019: How to Master Pinterest for your Food Blog with Susan Wenner Jackson from Ahalogy | Food Blogger Pro

019: How to Master Pinterest for your Food Blog with Susan Wenner Jackson from Ahalogy

Welcome back to the Food Blogger Pro podcast! This week, Bjork interviews Susan from Ahalogy, a Pinterest marketing Partner.

Last week on the podcast, Bjork interviewed Jadah Sellner from Simple Green Smoothies. Jadah and her business partner Jen built Simple green Smoothies into a thriving online food business – but they did it almost completely without blogging. To go back and listen to that episode and find out how they achieved such great success, click here.

How to Master Pinterest for your Food Blog

As food bloggers, we’ve all heard it: Pinterest can, and should, be a major driving force for your blog. Get Pinterest figured out and you’ll be set with all the traffic your little blogging heart desires.

Unfortunately, mastering Pinterest isn’t that easy. Deciding what size images to use, whether or not you should make a compilation of images, and if you should be adding text are all tough questions. Thankfully, Susan Wenner Jackson from Ahalogy, a Pinterest Marketing Partner, is here to help us out!

In this insightful interview, Susan shares:

  • How she would describe Pinterest from a user’s perspective
  • Why you should start with your existing personal account
  • Why you should think of Pinterest as a search engine
  • Whether or not you should be deleting old pins
  • Why you should enable rich pins for your domain
  • How you should be writing your pin descriptions
  • If food bloggers should be using promoted pins
  • How Ahalogy works with bloggers and brands

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Transcript:

Bjork Ostrom: Welcome to episode number 19 of the Food Blogger Pro podcast. Hey there, this is Bjork Ostrom. You are listening to the Food Blogger Pro podcast. This is episode 19, and it’s going to be an awesome episode because we are talking with Susan Wenner Jackson. Susan is from the company Ahalogy. Ahalogy specializes in, wait for it, drum roll, Pinterest. Yes indeed, one of the most important social media areas for food bloggers to focus, Pinterest.

We’re going to be talking with Susan about all of the different things that go into building a really strong Pinterest presence. The great thing is they get to see the behind the scenes of a lot of different Pinterest pins. They get to see which ones perform well, why they perform well. They have a lot of data and insight around the things that for a lot of us, we just have to guess that when it comes to Pinterest.

I’m really excited to have her on. She’s going to be sharing some really awesome and insightful things all about Pinterest. I know you’ll get a lot out of it. One more ting that I want to share before we jump into the podcast is a link for an eBook that we recently put together. This eBook is called The Number One Thing. You can get there by going to foodbloggerpro.com/focus, F-O-C-U-S.

Why are we using that URL, and why is it called the number one thing? We emailed 30 top food bloggers, people that we know that are in this space and that do a really good job building a site around food. We asked them, "What is the number one thing that you want to focus on in the coming year?" We compiled all of those answers, and we put them into an eBook. You can get that again by going to foodbloggerpro.com/focus.

What you’ll notice is there starts to be some trends with what people are saying they’re going to be focusing on. Obviously, you can’t focus on everything that everybody else is focusing on, but what I encourage you to do is to read through that eBook and jot down the different trends that you see people are talking about. Then pick one that you’re going to have as your focus for the year, your number one thing.

I’m really excited to share that eBook with you. Some of you might be thinking, "How much is it? Where can I purchase it?" The good news is it’s free. We offer it for anybody that’s listening to this podcast, or really anybody that you know that you think would be interested in downloading it. Again, one last time, you can get that by going to foodbloggerpro.com/focus. I know that you’ll find it really valuable.

I’m really excited about this podcast with Susan. I learned a lot. I know that you’ll learn a lot as well, so let’s go ahead and jump in. Susan, welcome to the Food Blogger Pro podcast.

Susan Wenner Jackson: Thank you so much for having me. I’m super excited to be here.

Bjork Ostrom: In my research for this interview, I was digging in deep. The deeper I got, the more research I did, the more excited I got, because I know that I’m going to get a lot out of this. I’m really excited to talk about the things that just personally we can learn. I know that the audience, the Food Blogger Pro audience, has a ton of questions about Pinterest, so I’m really excited to talk to you about it. Before we jump in to the needy greedy, I want to start with a very, very basic question. The question is this. What is Pinterest?

Susan Wenner Jackson: I love that question, because I think a lot of people think of Pinterest in different ways, and they have a different perspective on it. From Ahalogy’s perspective and all of the research we’ve done and all of the data we’ve crunched, Pinterest is really a place to visually discover and find inspiration, ideas, things to try, things to do or plan. Almost, it’s like Google, but you’re more of a browser and you’re looking visually versus a text.

Bjork Ostrom: One thing that I love is when you look back at the evolution of the internet, which geeks like me love to spend time doing, but when you look back at that, you can see that evolution. It started with text, and then you could start to get banners. People use images. Then images became more and more prevalent as people were able to download more. Now, we’re including video a little bit. It’s interesting to see how people have adjusted to that.

Pinterest is a great example, where like you said, it’s all images, and people search through those, and categorize and put them together. It’s important to establish that because most of the people listening, I’m guessing, have a different view, because we’re the content creators. We’re putting together boards. We’re compiling things, and it’s important to remember how the vast majority of people use Pinterest, which is on the consumer side.

With that beginner level in mind when I talked about being a content creator, can you talk about if somebody is just getting started with their Pinterest account? Maybe they have secured their username. They have it set up, but they haven’t really spent a ton of time with it. What should they start with? What habit should they establish right away, and where should they focus their energy? Let’s say if they have a half-an-hour a day, what should they be doing on Pinterest?

Susan Wenner Jackson: Right on. I would say first of all, I always tell people, "If you have a personal Pinterest page, and you’ve got even 100 followers that are your friends on Facebook, start with that. Try not to start from zero if you can. If you have something, you can always change the username. You can change it to a business account easily." I always tell people that. Just try not to start from zero. If you have to start from zero, you have to start, but it’s just always easier if you got a few followers in there.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s great.

