Have you ever watched in amazement as a Facebook post, Tweet, or Pin goes viral? If you’re anything like me, you immediately think about the factors that led to its virality. Was the content incredibly moving? Did it solve a huge problem? What made this post stand out among all others? How can you harness some of that virality for your own business?
Melissa Will of EmpressofDirt.net is one of those lucky (and skilled!) creators of a viral post. She was literally telling her blog readers goodbye with a round-up of her best content, when to her amazement, her post went viral on Pinterest. As Melissa shares, “I thought my website was under a robot attack!” Since that time, Melissa has learned all she can about harnessing the power of Pinterest to grow her blog.
Hold on to your seat, because this episode has enough tips on Pinterest to make you dizzy! Don’t let that overwhelm you, though. Take things one step at a time, and maybe you’ll have a story to share just like Melissa’s a year from now!
On the Podcast
01:54 – From Online Business to Blogger
08:22- Taking Advice from Others
09:07 – The Turning Point
11:08 – They’re Coming…Now What?
13:35 – Pinterest Tips + Best Practices
19:37 – How to Show up in the SmartFeed
21:19 – Pinterest SEO
26:04 – Hashtags are Over
27:28 – Best Sources for Pinterest Advice
28:16 – How to Craft Your Pinterest Routine
32:16 – The Power of a Round-Up Post
38:11 – Income Breakdown + Adsense Advice
43:47 – Hilarious Mom Moment (I know I’ve been there before!)
From Online Business to Blogger
No, that title isn’t a typo. Melissa actually started an online shop in the year 2000 – when online shops were few and far between. It was only after many years with a shop that she decided to grow her blog into a full-time profession.
Melissa’s entrepreneurial journey began when she was pregnant with her youngest daughter. She was very ill during the pregnancy and had serious complications during childbirth. She hadn’t recovered enough during maternity leave to return to work, so Melissa resigned from her job.
Melissa took up quilt-making and start hand-dying her own fabrics for her quilts. She loved fabric-dyeing so much that she needed a reason to justify all the fabric she was creating.
Her husband showed her how to use html, and they set up an online fabric shop for her. Social media didn’t exist at the time, but people found her via search engines.
Melissa received her first order just a few days after opening her online shop.
She received letters from potential customers saying that they wanted to purchase from her, but they didn’t quite trust the whole process of ordering items online. Melissa solved this problem by creating a front page for her shop that featured a journal of her life as a stay-at-home mom running an online business. Essentially, Melissa created a blog before anyone had even given the thing a name!
Melissa’s business quickly grew into wholesale orders, craft shows, and teaching fabric-dying. She was a mom by day, and a fabric-dyer and entrepreneur by night.
Melissa offers this insight:
“When you’re home with little kids, you really need to have something that’s all your own where you feel valued and creative in it, and you can really spread your wings.”
Melissa eventually became burned out from all the demands of her fabric business, and eventually she put her shop on hiatus. She continued as a hobby blogger and would read success stories about people earning their living through blogging, but she couldn’t figure out how to make it happen for herself.
Taking Advice from Others
After years of blogging with very little results, Melissa knew she had to stop doing the same old thing and let other people advise her.
She took a blogging course from Corbett Barr. (He’s one of our favorite guys over at Fizzle!) Then she got her own domain, hosting, and found an email service provider. (Our pointers on where to grab these)
The Turning Point
In July of 2012, after taking Corbett’s course, things did pick up for Melissa’s blog. She had several hundred visitors per day, but that wasn’t enough to earn an income.
At Christmas-time in 2012, Melissa decided to say goodbye to her blog and move on to something that would provide a steady income.
She bid farewell to her readers with a summary of her best projects from the year. Melissa made her very first collage pin showing each project and put it on Pinterest. (At this point, Melissa hardly ever used the platform!) She emailed all of her subscribers and linked to her Farewell post.
Within 12 hours Melissa says she was getting message in her inbox from people she didn’t know, along with new subscriptions to her newsletter.
When she looked at her site stats, she thought that it might be under a robot attack because of the drastic increase in visitors!
Melissa said it was like her site suddenly came to life!
They’re Coming…..Now What?
Instead of saying goodbye, Melissa spent 2013 trying to make the best use of her new-found traffic. In addition to focusing on Pinterest (which we’ll cover in great detail next!) there are five other things Melissa did to grow her blog.
- She focused on making her site better so that people who stumbled upon her via Pinterest would want to stay.
- She created an e-book – Melissa followed Pat Flynn’s advice and created an e-book based on all the projects in that Farewell Round-up Post. (Melissa makes it clear that all of the content in her e-book is readily available for free on her site, but people like the convenience of an e-book)
- She used Hometalk.com – You can share any projects you’ve made there and link back to your site. It’s a great way to get new visitors.
- She created a Blog Tribe – Melissa reached out to a blogger she didn’t know but admired and started a blog tribe with her. She and other gardening bloggers have joined together to help promote each other.
- Social Media – Melissa didn’t just focus on Pinterest, but got more involved in many social media channels, and learned the best practices of each platform she used, so she could harness its power to its full potential.
Pinterest Tips and Best Practices
There are 3 Basic Goals for Pinterest
- Get Repins
- Get Followers
- Get Clickthroughs
Once someone clicks through to your site, you’d like them to take off their coats and stay a while. Again, this relates back to great content and an easy-to-navigate site.
Melissa tells us that keeping up with the changes on Pinterest is a must, because their algorithm will always favor those pins and Pinners that follow the current best practices.
