinterest?

Kate Ahl: Yeah, well I think number one, Pinterest has changed dramatically. Even over 2019, they became a public company. So I think that is very important too because now their bottom line really drives them, right? ’Cause they have shareholders. So now they’re looking at how do we invest in our promoted pins, which is the paid advertising on Pinterest and getting more people to invest in that. I think that goes back to the previous couple of years that promoted pins has come on the scene and really become more part of their algorithm.

Kate Ahl: So now you have this ecosystem that… not only just includes organic, but it also includes paid, which changes the way we view Pinterest changes the way our home feed looks, and it changes the way we invest as marketers. Now we have other options of investing in the platform. So with that, I think Pinterest has gone through… from what we’ve seen in the outside, I guess from them, from a company viewpoint, we’ve seen them aggressively pursue this public offering. And now I think things are changing and they’re settling a little bit to where we go into 2020 and we’re saying, how does Pinterest, both the marketer, the creator and the pinner work together in a great ecosystem that serves both? And I think that’s the question we’re really presented with in 2020 is how do we do that? Well without throwing the baby out with bath water, like just giving up

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, and so, to dig into that a little bit, to explain it. So startups, when they start up a traditional Silicon Valley startup or wherever it might be, if they take money from investors, so this would be that word VC that you hear. They’re getting money and their goal is either to grow really big and be acquired by a company like Google or an Instagram’s case, they grew really fast and then were acquired by Facebook. So they have this what’s called an exit event, they’re exiting, or you do what’s called an IPO, an initial public offering. And so when you say they went public, that’s where you were talking about this idea of this company going public where then the people who have invested in the company, those shares, then they can sell and then they can actually get money back from the investment they made.

Bjork Ostrom: And explain to people why that changes how a startup works. So you referenced it, but when we look at a company like Instagram, we can see the changes, but a lot of times we don’t think about what’s happening behind the scenes in terms of some of the monetary side of things. So with Pinterest, what changes? They’re growing, they want to grow fast, they’re getting new users, then they go public. What is it about going public that changes the experience?

Kate Ahl: Well now I think number one, it’s the ads overall. Basically that’s their main way of monetization. So if they’re going to basically become profitable to be able to benefit the shareholders, they have to make money. And in the beginning when you’re starting up, you’re just trying to get interested in your company. You’re trying to get the user, get the user. Now that’s transitioned to get the ad buyer, get the bigger companies to invest. And then for the pinner, your home feed changes a little bit. You now get more ads. It’s like Instagram. We saw that change when Facebook bought them. There’s less more of the people you know or the people you follow. But now you see an ad every third or fourth Instagram picture. It’s very integrated into the platform. But if they don’t do this, then they essentially die and then investors pull their money out and you no longer have a company.

Bjork Ostrom: Got it. So Pinterest goes through this phase where it’s growing, it’s acquiring users and they can grow quickly because they get this money coming in from investors and they don’t really have to worry or they choose not to worry about creating an income because they say we’re going to get so big that eventually we can turn the switch on income creation. And for Pinterest, that happened after they went public because now they have people who own these shares and they want to prove if you invest in Pinterest, we’re going to make you more money. We’re going to build as a business. And it’s smart for you to put your money with Pinterest. And so they have this accountability to shareholders, but that has an impact on creators, especially for people in the food space where taking photos and publishing those to Pinterest, Pinterest is an important source of traffic and an important piece of the puzzle as it relates to growing users and connecting with people and getting your content in front of people.

Bjork Ostrom: And now suddenly there’s a little bit of a competition. There’s also Coca-Cola coming in and buying an ad against anytime that somebody searches hamburger and now the game’s changing a little bit. So do you see the strategy changing for creators? Obviously it’s still important for a creator to be on Pinterest, but does the introduction of this need for Pinterest to not only grow their users and to grow people using it, but also to grow their revenue? Does that change what it looks like as a creator in terms of your strategy?

Kate Ahl: Yeah, I think that’s such a great question because if it was any other platform, I would say, okay, Instagram, we go there because we’re going to follow people and there’s very much an influencer base. So big companies like Coca Cola can definitely have a greater influence or they can buy space. Whereas Pinterest, what we love about it is that 97% or so searches are still unbranded, meaning the pinner still wants to get what they want to get to. So yes you are competing with Coca Cola and the amount of money they have. But what’s great is you as an ad buyer too as well, you can compete on some level with them for a particular key word that Coca-Cola might not know. You might be so heavily intertwined with your audience that you know, my people aren’t just going to search hamburger, they’re actually going to search mushroom hamburger, vegan burger. I don’t know how, you can get more specific whereas the plain field levels, because we’re still dealing with what’s a search engine, right? Search and discovery, as opposed to a social media platform.

