Pinterest: Link Building & SEO Strategies

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I’ve seen more SEO interest in Pinterest in the last month than the rest of the image bookmarking site’s life. One day, I saw multiple veteran SEOs ask for an invite and I’m pretty sure they’re not going for cute animal pictures and interior decorating ideas.

Most of the SEO talk about Pinterest concern a couple of key tactics: (1) getting people to pin pictures of your products (aided by adding the “Pin It” button to product pages), and (2) seeding your site images to topical influencers where they are likely to get spread through “repinning” (similar to Tumblr’s “reblog” feature).

A Background On Pinterest Links

Here’s a brief rundown of  what we already know about Pinterest links:

  • Each “Pin” links back to the page the image is shown on OR the actual file location using a do-follow link. The difference depends on how the image was pinned. For example, opening an image in its own window/tab and then using Pinterest’s bookmarklet will create the pin and link to the file location jpeg. The “Pin It” button will usually link to the page the image is featured on. A page-targeted link is probably better than a jpeg-targeted link unless you’re purposely optimizing for image search.
  • Do-follow links are found on multiple parts of a pin, as shown below. The “From:” link and the image link are both standard in every pin. All image ALT attributes read “Pinned Image” with no way to edit. You can also insert links into the pin description and comments (here comes Pinterest comment spam). A pin comes with a custom embed code for easy syndication onto other websites, creating backlinks to the pin page.

  • Pinterest’s domain authority, by most SEO standards, is high and still growing. There’s always the possibility that Pinterest could convert the do-follow links to no-follow to curb spam, just as some other social bookmarking sites have done.

Link Reclamation With Pinterest

One of the easiest ways to get links from Pinterest is through link reclamation – finding pins tied to you and your company that aren’t linking to you and request a change. I’ll walk through a basic example using ZAGG, since this has been successful for us.

1. Search For Link Opportunities

Think of Pinterest SEO in terms of linkable image assets. Which image properties do you own that people might want to pin. Pinterest is an aesthetic network: what aesthetic content are you creating? What are the keywords associated with your images? The reality is that many companies don’t care about imagery, so Pinterest doesn’t really work. E-commerce sites are probably the best prepared to take advantage of this kind of link building.

I divided ZAGG images into four keyword categories: brand names, product names, product keywords, and campaigns (including infographics), then picked a few of the keywords associated with each category.

Using the Pinterest search box, I search for tags that correspond to our images. Ultimately, I find a combination of ZAGG logos, product photos, and advertising. Remember to search by how people tag, not how you think they should tag.

Many don’t tag images with manufacturer names. Searching for product keywords will often return a combination of your products and competitors’ products. Notice that a search for “ipad keyboard case” returns many images of our products without mentioning our company. (Highlighted in orange)

These are all great opportunities that wouldn’t have been identified without doing more generic keyword searches.

2. Determine Who Isn’t Linking To Your Site

Most of ZAGG’s images are getting onto Pinterest because people found them on our website. The rest of them come from a combination of affiliate and shopping sites, blogs, and even Google Image Search, even though we created the images. You can determine from the pin page where the image links to. Those that aren’t linking to your site are great candidates for outreach.

I should also mention that pins linking to the image file may be worth changing to link to the web page, for multiple reasons, including better SEO.

3. Pinterest User Outreach

How do you get someone to change a Pinterest link. In my experience, successful link reclamation comes as a result of three basics:

a. Make a direct request.

b. Make a case for the change.

c. Make it easy.


Make the request by contacting the Pinterest user with the text box on their profile page.

If you don’t get a response, many users have links to other profiles where they can be contacted.

Next, consider why someone would change an image link. Here are some reasons we’ve used successfully:

  • Give due credit to ZAGG’s amazing product photographer, Arthur, by linking to ZAGG’s site. (Remember that Pinterest is an aesthetic network that appreciates art)
  • Give visitors to your pin (and repins) the best, quickest way to get more product information, up-to-date product information, more images, and immediate purchase.
  • Avoid brand confusion, misinformation, and misrepresentation by linking to the original source.

