In 2019, I decided I was going to be serious about using Pinterest to see if I could finally, actually get traffic for my blog. So many bloggers cite Pinterest as one of their top sources for traffic, and before 2019, every time I tried it out for myself, I never saw results. In 2019, that changed: I read a lot of articles about how to use Pinterest successfully, and I put a lot of time into making pins, visiting Pinterest daily, pinning my pins to a variety of boards, etc. The result: In 2019, Pages Unbound got over 9,000 views from Pinterest. In 2020, we got 22,500. That’s more views than some book bloggers get in total on their blog all year.
In 2021, I started devoting less time to using Pinterest because, frankly, logging on all the time to Pinterest, making multiple images to pin for each post, etc. is time-consuming. So our views decreased from 2020, but we still received nearly 17,000 views from Pinterest.
Now, at the beginning of 2022, I’m barely using Pinterest at all. In an ideal world, I would like to get back to using it “properly,” but the time currently is not in my schedule. So my “strategy” right now is mainly making pinnable images for each discussion post or list (anything that’s not a review) and pinning it one time to one Pinterest board.
I admit that I am not seeing much Pinterest traffic to our new posts because of this. However, our older pins are still going relatively strong, so we get a noticeable amount of traffic to things I pinned a couple years ago. We seem to be getting about 15-30 views per day from Pinterest traffic right now. And while that’s certainly a decrease from the numbers I was seeing while I was using Pinterest seriously, it’s also nothing to sneeze at! It means we had about 950 views from Pinterest in January and about 700 in February which, again, for a book blog, is meaningful traffic.
The takeaway? The time I put into Pinterest in 2019 and 2020 is still paying off, even though I spend close to no time using Pinterest right now. So if you’ve been pondering using Pinterest for your blog and you think you have the time to devote to it, I would encourage it.
Check out some of my previous posts on using Pinterest for your book blog here:
In January 2019, I declared that learning how to use Pinterest to actually get blog traffic would be one of my goals. In 2018, Pages Unbound had only received about 500 page views from Pinterest clicks, and I thought I could do better. I posted about my journey and various tricks and tips I learned throughout 2019, and by the end of the year, I concluded my experiment was a success: I had increased our page views from Pinterest by 1600% to over 8000. 2020 looks on track to be an even better year for us in terms of Pinterest (perhaps partially because lockdown measures mean people are spending more time at home online). In the middle of May, we already have roughly 7,000 page views from Pinterest.
Suffice to say, I am (finally) a believer that book blogs can get a significant amount of traffic from Pinterest, and I’ve been extolling the platform’s virtues for over a year because of it. In mid-May, our page views from Pinterest are, in fact, almost equal to our page views from the WordPress reader, which has always been our second-largest source of traffic after search engines. Pinterest can be powerful.
As I increase my reach on Pinterest, however, I’ve begun to notice the site can also be negative. While the bookish community–on blogs, Twitter, Bookstagram, etc.–tends to be overwhelmingly supportive and positive, Pinterest users outside of the community seem to feel more anonymous and empowered to post rude comments.
Receiving Negative Comments
In about the 10 days before I started drafting this post, I’ve received two explicitly rude comments on Pinterest. That’s not a lot–but it’s basically equal to the number of rude comments Krysta and I have received on our blog posts in NINE YEARS of blogging.
I say she decided the pin was garbage, not the blog post, because it’s clear that neither boomer jay nor Callie clicked on the pin to read the actual post/content; they were being snarky purely based on the title of the pin. When I replied explaining the content of the posts, boomer jay of course did not answer because he simply does not care about women in literature. Callie sort of apologized.
I’ve also received snarky comments on other pins in the past. For example, one person was upset that one of my Lord of the Rings name generators asked readers to use the “first letter of their middle name” because “not everyone has a middle name.” Fair enough. Not everyone has a middle name, but it’s a silly fan-made name generator. One could just use their first name and move on, rather than leaving an aggrieved comment about it.
So why do people leave rude comments on Pinterest and not (usually) on my blog?