Susan Wenner Jackson: If you approach it like I set up that is more of a search discovery-type of place, then everything you do should be oriented that way. For example, every board you create, name it in a search friendly way. If you’ve got recipes that are very specifically vegan or for baked goods, name it very plainly and very search friendly. Also add a description to every board, to every pin you do with as many descriptive, relevant key words as you can.

Even in your bio, so in your name on Pinterest, if your name is Susan Jackson and your blog is Food Blogger Pro, you probably want to have both of those in your Pinterest username up at the top, the big bold letters, as well as the bio. Then reinforcing, "Well, what are people looking for, and how do I want to be found?" If you do all of those things to set yourself up, you’re going to be at a good place.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s really interesting. I’ve never thought about that, but in a lot of ways, Pinterest much like maybe YouTube or Facebook maybe a little bit less, but it’s a search engine. It’s a place where people go to search. I think people traditionally think about search engine optimization to show up high on Google. What you’re saying and what I think is so fascinating is that you can also do that with Pinterest. What are the things on Pinterest that when people search can possibly show up? It’s the pins.

Susan Wenner Jackson: Literally, any words that you put in for a pin description, so when you upload a pin or you share a pin, and the little words that go beneath it, it can be that the board title, the board description, also your board category will play into that. If somebody is searching by category of boards or of content, that will help identify your content as well.

A lot of people who maybe started doing this a while back, they skipped that step. They skipped the categorizing. They skipped doing the board descriptions and things like that. Those thing really matter. You can always go back and do them, but any of those words people might be looking for. Something I love to share to food bloggers especially, "Your content is so evergreen." All food content is.

Bjork Ostrom: It lives forever. It will always be a good recipe.

Susan Wenner Jackson: Which is fantastic, and so for example, paying attention to holidays coming up. You can always repin content that could be useful for Thanksgiving meal or Christmas meal, or Easter meal. That same recipe could be good for any of those holiday meals, but you can put the words in there into your new pin to give a little extra juice for the people that are searching.

Bjork Ostrom: That was one of the questions that I actually wanted to ask about was the idea of repinning or reusing content. Let’s say for example that Pinch of Yum, so my wife Lindsay has pinchofyum.com. She has a board. Let’s say it’s a dessert board. She’s pinned a cake recipe to that. Maybe that’s a bad example. Maybe it would be some type of …

I’m so bad at food. You’re going to realize this, which is the irony of me doing a Food Blogger Pro podcast. Let’s say it was some type of Christmas recipe. You’re saying that around Christmas, she should go in and start to refresh that or repin that, is that right?

Susan Wenner Jackson: Exactly.

Bjork Ostrom: What does that process look like?

Susan Wenner Jackson: Well essentially, depending on what type of program, or software, or service you’re using to pin. With Ahalogy, once you pin something once in our system, it’s always there. You can always go back, grab it, and schedule it to pin it again either to a different board with a different description, et cetera. If you’re just pinning from Pinterest, you could literally just go to the pin, click on it to repin it, and then choose one of your other boards that you’d want it to go on.

Then you can also like I said change the description a little bit. Maybe juice it up with more relevant key words that make sense for whatever that holiday or that thing that’s coming up that you’re trying to capitalize on. The key is really to pay attention to the pins that do well. That’s something at Ahalogy we really focused on a lot is performance of pins, because a very small percentage of all the pins on Pinterest drive the majority of the traffic. You can probably find that even in your own.

Bjork Ostrom: Yes absolutely, it’s like the 80/20 rule, except that it’s the 90/10 rule.

Susan Wenner Jackson: It’s like the 92/8. You don’t want to keep beating the dead horse with these pins that just never seemed to get any traction. You really want to focus on the ones that you know are going to do well. They’ve done well. Pinterest is getting more and more credence to the pins that have performed well over a longer period of time.

Bjork Ostrom: This is awesome, and I think people will really get a lot out of this. It’s so important to focus on the successes, whether it’s a post that’s been successful or in this case a pin. It’s a huge takeaway for people. I want to go back to that, and pick apart the repinning piece. Let’s say it was on the dessert board, and we have another board called great …

Susan Wenner Jackson: Holiday recipes.

Bjork Ostrom: Thank you, yes. Anytime I stumble over my words, just fill it in because you’re the expert. You’re saying take it from that dessert board, and repin it to the holiday recipe board ideally around the time of the holiday or whatever. My question is do you ever repin on to the same board, and then delete the old pin, or once it’s on a board, is that just where it’s going to live at the time that you pinned it, and you never go back and repin to that same board?

Susan Wenner Jackson: That’s a good question. There’s been some scuttlebutt out in the Pinterest’s landscape about deleting old pins or deleting a pin once you’ve repinned it again. We have ran data on doing that very practice on deleting pins and whether it has any impact. We don’t see any real positive impact from that. Not necessarily a terribly negative one either, but it just seems like a wasted effort, the deleting part.

Bjork Ostrom: Not worth it.

Susan Wenner Jackson: The repinning part, let’s say you want to repin. I’m not sure repinning it to the same board multiple times is a great idea. I would rather see you repinning it to other relevant boards. Think about it almost like tags in a blog post. It’s like, "If it makes sense in this tag, in that tag, and the other, put them in all of them." Don’t just keep putting the same one over and over.

The other thing to consider is if you join some new group boards, periodically, you may discover or be invited to a really great new group of board or a group board that you don’t know if it’s great or not. That’s one way to tell. Take one of those pins that you have on your existing boards, and then pin something that you’ve already pinned to that group board to see how it does. That’s another way to expand the audience of it, try out the board, see how it does.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s great. This is great because it’s good advice, sound practice. Don’t try and game the system. Don’t put one pin at the top of a board that it’s already in, because it’s like, "That’s already there." You’re saying if it makes sense in another place, go ahead and put it in there. That’s just a smart strategy, and realistically, it’s going to be valuable for the people that are following that board if it aligns with it. If it’s totally unrelated, probably not worth it.

