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Supporting image for How to Drive Traffic and Sales with Promoted Pins – @alisammeredith
How to Drive Traffic and Sales with Promoted Pins – @alisammeredith
The Agents of Change

AOCP-Pinterest-Alisa-MeredithHopefully by now we all know that Pinterest is more than wedding dresses, cupcakes and DIY projects. It can actually be a pretty powerful marketing tool used to drive business, if you follow a few key tips.

Like with any platform, you should never just throw money behind a campaign for promotion unless organically it’s got some legs on it already. So, learning what content to pin – and what your audience is interested in – is vital to your success. Pinterest is an excellent way to promote your brand, and their “promoted pins” takes things a step further and increases visibility, so you get the right audience at the right time.

Alisa Meredith is a Pinterest-obsessed content strategist and marketer. If you value more traffic, leads and customers, then Alisa’s tips and advice using Pinterest’s promoted pins will be a valuable addition to your current marketing strategy.


Rich: Alisa Meredith is a content strategist and marketer who is often accused of being obsessed with Pinterest. Architect of several high performing content strategies and blogger for Hubspot, Tailwind and her own blog, She’s co-owner and Chief Strategist at Scalable Social Media, a Hubspot partner agency.

She’s also a content and social media consultant with other Hubspot agencies, and producer and co-host of the quirky Superheroes Of Marketing Podcast, possibly the only marketing podcast with capes and a gameshow. Alisa, welcome to the show.

Alisa: Thank you, Rich, I appreciate you having me on.

Rich: Well we of course have our own quasi-superhero vibe going on over here because of course the Agents Of Change kind of had a superhero-like origin. So I totally hear you with the whole superhero side.

Alisa: Yeah, I love your intro music, it’s very fun.

Rich: Cool. So how did you first get drawn to Pinterest? There are so many platforms out there, what is it about Pinterest that first got you excited?

Alisa: That’s a great question. I was just curious about it. I thought, how can this be used for marketing. I get how we can use it personally, but could it really be used to drive traffic to websites. That seems like a silly question now but it wasn’t at the time.

So I ended up writing an ebook about it because that’s kind of how I learn, by writing, and it did pretty well. So I ended up with a client who I ended up doing blogging for and I still wasn’t sure if Pinterest could drive inbound leads for people, or is it just about traffic and buying things. Of course everything I tried on Pinterest just seemed to work. So results, that’s what keeps me excited about it.

Rich: Alright, cool. Now at first – and I am not a Pinterest expert by any stretch of the imagination – even flyte and Agents Of Change have their own Pinterest boards but are mostly run by another employee of mine. So some of my questions may be a little basic.

So at first it was just about pinning things. And then of course the marketers get involved and then there are all these extra powerful tools on Pinterest, one of them being these “promoted pins”. So what exactly are promoted pins and how do we use them?

Alisa: Well “promoted pins” are Pinterest’s advertising platform. So you can pay to have your pin seen by more people, you can also pay for clicks. If you are one of the Fortune 500 companies whose approved, you can get really top notch placement and get a ton of awareness to your content.

Rich: So since I’m not one of these top 500 companies – or probably are most of my listeners – how exactly would we get started with promoted pins. Let’s say that we’ve got our boards up there and we’ve been driving maybe a little bit of traffic to our website, still trying to figure things out, but all of a sudden we really want to drive traffic. Can you just walk me through the process of how that all works?

Alisa: Sure. So what we have access to as mortals, we have access to this self serve platform, which gives us a couple of different options. We can either pay for engagement – which is things like ‘likes’ and re-pins – or we can pay for clicks to our website. So if you wanted to do that and you are in the US, you would go to ads.pinterest.com, or you’re going to see a pretty prominent link when you login to your pinterest account as it is. And then it will give you a nice step by step to get started.

Rich: Alright, so you’ve got these two different self serve options. One is to pay for engagement, and I guess that’s the equivalent for somebody that does have a little experience, with Facebook advertising. The equivalent of paying to get ‘likes’ for my page, correct?

Alisa: Yes and no. It doesn’t tend to generate a lot of new followers for your Pinterest account. What it does instead is you’ll get ‘likes’ on that particular pin. the other things you’re paying for with an engagement promoted pin would be a click through to the pin itself, or a close-up. So when you click on a pin and you see it enlarge on your page, you’re paying for that. Or you’re paying for a re-pin.

Rich: If we’re not getting followers, why would I pay for that? What benefit am I getting?

Alisa: When it came out, I thought why would anyone pay for that. So of course I had to run a test to see if I could make it do anything good for me. I thought perhaps because when a person does a close-up on your pin they see a big button that says, “follow”, so maybe you’ll get a lot of new followers from that as a side benefit. Well, that didn’t work for me either. What I was paying for mostly were close-ups, and I don’t care about that, because it’s not bringing any traffic it’s bringing re-pins.

Rich: Yeah, because I would assume that either you’re trying to build an audience on Pinterest  or you’re trying to drive traffic to your website to build your business, other than that, why would you. Maybe if you were a brand with a lot of money, that makes a lot of sense. But from a small business standpoint, I struggle to see the benefit there.