Kate Ahl: So in that sense it becomes for creators, how do we get smarter about what we know people want, instead of throwing darts, which used to be a pretty effective strategy, you could throw up a bunch of stuff and you might get an engagement and you could keep throwing and get engagement. Well now it’s more intentional to say, I know my reader loves noodles and I’m going to give them every single noodle bowl under the sun. And then I might even actually put ad dollars behind that because I know what they’re searching. So then you can now stand in the same line, sure, you might not be able to spend as much money. So therefore, when you go to bid at auction, that’s what it’s called to get your placement in the ads. You might not be as high as them, but you can still show up in search results, which is still what I love about Pinterest because it doesn’t feel like there’s the big guy, little guy, it’s who’s smart enough to figure out the keyword targeting and stay in line there.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. So do you have an example of how that would look and would it make sense, for the most part when we talk about advertising, almost always correlate that to some type of product. In order to justify spending a dollar for a click, you should probably have something that then directs people to a page that then they end up purchasing, like an eCommerce type transaction. Is that primarily what you’re seeing as it relates to people who are using Pinterest advertising? Is that they have some end point purchase or are there ways you could do it if you are just monetizing through traffic? So like for Pinch of Yum, we’re earning an income from advertising, and we’re earning an income from sponsor content and maybe a little bit of affiliate marketing. But we need really high numbers in order for that to correlate to a consistent and worthwhile number from a revenue perspective. Can you justify spending money on Pinterest if you’re only monetizing in that way?

Kate Ahl: In our promoted pins department, we actually don’t do that at all. We actually want to do it for traffic or sponsored content because of what you just said. You need a really, really high number and it’s much easier if you’re going to be selling a product or converting to an email subscriber because you can really know how much that value is worth to you. So you might not need to spend as much per click. Whereas the traffic piece is so variable. The sponsored content… I mean, I would advise content creators who do work with brands to include a promoted pin in the cost of their sponsored campaign to test it for yourself. If the brand is going to pay for it, then definitely do it. But if it’s just you and you’re just looking for traffic, the variables are just, they’re too crazy to where I wouldn’t recommend it at all.

Bjork Ostrom: Yup, that makes sense. So point being, for those listening who have some type of product maybe it’s a food product that you’re selling or maybe it’s a… it could be a digital product. There’s all different ways that you can use or sell content or sell product online. The point being test Pinterest ads to see if there’s some potential or that, we’re actually doing that with a WP Tasty. So the plugins business we have, we have some ads that we’re testing that are running against things like recipe SEO. So if people are… or food blogging advice.

Bjork Ostrom: So if people are going to Pinterest and searching for a certain category of advice against those keywords, we are testing what it’s like to run ads against those because we have a product that would come and purchase. We would never do that for Pinch of Yum against like chili recipe because we could never spend an amount that would justify how much it would cost to get people there and create a consistent profit from that. So for people who are on the organic side, does that change any of the strategy that exists in terms of how you go about using Pinterest and the consistency in any of the just general best practice around creating organic Pinterest content?

Kate Ahl: Yeah, I think it changes in the sense that you can have your goal be traffic, I know there’s a lot of food bloggers who they make it a goal to get to X number of page views per month so they can work with any particular ad company, right?

Bjork Ostrom: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Kate Ahl: Because they have these thresholds. I definitely think it’s the same as investing in Google or… it’s the same essentially as Google, right? You’re investing in it because you want to get more eyeballs. That is very smart to still do on Pinterest and it changes in the sense that you’re not putting money behind it, but you’re still targeting for keywords and your images become… Well their images, I should say, are both important with promoted pins and organic. But once you can spend time investing in organic either keywords or images, it’s your testing ground before you go into ads.

Kate Ahl: So I like to have it there to see, okay, well what are people clicking on as far as images? Do they love this particular text or this phrase or this color. If they do and we knock it out of the park, then we can take and we can put money behind it because now we maybe have a secondary goal. We’re selling a menu plan or we’re selling any other amount of digital product or even physical product that that person creates. So it’s a good stair-step towards that.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. At a really basic level, how do you go about understanding what works well and what doesn’t work well on Pinterest? I know there’s an analytics suite that you can look at and it’s hard to know for sure. It’s definitely not scientific, but maybe you can get towards more of like the educated guests level. And what would your advice be for somebody who’s never really done that, to start to develop and to use the analytics to use the data to start to develop a little bit of a gut instinct around what works well and what doesn’t, to help that inform them on their understanding of that.