Susan Wenner Jackson: Exactly right. If you put yourself in the user or the pinner … When I say pinner, that’s how Pinterest refers to users because user is an ugly word. If you put yourself on the pinner’s shoes, and you’re doing things that are going to benefit them or help them, then they’re great. Pinterest is going to love it. If you’re doing things to, like you said, game the system or spam them, or do things that might bug them, then it’s going to hurt you. That’s just the basic rule of thumb, the golden rule I guess of using Pinterest.

Bjork Ostrom: Got it. When you’re looking at those high performers, those shining stars, those pins that are doing really well, what are the different metrics that you look at that you say, "This is the most important metric. If this one is performing really well, we know that this is going to be a high metric?" Is it clicks? Is it repins? What is that magic metric?

Susan Wenner Jackson: We spend a huge amount of time here at Ahalogy obsessing on that very question. Essentially, we really loved the … Really, the golden ticket is the combination of high repins, which indicates, "I want to save this content, because it’s good. I want to keep it for later." Also high clicks, because that indicated that there is actually an action taking place.

Obviously, that’s why bloggers put stuff on Pinterest. They want you to click to their site. If people are clicking through to actually get the information, get the recipe, that’s also a great indication. Finally, it’s the longevity. Is it that did you get the high repins of the clicks because some really popular pinner just happened to repin it, which great luck you locked out? Is it just consistently getting those repins and clicks organically?

That’s something else I should bring up. I know bloggers try to focus really hard on, "What can I do? What can I pin? What board should I pin to? How was it?" The vast majority of the repins and traffic that come to you from Pinterest are not coming from your pins. They’re coming from organic ones. That’s where you look at Pinterest analytics, and say, "OK, so where are the most organically pin things from my site? Why is that? How could I do more of that? How could I capitalize on that?" That’s really something that can help you identify, "These are my golden pins that I’ve got to do as much as I can with, or do more like them."

Bjork Ostrom: Can you give a quick high-level overview of how people could figure out what those pins are? I know it’s hard to do over audio, but where would people go to sort through their analytics, and figure that?

Susan Wenner Jackson: Sure. I can walk you through it quickly. First of all, you need to make sure you have a business account on Pinterest. If your account is still personal, then Pinterest does not give you access to those analytics, because they assume, "Why would you care? You’re just a person using it to pin recipes." If you’re actually a business, a blogger, you should have the business account. Then you will be able to go to analytics.pinterest.com, which will then be a way to unlock all of the information that Pinterest is going to reveal about what people are doing with your content and with your pins.

I like to go to the third bucket or box of contents, that’s activity from your website.com. That’s where you go through. You click more, and it actually is going to show you all of the organic activity coming from your site over a period of time. I believe that the maximum you can see on Pinterest is the last 30 days. Ahalogy actually lets you go back as far as you want. That’s a nice little bonus of using Ahalogy.

Bjork Ostrom: To see the long tail.

Susan Wenner Jackson: Correct. Just from the analytics.pinterest.com, you can look at either impressions, and impressions is just how many times did that pin show up in somebody’s feed, probably on their phone, and they happen to go and look at it. We don’t know if they clicked it. We don’t know if they repinned it, but at least they saw it, which means … That at least tells you it’s something people are looking for, so that they looked for chicken noodle soup recipes, your pin may show up. That’s an impression.

What I really like to look at is just the all time. They may put a little star there. That’s your all time most repins, your all time best in search. Personally, I have a blog myself actually. It’s not a food blog. It’s called Working Moms Against Guilt. It’s about a working mom. I have meet that a smattering of recipes and food content on there. The one that just is gangbusters is this very simple recipe called Easy Chicken Parmesan.

It’s put chicken in some sauce in the oven, and place some Parmesan cheese on it. That is an all time most repinned, best in search, most clicked thing. It’s just interesting to see that, and then thinking about, "Well, what should I do with this? Should I make more Chicken Parmesan recipes, or should I just chop that up to, "Wow, that was just one that did really well and et cetera?" That’s how you could start to look at that, and really get a sense of that organic interest.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s awesome. I want to talk a little bit about specifically an optimal pin. There’s a ton of different things that go into a pin. Obviously, the image, there is the description, but then there’s these other things where you can put in links and you can put in hashtags. I’m sure there may be are even more factors that I’m not thinking of. If you were to order the major factors that somebody should pay attention to with a Pinterest pin, what would they be in terms of importance?

Susan Wenner Jackson: By far, the most important is the photography. The image of the food has to be so appetizing. Like you see it, and you just want to eat it. You want to make it. It isn’t quite to the level of it needs to look like it’s in a food magazine, a fancy gourmet food magazine, but food bloggers are upping their game every day. I just see more and more impressive food photography. Also balancing that and that quality and that appetite appeal with achievable, "I could do that."

What we find for example in Ahalogy when we’re rating all of the pins in our network, the ones that always seemed to crap up to the top are not the complicated recipes. They’re the two-ingredient, easy Amish white bread, 15 best slow cooker recipes. Those are the ones that really just go gangbusters.

Bjork Ostrom: Obviously, the title has a lot to do with it as well, words that you include within the title.

Susan Wenner Jackson: It does. However, I will say that when it comes to food pins, they’re a little different from other types of pins, with the text overlays. You’ll see lots and lots of text overlays on pins, and they do work really well. However, with food pins, it depends on your photography first of all. If you have just amazing, amazing image of your food, and it’s so appetizing, you’re almost better off with no text overlaid off, because the food speaks for itself. Your text overlay may just get in the way, and be a visual stopping point for someone. They don’t really get into that food image.

However, if you’re doing for example collections, so the 10 best whatever recipes, you definitely want to have the text overlay on that. Otherwise, no one’s going to realize that there is more than just that one thing. The other thing to consider is rich pins. That’s a whole other topic. Rich pins essentially is when you’re looking at your Pinterest feed, rich pins will show you more information about the content including the ingredients that it’s a recipe rich pin.

