Who: Bob Lotich
Did you know Pinterest can boost traffic to your blog?
Think your content isn’t right for Pinterest? Think again!
For today’s episode, I'm on the line with Bob Lotich, creator of SeedTime.com. It’s a personal finance blog that looks at money from a Biblical perspective. He started it back in 2007, and it has since grown into a multi-author blog with a whole bunch of awesome content helping people all over the world. At a recent conference, Bob shared how he has been using Pinterest to cause an explosion of traffic over the last few years.
Needless to say, I was impressed. Why? Because his blog isn’t about cooking, DIY or any of the other very visual platforms that seem to dominate Pinterest. His blog is about managing your finances. I thought to myself, if Bob could kill it with Pinterest in that niche, we could all learn a lot from what he’s doing!
Bob has actually been on the podcast twice before. He was here for Episode 81: How to Build a Successful Blog in a Competitive Niche and for Episode 168: How One Simple Strategy Increased Adsense Earnings by 80%. If you want to know more about Bob’s backstory, head on over to those episodes.
Back then, Bob’s blog was called Christian PF, but he’s in the middle of rebranding to SeedTime.com right now. He’s still trying to reach a Christian market, but he and his team feel that this change will help them reach their goals as a business. The name comes from the Book of Genesis, where it says that there will be seed time and there will be harvest. Basically, when you invest the time to plant, you will reap the rewards.
So what makes a personal finance blogger decide to get into Pinterest?
Bob says that his Google traffic started dropping off in about 2013. And he started to get nervous, because he’s feeding his family with this blog!
So he took action by diving into Facebook. For about 6 months, he devoted all of his energy to getting traffic from Facebook. And it worked, sort of. He ended up with about 10-15,000 views per month from Facebook. That’s okay, but it paled in comparison to what he had been seeing previously.
Then he started really looking at his analytics and he realized: he had put all that effort into Facebook, and he was still getting more traffic from Pinterest without doing anything. He had made a Pinterest account years ago, but he wasn’t very active on it.
So Bob thought, “why don’t I try to actually learn Pinterest?”
After 18 months, he had gone from about 12,000 views per month to 500,000 views per month from Pinterest. Yes, you read that correctly. Five. Hundred. Thousand. In his best month, he had 640,000 views from Pinterest. That dropped off a little after a while, and today Bob routine gets 300-400,000 visits per month just from Pinterest. Not too shabby.
If you want to snag some of that traffic, there are a few things to keep in mind.
First of all, think about conversions. You can have millions of visitors, but they’re worth nothing to you if they aren’t there for the right reasons. Bob told me a story about his wife’s blog to illustrate this point.
Bob’s wife ran a style blog for a while, and back in 2010 she had posted about a friend’s wedding. It was a very Pinterest-worthy wedding, and the photographer took gorgeous photos. When Bob’s wife pinned the story, she got something like 400,000 repins on the platform and over 1,000 views per month on the site–but she made almost no money from it.
Why? Pinterest is a very visual medium, and so people were coming to the blog just to download the pretty pictures and not to actually engage with the content.
The lesson, Bob says, is that “you can have things get repinned like crazy, and you can even capture traffic from Pinterest, but if it’s coming to your site for the wrong reason, it’s of no value to you.” A repin is not the same as a visit to your site (just like a Facebook share or a retweet), and a visit does not automatically equal value for you. You want visitors who are there to learn something or to buy something, not visitors who just want to download an image.
That said, Bob’s Pinterest visitors are actually among his most profitable customers. Pinterest traffic has actually performed better than Google traffic for him! They sign up to the email list at a much higher rate, and Adsense offers convert better, too.
The key, he says, is to know how to target your audience.
Problem-solving content works really well on Pinterest. A “how-to” image pulls your audience in for all the right reasons. It’s about aligning their intentions with your business goals.
For each of his blog posts, Bob includes an image formatted for Pinterest. That means vertical rather than horizontal orientation, because vertical images get more “real estate” on Pinterest. It’s best to have a 2:3 ratio (2 wide to 3 tall).
Then, he creates a text overlay that explains the content of the post and gives the title. That way, no one is going to repin Bob’s images just because they’re pretty. They’re repinning and clicking through because they want to go to the article and find out the answer.
Top tip: don’t put the answer on the image! Create a little mystery. Infographics will get repinned like crazy, but they won’t drive traffic back to your site.
Even though you don’t want your visitors to be totally focused on the image, you still have to make a really great graphic. Bob usually creates his images in Photoshop, but you can also use a free service called Canva.com. In fact, I use Canva for Become a Blogger! It’s a great service that even has some Pinterest templates to get you started.