Current Best Practices for Pinterest
- Crisp, well-composed images
- Set up your profile properly with a nice image of yourself, great description about what you do, and a verified website URL
- Become a trusted pinner by choosing to pin only content that links back to the original source. (Pinterest’s guideline is to make sure your pin links to something helpful.)
How to Show Up in the Smart Feed
- Enable Rich Pins on your site (Here’s an overview on enabling rich pins. It looks rather complicated and you may need the help of a developer.)
- Rich pins are, essentially, a validation system to show that your pin goes back to the original site.
- Create engaging boards that tell a story.
- Use titles for your boards that have relevant keywords so you’ll be found when someone searches for that topic
- Link your board to the correct category on Pinterest (again this makes it easier to be found)
- Change up your board covers every so often so your profile page has a new appearance
- Push seasonal boards to the top of your profile
- Keep your account active by adding pins to all of your boards at least every couple of weeks. (As Melissa says, “there are rewards in the feed for those who stay active and play nice.”)
There are 3 places where your keywords for each pin should be found.
- Pin descriptions – These are a huge opportunity to show up in the feed. Write in an engaging and natural style, but make sure relevant keywords are included
- The file name of your Pin – The search tool uses that file name to index it, so your image should be titled and saved with those important keywords included. (This is true of any image on your site or in your Etsy shop – more on Etsy SEO here.)
- The URL that the image is linked to
All 3 of these places to include the correct keywords will stack up together to make your pin more visible.
Another huge factor for relevancy?
Higher engagement via more re-pins, hearts, and comments make your pin more visible in Pinterest’s new SmartFeed
How to Ensure Excellent Pins Every Time
So, you’ve figured out how to craft excellent pins, but what happens when others pin content directly from your site? I mean, it’s great, right?! But how can you take full advantage of this opportunity?
- Use the Pin-It Button to make pinning your content easy for your readers
- Images that are taller than they are wide often do better (aspect ratio of 2:3 or 4:5)
- Include at least one longer image within each blog post along with the other image choices
- Fill in alt tags for images on your site. Pin-It buttons pull the pin’s description from that alt description.
- Note that most pinners will not compose their own description for your image, so you need to do the groundwork for them by creating an engaging, keyword-rich description via the alt-tag
- Hashtags are now strongly discouraged on Pinterest
- The only exception to the hashtag rule is when you’re doing a sponsored post and you’re required to include #spon or #Ad to indicate that it’s a sponsored pin.
Hashtags are Over
- The old advice was to use two hashtags in each pin description
- With the new promoted pins that are surfacing, Pinterest’s guidelines indicate that one hashtag is ok, but any more than that appears spammy and will not be approved for promotion
- More than one hashtag will actually demote the pin in the SmartFeed
The Best Sources for Pinterest Advice
How to Craft Your Pinterest Routine
Melissa admits to spending only 10 minutes per day on Pinterest despite benefiting from hundreds of thousands of visitors via the site each month.
How is this possible? Melissa crafts each blog post with Pinterest in mind, and by optimizing the post and images, Pinterest does the rest of the work for her, in a way.
When she develops a new blog post idea, she creates it with sharing in mind. She writes out a storyboard of all the images she’d like to have in the post – including ones that would do well on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+ and Twitter
Melissa has worked to build up her image library. She always has a camera with her. Whenever she finds something beautiful, that tells a story, would make a great background, she just snaps a picture.
She snaps a close-up, far-away, and small video clips. Over time, Melissa has a huge library to pull from and can blog about any topic at any time with all of her original images.
As Melissa says, “At some point if you get a book offer or want to write an e-book, you’ve got a huge amount of new content that you can share.”
The Power of a Round-Up Post
Melissa tells us that every single one of her most popular pins has been a collage.
Over the course of a year, Melissa will write many posts that each have a uniting theme to them. Then she takes the individual posts and writes a round-up post with a collage. “They always do well,” Melissa admits.
In addition to using collages on her round-up posts, Melissa makes a collage for various menu pages on her site. For example, if you check out her Garden Ideas Section, there’s not just a list of all her posts on the topic, but a Pinnable collage with images from some of the posts. These Menu Page Collages bring lots of traffic to her site, and from those menu pages, her new visitors explore lots of content.
Melissa shares this valuable stat: Visitors stay 4-5 minutes when they arrive at her site via a menu page versus just 1-2 minutes when arriving from a typical blog post pin. (Wow! Clearly Menu Page Collages are powerful stuff!)
Income Breakdown Plus Adsense Advice
Adsense – this is Melissa’s largest source of income
Amazon Affiliate links
E-books – Melissa has several e-books for sale on her site. She doesn’t push them or sell hard, but they continue to sell well every year
Sidebar Ads from Sponsors
Sponsored Posts – This is rare, as Melissa says yes to only 1 in 100 requests she receives
Have you heard that Adsense is only for Amateurs? Melissa is living proof that Adsense can pay off for experienced bloggers in a big way.
- Set up targeted ads by filling in descriptions on what your site is about, who your audience is, and where on your site the ads will appear.
- Use mobile-responsive ads. (Non mobile-responsive ads will cut off versus fit nicely on the screen, and over 50% of Melissa’s traffic is mobile.)
- Place one square ad in the upper 3rd of every blog post
- Use the plug-in, Quick Adsense. (It allows Melissa to place the ad exactly where she wants it to fall within the blog post, typically under the first image.)
Melissa’s Hilarious Mom Moment
This one had Sarah and I both cracking up! It reminded us so much of the harried, distracted mompreneur stage that we’re in at the moment. Can you relate?