Ultimately, it’s important to make a direct request with a benefit and explain how to change the pin. Changing pin links is easy – just click the “Edit” button associated with the pin and change the URL. Interestingly, the new URL doesn’t even need to have the image on it (but you’ll be more successful if it does). It’s best to include the Pinterest pin URL and the new URL you want associated with the image when making the request.

Side note: if someone changes an image link, the image links of those who have repinned the original pin do not change. You’ll have to request changes from each individually.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, I think Pinterest has as much content marketing potential as Tumblr for its community and ease of sharing. I expect to see a lot more marketers on there, trying to use this avenue to reach the next generation of “visual influencers.”

I’ve got a couple of Pinterest invites left if you need access and let me know. Or connect with me right on Pinterest.

Scott Cowley
Scott Cowley is an SEO consultant by night, marketing PhD student by day. He was previously head of SEO at ZAGG and SEO manager at... Read Full Bio
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  • Chris Hammond

    Hey Scott – Thanks for the info, this may fit in quite nicely with our current social linking strategy. Are you able to drop me an invite?

    Many Thanks


    • Scott Cowley

      Sure, Chris. Send me your e-mail –

      • Chris Hammond

        I’m in Scott! But thanks again.


  • Bre

    Great post Scott. I have been looking at Pinterest for a while to help with my side business here in NC that I run with my husband aside from being a teacher.

    Anyway loved this post it was a great addition to my education about using for marketing purposes.

    There were a couple other resources that came though my twitter feed a couple weeks ago that I thought you might like as well. One of which is

    • Bre

      oops sorry the resource didn’t post for some reason..

      • Bre

        Sorry there must be a problem, more more try.

    • Scott Cowley

      That’s a great resource, Bre. There are a few industries that Pinterest is perfect for and that other article highlights those quite well. Thanks for adding that!

      • Bre

        Not a problem Scott,

        Thanks again for the insightful article.

  • Tauni

    Good article. A couple of thoughts…

    One of the easiest ways to do a search for images from a particular site is to do a simple source search. All you need to do is type in

    • Scott Cowley

      Thanks, Tauni. I think the point about approaching pinners with care is very important and thanks for adding that. It’s easy for marketers to forget that social networks like Pinterest are communities before marketplaces and not the other way around.

      I’m not sure the ‘source search’ tip you mentioned got formatted correctly. I hope it gets fixed because it sounds important.

  • Nicole

    I’m so excited you wrote this post, Scott! It’s concise and easy to understand. I’ve been discussing the SEO and linkbuilding potential with Pinterest ever since the first day I got my invite from you. Over the past few months, it’s been fun to see the traffic that’s come to my blog from pictures that people have pinned off on it. Next we need a post on how to overcome addition to Pinterest….

    • Nicole

      Addiction to Pinterest, that is.

      • Scott Cowley

        Thanks for commenting, Nicole. Pinning images from your own blog posts as a way to drive traffic is something I’ve never thought about before! Awesome contribution to the post!

  • Vince Blackham

    Someone definitely needed to write this and I’m glad you did, Scott. I’m guessing the sole reason SEOs are flocking towards it is likely the do-follow link. Who knows if Google has picked up pins as being any kind of social indicator, my guess is they have not.

    I think this practice will become popular right up until Pinterest pulls a Twitter and makes those links unfollowed. Fortunately, that’ll drop a bunch of would-be spammers and let the site get back to its true followers/fans. Sad thing though, unless subscribers continue to increase like they have, it’ll have little SEO value. Still, I’m sure the referral value is pretty high since it’s peer-based and that’s something I’d like to see numbers on.

    • Scott Cowley

      I can see Google looking at Pinterest as a quality social signal because of the community. Pinterest may decide to pull the plug on do-follow links and that’s perfectly fine with me.

      Like you mentioned, the referral value is still high. If someone likes an image enough to explore and buy the product, I definitely want them coming to my site and not an affiliate’s, so there are benefits beyond SEO to building links. I just checked our analytics – we’ve made over $100 from Pinterest referrals this month so far. The conversion rate is about average for our site.