Alisa: I’m with you, yeah.

Rich: Ok, so I’m not interested in that piece at all. So l am interested in paying for clicks to my website, but I run a small business and most of my clients run small businesses, and we’re always looking for qualified traffic to our websites. So what does that look like? What am I promoting exactly, are these pins that I’ve already put up or am I creating something new?

Alisa: You are most likely going to promote something that you already pinned. There is a way to do a bulk upload for brand new pins and images that you may not have pinned yet, but I think for most people starting out, they’re going to promote something that’s already been pinned. The advantage of that, besides that it’s simpler, is that you have an idea of what’s already performing well. 

Rich: I see. And that’s a little similar to Facebook ads, too, where they say don’t boost anything or do any advertising around a post until you’ve seen if it’s actually got legs on its own. Then you know it’s worth putting some advertising dollars behind. It sounds like something similar for what we’re talking about here.

Alisa: Yes, that’s exactly right.

Rich: Ok, and this is still me being ignorant of Pinterest because I’m not there on a daily basis, but to me Pinterest always felt like a very powerful platform for very specific industries. So are promoted pins good for wedding planner and crafters, or can a company like  amd agency like Flyte New Media or a conference like Agents Of Change also use theses promoted pins?

Alisa: Well, I would kind of put that back on you as a question. Are your users on Pinterest looking for your material?

Rich: Ok, so that is a great question. So I’m sure that there are some but I don’t know if that would necessarily be my core audience. So how do B2B companies, because I don’t think of Pinterest being a  B2B platform, but can B2B companies use Pinterest successfully, and use promoted pins specifically?

Alisa: Yes, yes we can. So I have a marketing agency and I use promoted pins to generate leads for my business. Now I knew promoted pins would work because organic pins work. So if you can get organic pins to generate leads for you, then it makes sense to put a little money behind it to get even more of that.

Rich: Could you share with me some of the pins that you’ve used that you ultimately promoted that were successful? What was the content of those pins?

Alisa: What it comes down to really is promoting useful content and a lot of “how to” in your DIY, which obviously a lot of B2B would think how does that lead to sales. But we all know about content marketing.

Rich: You don’t have to sell me on the power of content marketing, for sure.

Alisa: So we’re talking about very top of the funnel or how to bring people into your email list. So I wouldn’t necessarily use it to drive awareness to your business and why you’re better than anybody else to draw people in who are interested in the service you can provide.

Rich: Ok, so I create this pin and hopefully I’ve seen some traction here. I put some money behind it. Are promoted pins in the advertising platform, am I able to target who’s going to see this, or is it more just about people who are doing searches on specific hashtags or ideas? 

Alisa: Well, it’s definitely not hashtags, but keywords, yes. So you would use keywords – broad and specific – but you can also target. The targeting options are pretty limited right now, they keep promising they’re going to expand those and even offer retargeting. But for now you can target by geographical area , so they just opened up the targeting – although not the ad platform – to Canada. We had 210 US areas we can choose from and I think 147 or so in Canada.

So geographically you can choose, male, female or unspecified. You can choose the device you can have your ads seen on, so you can choose mobile web, smartphone, tablet or desktop.

Rich: Ok, so that sounds more in line with kind of the Twitter advertising platform rather than the Facebook advertising platform where I can say, “Show me people who are more recently engaged, moving and like Oprah Winfrey.”

Alisa: Right. Although they have said that coming soon we will have those options to target, which will be fun.

Rich: Alright, so if we say we can’t necessarily target too narrowly by the audience except maybe geographically or maybe by gender, and like you said, maybe by platform. So what are some tips that you might give somebody for targeting by keyword?

Alisa: Yes, absolutely. And I should have mentioned that you can target by language as well, there are 20 different languages that you can choose from.

Rich: Is Klingon one of them?

Alisa: You know, it might be this week, I’ll have to check. Oh wait, that’s Star Wars. So keywords, I would start with what really comes to mind, what you think people will search for when they want to find a pin like yours. So that’s the easy part. Write down maybe 5 or 6 of those and then enter them each one at a time in the Pinterest search itself. What’s going to happen is a guided search is going to come into play and you’re going to get – below the search bar and above your results – what looks like little buttons with an illustration on it.

So for example if you had a blog post with a recipe that had a cucumber salad and you wanted to promote that pin, you might put into the Pinterest search bar “cucumber salad”, but then below that you’re going to see a lot of other related search terms that people are actually searching for. So you might see “easy”, “recipe”, “sour cream”. So then start adding those words to the words you already came up with and I guarantee you will end up with at least the recommended 15-30 keywords to target.

Rich: And then once we know what these keywords are we pay for them, we bid on them – we’ll get to that in a second. Does your promoted pin show up as slightly different, is there like a highlight, does it say “sponsored” on it or something like that?

Alisa: It says, “promoted by”.

Rich: Ok.

Alisa: But you’ll hardly even notice it unless you’re really looking for it. So you’re going to have “pinned by”, “picked for you” or “promoted by”. It’s very subtle.

Rich: And so once somebody clicks on that promoted pin are they driven directly to my website or landing page, or is there an interim step?

