Pinterest is growing really, really fast. As with all things that generate a lot of traffic and lot of sharing it's become a focal point for SEOs looking to distribute content to wide audiences and build links. The first, most fundamental question here is: can you actually build links using Pinterest?

Not directly - not unlike other popular social sharing sites (like Twitter) Pinterest no follows external links and subsequently isn't an SEO silver bullet, so the value of Pinterest for link building is really more about:

  • Content Distribution - Not unlike networks like Stumble Upon and Twitter Pinterest can help get your content (in this case images and videos) in front of large audiences and specific niches, some of whom may be potential linkers.
  • Relationship Building - The network also lets you connect with specific users via commenting and re-pins, so you can establish a relationship with a brand or individual in your niche

So unfortunately if you're looking to use Pinterest to build links for SEO value, you'll have to actually (gasp) put some effort into interacting with other users and tailoring content to specific niches within the Pinterest user base.

How to Use Pinterest to Help Distribute Your Content

If you're looking to use Pinterest to get more exposure for link-worthy content you've created, there are a number of good ways to do that. Obviously Pinterest is primarily useful to distribute visual content such as:

  • Compelling, high quality photos of your products (for businesses where the product is visually interesting such as fashion, food, etc.)
  • Infographics/Data Visualizations
  • Video Pins

If you haven't yet spent time on the site, the concept is pretty basic. Simply put, nearly every photo/video is connected to a website of some kind. For example, pictures of food link back to foodie blogs while style photos link to specific store that sell the highlighted garment. If you don't have a "visual" business, there are many types of abstract novelties that you can link back to you site. Think of the picture as your "click here" call to action. It can be a motivational quote, an infographic, an abstract representation or a cute picture of a kitten or puppy, anything that is going to draw the attention of pinners to click through to your site.

How To Build Links With Pinterest

So, how exactly do you build links through Pinterest? Here's a simple, step by step guide to using the virtual pin board to build links and drive traffic to your site.

  1. Find an image that relates to specific content on your site. If you're a visually based business, this is going to be an easy task. A hair stylist can easily pull a picture of a stunning hair style to link to their website, but what if you run a service-oriented, not-so-glamorous business? A little out of the box thinking and an exterminator can easily come up with some images that correspond with some tips and tricks on DIY extermination or an investment banker can find a few quotes from Warren Buffet that motivate and teach. Adding these types of visuals to your blog posts, landing pages or even to your static content will provide you with endless opportunities for pinning.
  2. The easiest way to pin is to install the Pinterest "Pin It" button onto your tool bar. A quick click will give you the opportunity to add any of the graphics on your webpage to your pinboards. You can also add Pinterest to your social share buttons in hopes of having followers pin your post to their pinboards.
  3. These images need a home. As with SEO or any online marketing endeavor you want to use keywords where possible to make your content easier to find - in this case you can name your Pinterest boards and title your images strategically. To research which terms to use you can leverage the same process you'd use in determining how to name and tag your YouTube videos or Flickr images - my business partner Ken wrote a great social media keyword research guide a while back whose strategies on YouTube keyword research and Flickr keyword research can be applied to Pinterest.
  4. Share, share, share. Be sure to share your pins on other social media sites. You can analyze your Pinterest activity by using sites like Pinerly or Pintics to see if you're indeed driving traffic back to your site. And, from there, it's business as usual.

It's important to remember that just because someone repins your images, doesn't mean they have taken the steps needed to visit your site and then actually linking to your site is a step beyond that. People can simply pin or repin based upon the image itself without ever leaving Pinterest. For this reason you'll want to consider whether your content is a logical fit for Pinterest and the Pinterest community, and you'll want to gauge as quickly as possible:

  • Whether the network has sufficient benefits for you beyond content distribution for links (namely: does it send relevant traffic?)
  • The effort required for you to build links using Pinterest
  • Whether that effort is worth the returns you're seeing

You can then weigh the returns you get for engaging on Pinterest versus other possible tactics and decide whether it's worth committing time and effort to. If you're looking for some additional Pinterest how-to resources here are some posts you'll likely find useful:

Image courtesy of BackStreetCrafts / Etsy