9 Ways to Go Viral on Pinterest and Get an Avalanche of Traffic

Okay, show of hands.

Who else would like to get 90,000 visitors just by posting a simple photo?

Everybody, right?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard about the new kid on the social media block, Pinterest, a bookmarking site focused on sharing interesting photos with your friends. You might even heard some crazy-sounding stories about those who just started a blog and have used it to drive an avalanche of traffic to their blogs.

But you’re probably confused.

How are bloggers getting traffic from Pinterest? Why does it feel like you’re not making the most of this new social media site? Why is the traffic everyone else is getting with Pinterest whizzing past you like a freight train in the night?

Well, I’ve got you covered. As I did research for my new book on Pinterest marketing, I dug into some of the web’s most successful Pinterest case studies to find out exactly how it all works.

And I discovered some interesting strategies. In this post, I’ve handpicked eight of the best strategies for bloggers, as well as some thoughts about exactly how to put them into action:

1. Use photo badges

One of the best ways to rally visitors to your site is to create “photo badges” and use them as the featured image at the top of your blog post.

Take, for example, Nester Smith, the founder of a home decorating blog that has close to 30,000 subscribers. With every post Nester writes, she publishes a beautiful, evocative, funny or inspiring photo. She’s a fantastic photographer, so many of the photos she uses on the blog are her own snapshots.

At minimum, Smith adds a clear, good quality photo to each post. But on some posts, she takes it a step further. She creates a gorgeous photo badge that just begs to be pinned on Pinterest.


For her photo badges, Smith usually takes the title of the post and adds it to a photo. She makes sure that the text is easy to read and that the entire badge is attractive and compelling. Then she pins that image to her one of her pinboards on Pinterest and makes sure that the photo badge links back to her blog post.

This technique works. Smith’s simple-but-beautiful photo badge from the post called How to Paint Furniture Like a Pro has received over 90,000 page views and 55,000 pins since she published it in 2010.

Other tips for photo badges:

  • Use real photos – pins that use real photos as a background will get more traction than ones that use text over a plain background
  • Use light and visually appealing colors (think light blue, pink, or yellow) rather than neutrals or dark colors
  • Keep your pins under 5000 pixels high – the taller the pin is, the harder it is for pinners to repin it
  • The better your blog post title is, the better this technique will work. Check out Jon’s Headline Hacks  report for real, accessible advice on creating superior headlines. (And don’t be afraid to add one or two powerful words to punch up the emotion.)

2. Get Your Timing RIght

One of the downsides to Pinterest is that pins have a short shelf life.

Once you pin an image or video, it’s immediately posted to your followers’ “New” pages. After that, you have a very short window of time for it to go viral on Pinterest. Some say as little as 20-30 minutes.

Does that mean hope is lost if your image doesn’t immediately go viral?

Well, not entirely. Your pins do stay visible on your pinboards, and occasionally one of them will get picked up by another user and may even get repinned a few times, sending you a small stream of traffic.

Still, the difference is huge. Compared to the amount of people who will see your image when it’s new, the number of people who will bother to pick through your old pins is minuscule.

So, you need to think strategically about timing. Maximize your time in the Pinterest spotlight by pinning your images when the greatest number of people will see them.

For most niches, that’s between 6 AM and 6 PM, Eastern time, but again, that’s just a rule of thumb. The smart strategy is to look at your traffic stats for your own blog to see when you consistently get the most traffic, and then plan to pin during those times, because that’s when your audience is surfing the web and most likely to spread the word.

The bad news?

There’s not really a way to automate it yet. Until Pinterest releases its API to developers, it’s not possible to develop a pin scheduling tool, so you’ve got to be online and pinning during those Pinterest “peak times.” Sorry.

3. Pin New Stuff

Pinners love new and original content, just like other social media users. So, instead of just repinning tired images from other users, find new stuff on the web to pin.

Be original. Take chances. Be interesting.

If you pin new content to Pinterest once a day, you’ll gain new followers, and your Pinterest platform will grow. And the bigger your Pinterest platform is, the more people will click on links to your blog posts when you pin them (and the more traffic you will get from Pinterest!)

4. Collect and Curate Awesome Content

Your job on Pinterest is to gather and display awesome content in your niche – and that makes you a curator.

In the real world, professional curators gather, organize and display items for museums and galleries. Your job as an online curator is to do the same thing for your virtual audience.

Being a Pinterest curator means you pick the best images and then organize them in an interesting way that benefits your core audience. In other words, you cherry-pick all the best images related to your topic and pin them to your boards.

If you do a good job, it’ll help you build your authority, and people will eventually look to you as the go-to source for cool images on your topic. When that happens, you can bet they’ll come back to you again and again, giving you lots of chances to tell them about your blog.