Alisa: Well, it’s the same as with an organic pin. So if you click on the pin itself it’s going to come to what’s called a “close up”, and you’re going to see that pin enlarged, and then you can click through to the website. If you have “rich pins” enabled it’s easier to click through directly to your website from the pin in the feed.

Rich: And what is a “rich pin” exactly?

Alisa: Rich pins are really great. So if you have just a little bit of code set up – and it’s really easy through our WordPress site using Yoast Plugin – it will pick up and import certain information like the blog post title, the date it was published, the author of the blog post. And if it’s a “product pin” you can even have pricing on there and that all dynamically changes if something on your website changes.

Rich: Oh, very cool, alright.

Alisa: I can tell you one more thing about “rich pins”. They’re very easy to set up. You do not want to put a price in a promoted pin, you can’t put it in the image itself. Technically you probably could get away with it in the description, but you don’t really want to do that because a pin lives forever, promoted or not it can be there forever, and prices change. So instead you’re going to want to use rich pins because that will update. And then if somebody re-pins that pin they’re going to get notification when your price drops. So that works on organic or promoted pins.

Rich: Alright, so once we’ve done all this work – and hopefully we’re driving traffic to our website – how do we know if it’s working?

Alisa: Pinterest has very nice analytics platform with their promoted pins, so you’re going to be able to see exactly what people are clicking on, what the conversion rate is. And speaking of conversion, there is a conversion tracking pixel much like with Facebook. So you can put this little bit of code on whatever page you want to track.

So we were talking earlier about how to track generated leads with pinterest promoted pins. So you would put this tracking code on the thank you page – or whatever your landing page is – and then you’re going to be able to see some really interesting information like what keyword they searched for, their gender, where they’re located geographically and you’re going to be able to see what you paid for each click.

You can also see not just what you paid for each click but the bonus that you’re getting. So what I mean by that is with promoted pins you can usually expect to get about 30% more for free. So when you pin a promoted pin, other people are going to re-pin it, and when they do that and someone else acts on their re-pin of your pin you don’t pay for it. So the promoted pins dashboard is going to show you what you paid for each click or each engagement, but then also when you factor in all these freebies, what you really end up paying which can be very inexpensive. 

Rich: Very cool. And is it just the click throughs or can we also measure if they signed up for our email newsletter and landed on our thank you page, is that also what we can track as well?

Alisa: Yes, that’s where the conversion tracking comes in. And what’s so cool about that is you can see, well you don’t get a lot of data on the people who are just clicking, but when somebody converts that’s when you can really mine a lot of data to find out what people are interested in and who your audience on Pinterest really is.

Rich: Well this has been fascinating and I know that I am going to want to add Pinterest advertising to some of the work that we do here at flyte. So far we’ve been focused mostly on Google Adwords and retargeting and Facebook ads. But this feels like for the right type of business you can really generate a lot of qualified traffic pretty inexpensively, so I’m looking forward to trying that out.

Alisa: Oh, very inexpensive. Good, let me know how it goes.

Rich: I will. So are we bidding on these keywords or paying for them up front? How does that piece work?

Alisa: You are going to bid on the ad itself. So you don’t bid by keyword unless you wanted to set up a different ad for every keyword, which I would not recommend.

Rich: So how does the bidding system work then? I’m guessing this week anything related to Star Wars would be through the roof.

Alisa: I would think so. They haven’t been really up front about how that works, so what you’re going to get when you get to your bid – and you can start as low as you want, there’s no minimum – they’re just going to tell you what people are bidding. That amount is going to change based on the keywords that you enter and you’re targeting, but it isn’t very transparent as to why people are paying what they’re paying and why you need to pay what they’re saying.

Rich: So it maybe makes a little bit of sense for people to try experimenting a little bit with a couple of different campaigns to see if they can maybe find the chink in the armor to get some better pricing on some of the bidding, rather than just take the first thing that comes through.

Alisa: Oh, absolutely. Another thing that I would do, I always separate them by device. So if I want to promote one particular pin, I’m going to do four different promoted pins for it. And the reason for that – and this is something that Vincent Ng pointed out to me – is that the pricing by platform can vary wildly. So you might find that mobile web is the cheapest and the desktop is the most expensive and that one’s converting better than the other, but I like to split them up so I can see where I’m getting the best return on investment.

Rich: Makes a lot of sense. This has been very helpful, very informative, I really liked the conversation today, Alisa. I know that I’m going to send Katrina from my office to learn more. Where can we send the listeners if they want to learn more about you and promoted pins?

Alisa: Alisameredith.com, or I’m on Pinterest and Twitter @Alisammeredith.

Rich: Excellent. Well this has been great and I just want to thank you again for your time, Alisa.

Alisa: Thank you, Rich, I enjoyed it very much.

Show notes:

  • Check out Alisa’s website for more valuable and in-depth information.
  • Follow Alisa on Twitter.
  • Check out Alisa on Pinterest.
  • You’ll definitely want to fly on over to Alisa’s superhero-themed podcast, where she features tons of marketing tips that you’ll want to learn about.AOCP-FB-Alisa-MeredithAOCP-FB-John-Jantsch