I about dropped to the floor when I saw my website traffic.
I had come to accept my website traffic wouldn’t vary much day-to-day and got complacent. But one day—for who knows what reason—I felt compelled to check my Google Analytics; daily traffic was almost three times what it typically was!
Over the next few days, my daily page views grew to more than 30,000, and in one week my blog received almost as much traffic as it typically receives in a month (over 150k pageviews).
Having a curious “scientific mind” like I do, I wanted to figure out where it was coming from I also needed to figure out what influences a viral pin, so I could have the best chance of making it happen again for both my business and for the clients with whom I work.
Pinterest was Driving the Extra Traffic
According to Google Analytics, the traffic was coming from Pinterest, but I didn’t know WHERE on Pinterest.
I dug deeper into Google and Pinterest analytics. Although I was getting a lot of click-throughs to my website from different pins, they were all from one specific blog post.
This is the first time I’d experienced a traffic spike on a specific article. At least one this big. I couldn’t believe it was real.
I freaked out a little, convinced it had to be spam. After a couple of days, and after finally getting a “relax” email from Pinterest itself, I started to reflect on what had happened.
I’ve always thought all the hard work I put into following Pinterest best practices was “worth it,” but this experience completely changed my relationship with the platform.
9 Important Takeaways from My Viral Pin Experience
Pinterest Is Powerful
There is a lot of power behind Pinterest’s ability to send massive traffic to your site; perhaps as much as, or more than, Google.
Organic search traffic from Google is more like a slow burn. Once a blog post is published, Google will catalog it. If it moves up in search results for the relevant topic, you’ll start to see traffic come in. If it lands in one of the top few results, you’ll start getting regular traffic but it won’t fluctuate much throughout the year.
With Pinterest on the other hand, there is the potential for big traffic surges. A pin can be receiving a steady trickle of traffic, and even very little, and suddenly get repinned and clicked a ton of times resulting in a significant spike in website visitors.
Don’t Give Up
My article that went viral was from 2013. I was getting a steady trickle of traffic to this article from Pinterest, but nothing like the viral spike.
It was also getting a consistent flow of traffic from Google organic search so, in February 2017, I decided to revisit it and make some changes. I made a few minor updates, including creating a Pinterest optimized image (there wasn’t one before). I then repinned the image to one or two of my boards.
I still didn’t see a traffic increase to that blog article from Pinterest. The spike didn’t come until one year later.
The lesson here is slow and steady wins the race. Keep following Pinterest best practices for a chance that one of your pins will go viral. At the very least, your overall traffic from Pinterest should increase over time.
Be Sure to Re-pin Your Own Content
Prior to last year, I would pin an image a few times after an article published and that was it. I left it on my boards hoping people would visit my profile, visit that specific board, and then scroll down far enough to see the pin.
More recently, I’ve been using Tailwind (referral link) to schedule my pins and re-pins. I’ve re-pinned (from the original article) to new boards and even re-pinned the same pin to some of my existing boards even though it was pinned there months ago.
Re-pinning keeps your content live in people’s feeds so it can be discovered, not buried deep in a board.
Pinterest is a Visual Search Engine
I’ve received more traffic to this viral pin than the total number of followers of all the boards it was on, combined. The pins with the most clicks were not on “big” accounts. This tells me that the pins were getting attention another way, not from someone with a lot of followers.
People log into Pinterest every day to browse their feed. However, many people don’t stop there. If they are looking for something in particular, they will type the keywords into the search bar. When they search Pinterest, your pin could show up in the results if it’s a good match whether they follow you or not.
My takeaway here is that creating great content with images optimized for Pinterest is more useful than stressing about your Pinterest follower count. You could only have a small group of followers but your pin could get seen by many via the search function.
Google Search and Pinterest Have a Lot of Similarities
My pin went viral because it got a lot of attention. It got this attention because it was showing up as one of the first few results for related search terms. That was only possible because I told Pinterest what my pin/article was about by using relevant keywords in the pin description.
Google relies heavily on target keywords to categorize and rank content. Optimizing Pinterest boards and pin descriptions with keywords relevant to the article and your niche is just as important. Although the target keywords are slightly different, keywords matter just as much on Pinterest as they do on Google
Having Your Pin “Trend” is Super Valuable
Someone who didn’t follow me on Pinterest (that way results weren’t skewed by her already indicating she liked my content) helped me figure out why this pin was driving so much traffic. She found my pin trending on her explore feed for “animals”.
Quite honestly, prior to this experience, I had never used the “explore” feature myself. You can bet that now I’ll be checking it to see if any of my pins show up, what kind of pins do, and I’ll be trying to duplicate what they’re doing.
You can’t directly control whether you will become a “trending pin,” but stick with best practices, learn from other successful pins, and it could happen to you.
Pinterest Returns Results Based on Each Person
The person that helped me figure out that my pin was on the explore page didn’t follow me and wasn’t even a blogger in my niche.
That’s a huge indicator of success because, when you explore Pinterest, they take into account your interest, habits, and the people you follow when returning search results. Because of this, different people see different things via their algorithm (called the Smartfeed)
A person who didn’t have a strong connection to me or my niche (maybe not at all) found my pin in their explore feed because Pinterest deemed it one of the most relevant pins related to her search terms. That relevancy was because of the value of my pin, not because of her affinity to me.
The Chrome Incognito Window is Your Friend
Don’t know someone outside of your niche, that doesn’t follow you, that is willing to take the time to help you figure out what’s going on with your pins? No problem, you can somewhat do this yourself.
When the other blogger told me my pin was on the Pinterest explore page for animals, I went to look myself. I didn’t see it.
I opened an incognito window in Google Chrome so Pinterest wouldn’t know it was me and bam, there is was. MORE THAN ONCE.
I don’t exactly understand how “going incognito” works as far as communication with Pinterest but the point is that the pin wasn’t there when I searched in a normal browser window and was when viewing the explore page from the incognito window. Using this trick might help you determine where your pin is showing up.
Be Sure to Repin Your Own Content Regularly
This sounds like a no-brainer but if you have pins that are relevant each year, or align with trending topics, re-pin them during that time.
My article was related to dog teeth cleaning and it saw a huge increase in traffic during National Pet Dental Health month. The pin went viral during the time people are thinking about, and searching for, that topic.
The idea that Pinterest is a search engine and that keywords are extremely important was not new to me. What WAS new is what can happen, and how, if one of your optimized pins really takes off.
Pinterest is now one of the biggest traffic sources for my blog.
Have you ever had a pin go viral? What lessons did you learn? Have you been able to replicate that success? I’d love to know!