Why People Leave Negative Comments–Or Not
Callie’s original comment and her subsequent apology highlight one of the reasons commenters might be more negative on Pinterest: they don’t feel any particular connection to the person posting the content. “Who made this piece of crap?” is a bizarre question to ask when Callie could have easily seen that I (the Pages Unbound account) posted the pin AND the pin is linked to content on…the Pages Unbound web site. Perhaps she meant to address her comment to the world at large, but the actual recipient was me, the creator of the “piece of crap.” Either she didn’t realize this, or she simply didn’t care.
This may because Pinterest feels large and anonymous in the way the book blogosphere (or book Twitter or Bookstagram) does not. Pinterest seems to think of itself as a social media site, but most people don’t use it that way. Most people don’t “know” or routinely interact with other Pinterest users, so they may not seem fully human. This is in contract to the book blogging community, which can be tight-knit and which provides more opportunity for people to repeatedly interact and develop some sort of relationship. I know who the most active commenters on my blog are, and I assume they believe they know something about me and think of me as an actual person, not some faceless entity. (Though, to be fair, Krysta and I seem to be in the minority of book bloggers in that we literally do not post pictures of our faces!)
People might also feel more anonymous themselves on Pinterest than in the blogging community, and research suggests that anonymity is a key factor in cyberbullying. People who are fully anonymous are more likely to be mean online than people who have even just a username (something like PinkCupcakes12). People who use their actual names online and the least anonymous are the least likely to be mean online.
Pinterest users might use their actual name or a username, but either way there is still more anonymity there than on a blog since, as I mentioned, the site doesn’t really function as social media even when it wants to. I, frankly, have no idea who most Pinterest users are, and the web site doesn’t really make me want to know. This is in contrast to the blogosphere, where people know me and I know them. If I started going around commenting on other book blogs with things like, “Wow, this is a really stupid post” or “Your review is terrible,” word would get around. People would not like me and probably would stop following my blog. There’s some accountability to be civil in the blogosphere that doesn’t really exist on Pinterest.
Does the Negativity Matter?
Frankly, I laughed a bit when I saw the most recent negative comments I have received on Pinterest. I don’t know these people, and I don’t really care what they think–especially when they never actually read the posts they were being snarky about. I did reply them in hopes they might think harder in the future before leaving dismissive comments for other people. Who made this piece of crap? I made a point of replying that “I did,” so it would be clear that real people were seeing the comments, and they are NOT just directed to the world in general.
So I’m not particularly offended by the comments, but I do want to draw attention to this one possible downside of using Pinterest. Receiving these comments, particularly just a few days apart, reminded me of how positive the book blogging community really is, and I’m grateful for that now more than ever. This was just a stark reminder that not every corner of the Internet is positive, uplifting, or even just neutral. (I’m sure there are people who dislike my blog posts, but they very nicely close the page and don’t tell me about it!)
I’m still a big advocate for using Pinterest if you want to find ways to draw more traffic to your blog posts and expand your readership–but it comes with the caveat that not everyone in that potential new readership will be polite. I mostly try not to read comments on Pinterest, and I recommend that approach if you like to keep your days positive.
In 2018, Pages Unbound received 523 pageviews from Pinterest referrals. In January 2019, I decided I was going to take Pinterest more seriously.
While I was skeptical that content from book blogs could really take off on Pinterest, many bloggers in general swear by the site and say it is their single largest source of traffic. After I stumbled across a few actual book bloggers, including The Uncorked Librarian and Lovely Audiobooks, saying they receive a reasonable amount of traffic from Pinterest, I figured I had nothing to lose (besides maybe my time).
The result: In 2019, Pages Unbound received over 8,000 pageviews from Pinterest.
Concrete Steps I Took to Increase Traffic from Pinterest
Honestly, if you read any article or blog post on how to get traffic from Pinterest, the ideas are generally the same: set up a business account, set up rich pins, post appealing graphics, make sure the graphics are vertical, etc. and so forth. I did all this, but here are some of the more concrete steps I took:
I created uniform board covers.
I don’t think there’s any actual need to create uniform board covers to succeed on Pinterest, but a lot of the “serious” Pinterest users have them. Board covers with the title of the board make it easy for people to see what each board is about, and your profile looks professional and attractive to potential followers. It’s an easy thing to do to update your profile.
I created a book bloggers group board.