Kate Ahl: Yeah, I would say, especially for those who are listening her in basically the zero to 20,000 sessions per month range, maybe they’re just starting out. Pinterest just released a great tool called Pinterest Trends. You can find that by going to trends.pinterest.com. It is in beta, it’s brand new, but it’s the first tool that Pinterest has given us that’s like a keyword tool. So it will tell you, you open it up and you can put in a search term, let’s say it’s meal planning. And what it will tell you is a graph from the whole year as to when people are searching for this particular time the most, or the least. So you can see on the graph, people might be searching for meal planning a ton in January, which tells you, even if you don’t have an audience yet, people on Pinterest are searching for meal planning. So that’s when I should be creating and pinning content around this particular topic.

Kate Ahl: But nobody’s searching for it in November. So what this tells you, depending on whatever type of content you’re going to create, when should you do it? When should you create it? When should you pin it? And I think that is not only really relevant for those people who are new to just get started on Pinterest and figure out the trend timeline, but those who have even been at the game for a long time, if you are exhausted and you’re on the content creation wheel and you’re like, I don’t know what to do, start putting in some search terms here and see what’s coming up. And this is still, again, it’s in beta and it’s only available to North American audiences and you can’t find it in any other platform like UK or Australia.

Kate Ahl: So if you really are desperate to view it, you can get a VPN that will allow you to view the North American platform. At this point there are still some glitches, so I would say don’t invest in a really expensive way to view it, but that would be number one right there is that new trans tool. It’s pretty cool.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that’s great. It’s similar to Google Trends and for those who are familiar with that, it doesn’t show you the actual number of searches, but the popularity of that search term relative to others. So the one that I’m looking at right now is banana pudding versus chocolate chip cookies. And you can see that for banana pudding for whatever reason, there’s a spike at the end of November. And for chocolate chip cookies, there’s a spike at the end of December. And you can get an idea of not only for publishing content on your blog and other social media accounts, but also more specifically on Pinterest.

Bjork Ostrom: So for us it makes the most sense. If we have a banana pudding recipe, we should go into Pinterest and say like, “Oh, I see this is really popular at the end of November.” So we should take that into consideration when we’re doing our content planning and scheduling of our pins and our content in general. My question for you as it relates to some of these peaks that we see in the trends area, should you prime the content before that peak or is that saying, Hey, if you’re going to pick a time to pin this content or to promote it or to pay extra special attention to it, do it right at that time. So should it be a little bit before leading up to it so it has some runway or should it be at that time when the peak on the Pinterest trends graph is happening?

Kate Ahl: Yeah. So Pinterest has told us about 45 days in advance of the event. And probably what you’re seeing with the banana pudding is Thanksgiving. So what happens, especially with something like Thanksgiving, is people will begin to save well before that. So probably right after Halloween, they’re thinking, what am I going to make in my Thanksgiving meal? They save a bunch of stuff. Then they go to their Thanksgiving board and they open it up and they click to your site. So that’s when you’re seeing this drastic movement.

Kate Ahl: So 45 days in advance is what we suggest. And that’s hard for some holidays like Saint Patrick’s Day, there’s not a lot of people who are gearing up for that, but if you now you have something that’s relevant during that time, right after Valentine’s day is when we would start. So about three weeks in advance is fine, but we never tell people don’t do it a couple of days before. It’s not going to get the amount of attention it needs. So it really has to be a minimum of two to three weeks out.

Bjork Ostrom: Got it. In doing that, should you be using a tool for that? Is that something just straight within Pinterest? I know that you mentioned Tailwind as a tool that you’re familiar with and we’ve talked about that before. What does that look like on a ground level? It’s a tactical question, but how would you go about doing that?

Kate Ahl: Yeah, that is a great question. So Pinterest does have its own native scheduler. Right now you can only schedule out about 30 days in advance and it’s a little hard to see what you’ve scheduled and keep track of, which is why we do a tool like Tailwind because you can see everything at a glance, but let’s say example, you have the banana pudding and you’ve released it onto your sites the end of October, October 25th. What you could do is pin it to all the relevant boards that it belongs to. Let’s say it belongs to 10 or so boards. You could do two of those pins per week in what they call an interval schedule. You can say, I want this to go to these 10 boards, one every four days>

Kate Ahl: So you’re dripping the content out as you get closer to it and you’re not having to worry. You can literally do that in like two seconds by just selecting the plan, selecting the boards interval, four days you’re done and then it stops at that point. And with banana pudding you’re not really bound by a holiday. It’s okay if it goes into December.

Bjork Ostrom: Yup, that makes sense. What are some of the things that you see that are… At one point maybe it was best practice or maybe it was advice or maybe it was almost like a hack that worked. It’s lingering a little bit so people still think I should do this or this works well when in actuality Pinterest has evolved and it doesn’t actually work that well. Are there any myths out there that you feel like you as an expert, somebody who’s in the mix that knows Pinterest, that you’re having to unravel and explain to people?