It’s good and bad in some ways, because it does give a lot of information. It gives the name of the recipe which you then don’t have to put on the image. It does give the ingredients, get people an idea of making even search, buy ingredients and things like that. However, it does somewhat maybe hinder the click through. If somebody sees that, "Gee, all it is is two thing. I could just do that. I don’t need to go and visit the thing to do it."

Ahalogy, we’ve done tons and tons of data crunching and analysis on it. In general, having rich pins enabled for you content is a good thing. It’s going to drive certainly more repins and at least as many if not more clicks than you’d get without it. That’s another thing to consider in optimizing your pin. You want to have great photography, but you also have want to have the rich pins available.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s interesting, because it’s something that we often hear from food bloggers. I know when rich pins first came out for Pinterest, we heard a lot from people. They’re saying, "I don’t want to enable this because it will decrease clicks." We emailed with the representative from Pinterest, he said, "Well actually, it’s going to be beneficial because people will repin it more. It will be more searchable. You’ll probably get more engagement because of it," which is exactly what I hear you saying as well which is cool.

Susan Wenner Jackson: One other thing I just want to mention, look at it from the pinner’s perspective. When you’re looking through your feed and you see a rich pin, not only does it stand out more to you, but it looks more trustworthy, because it has that little icon from your blog. It looks like, "Oh, this is a real thing. It’s not one of those phony spam pins that are everywhere." That’s just another way to show people, "Hey, I’m legit. This content is legit."

Bjork Ostrom: If people wanted to set up rich pins, how do they go about doing that?

Susan Wenner Jackson: That’s a great question. Most food bloggers already have everything in place. All they have to do is a quick validation with Pinterest. You don’t actually have to change anything about how you’re … If you’re failing in your meta description, your recipe information, you’re probably using some plugin or something to zip up your recipes nicely, that’s all you need from Pinterest’s perspective. Then they just have to validate it.

The way that you validate it is you want to go to business.pinterest.com. I’m pulling it up right now just to make sure it still says this. You go to tools, and rich pins is one of the things under tools. I’ll share that link with you, and you can share that with people. Basically, there’s just the simple validator on there. You put in a link to one of your articles. They check it, and they go, "Great." Then they enable you. Sometimes, it takes a day or two, but once they do it, it happens to all pins that link to your site. It just happened automatically. You don’t have to worry about it.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s great. For those that aren’t familiar, the recipe plugin that we use is called EasyRecipe. It’s for WordPress bloggers. We have a course on Food Blogger Pro that walks people through setting up and optimizing that plugin. What that does is that adds, this is going to get a little bit geeky, but it adds schema markup. Then it knows what’s an ingredient and instructions and all of that. From what I understand, Pinterest grabs that schema markup that’s automatically created, and uses that for the rich pin. Is that correct?

Susan Wenner Jackson: That is correct. That’s exactly right.

Bjork Ostrom: Some important things to recap here, images, obviously really big deal, to have those be achievable images though. Something that doesn’t look totally over the top that somebody couldn’t do that it’s achievable in the sense that it’s a meal that they could make at home at the end of the day. Then rich pins are also really important. Are there other elements that you would say, "Hey, be sure to pay attention to these as well?" I’m guessing description, anything beyond that?

Susan Wenner Jackson: Description’s big. It’s easy when this is just one more thing in your list of things. You got to do it to promote your content. Man, if you’re a food blogger, there is nothing more important than getting it right on Pinterest. If you have to short shrift any other platform or any other place, do it. You want to get that description really rich.

By rich, I mean not just the name of the recipe, but like, "Give me some mouthwatering teaser. What is it about this recipe that’s amazing? Give it some personal context like, "My grandmother handed this recipe down, and la, la, la." There is an ingredient that it’s in your pantry right now. That makes you go, "What is that? I want to click." It just needs to be intriguing, and also have contain within it those key words that people will search.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s good copy writing in some sense. In a lot of ways, it’s.

Susan Wenner Jackson: It is. In fact, we have people on our staff here that that’s all they do is write things.

Bjork Ostrom: If you would have told them that would have been their job five years ago, they’d be like, "What?"

Susan Wenner Jackson: I know. It doesn’t even exist.

Bjork Ostrom: One of the things that I’m curious about, do you recommend for bloggers, let’s say food bloggers, that they optimize their alt text in their image on their site? Can you talk about what that means, and what your recommendation is for that?

Susan Wenner Jackson: When you set the alt text for any image, a lot of times, people will just leave it as the title of the image, so to be like picture of cake number one, something like that. If you actually can put in more descriptive language, almost the same description you’re going to use on your pin, if you can try to do that on the alt text, it makes it a lot easier to work for people who are organically in a pin from your site to just grab whatever you have and use that, rather than either the lame name of the title of the image file, or whatever they put in.

You really want to make it as easy as possible for it to organically show up on Pinterest with the right words. That’s another reason it makes sense to take the time. What I normally would recommend is as you’re creating your content with Pinterest in mind, put in descriptions in. It makes it easier for you to pin it. Then it makes it easier for other people as well.

Bjork Ostrom: For those that aren’t familiar, can you just do a really high level overview of what the alt tag is, where they could find, and what it is?

Susan Wenner Jackson: If you’re using WordPress, as you’re uploading the image, it should be as part of the information about that image. There’s got to be title, the size, the orientation. Is it left-outlined or centered? Then also the alternate text, so it’s the text describing whatever that image is. It’s actually that the reason for it is for people with visual impairments to be able to take in what they’re looking at online when they can actually view the image. It’s also great for search engines. Then finally, it’s what gets pulled when you’re creating a pin on Pinterest.

Bjork Ostrom: If those of you that are listening aren’t familiar with that, I’d really encourage you to check that out, especially important for food bloggers. It’s important across the board, but especially for food bloggers because it ties into Pinterest. Within the out text or within the description, I would say either or, what about hashtags and your blog’s URL? Are those things that you should be including?

Susan Wenner Jackson: No.

Bjork Ostrom: What’s your reasoning for that?