(Good) group boards are important to help get other users repinning your content so it gets more visibility. The general rules of a group board are that for every pin you add, you must pin one other person’s pin. Other rules might include not spamming the board with your content and posting only vertical images, not horizontal or square ones.
I noted in an earlier post that I had trouble finding book or book blogger group boards, especially ones that are accepting new members, so I started my own. (You can request to join the book blogger group board here.) I’ve since found several boards hosted by others to join, some of which are great and some of which are a bit spammy. Some of them also trend more towards romance books, so I more recently started a YA/MG specific group board here that I’m hoping to grow.
I started pinning every day.
Advice on how much or how often to pin each day to “succeed” varies, but my basic rule in 2019 was to attempt to pin something every single day. I pin my own post of the day to a minimum of two boards, and then I log onto Pinterest and repin others’ content there, even if it’s only four pins or so.
I missed some days, and I wasn’t always consistent. Some days I pinned a lot, while others I pinned practically nothing. This is definitely not the “ideal” strategy. But since I had NO strategy for Pinterest in 2018, pinning at least a little each (or most) days in 2019 noticeably improved my reach and my traffic.
I created more pinnable images for the blog.
Of course, in order to pin things, I needed content to pin. In 2019, I made it a point to try to have a vertical pinnable image with the title of the blog post for any discussion post or book list posted at Pages Unbound.
(I have made some graphics for book reviews, and I see other book bloggers who have pinned images for reviews, but my experience is that these do not do nearly as well as discussion posts or other features–especially any type of list. If you have time, promoting your book reviews on Pinterest is worthwhile because you’ll probably get some traffic, but it’s not where you should put your focus if the time you can commit to social media is limited.)
I signed up for the Free Trial of Tailwind
Tailwind is a paid service that lets you schedule pins, join tribes to get your pins shared, see analytics on your pins, and more. It is fabulous because you can take an hour or two and schedule pins (at suggested optimized times!) for basically the whole month and then forget about them. You can also use features to ensure that you are pinning a single pin to all the boards you want, without overlap, and at staggered times–so I can pin something to 13 groups boards but schedule it so it only is pinned to one board a day. (People who are serious about Pinterest but don’t have Tailwind seem to get the same result by keeping elaborate spreadsheets detailing what they pinned, where, and when; without Tailwind, I just wing it and miss the opportunity to pin my content to all relevant boards.)
I wrote more about my experience with Tailwind in this post, and I really liked it while I had the trial. I just struggle with the idea of paying for it month after month when I make absolutely no money from this blog. But if you are monetizing your blog, or if you simply have the disposable income to spend some money on your blog, I would recommend checking it out.
Insights for Book Bloggers on Pinterest
Book lists do particularly well. If you think of Pinterest as a search engine more than social media, this makes sense. People go on Pinterest for ideas and inspiration, not necessarily for book reviews or even bookish discussions. If you have limited time to promote your content on Pinterest, start with any lists you have.
Seasonal content does well. Similar to the first idea, people like lists of books related to holidays, seasons, etc. Books to read in winter. Picture books for St. Patrick’s Day. Whatever. Make sure to start promoting the content early though. I’ve seen recommendations to start promoting 45 days before the actual holiday.
Think of content that will do well with a “general” audience. The people visiting your blog from Pinterest are not necessarily other book bloggers. This is exciting because most of us know other book bloggers are usually our main audience. But this also means you have to think about what will appeal to readers/visitors who might not even know what a book blog is, much less be interested in the usual book blog discussions and debates.
Pins with lots of covers do well. This is probably related to lists doing well, but if I create one pin for a list with a lot of book covers on it and one pin that has a single image, usually the one with tons of covers does better.
I noted in January that one of my blog goals for 2019 (actually my only goal) was to start using Pinterest more to actually drive traffic to my blog. I’ve had a Pinterest account for years but always assumed that the site was better suited to things like cooking, lifestyle, parenting, etc. and that getting traffic to a book blog from Pinterest was probably not going to happen. (Here are the initial five steps I took to improve my Pinterest profile.) Now that we’re a couple months into 2019 and my Pinterest experiment, here’s what I learned about using the site and what seems effective–or not.