Kate Ahl: Yeah. I think probably the biggest one is the amount of pins per day. That’s been something that has been lingering since probably 2015 and a lot of content creators who have quite a bit of content feel like they need to be pending so much, sometimes upwards of a hundred pins per day. And that’s just way too much. It’s inundating your people. It’s not really giving the amount of space your content deserves. So we tell people, if you’ve been in the industry for 10 years and you have all these recipes, it’s okay to drop down to 30 and pin, just have your own stuff, like have it really dripping out when it’s relevant, when it’s seasonal mix of new content, old content, but you don’t have to blast your people with as much content as possible, as many pins as you can because you’re just hoping you’re crossing your fingers, let something take off.

Kate Ahl: Because Pinterest has it built up to where their home feed is really where most of the people interact and they’re going to pull into the home feed for the pinner, the things that they’re interested in and maybe the people that they follow. But it’s a small amount of that. It’s really, if Susie’s interested in banana pudding, then Pinterest is going to search for the best recipes on their platform. And you might not have pinned it in six months, but you have a lot of engagement on it in the past from November. So it’s all about this engagement piece, and the amount of pins you have pin per day doesn’t necessarily guarantee engagement. So we tell people just stop doing a hundred pins per day. It’s not working.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. On the opposite side, what are some of the traits that you see from people who are having a lot of success with Pinterest? These are probably, in some sense or in a lot of ways you get to see this from clients you work with. So part of it is the strategy that you’re implementing, but also the X factor, the multiple on that is the content that they are actually creating. So it’s probably both and strategy and content. If you could have the best of both of those, what would that look like? What would the ideal be?

Kate Ahl: Yeah, and I think that actually brings up such a great point that the two have to coexist together. That even for some of our clients where we got an amazing strategy, if they are lacking creating new content that will definitely hold them back. So the magic happens when you get a content creator who’s creating at least one to two times per week, which I know some food bloggers are like four to five times per week, but they’re actively pinning to Pinterest by being consistent. They’re creating new fresh content and they also are beginning to build an audience that’s sharing from their site.

Kate Ahl: So we kind of see that ecosystem work all together to where Pinterest is going, oh, there’s lots of people that are interested in this. This is new fresh content. They have a big push. We’re going to hear that in the next couple months. Fresh content is what they’re looking for, and fresh content to them is really an indicator of a new image. We heard that back in June of 2018 from them that they see fresh content as a fresh new image. And so that doesn’t mean go crazy and create like 30 new images, but if you do have multiple angles of your food and you have different text on them, that can be an advantage for you to share different fresh images if you will.

Bjork Ostrom: Can you-

Kate Ahl: So that’s probably-

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, go ahead.

Kate Ahl: No, no, that’s fine. I knew that the fresh image might throw people off for a little bit.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, and I think that would be worth talking about a little bit maybe to step back and to zoom way out. One of the things that’s always helpful for me is to keep in mind from a search engine optimization perspective, speaking specifically search related to Google, like what is the goal? What is Google trying to do? And Google is always trying to surface the content that is most helpful and does the best job of answering or resolving the question or keyword search that somebody’s doing. So that makes sense. We know that we go to Google and we search for something, we want to find the answer to that. And Google’s trying to figure out how to surface the best content.

Bjork Ostrom: Pinterest in some ways is trying to do the same thing, but one of the things that’s interesting for me to think about is for something like new content or fresh content, how does that fit into Pinterest’s holistic high level goal that they are trying to accomplish. Is it like, Hey, we want people to be… we are going to reward creators who are continuing to feed the mouth of Pinterest with content, which is what it lives on. Can you help us understand where that comes from and why that’s being rewarded?

Kate Ahl: Yeah. I think one of the biggest things is that they are… I would say this is Kate’s assumption and assessment right here, not so much Pinterest, but I would say there’s this worry of becoming stale and not having enough new content to share with their, as their audience grows as far as users, do we have enough new stuff that’s working in our ecosystem or is it all recycled? For a long time. Pinterest was, most of it was re-pins. Everybody was on the platform sharing a bunch of stuff.

Kate Ahl: So I think now they’re saying we want as much new stuff as we can possibly get from creators. I will say, I think the problem is they haven’t always been super transparent or very collaborative with creators to get exactly what they want. And I think creators are willing to do that, but it’s been, I think during this time of their IPO and going public, they went dark with creators, so we haven’t been given a lot of information besides this piece of fresh content. But that’s my assessment of it, is they want what looks to be new content instead of just this constant re-pinning on this machine over and over.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, and you can see that for a company that’s rewarded by how often people come back to the app to go through and experience it. Or maybe if they’re logging on, on their computer, you think about that with Facebook, that’s what they’re trying to do. With Instagram, that’s what they’re trying to do. And with Pinterest, if the idea is you go back and it’s the same thing every time and then you’re only going when you want to search for something, that experience is different than like Instagram where you go and refresh and see what’s new.

