To Pin or not to Pin. What a dilemma for your marketing strategy!

The continuing quest for innovation it results in companies and services that are released from time to time, creating new market trends and fashions.

This is particularly the case of the social media sites, which are springing up and fading away too quickly; among these Pinterest is in for the long haul with its fastest grow where in little more than a year it’s gone from less than 120,000 users to more than 4 million.

As it has always happened, when companies deploy a new service, for a short time frame they are released on beta so to allow people joining their service and possibly provide some feedback.

Pinterest isn’t too much different and probably the only exception with them is the velocity with which the company accepted the request of invitation, which ultimately gave me the chance to start testing the platform and see what kind of potentiality it has.

Pinterest, in case you haven’t heard of it, is a sort of Tumblr but it’s limited to images. Like Tumblr, it allows you to post your own stuff with just a click of a button, perhaps creating a board first (which may be considered as a sort of sub-blog) to visually bookmark them according to your own criteria.

That’s pretty much the same concept of Delicious, but here you are classifying images.

You can’t get far online right without coming across an article about Pinterest exceptional growth, and how much people and brands are scrambling to figure out how to get the most from this new channel. But how much is worth considering Pinterest for your digital marketing strategy?

Using visual aid and images in a site has been always a very powerful way to leverage consumers’ interest. Therefore, the idea of Pinterest seems simple and effective.

However, there are some SEO downsides, and if you have activated your account in an attempt to upload your own images and hopefully collect “like” or “+1” … ehmmm “pin” in this case, you are definitely wrong.

How to make your Pinterest useful for you

Provided that Pinterest shouldn’t be seen primarily as an SEO tool, this doesn’t mean you don’t have to use it or request your account to start seeding the images on your site.

Because people don’t get the value of an unstructured stream of 140 characters this doesn’t mean this image social network won’t inspire them. And the exponential grow Pinterest went through is a good indicator on how much successful this channel may be.

Rule number 1: make your site pinnable

This mean that as a webmaster or web site owner, you should do everything you can to facilitate the sharing of your web site images if you really want to get the most.

The best way is to use your account, grab the bookmarklet tool, and try pinning a few of the things you would like to see pinned and review the results.

An example of how Pinterest images are indexed by Google

Problems arise when a site just isn’t optimized for pinning. For example, you can’t pin anything from a Flash site, which unfortunately is still a favorite of many high-end retailers like Burberry (on which I’ve worked on the past), thus meaning this is a completely missed opportunity.

In some other circumstance you will discover that some JavaScript code eventually based on cookies or some advanced framework prevents Pinterest to extract the images from your site. If that is the case, it’s the right time to knock at the door of your web developer and get this fixed now.

This is also an opportunity to dig around and see what types of images are being pinned in your industry or niche, and eventually discover some “visual” trends. For instance, if the majority of photos in your industry depict macros and on your site there are only landscapes, in order to capture your audience attention you need to provide those images your users are after.

If you’re not already using a lot of visual material as part of your online strategy, you’ll need to invest time in either creating or finding images that will draw your target audience’s eyes and convert to more hits on your desired website.

Where does SEO come in?

The platform per se has a very limited effect from an SEO prospective.

Although pinned images give back the credit to their original source, there are neither a chance for the given description to appear in the HTML meta tag nor to provide a user friendly URL.

This sounds quite a big limitation at the moment to me. Perhaps at the end of the beta, this will be changed, but I can’t find any roadmap that makes this evident.

However, because Pinterest has taken off so well, Google now indexes personal Pinterest profiles AS WELL AS private boards, so be sure to incorporate your keywords in your strategy.

Pinterest links your activity to other social media applications so you can set new “pins” to automatically publish to both an associated Facebook and Twitter profile for instance (great time saver).

However, because of the above limitations, in my opinion, Pinterest will become useful only when used jointly rather than as stand-alone product.

So before carrying on and integrate Pinterest in your digital marketing strategy, be sure to double-check your profile and make sure it isn’t hidden from search engines. If your profile has “Hide your Pinterest profile from search engines” turned on, you’re not going to be doing your SEO strategy any favors.

Also, in an attempt to leverage your audience over time, make sure to integrate one of those ready-written HTML code buttons into your website so people can easily find your Pinterest profile with nice picture to be pinned.

Pinterest users frown on shameless self-promotion, but it does mean you’ll have to invest a bit of extra time making sure your Pins are worth pinning and not just copy-and-pasted images, keywords and descriptions.

If you believe you can give Pinterest a go, and like many other marketers you are concerned on how to measure the performances of this new channel, provided you are using Google Analytics, you can have a look at this article on Mashable on how to track the traffic.