This is obvious, and you will find this advice on any post about how to succeed at using Pinterest, but since I wasn’t focused on pinning my posts for a number of years, many of our posts did not have Pinterest-optimized images. This included anything from lists and dicussions (horizontal headers) to reviews (square Instagram images). I had to make new, vertical graphics for any post that I wanted to add to Pinterest AND delete any old, non-vertical pins from my existing boards. A lot of book bloggers also do not have vertical, pinnable images on their posts, and best practices for Pinterest suggests that you do not pin others’ graphics if they aren’t good for Pinterest either.
2. Book Reviews Get Some Traffic–But Not a Lot
You can post book reviews to Pinterest, and they do get a small amount of traffic. Lovely Audiobooks even started a group board specifically for book bloggers to share book reviewsthat you can join to promote your reviews. However, book reviews do not get as much traffic as other book-related posts, so if you’re just getting started out on Pinterest, I would suggest focusing on other content before reviews. If you do want to promote your reviews, consider using a Canva template that you can quickly customize for each review, instead of simply posting the book cover as your pin. Here’s what I use:
3. The Most Successful Posts Are Ones that Are Already Getting Search Engine Hits
Reviews don’t necessarily do as well as other posts because, as people have pointed out, Pinterest is more of a search engine than a social media site. Users log onto Pinterest often looking for specific things, like recommendations for recipes, make-up tutorials–or lists of books to read. This means that if you have a post that is currently getting good traffic from Google, it will probably also get good traffic from Pinterest if you promote it correctly. Lists of books and blogging advice (or reading advice like how to read more or read quickly) will probably do well. This does mean, however, that discussion posts–which tend to generate a lot of traffic on book blogs–might not get a lot of traffic from Pinterest simply because the topic might not be one that users are actively searching. Here is an example of a pin that did well for us:
4. Pins with Lots of Book Covers Do Well
Finally, I learned that pins with lots of book covers tend to do better than pins with a single large image. People like books lists. This also, unfortunately, means that our branded Pages Unbound pins in purple and gray don’t always do as well as I’d like, so I often make a couple pin options to see what will do better. For example, the pin with the covers performed better than our original heading image with just a background picture of a hobbit hole:
Do you use Pinterest, either for your blog or for personal use? What kinds of pins do you post? What types of pins do you find yourself drawn to saving/repinning?
For background, Tailwind is a Pinterest-approved scheduler for pins that has other features like “looping” your pins, analytics, and tribes, which I’ll explain in a minute. The free trial is for 100 scheduled pins, rather than a specific time period, but you can also get a credit for a free month (about a $15 value by clicking the link above–and I get a free month, too.) So basically you can get two free trials, the first 100 pins (no credit card required) and then a free month (credit card required). This post is about the free 100 pin trial.
How the Tailwind Free Trial Helped Me Increase Blog Traffic
As I said, Tailwind is primarily a pin scheduler; you pick pins and add them to your queue, and the program will schedule them at “optimized” times when it believes your audience is most likely to see them. However, most Pinterest advice suggests pinning anywhere from 30 to 100 times a day, so since the free trial is only for 100 pins, I scheduled about 5-7 pins daily to make the trial last and did most of my pinning manually.
So what was the free trial good for? Tailwind Tribes.
Tailwind tribes are groups of people with similar interests who share each other’s pins. The general rules are that for every pin you add to the tribe, you must schedule one of someone’s else’s. (Tailwind itself, in the basic package, allows you to join 5 tribes and add 30 of your own pins to a tribe each month, unless you upgrade for more tribes and pins. You get the 30 pins with your free trial.)
In the sense that you are supposed to leave a pin and then repin someone else’s to boost it, Tailwind tribes are kind of like Pinterest group boards. (You can join my book blogger group board here.) However, Tailwind tribes are better than group boards (or were for me) for a couple reasons.
People on Tailwind are serious Pinterest users. Remember that they’re paying about $10-$15 a month to belong to Tailwind.
This means they are likely trying to follow the rule of pinning 30-100 things per day.
Tailwind tribes give them a quick place to find content specifically related to books and book blogging that they can schedule in bulk. They want to share your pins because that helps boost their own Pinterest profile and pins.
Group boards for book blogging, in my experience, do not necessarily get 30 pins a day that one can share to one’s own boards, whereas tribes have a much better selection of content to share, and I had far more success with people actually repinning my content from tribes than from most of the group boards I belong to.