Bjork Ostrom: So you can start to understand, okay, I can see they want people to update content, like you would on Instagram where you’re posting something new and people can go back and check on it as opposed to just re-pinning an old piece of content that people would be like, oh, I’ve seen that pin a hundred times now whenever I log in. It’s showing it to me. But how does Pinterest track that? How do they know? How do they credit you with being a creator who is continually publishing new content? Are they looking at the URL where it’s coming from? Are they able to like understand an image and see this image is different than this image because of how it looks and technology they have? How do they credit the creator?

Kate Ahl: That has been the great mystery, right?They’re not revealing hardly anything. We don’t know and I think that’s what be I’ve been trying to get from them is, how do we play into this ecosystem? You say a fresh image, but is that also associated with a new URL? Do you track IP addresses? I mean really the only way they can distinguish creators right now is by a business account. And they haven’t told us if there’s any algorithm tracking as far as if you’re repeatedly sharing content. We know there’s been concerns of people getting marked as spam in the past, but a lot of that has been when they sweep the platform with bots to get rid of spam, actual spam accounts. Sometimes people get caught up in that who are following the rules.

Kate Ahl: So I think you can’t get anything out of Pinterest right now, which is frustrating for creators because they’re saying, “How do we play this game right?” But then I feel like I’m playing it right. But I get caught up in a spam bot and then you’re not giving me any information when I email you. So all that to say we just don’t know. They’ve been very tightlipped, especially this last year whenever we would reach out to somebody, even the reps that we’ve had through promoted pins seem to not totally understand it. So I guess that’s something we hope to discover in the next…

Bjork Ostrom: Sure.

Kate Ahl: Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: But what we do know is from the source, Pinterest is saying, “We are rewarding and seeking fresh content.”

Kate Ahl: Correct.

Bjork Ostrom: Or maybe not even saying rewarding. Are they saying, “Hey, we are seeking this,” or are they actually saying, “You will be rewarded,” whatever that means. Exposure, more engagement if you are publishing fresh content or fresh content as being pinned to Pinterest. Are they saying you’ll benefit from that?

Kate Ahl: Not so much in those words, but I think more what they’re saying is we want the fresh content to benefit pinners that will in turn benefit you. We’re not going to necessarily tell you how direct of a tie that will be, but we want fresh, relevant content for our people.

Bjork Ostrom: Got it.

Kate Ahl: If you could do that. But again, that’s still leaves a little bit of mystery, oh is that mean? So I think that’s the big push. I think for myself as a person positioned, just knowing Pinterest and being Pinterest expert that I really want to push against to say, how do we get somebody who’s going to be a good liaison for creators so that we can build this great ecosystem because Pinterest does need creators and creators need Pinterest too. It can be a good give and take, we start to figure out how to really have a good conversation around it.

Bjork Ostrom: Yup. One of the questions that I knew existed for a long time on Instagram was this idea of, how do you create a business account? Or is it better to have a personal account? And I think people have… it’s the hot pan analogy where it’s like you touch a hot pan once and then you never touch it again. Where people on Facebook have gone through this experience of having, putting in a lot of work to create an account that grows really big and then Facebook coming in and artificially deflating the reach that can come from that account because they want you to pay to then get exposure for that.

Bjork Ostrom: And I think we’ve seen that recurring as something that people are cautious about because they have been burned by that in the past. Do you have any sense or can you speak into the idea of a creator who is primarily using Pinterest to get organic traffic? They’re not doing paid advertising but they’re a creator and a publisher and they want to get traffic from that. They have a business account. Is there any difference between like a regular Pinterest’s user’s account and a business account as it relates to reach in any issues that you see with having a business account or at this point is it only upside?

Kate Ahl: Only upside from where we’ve seen it, and I have heard a lot of those correlations between Facebook, Instagram, and then Pinterest, but the two are just so different that we haven’t seen anything like that. Where a business account really only gives you more options. You get analytics, you get promoted pins. Whereas with the personal account, you don’t get any of that. You can’t do it. So there’s limits there. But I would also say that with Facebook and Instagram and the way that you hear about these algorithm changes or these shadow banning within with hashtags, Pinterest is just been so tight lipped that we just don’t hear a whole lot and we haven’t seen these drastic shifts like we have on Facebook where, if you post a YouTube video on Facebook, nobody sees it. Right? We haven’t seen that drastic switch over there on Pinterest in these last six years that I’ve been doing marketing.