  • John

    Hey Scott, thank you for the great post! I heard the first time about Pinterest at an Austrian seo conference last friday, but only as a quick tip and not that detailed you wrote it. So now it finally reached the masses ;). It would be great if you had an invitation left.

    Thank you and maybe soon on Pinterest :D.

    • Scott Cowley

      Sure, John. Send me your e-mail (look at the first comment on this post) and I’ll get one out to you.

  • Dana Lookadoo

    OK, OK! You’ve made some great points, enough to overcome my reticence to yet another app and chasing shiny objects.

    Thumbs up and +1 for a great post and for expanding our SEO opportunities with Pinterest, Scott!

    As a result, I’m looking for an invite. Do you have any left?

  • Ash Buckles

    Genius post, Scott.

    When I correspond with people through email (especially requests to change code/URLs), I always try to find a way to make things easy.

    As part of your recommendation to include the pin URL (with instructions to Edit) and the link URL, I noticed that Pinterest always appends /edit/ to the Pinterest URL for owners of the pin.

    For example:

    • Scott Cowley

      Ash, these are fantastic additions to the post. Pinterest has some fantastic nuances that could be used to make this kind of link building even more effective. You can tell that they really thought out frictionless sharing in creating the network. Your comment alone deserves its own post.

      P.S. I think the link got formatted into oblivion, like one in another comment did. It would be nice for SEJ to fix that.

  • David Wells

    I feel like pinterest is going to wise up soon and make all of these links nofollow.

    Most Social sites overlook the nofollow/dofollow attritibutes when launching and fix this as an afterthought.

    What do you think?


    • Scott Cowley

      Thanks, David. I agree that many social networking sites realize the implications of their link decisions sometime after launch and popularity. As I mentioned to Vince up above, the reality is that there’s nothing wrong with building nofollow links that drive revenue. We’ll continue to use Pinterest, in part, as a marketing channel while it continues to be effective and earning sales, SEO benefits or not.

  • Probiotix

    The idea behind Pinterest is pretty awesome.

    At the moment it seems to work well because it doesn’t rely on any algorithmic results and users decide what is important or not.

    However, if SEOs and companies start making use of it sooner or later the network will get saturated. We will all start seeing “optimised” results, meaning that big companies will benefit the most one way or another. I wouldn’t be surprised if money start being exchanged so influential users can pin something specific.

    • Scott Cowley

      I think most marketers will find a way to use communities for personal gain. However, if they become contributing members of the community to do so, then I don’t see a big problem with it. Most of the negative associations people have with marketers are because of those who aren’t very subtle about it.

  • Melanie

    I am addicted to Pinning on a personal level but I can completely see where this would fit into our Social Media/SEO strategy

  • Jahn

    Thanks for interesting insights Scott. I am keen to try it out, could you possibly send me an invite? Cheers!

    • Scott Cowley

      Send me an e-mail – find up above.

  • Curtis

    I actually TESTED these links. 3 Weeks ago, they weren’t being indexed or picked up in either Open Site Explorer, Google Webmaster Central, or even MajesticSEO. I saw they were followed links. So I registered a domain, installed wordpress, added a cool theme. Put up a few images, then pinned them to my board. The site was in the Google Index within hours. A month later, still no links show up anywhere. It’s odd because Linkscape is giving PA and DA values to some boards, yet when you try to find the links in OSE, they’re not there. Perhaps it has to do with freshness of the index. I also find my site ranking for keywords used ONLY in the pin descriptions…so Google IS crawling and using these links for now.

    The biggest takeaway I found is that it’s very easy to get others to naturally re-pin your images. You can essentially pin a great image to your board, and it will naturally be re-pinned by the community. This is a community to keep an eye on for sure. Would suggest that SEO’s start building up some authority and followers here.

    • Scott Cowley

      Curtis, thank you very much for sharing your test results here. I don’t know that any index is going to be completely accurate as far as link value, but this is particularly interesting.