Remember that Pinterest is a VERY visual platform. You’re competing with great designers, and the audience in 70-80% women. You’ve got to have great images, with consistent branding, in order to be successful.
Okay, so you’ve got great images, you’ve got tantalizing descriptions, and you’re ready to start pinning. What now?
Bob says you have to understand that most people use Pinterest as a bookmarking platform. It’s not social in the same way that Facebook and Twitter are. People may not intend to share when they repin. They might just be saving the article for later. But the sharing happens as a side effect. As a result, people might pin 10 or 15 things at once. It’s not like Facebook, where one or two posts per day will do the trick. The intention is different.
Still, when something gets pinned, it goes out to the pinner’s followers. So it’s important to have a following.
But what if you’re starting from scratch? That’s where collaborative boards can be really useful.
Pinterest is structured around user “boards,” which basically work like bulletin boards. If you were working on a project, you might have a bulletin board where you pin up inspirational images. Pinterest works on the same principle. So boards are usually topical: you might have a gardening board, or a blogging board, or a wedding planning board.
Collaborative boards or group boards are boards that have multiple contributors, so lots of people are pinning content to the same board. Some group boards have hundreds of contributors. And they’re great because once you’re on a group board, you’re all tapping into each others’ audiences.
So if Bob had a blogging group board, and he invited me to pin there, I could pin to Bob’s blogging board whenever I wanted. And if Bob had a much bigger following than I did on Pinterest, that could be really, really helpful.
But how do you know which boards to join? How do you even find them?
Bob recommends a site called PinGroupie.com. There, you can look for group boards that you’d want to be part of. You can get a description and some stats about each board. You want to look for boards with lots of repins per pin and likes per pin, although repins are more important than likes.
Once you find a board you want to join, take a look at the description to see if they’re accepting new contributors. Some will be totally closed off, but others will provide information about how to contact them if you want to join.
These group boards sound great! Why bother even having your own boards? Why not just devote all your time to group boards?
Bob says once you’re set up on Pinterest, it’s definitely fine to focus on the group boards. But having your own profile gives you credibility with group board owners. If your profile is just totally empty, the board owner might think you’re a spammer.
Also, if someone finds you through a group board, but then your profile is empty, they won’t be incentivized to click through to your blog or to follow you.
So you should also spend some time building up your own profile on Pinterest before you ask to join a group board. Bob advises taking a couple of weeks to build up your own following, get some pins up, and do some repinning yourself before you reach out to group boards.
Bob says it’s important to have a “Pin It” button on your website, which you can set up with a WordPress plugin. Even just including that button will bring you some Pinterest traffic.
It’s also crucial to look at the rules and guidelines for each group board that you join. They’ll all be slightly different. Bob recommends making a spreadsheet to keep all of that information in one place.
Bob uses a mixed workflow with Pinterest. Some of his pins are scheduled, but he and his assistant manually pin a lot, too. It’s so easy to do, and he thinks there may be an algorithm advantage to manual pinning.
When you start building your profile, or you start pinning to group boards, it’s best to start with your highest-performing content.
Check board rules about repinning the same content. Different boards will have different “spam thresholds,” so build a schedule and a pattern for repinning that you’re comfortable with and that follows the rules.
In terms of quantity, Bob and his team don’t push boundaries in terms of what boards allow. Even if he was allowed to do ten pins a day on one board, he wouldn’t. It’s just too aggressive. He’s on about 100 boards, and he says that 15-20 of those are what he would consider his top boards. He pins at least once a day to those. Overall, Bob pins 15-30 times total per day to group boards.
He also pins other people’s content on his regular (non-group) boards. He’s got 15-20 of those, and they’re mostly topical. He mostly repins other people’s content on those boards, partly because it generates good will on the platform and partly because it gives his a boost in the site’s algorithms.
A final tip: remember that you have more potential ways to communicate what a visitor will see when they get to your site on Pinterest than you do on a Google search result or even on Facebook. You’ve got the image, the title, the text overlay, the description… there are a lot of ways to get the information out. That stuff helps conversion, if you do it right. Other than that, just do what you would do with any traffic source on your site: offer content upgrades, and make sure your page design and advertising are working for you.
If you want more detail about how to drive traffic using Pinterest, you’re in luck. Bob actually did a talk about this subject at FinCon in 2015, and the whole thing is up on his other site, EfficientBlogging.com. Head on over EfficientBlogging.com/fc15 to hear and see his 45-minute talk.
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