A couple days after joining some book blogging tribes, my pins began getting shares (remember that people are scheduling them, so they might not be repinning your stuff immediately but rather a few days in the future), and I began getting much better blog traffic from Pinterest. When things first took off, we got 60 page views just from Pinterest in a day, which is about as many views as we got in a whole month previously. It was obvious to me that the pins that were taking off and bringing traffic were specifically the ones I had added to tribes–not ones I tried to promote by adding them manually to my profile or group boards.
So am I joining Tailwind Permanently?
At this point, probably not. I definitely think it works, but the fact of the matter is that I make absolutely no money from blogging and I, therefore, try not to spend money on my blog. If you do make money from your blog or you simply are willing to spend money on it as a hobby, I do recommend checking Tailwind out.
I noted at the beginning of the year that I wanted to improve the blog’s Pinterest account this year. A lot of bloggers credit Pinterest with giving them a large amount of traffic and page views, and I want to make sure I’m not missing out. This is with the caveat that these bloggers are not in the book blogging niche; they have blogs devoted to other topics that already get far more traffic than book blogs: parenting, lifestyle, finances, blogging advice, etc. The one book blogger I saw do a post on how Pinterest has helped her (The Uncorked Librarian) has a blog dedicated to both books AND travel, and when I commented asking if she saw more success with her travel pins than with her book pins, she said yes. Still, I’m jumping into the Pinterest world with some gusto here, just to make sure I’m not ignoring a source of potential readers for my blog.
I know a lot of people (like me, really) are not sure how to best use Pinterest to point people to their blog posts and gain traffic, so I’m going to discuss some of the things I’ve done so far and whether they seem to have had any success.
While I was researching posts on how to improve my Pinterest profile, this advice from My Twenty Cents stood out as an actual concrete step I could take (as opposed to vague advice like “pin a lot” or “pin at the right times”). So I went on Canva and created graphics to use for the featured photo for each board that matched the Pages Unbound blog branding and that clearly stated the purpose of each board.
My Twenty Cents noted that nice board covers have no direct impact on traffic, but they make you look professional and make it easier for other people to follow your boards, and she says that she saw an increase in Pinterest followers after making nice board covers.
A lot of Pinterest advice boils down to “join group boards,” but I couldn’t find a ton of book blogger group boards, and the ones I found were often closed to new members. So I started my own. Because the board is new, it’s smaller than the more established ones, but I’m hoping it will give book bloggers a board to join that’s actually open and that, in time, it will continue to grow.
3. I started pinning every day.
The advice I’ve read also suggests that Pinterest really values consistency in pinning. You must pin every day in order for your account to be seen as credible by the site and for your pins to be more visibly featured in the feed. Before, I used Pinterest sporadically, whenever I thought of it or when I particularly needed it for something like a specific project I was working. I don’t have a set amount of pins I pin every day (some people recommend 100, and some people only do 15), but I do try to pin a couple things every day, specifically focusing on other book blogs.
4. I started experimenting with the pinnable images on my own blog.
We’ve had verticle, Pinterest-sized images for our discussion posts for awhile, but I thought I could make them more visually interesting, so I tried some different templates from Canva.
Unfortunately, most people say that colors like red and orange do well on Pinterest, and cool colors like blue, green, and purple do not, but I’m sticking with purple since it matches our branding.
5. I cleaned up my Pinterest Profile.
I deleted boards I wasn’t using. (Some people would probably argue I should delete all boards that have nothing to do with books/writing/blogging, but I like my baking boards and am too lazy to have a blog account and personal account or even to make the boards secret.) I also tidied up or added board descriptions and some pin descriptions. Finally, I deleted old pins that were not good quality or images that had never been repinned.
These initial five steps had visible but marginal results on blog traffic that came from Pinterest, about a consistent 5-10 referrals per day. That’s more than we usually had, but it also is not necessarily worth the time I put into Pinterest. I’ve started to see more traffic after signing up for the free trail of Tailwind, a Pinterest scheduling service that also has other features like “tribes” that share your pins, and I will write a more detailed post on my experience with that in the future.
Do you use Pinterest for your book blog? What strategies do you use? Have you seen any traffic for your blog from Pinterest?