Kate Ahl: The only time we see it is… Well actually there isn’t a whole lot of times that we see that drastic of an algorithm trigger, the algorithms still works on the keywords, the images, and then consistency. So until we see… we did actually here earlier this year, it was the first indication through Tailwind. We actually heard it that Pinterest doesn’t want the word click written. And that was the very first time Pinterest is ever indicated words they didn’t want used in the entire time. So that’s the only thing I can say is don’t use the word click.

Bjork Ostrom: That would almost seem like a little seedling of a concept for them wanting to keep people on the platform longer. They don’t want you to click on it, click here to get the full recipe, click here to read more, but as much as possible they want you to stay within the platform itself. And or that would be, that would be my guess. Are there ways that we as creators can be thinking about Pinterest and shifting how we think about it just from a traffic source to Instagram because it’s always been a terrible way to drive traffic. I think we have shifted how we think about that and we say, okay, we’re going to try and do sponsored content.

Bjork Ostrom: There’s a lot of attention here. There’s a lot of power to impact people and to share a message. And the way that we will create value as a business from that is to do sponsored content. So with Pinterest it’s kind of the opposite where we say, hey there it’s a really great way to drive traffic and you see that in analytics, but maybe that’s shifting a little bit as they start to prioritize ads and things like that. Have you seen people do sponsor content on Pinterest? Are there other creative ways that we can think about shifting the way we view Pinterest as not just a traffic driver but also a place to build a community or other ways of monetization that maybe I’m not thinking about?

Kate Ahl: Right. I think that’s a great question. I think the biggest hurdle with that involves just the ecosystem of Pinterest. The pinner uses Pinterest to save ideas that they’re going to go revisit later. And so they’re already primed to move off the platform. And so when Pinterest is tested, things like communities which were supposed to be like Facebook groups, they tried it and they got rid of it because Pinterest user is an introvert. They don’t want to interact. They want to get what they want and then move off to get it. And so I think that makes it, as far as creators using it differently to monetize or to think of it outside of traffic. I just don’t think the platform in the ecosystem really allows that to even happen yet.

Kate Ahl: They’ve even tested story pins and people have just still been so confused by them. What am I doing with these? How are they working? And as far as other ways to monetize, I think it all comes down to how creative you are with your Pinterest images and taking lessons from even the big ad buyers who are doing promoted pins. Everything is, come to my site to take the quiz, find out more or shop now. That still exists. And until we see the big advertisers shift to keep them in the ecosystem, I don’t think it’s changed quite yet to where what Instagram is simply because the pinner is not conditioned to do anything different and see Pinterest in a different way and I think that’s one of the greatest hurdles of Pinterest with the attempts that they’ve made to keep their pinners on the platform. They’re just not in that mindset. But yeah, Instagram can do it because I don’t even visit people. I follow people on there and I know what their website looks like, but when I follow people on Pinterest or I click on them, I’m intending to get to their website and I’m actually pretty frustrated when it doesn’t load.

Kate Ahl: Yeah. Or if it’s like a dead link, that’s the greatest frustration of Pinterest. I want this and I don’t know where to get it.

Bjork Ostrom: Yup. Yup. Is there any way on Pinterest to see if pins from your site are leading to dead links and cleaning those up? Is that something that you can do as a scan or look into that?

Kate Ahl: No, I wish you could though because that can happen where somebody accidentally pins a pin of yours and then it just goes out there and it’s just dead. It’s hard to see because you don’t have the Google analytics and you can’t see their analytics. So even though it’s just an image and it’s just out there, you could… I guess now that I think about it, you could do a visual search so you could hover over an image so you could pin an actual legit pin on one of your pins and then hover over it, but that would take hours.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure.

Kate Ahl: There’s no quick scan by any means.

Bjork Ostrom: Yup. Okay. That makes sense. How about, you had mentioned the idea of posting a YouTube video on Facebook, but I know video is something that Pinterest is starting to play around with and use a little bit more and it’s starting to become more prevalent. Is that something that if somebody is creating video already, should they just as a baseline default plan on including that on Pinterest and what does that look like and do you see people doing that successfully?

Kate Ahl: Yeah, I do. I think video last year we saw them make a huge push and I think it’s going to be even bigger this year. It’s a little bit like, when the tasty style video started on Facebook, they were like less than a minute. I think it’s that movement right now, no sound, less than a minute. People have experimented with a one-to-one size, so a square and then a two to three size where they maybe have a text box on the top that’s static and then the videos running below. And we found Adobe premier is one of the best programs for us to use to create those.