Susan Wenner Jackson: Pinterest basically has stated publicly they don’t like hashtags. They don’t want you using hashtags. When they say that, they mean it. If you’re trying to for example use promoted pins that you’re paying to promote your pins, they’ll reject if it has hashtags in it. I think if it has more even one more hashtag. One hashtag is OK, but using them the way you use them in Instagram, no. That’s completely different, because they want it to feel like a natural search process, not like this Twitter or Instagram hashtag environments.

Then your question about putting your website into the pin description, I don’t think it hurts necessarily, but I do think it’s a distraction especially if you already have rich pins enabled. You’re already getting your blog’s name highlighted that way. Every word you put into that description should be important, and that you’re choosing it carefully.

If you’re just throwing that in there at the end, your blog name or your username, you’re just wasting that space. You don’t need it. The pin already links to you. You may have a watermark on the image that brands you. You’ve got all these different ways for people to see that it’s from you. I think it’s just a waste personally, but personal preference. It doesn’t hurt to have it there.

Bjork Ostrom: Is there a restriction on the amount of content that can be in a Pinterest description?

Susan Wenner Jackson: I think there, but it’s pretty long. You can really put a lot in there. I don’t recommend that you write a novel. We’ve done some analysis of character lengths. It’s around the link of a Tweet, so 140 character is a good length. Longer is OK, and especially if you need to for some reason. It’s OK.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s great advice. Use as much as you need and not more, which comes in handy so many times whether it’s writing a post or writing a description for a pin. I have a list of yes or nos on this. Long pins, it’s not yes or no. It’s one better than the other. Long pins versus short pins?

Susan Wenner Jackson: It depends on how you define short. The really long ones, they actually get cut off in the feed. Therefore, again, you’re wasting space, because it’s going to cut off, and you may not determine exactly where it cuts off. However, short pins, if they’re a square like an Instagram orientation, that’s also you’re really hurting yourself. You want it to be essentially around 700X1000 of pixels is ideal. It’s like think of it like an iPad or an iPhone. That orientation is great. It fills it up really nicely.

I will add though, we’ve had a lot of great success. We work with a lot of big food brands here at Ahalogy. One of the things that works really well for them has been the step by step pins. Not 10 steps, but maybe three steps, so the ingredients, maybe doing something in the middle. Then what does finished thing look like? Those do great.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s what I was getting at. I know a lot of food blogger will create compilations, whether it would this step, this step, this step, and create these really long pins. From what I hear from you, it’s maybe not including every step, but including some steps is a overview of here is the general process.

Susan Wenner Jackson: Exactly, because again, what are people doing? They’re not coming to look at your pin, and make the thing. They’re looking for inspiration of what to make. If they just get enough to go, "Oh yes, that does look like something I could make, or that would be fun to make for the thing I’m having next weekend." Then they’ll click through, and they’ll actually make it. You don’t have to show them every single image.

Bjork Ostrom: In regards to those longer pins, this is something that we’ve done before. I know other people do this, where they don’t want it to be included in the blog post necessarily, because it is so massive. They’ll have that image technically on the post, but using some type of CSS, they’ll actually hide that so people only see it when they click the pin button. Is that something you’ve seen people do? Is that OK? What is your take on that?

Susan Wenner Jackson: It is. That’s OK. I think that’s fine, especially if they’re comprised of the images that are on the post. Yes, you can take individual images from the post. Put them into a three-step image, and then maybe hide that. What you don’t want to do is trick people by putting one image on Pinterest, and then when they click through it, it’s something else completely. Obviously, that’s misleading.

The hiding it is fine. Also, you can just straight upload it to Pinterest. You don’t even have to hide it. That’s another way to go. That’s absolutely fine.

Bjork Ostrom: This one, you answered it already. Let’s say that it’s somebody who is a pretty good photographer, pretty good food photographer, would you recommend that they have a clean image or text and the image?

Susan Wenner Jackson: I would recommend trying it both ways, seeing what works better for you and for your audience. Sometimes, it also depends on how good your graphic design skills are, or how good your template of your graphic designs of pins are. There is nothing that pains me more than when I see a crappy font on a beautiful food image. Somebody just goes through all this work to make this beautiful food image, and then they put this font. I’m like, "Oh, it’s terrible. It doesn’t look professional."

I was saying if you don’t really know what you’re doing, just don’t even do the text overlay. If you do or you have someone to help you, try it both ways. Maybe do it on Pinterest with the text overlay, but then on your blog, it doesn’t have it. Just play around with it.

Bjork Ostrom: It depends in a lot of ways. Next question, getting really good at food photography or getting really good at using Pinterest?

Susan Wenner Jackson: Which one should you do and should you focus on?

Bjork Ostrom: Yes, if you had to focus on one.

Susan Wenner Jackson: I would say getting better at food photography, or if just finding somebody else. It doesn’t have to be you that does everything. I feel strongly on that. Whatever you’re more passionate about it, if you’re more passionate about, "I really want to be a better photographer," then really focus on that. If maybe that’s not your thing or you don’t want it to be your thing, pair up with somebody who it is. Then you get really good at taking what they do, and putting it on Pinterest.

That’s me. My husband is a professional photographer. I have no desire to become one, and so when I do things like organize my son’s room, I say, "Honey, can you go take picture of this?" Then I know exactly how to crop them and design the pin, and write the descriptions, but he is the one that really takes the great photo. That’s an it depends.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s awesome, really interesting. I know a ton of people have questions about these things. I really appreciate your insight on this. A few more questions about Pinterest that I’m curious about. Can you talk a little bit about promoted pins? Is that something that food bloggers should be aware of in using?

Susan Wenner Jackson: I love that. I actually just did a master class for Ahalogy partners about promoted pins. I really got into the weeds of it. We have been testing it and using it here at Ahalogy since it was in beta last summer. We had some experience with it. My advice to the bloggers was it doesn’t hurt to try it, because it’s pretty cheap. You could pretty much set your budget as low as you want. You could do a $5 day.