    • Robbie Hodge

      You will find that OSE, Majestic, etc. are quite behind the times when it comes in indexing. They miss a large majority of links out there. Great tools for an overview, but not perfect.

  • Anna

    Another point is that when businesses have huge sales or promotions or frequently pinned products they should try to (themselves or through influential pinners) get the word out on pinterest (have pins with description “currently 25% off” added in as wel, etc..). At a time like Christmas people are more likely to follow these links or repin to boards for “ideas for dad, Christmas” or something similar where they plan to take action on it quickly. People use Pinterest both for long term bookmarking and for project specific brainstorming (i.e. a board called “Dream House” versus a board called “Kitchen Remodel”) — making consumers aware of sales for the latter type of pinning could convert into more actual sales.

    • Scott Cowley

      That’s an awesome idea, Anna. Great addition to any company’s strategy.

  • Eric

    Can you please send me an invite?

  • buzzquotient

    For link building, following point should be kept in mind:

    a) Content should be fresh and unique.
    b) Keyword stuffing in content should be avoided.
    c) Quality websites should be targeted.
    d) Avoid too much link on single website.
    e) Post comment on recent and fresh content.

  • Molly

    Thanks for the article. Pintrest has interested me for awhile now. Do you have any invites left?

    • Scott Cowley

      I believe so, Molly. Just send me an e-mail (see above)

  • Ed

    I recently discovered Pinterest and was curious about its SEO potential.
    Thanks for the timely article!

    And if you have any left, I’m definitely interested in an invite!

    • Scott Cowley

      Thanks Ed, just send me an e-mail (located up above)

  • uner

    and i thought pinterest is just another photo bookmarking sites like weheartit, tumbler and others. never knew this could actually contribute to seo ranking. thanks for the great insights! if you do have a spare invite, i’d love to to try it

    • Scott Cowley

      Thanks Uner, just send me an e-mail (located up above)

  • Hospitalera

    I am one of those IM / SEO bloggers that recently has discovered Pinterest 😉 I think we will see in future an avalanche of Pin-It buttons on e-commerce sites, including Amazon, that aim to avoid the problem of people pinning content without crediting the right source. SY

  • FXBonus

    Great info. I’m using the same strategy for building links and it works quite well

  • joni

    Do you happen to have any more invites? I’m in need of one. Thanks!

  • Ameet

    Hi Curtis,

    I was very excited to read your post. My company, UncommonGoods, has attracted a lot of activity on Pinterest without us doing all that much. However, when I checked the page source today I noticed the “nofollow” tag in the source code. Am I looking at this incorrectly? Or does it appear that Pinterest has changed it’s policy?

    • Scott Cowley

      You’re completely right about the nofollow. Wow, that was fast!

  • Probiotix

    Yes, it is right indeed and took place a couple of days ago.

    Shame but inevitable as SEOs were marching on.

  • Scott Cowley

    Well, if you look, it appears that the image link is nofollow, but the corner source link “From” is still dofollow. Don’t ask me why they’ve done that, but it’s definitely a change from last week.

  • Probiotix

    Well, the problem is that the from dofollow links do not point to the same page as the image link does, but just at the root of the domain, hence not very useful.

    • Scott Cowley

      Are you sure about that? I’m seeing plenty of “From” links pointing to deep pages.

    • Hospitalera

      Probiotix, this most likely the ‘fault’ of the pinner that created / edited the link. I tried it out and my links still point to the sub-page I pinned and not the root domain. Or do you mean the text of the link? Hover over it to see where it actually points to 😉 Hope that helps!

  • Alex

    One week later and I noticed that the “From” ink is still followed. Scott, it would be great to get an invite if you still have some available.


  • David

    I recently noticed in my Google Webmaster Tools metrics that I received a backlink for one of my sites. Turns out, someone months ago had pinned one of my images. This has me thinking about using Pinterest to achieve backlinks and attract traffic. However, it is very time-consuming to engage in all these different social networking properties, including Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.