Kate Ahl: And they are showing up more and more when you’re searching on Pinterest. I even know for me when I was searching for something with cabinets, every other third video or third pin was a video pin, which was really surprising to me and they promoted. So when you search for something, especially food related, Pinterest is putting the search results at the top as videos on your phone. So I would say if you are already doing video, edit it down to less than a minute to be that teaser style and then get them to click through, because again, they’re still prime to click through. They’re not going to watch the video and stick around on there. And I think it’s very advantageous for food creators.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. One of the things you had mentioned before, this idea of being strategic in what you include in the description, and I know that Pinterest has gone back and forth in including the description, not including it, hiding it, hashtags, not hashtags. Where are things at right now in terms of best practice when you are crafting a pin both on Pinterest and on your website?

Kate Ahl: Great question. So, number one, I will say that they introduced hashtags in 2018 and we are hoping to see them phased out sometime this year. We’ve heard rumblings that they’ve been removed from best practices and there’s not going to be a lot of initiative put behind them. And a big part of that is we just didn’t see users embrace them. So if you don’t include hashtags in your description, it is not a deal breaker for what we’re seeing right now.

Kate Ahl: When it comes to what we’re seeing on the platform appear and disappear, it’s still in the background is something that’s super important and we say one to two sentences written very naturally and that does originate on your website where you can include that, with WP Tasty with being able to use Tasty Pins, you can include that in the Pinterest description box and Pinterest will pull that and it will add that description to your pin when somebody pins. The important part of that and that is that then that attaches the search value, the keyword search value there, to where if somebody’s searching banana pudding, now everything works in the ecosystem that it should.

Kate Ahl: So one to two sentences spread the key words within those. If you want to go three sentences, that’s great too. Pinterest just really emphasizes that they want it very natural sounding, not keyword stuffing.

Bjork Ostrom: Yep. And the idea to fill the picture out there is literally filling the picture out is if you have a image and it’s pinned straight to Pinterest, Pinterest is a search engine just like Google is just like YouTube is and the machines that are building the search algorithm at this point best understand words over images. They’re always getting better at understanding images. But if you are able to attach some description in what you’re saying is one, two, three naturally written sentences around what that image is, then you’re going to do a better job informing the search engine of Pinterest what that pin is all about. So then when somebody goes and they search, banana pudding or banana pudding recipe, if you have that keyword within the description, it’s going to show up higher. Now, like you said, you don’t want to keyword stuff, which means really good banana pudding recipe with banana that you can have a as a pudding recipe.

Kate Ahl: Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: Okay, that doesn’t sound natural, it’s obvious that you’re just trying to say banana pudding recipe multiple times. So make it sound natural like you would if you were to shoot your friend a text and say, hey, here’s that banana recipe, banana pudding recipe. It’s one of my favorites, takes 15 minutes to make, I think you’ll really like it. And that informing the search algorithm, what the image is all about. You’re saying hashtags aren’t necessary, we can start to not be as concerned with those and they might be phased out as a ranking factor or even as best practice. And then also my assumption is also facing out the URL. Sometimes people would include the URL within the image description because that would link back to the blog. And the idea is, you could get people to click on it and then go to your blog. Anything else that you’d say around that in terms of optimization? Either on Pinterest or on your site?

Kate Ahl: Yeah, I would say don’t even include the name of your site anymore. A lot of people will put @ and then your name it doesn’t hyperlink. So I wouldn’t even include it because all of that should be, if they have Rich Pins turned on, which I know some people don’t, but if they do, a lot of that data is there too as well so they don’t have to worry about it. But even if they don’t have Rich Pins turned on, don’t use the text description as a space to put the name of your site. Just make it informative. I love the way that you said it, rite as if you’re sending a text to somebody. That’s perfect.

Bjork Ostrom: And for those who aren’t familiar, can you quickly describe what a Rich Pin is and your advice around, I know there’s a period of time where people are like, Hey, should I have these on or off and just… maybe that’s long gone, but I’m sure there are still some people who are interested in hearing the answer to that.

Kate Ahl: Yes, they do. That is one of those things that I would say. Just don’t worry about it anymore. But a Rich Pin is essentially, it gives the pin on your website, an extra you add code, and you can probably explain this better.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure.

Kate Ahl: But essentially it’s an extra snippet of code that when somebody pins, it carries the title with it and the information. So there’s article, there’s recipe, there’s product. And for a lot of food bloggers they had recipe which lists the ingredients, but it does not list the instructions. And the reason it lists the ingredients is that it helps Pinterest search up recipes that have gluten free pasta or something like that. And so a lot of people over time had turned it off because they had thought, well, I’ll get more traffic because people won’t see the ingredients and therefore they’ll come to the site.