What’s really cool about the opportunity is we’re seeing anywhere from 30 to maybe even 50% earned impressions based on what you’re buying. If you are promoting a pin that’s already doing well, which we recommend you pick ones that already you’re doing well organically, you promote it. You pay to promote it to 10,000 people, or get 10,000 impressions or clicks. You’d get an extra 3,000 or even 5,000 free, because it’s just that natural more people seeing it, more repinning it, more people clicking it.

The other I would tell you is it isn’t perceived as advertising by most average pinners. As people are on Pinterest, they don’t really recognize that that’s advertising, and especially if it’s promoted by a blogger. There are not a lot of bloggers doing it as far as I can tell. I’m not seeing a lot of content creators promoting their pins. I’m mostly just seeing brands and big companies and businesses.

You’re getting in early if you’re doing it. I say give it a shot. See how it does. Don’t spend a ton of money until you really understand what your return is. I also said it’s a great way if you have sponsored-content, and you need to deliver a certain amount of clicks or impressions for the brand. That’s the way you can juice it. You’re not doing anything huge. Just helping give it a little bump that will pull.

Bjork Ostrom: How do you recommend that people track whether it’s successful or not? Let’s say that we have a pin. We’ve picked one out that’s really popular, and we’re going to say, "We’re going to use this as a promoted pin." What do people compare that against just to know if they should continue doing it or not?

Susan Wenner Jackson: First of all, how high does the cost per click or the cost per action go. The lower it is, that’s the better it’s performing on its own. You don’t have to pay out to know. We were in fact seeing a penny or less per click.

Bjork Ostrom: Which is insane, that’s so cheap.

Susan Wenner Jackson: It’s insane. It’s super cheap. That’s what I’m saying that it’s a really good deal. You can look at it that way. You can also look at is the cost per click going down. You started out, and then the cost per click starts to go down, but you’re still getting quite a bit of performance and impressions from it. Then finally, what are you making as your income compared to what you’re paying out to promote it?

If you’re making more than you’re paying to promote it, it just makes sense. Those are some different ways to tell. You can actually put a special tracking pixel on your site to be able to help you determine is it driving purchase for example. Is it driving whatever actions you’re looking for? It can help track that.

Bjork Ostrom: There is one thing that might be good for food bloggers to do. We have a post on Food Blogger Pro that talks about really important advertising metrics. One of them is RPM, which stands for revenue per 1,000 visits. We will link to that. It would be a good way to do some basic Math to say, "OK, if we paid for 1,000 clicks and we know on average when we have 1,000 visitors that we earn this much." It will allow you to see, "Am I spending more than I’m making from driving these people here?"

Obviously, there’s a lot of factors that go into it. It reminds me a little bit of the early days of AdSense when it was just so insanely cheap that you could do some really fun experiments because there was just wasn’t a lot of people using it, but then the more people use it, the economics of it becomes more expensive. Interesting to hear one cent per click is so cheap.

Susan Wenner Jackson: It’s even less. It’s like point something. That’s again, you’re picking the really good stuff, and you’re doing really good key words. That’s how you can target it by a bunch of different things. You can target mobile versus desktop. You can put geo targeting. Really, it’s those key words. If you’re picking good key words, and that’s the same as AdSense, it’s the same thing. It’s like if people are already looking for the thing, and you happen to show it to them, you’re going to have a much better response to it.

Bjork Ostrom: A couple more questions on Pinterest, then I want to talk about Ahalogy. The buy button, is that something we should be aware of?

Susan Wenner Jackson: The buy button, it’s actually not available to any budget type of promoter. It’s only available to the big guys right now. It’s only integrating certain types of services. Shopify is one of them. If you’re connected to that, then you can do it.

It’s interesting. I think it’s a really cool experiment, but it hasn’t been fully released yet. It’s still just in testing mode with a small percentage of people. Certainly, it’s got a lot of potential to be interesting depending on what you’re selling. I don’t have enough information to really tell you how that’s going to do.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s so limited right now. Maybe it’s something just to keep an eye on. The last thing that I was curious about, and I’m always interested in this, but I’m interested in video. Do you think that Pinterest will ever become integrated with video in what way, or do you think it’s going to be always image-based?

Susan Wenner Jackson: Certainly, you can pin video. You can also pin animated gifts. They don’t seem to take off. They just haven’t seemed to get the traction on Pinterest. It might be an expectation’s thing. People just don’t expect that. That’s now what they’re looking for. I’m sure that Pinterest would be open to that if it became more popular. That’s certainly why they’re incorporating into platform. Video is huge for so many bloggers and for just regular people.

To this point, it hasn’t really taken off. I’m not seeing any upcoming things that they’re working on that would indicate that it’s going to be a big push. I think it’s more of the at a glance representation of ideas and inspiration. That’s what images and photos do for them, and so I think they’re probably going to put most of their ads in their basket.

Bjork Ostrom: For sure. A few times throughout the interview, you’ve referenced this Ahalogy. Tell me a little bit about Ahalogy, what it is. As I was doing research like I said at the beginning of this podcast, I just was really excited because it’s so cool. Tell us what’s Ahalogy.

Susan Wenner Jackson: I will, thank you. Ahalogy is a company that helps really two distinct groups with content on Pinterest, and helping their content, and helping them reach people. One group is bloggers. That’s really who I work with mostly at Ahalogy. The other group is major consumer brands such as Kraft brands, Procter and Gamble brands, those level brands. Those are our two distinct groups. What we have to help them are tools that help you schedule pins, track them. See how they’re performing. Get insights. Optimize them.

The other unique thing that we have is a network. Every blogger who uses Ahalogy has free access to it. We do not charge the bloggers who use Ahalogy, because what they give us is first of all, they put a little code snippet on their site that helps us track all their pins and traffic going from their pins and to their site, et cetera. It also helps them get information about which pins are doing well.

All the other bloggers in the network have access to the pins that they share and the brands. For example, we work with a lot of food brands. Quaker was actually just recently featured at Ad Age as using Ahalogy. What they have decided is they love the content that they’re seeing from our network. They’re using it to see what kinds of trends are popping up.