So get the goods. And then pin the goods. Because when you’re a great curator, your audience will grow exponentially.

5. Don’t Pin Your Own Stuff All the Time

While you’re curating, you might be tempted to only pin images from your own website and blog. You might want to create boards that only feature your personal or affiliates‘ products (if you sell products) or your blog posts (if you’re a blogger or other content creator.)

Resist this urge. Resist it with all your might.

If you only pin your own stuff on Pinterest, you will fail as a pinner. You’ll never see that consistent flow of targeted traffic that you’re longing for.

Some folks say you should limit the amount of pins that link to your own product pages or blog posts – some experts even say that once a day is plenty.

I’m not a fan of arbitrary rules like this, but I think you’ll know when you’re pinning your own stuff too much. You’ll feel like a schmuck. And it won’t feel good.

So follow your gut. And don’t be a schmuck. Stick to posting good content from other places, and when it feels right, pin one of your own posts, too. This will get you much more traction than constantly promoting yourself.

6. Give ‘Em More of What They Want

Want to find out what images and videos people have been pinning from your site?

You can find out by viewing your site’s source page on Pinterest. Go to: www.pinterest.com/source/[yoursitehere.com] to see your source page.

Need an example? Check out the pins for this very site:


By checking out your source page on a regular basis, you can see which images are resonating with Pinterest users. And once you know what pinners like – give ‘em more of that!

7. Build Your Platform

If you want massive amounts of traffic from Pinterest, you need lots of followers. Get lots of followers by:

  • Pinning a little bit every day, preferably at peak times
  • Following other people – find other interesting users to follow by going to the “Popular” or “Everything” tabs on your Pinterest navigation bar
  • Cross-post your pins to Facebook and Twitter using the built-in social media tools within Pinterest
  • Show some personality. You don’t need to stick to pinning images and videos that fit within your blog niche. Want to see what personality looks like on Pinterest? Check out travel blogger Jodi Ettenberg’s For Marshmallow Enthusiasts  or Trees That Look Like Broccoli boards.

8. Host Discussions

Pinterest can be used to boost discussion, and it’s worthwhile to put some effort into getting more comments on your pins. Many of the awesome suggestions from Jon’s recent post on how to get more comments on your blog are also applicable in the Pinterest world. Remember to respond to the comments you do get, ask easy-to-answer questions, give ‘em a pep talk, or tell ‘em a tearjerker.

The folks on the marketing team at pediatric staffing agency PediaStaff have built themselves a Pinterest empire by hosting weekly discussions and curating great content for their followers. Check out their discussion boards for ideas.

9. Sponsor Competitions That Don’t Suck

You can overdo contests on Pinterest, just as you can on other social media sites. And some folks may criticize you for “buying” followers using contests.

But I think you can run a Pinterest contest that doesn’t suck. Done well, contests on Pinterest can create buzz for your business AND be exciting and interesting for contest participants, too.

To run a contest that doesn’t suck:

  • Ask your followers and readers to create pinboards based on a theme you select. Harrod’s department store in London recently held a contest that asked their readers to create storefront ideas based on the theme of Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee this summer. Better Homes and Gardens also ran a similar “Dream House” contest for their Pinterest followers.
  • Keep it simple. Don’t ask contest participants to do five different things in order to enter. Make it a two-step process: Create a board, and tell you about that board (whether it’s on Twitter, email, or blog comment)
  • Make sure you spell out the rules clearly on your blog. Then link to that blog post on a dedicated contest Pinterest board.
  • Open and close your contest on time.
  • Make a really big deal of announcing the winner. You want that person to get lots of good press, so publish the winner’s board on your blog, talk about it on Twitter and Facebook, and make a big fuss about it on Pinterest. The more you publicize your contest AND the winner, the more people will likely participate in your next contest.
  • Don’t do contests too often. Once or twice a year is plenty.

The Bottom Line?

Turns out that getting tons of traffic and even making money from Pinterest is more than just an urban legend – it is happening to smart bloggers all over the world.

But you can’t just sit back and wait until the pinners come to your site and start buying – you need to take action.

So stop pinning random stuff and hoping the traffic will flow in – pick one of these suggestions and take a step toward putting it into place. Just one baby step.

Then go out there and grab yourself a piece of that awesome Pinterest pie. It’s rich, luscious and definitely worth fighting for.

About The Author: Beth Hayden is a social media expert and author of Pinfluence: The Complete Guide to Marketing Your Business with Pinterest. To learn how to get more Pinterest followers (and convert those followers to buyers), download her free Pinterest marketing e-course.