Kate Ahl: But the problem we saw is that bounce rates went up because a lot of people got to the site and realize, well, I don’t have cilantro so I’m not going to make it. A lot of pinners love the ingredients there because they would read through it and go, “Oh, now I want to make this.” And they would spend longer time on the site. Very similar with product pins, it carries the price with it. It updates all the time. So if you update a listing or you update the title or ingredients, it will automatically update on all pins across the platform.

Bjork Ostrom: Got it. Yeah. And so structured data is… a lot of bloggers understand that and especially food bloggers has, what happens to allow Google to show additional information when somebody searches, but structured data could actually be used anywhere. And Pinterest is a great example of a platform that uses that structured data and it’s, if you imagine a big bucket of a random stuff, maybe it’s toys and tech, and pencils, and scissors and it’s all in a big bucket. You could look through it and be like, okay, there’s… yeah, I see. I can sort through and see there’s a pencil there and there’s a ball over here. But it’s all mushed together. That’s what it’s like for a search engine or a platform like Pinterest to look at your content.

Bjork Ostrom: What structured data does is it essentially creates structures. So you can imagine that random box of toys, all of a sudden it has these nice little walls and it’s all labeled where it says like, “Here’s the toys and here’s the tech, and here’s the pencils and the scissors.” And you can look at it really quickly and be like, oh, I see, I see what all these are and I know what category they fit in. And that’s what structured data does for search engines and platforms like Pinterest is it really clearly says, “This part of my content, here are the ingredients.” And then you can choose to import that in any way you want and display it.

Bjork Ostrom: And for Pinterest, they’re bringing that in and displaying the ingredients that are included. They could technically bring in the instructions, but they’ve decided not to do that because creators would get so mad because essentially then everything would be there. And so you can turn it on and off and you can opt in for that. But structured data is a really good thing to have because it’s organizing your content and communicating that to Google or Pinterest or any of the sites that use structured data. So Rich Pins on. It’s something that we do and something that it sounds like you recommend doing as well.

Kate Ahl: Yes, absolutely. And you explain it so well.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Kate Ahl: I’m like, I need to remember all of this, so there you go.

Bjork Ostrom: Great. Yeah. Good. Well Kate, we covered a lot on this. It’s super helpful to be able to rehash some of these important conversations, especially with a platform like Pinterest, which is so valuable for the food and recipe niche. My guess is that some people love the idea of jumping in, managing this, doing it on their own, but there’s a lot of people who are like, I don’t have the time and I’m interested in it, but I also know that I can’t learn all of it on my own and keep up to date on it, which is why Simple Pin Media exists and you have lots of different ways that people can connect with you, learn from you, work with you if they want to work with your agency. Can you do a quick recap of what those options are for people and if they want to connect and follow up how they could do that?

Kate Ahl: Yeah, absolutely. So you can find me at Simple Pin Media everywhere and it’s just simplepinmedia.com but what we realized, the creators were struggling with different things along the way. So we started out as just management, which is like what you said, somebody who’s like, I don’t want to do any of this. I don’t want to keep up with the pinning or keep up with the best practices so I’m just going to outsource it to you. But there’s other people who might love pinning than they might love being in there, but they’re struggling with images. So we have an image department that will create images for you or they will just do a consult with you, looking at all your images and giving you tips. And then we actually are launching video pin creation that will be in beta and we’re just looking to learn as much as we can about video with that.

Kate Ahl: And then we also have a promoted pins department that also does the same thing with a consult there or somebody to manage for you. We know that promoted pins are pretty scary, so just getting somebody to ask those questions to you to say, am I doing this right is really something we’ve found that people have loved. And then we have a membership, which is where I teach those people who still want to be in the nitty gritty of everything, creating images, doing all of that. It’s a much lower price point per month. So I’m in there coaching, teaching all things Pinterest.

Bjork Ostrom: Awesome. And Simple Pin Media. A search on that will lead you to all of those things, and be sure to check out. We will link to these in the show notes, the other episodes that we’ve done with UK because you have a lot of valuable information that you’ve rehashed there. Thank you as always for coming on the podcast and for those who want to follow your podcast, they can do that as well by just searching Simple Pin Media. So thanks Kate for coming on and looking forward to staying connected.

Kate Ahl: Yeah, so welcome. Thank you.

Alexa Peduzzi: And that’s a wrap. Thanks for tuning into the podcast this week. If you’re interested in diving deep into Pinterest, be sure to check out the show notes for this episode @foodbloggerpro.com/242, for some links to other podcast episodes we’ve done with Kate, and if you’re a Food Blogger Pro member, we have a big old course all about using Pinterest as a part of your social strategy for your food blog, as well as a brand new social analytics course that can help you make sense of your Pinterest accounts performance and then let you know where you should try adjusting or tweaking it. Alrighty, that’s all from us this week. We’ll see you next time with another brand new episode, but until then, make it a great week.

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