They found that overnight oat meal was a hot trend, and so now they’re commissioning people from our network, the bloggers from our network to create Quaker-branded recipes similar to the ones that performed well.

There’s a way of ability to pin other content from other bloggers that you already like anyway, but knowing which pins are doing the best. Then it’s also the opportunities that open up from the brands that we work with as well. That’s the blogger’s perspective of what Ahalogy is.

Bjork Ostrom: Out of curiosity, what would the brand’s perspective be?

Susan Wenner Jackson: The brands are looking at Pinterest as a really great content marketing vehicle. They can reach consumers in a place where they’re looking for inspiration, they’re looking for ideas. Anybody brand where it makes sense, and there are a lot because people are looking for inspiration for all sorts of things, cooking and fashion, and beauty and kids, and everything.

Depending on that, they can really bring them useful information. They can either share it from blogs and or they can create their own, and publish their own or share it. We just help them. It’s a lot to take on especially if your brand if that’s not all they think about and do. We really help equip them with either full service. We actually create pins for them. Schedule them for them.

We also have some self-service clients that just use our tool like the bloggers do, and schedule pins and that kind of thing. It just depends. Yes, we’re there to be at whatever level of service they need to be successful on Pinterest.

Bjork Ostrom: The idea is for a brand, they would come in, and they would either have a lot of hand holding from Ahalogy. Case and point like the things that you’re sharing, it’s just you know what works and you know what will be successful. Brands probably don’t. They might have some ideas, but you really have hard metrics that you can share and say, "Here is what we think you should do." You would either have the content from the bloggers that are part of Ahalogy that they can share to their boards, is that right?

Susan Wenner Jackson: That’s correct.

Bjork Ostrom: They could say, "We actually want a custom deal, where this blogger uses let’s say Quaker oats, and creates overnight oats, writes a post about it." Then we use that pin, which we know will perform well. We’re going to use that to drive a lot of traffic to this post that the blogger did. Then we’ll get a lot of advertising or brand exposure from that with those posts. Are they doing that on the brand site, the bloggers, or are they doing that from their personal site, or does it depend?

Susan Wenner Jackson: Most of the time, it’s on their personal site, because brands have come to the realization that driving traffic to brand sites is really, really hard and expensive, and more than they want to deal with. They much prefer if they can get their brand on a site that’s already highly traffic popular. The following really loves this blogger. They’d rather have it there.

Sometimes, they might be interested in having it in both places. It depends, but for the most part, we’re seeing that they just wanted help there. They just want that impression so that the next time somebody goes to the store, they go, "Hi, I need to get some Quaker oats because I want to make that overnight oat meal."

Bjork Ostrom: It’s sponsored content with this really bonus icing on the cake, which is the fact that it’s an optimized pin knowing that there’s going to be traffic that it can drive to that. It’s essentially a tested sponsored post, where you know that there’s been previous similar contents that’s maybe performed at a higher level.

Susan Wenner Jackson: Exactly. Then we also can help the brand then with promoted pins. We will actually help them figure out, "Well, what’s your promoted pins campaign? What are we going to promote?" Then drive tons and tons of impressions and traffic to that client that they’ve already commissioned to.

Bjork Ostrom: Interesting, which is great for the blogger though because they’re getting that traffic.

Susan Wenner Jackson: I have to tell you a little secret. I’ve been noticing in Ahalogy’s network that a lot of the top food pins, food-related pins in our network are sponsored content. They don’t really know it, because they don’t have it emblazed and across it, which is a good thing. If you make it look like an ad, then people think it’s an ad. People don’t care. They really don’t care what brand is in that. They just want good food. They just want good ideas.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s interesting in that case, because there is rules and regulations are on sponsored content. I’m guessing that the sponsorship notification has to be on the post itself. Does it have to be within the pin as well?

Susan Wenner Jackson: I think that in the pin description. When you create sponsored food content, or any sponsored content, you obviously want to make sure you disclose in the sponsored post itself. Then on Pinterest, you don’t necessarily have to emblaze it on the image, but you do need to mention somewhere in the pin description that this is sponsored content, or this was created based on payment, whatever. You have to arrange that with the brand you’re working with, and also make sure you’re following the FTC’s guidelines. Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s so important, and it’s so common to see people that are publishing sponsored content or content they’re getting paid for on Twitter, or on Facebook, or on Pinterest, wherever it is, and they don’t have any type of disclosure. It’s like, "Oh man, that’s a rule. That’s a regulation that you have to follow."

Susan Wenner Jackson: Also, it’s nice because on Pinterest, you have more room to do it. At a tweet, boy, it’s really hard. In a pin, you can really put it at the bottom, the last thing. You can hit and turn it a couple of times and write a little thing, and it’s in there.

Bjork Ostrom: Who are some of the food bloggers, or maybe it could just be bloggers in general whether they’re working with Ahalogy or not that you feel like are doing a really good job of fully leveraging Pinterest for all that it is?

Susan Wenner Jackson: There are so many. I don’t know if I want to call people out. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings for not mentioning them.

Bjork Ostrom: No, for sure, would you be able to say what it is that those people are doing or what they’re spending their time doing?

Susan Wenner Jackson: Sure. I’ll look through and see if I can think of … Probably one of the top folks is How Sweet It Is. Her blog is howsweeteats.com, because her pin images really strike that balance between amazingly appetite appealing and I could do this. They’re just very high quality images. The food is so rich and looks so fresh and colorful. She also balances that in the copy itself. For example, I looked at one of her list for recent top performing pins. The image is like it looks like something you get at a very nice restaurant, but the copy says easy weeknight chicken tacos.

This is not like any easy chicken tacos I’ve ever made. That’s not as beautiful like avocado sliced freshly on the side and a little lemon that’s been squeezed. She actually takes the squeezed lemon, and then sets it on the side, so you can see that it had been used. That just really brings a lot of that flavor into the image itself.

I would say what I noticed is that the best looking pins and the best performing pins tend to not have any text on them. They don’t have watermarks either, or the watermark is very small, very subtle. It hurts my heart when I see a food blogger that uses this big all watermark. I know why they’re doing it. I understand that you don’t want people stealing your stuff. I know that happens, but boy, it just really hurts your pin.

Bjork Ostrom: That totally makes sense. I know what you mean, where it’s a hard thing when you see that your images are stolen and you want to put that copyright on there. Realistically it could in a lot of ways would be damaging to have it on more than it would be helpful.

Last question here, we’re coming towards the end, and maybe one of the most important questions. If I’m a blogger, I’m listening right now, and I say, "Hey, Ahalogy sounds like it would be something I’d want to check out." Is that something that’s open for anybody to sign up for? Are there certain restrictions in terms of who can apply, and what does that look like?

Susan Wenner Jackson: We do have to approve every blogger who joins our network. People can apply at ahalogy.com/publishers. There’s a little description about what it’s involved. Essentially, it is free for you to join. You apply just with a few little basic pieces of information. Then what we do is our team actually reviews your content. We review your pins. We look and see if you look like you’d a good fit for Ahalogy. A good fit is someone who is creating professional-looking content regularly.

You don’t have to a full-time blogger, but just serious about it, and their content would have the potential of being something that could be shared by one of the brands we work with on Pinterest. We work with a wide variety of brands. That’s not really an issue. It’s more like if you’re creating a content that no brand on earth would ever share them, we might not accept you doing that work.

Our standards are pretty high, so we only probably accept maybe 40% of people who apply. We also try to direct people to let them know, "Here are some things you might try or do to improve your chances and try again in a couple of months or whatever." We’re open for business.

Bjork Ostrom: Some feedback.

Susan Wenner Jackson: Yes, absolutely, we love to help people improve. We’ve seen a lot of people improved. In fact, I’ve seen people who applied six months ago. We rejected them. They come back. They apply again. I’m like, "Where did this person come from? Who is this?" I really encourage people to apply. We had a while where we weren’t really accepting any new partners, and we’re finally bringing just hundreds of new partners on every week. I’m really excited about that and to seeing some fresh faces in the network.

Bjork Ostrom: Your willingness individually as well as a company to teach and to help is evident, and you coming on this podcast and sharing all the stuff that you guys have learned, so really, really appreciate it. Just as the last question, Susan, I’d love for you to share where people can find you personally, and follow along with you as well as where they should go to find out more about Ahalogy. I know you shared that link, but I want to be sure to let you talk about that before we finish.

Susan Wenner Jackson: My Twitter handle is SusanWJackson. I am a pretty avid twitter user, same on Instagram. Then my blog as I mentioned is Working Moms Against Guilt. Please don’t judge my food photography. That is not my thing. You can find us at ahalogy.com. I recommend going straight to /publishers.

One other thing that I wanted to plug was we’ve got some really cool trend reports. We didn’t really get into this, but I’ll share one for you to put on your site. We have one specifically about ingredients and the seasonality of ingredients. You can look at planning your calendar based on what are these different ingredients out on Pinterest. Then you can learn what you want to pin at different times.

Bjork Ostrom: Where can people find those?

Susan Wenner Jackson: That would be ahalogy.com/ingredients. You can download a nice excel spreadsheet of all kinds of cool key words and information.

Bjork Ostrom: We’ll link to that in the show notes for the podcast as well. Susan, thank you so much for coming out. I really, really appreciate it. I know that people will get a lot out of it.

Susan Wenner Jackson: Thank you so much. This was a real pleasure, thanks.

Bjork Ostrom: Thanks, have a great day. One more big thank you to Susan for coming out on the podcast today. Again, you can go to ahalogy.com. That’s A-H-A-L-O-G-Y.com to check out what they’re doing, a great company and real good people. Susan, thanks so much for coming on the podcast today.

One more quick reminder about that eBook that we have, the Number One Thing, where we interviewed 30 top food bloggers and asked, "Hey, what are you guys going to be focusing on in the coming year?" I think that you’ll find that really valuable to have that insight into what top bloggers are focusing on. You can get that by going to foodbloggerpro.com/focus.

Last, I just want to end by saying thank you. Lindsay and I recently got back from a conference. It was called Food Blog University. We had a chance to sit down and talk with some people that listen to the podcast. We were able to say in person thank you so much for listening to the podcast. It really means so much us that you’d take time out of your day. We hope that you find it valuable, and get lots of insight from it.

I just want to be intentional to take a moment and say thank you so much for listening to the podcast. We really, really appreciate it. We appreciate you. I hope that someday I can see you in person, sit down and say thanks for listening to the podcast. It means a lot to us. My friends, make a great week, and we will see you same time, same place next week. Thanks.

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6 Comments

  1. I’m not a food pinner, but I found much of this very usefu and enlightening! I really appreciated the written transcript of the interview or I would have never listened to it. I’m a visual person and often when I’m listening I end up getting impatient or distracted. Thank you both!

  2. Another valuable podcast, thanks Bjork! I thought I knew pretty much every tip to be successful on Pinterest (I have read a LOT of articles in the past few months haha), but there was some new stuff in here that I immediately implemented, such as ensuring all my ALT-tags were done properly with more than just the post’s title, and implementing the rich pins (I finally understood that it’s not as hard as it initially seems). I will keep ahalogy.com in mind as well, as I get deeper into my blogging journey.

  3. I really enjoyed this interview, Bjork! I have really stepped up my Pinterest game lately but still have a ways to go. I am encouraged by the results I have seen so far. So this interview was very timely for me personally.

    Also, after hearing this episode, I immediately applied to Ahalogy network and was accepted. I am excited to see how this will help me continue to improve on Pinterest. Thanks to Susan for sharing all of the great info!

  4. Hi Bjork! Am I really excited to listen to this episode, curious to what Susan has to say on the subject of Pinterest, but The Soundcloud stream of this podcast isn’t working anymore, thought you’d like to know. 😉

  5. Oh man, I’m fascinated by this interview it’s like a new world in front of my eyes! Thank you Bjork and Susan!