Pinterest is an amazing driver of traffic to blogs and online shops. Back in February I decided to conduct a Pinterest experiment. I knew that long, vertical images do best on Pinterest and I wondered whether pinning a long, vertical image of each of my free softie tutorials would drive more traffic to my blog. I also wondered whether I could the turn those Pinterest visitors into newsletter subscribers. (Read about the launch of the experiment here.)
It’s been eight months and I’d like to show you the results.
First, the pins. The new vertical images for four of my tutorials have been the most successful on Pinterest. It’s interesting to note that all four are for babies. This affirms what I know about the patterns in my shop – the baby toys do the best.
- Soft Rattle Blocks = 12.2K repins
- Soft Rattle Balls = 8.2K repins
- Josephine Doll = 6.2K repins
- Patchwork Playballs = 4.6K repins
Some of these tutorials are quite old. By pinning the vertical images I’ve introduced them to a new, larger audience. Success!
After embarking on the experiment I made two more significant changes to my Pinterest strategy. The first had to do with increasing repins and the second with converting new visitors.
When I began the experiment 8 months ago I had 14.5K followers on Pinterest. Then I signed up for a 1-month free trial with BoardBooster and used their “looping” feature on all of my boards. The results were really impressive! My follower count shot up to 21.8K with basically no effort on my part, in one month, for free. I didn’t continue after my free trial and since then my follower numbers have been steady.
Having more followers means more people see my pins and have the chance to repin them driving more traffic to my blog.
Converting New Visitors
The thing with Pinterest traffic is that it’s very “bouncy,” meaning people find an image on Pinterest, click over to get the free tutorial, and then “bounce” away never to return again.
My goal was to hang onto the new influx of traffic coming from Pinterest and this is where I made the second change. In June I signed up for LeadPages. (Read the details of that decision here.) LeadPages allows you to easily offer bonus content in a blog post. Readers can get it if they sign up for you list.
I figured that most people who find a free sewing tutorial online would enjoy the convenience of having that tutorial as a PDF to save on their computer. I decided that PDFs of my tutorials would be a perfect bonus to offer to my Pinterest visitors in exchange for their email addresses. I spent a few hours turning my most popular free tutorials into PDFs and used Leadpages to offer them as free downloads on the posts.
Again, the results were really impressive!
The tutorials convert at 60%. That means 60% of the visitors to those pages put their email address in the box in order to get the tutorial emailed to them as a PDF. Let’s take a look at what this has meant for my email list:
Check out the months leading up to June. I was getting between 300-400 new subscribers each month.
No let’s look at August when LeadPages was fully up and running. I got 347 subscribes the old way (pop-up + sidebar sign up) and 1,729 from LeadPages (shown as “imports” on the graph). I’m now getting 50-60 new email subscribers every day rather than 15-20.
Every growth strategy has some risks, including this one.
First, BoardBooster is not an approved Pinterest partner (unlike Tailwind) so that means there is some risk with using this tool. Pinterest could choose to penalize accounts that are using it. To me the 1-month free trial was an amazing opportunity to grow my following exponentially and I’m thankful nothing bad happened.
And second, I’ve found that people who subscribe to my newsletter via LeadPages are motivated by one thing: getting a free PDF emailed to them. That’s different from what’s motivating my other subscribers who are signing up because they truly want a weekly update from me. I’ve noticed that my open rate tends to dip below 50% fairly quickly now which means that I’ve had to be ruthless at cleaning my list (here’s how) to weed out people who just aren’t interested in my newsletter. Still, the overall subscribe/open rate is continually rising.
It’s Working, Now What?
My experiment worked. Each of these steps took time, but together they’ve helped me to make the best use of my old content. It was time well spent.
One thing I’ve been thinking about now is the $150/month fee that I’m paying MailChimp. My next project is to make the most out of what they have to offer. MailChimp has recently launched a bunch of neat automations that I’d like to try. I’ve just set up an abandoned cart email and a second welcome email to new subscribers. Both are already working and I’m excited to continue adding to my library of automations.
It’s important to keep in mind that building an online business requires steady work and a willingness to experiment. Each little improvement adds to the momentum of the whole.
Debby Kratovil says
Wow. That’s a lot of good info to wrap my head around. Thanks for sharing it. And I’m glad all this increased everything (including $$) for your business. I appreciate the tip about the vertical pics on Pinterest. I’m still building my boards there and will see how this works for me. Kudos to you, Abby!
Great information Abby. It is interesting to see the difference in loyalty or interest level of those who subscribe for the reward offered vs those who subscribe because they want to hear what you have to say. I appreciate your taking the time to spell this out for us.
Leanne Parsons says
Thanks for the update, Abby! I started using vertical images for my tutorials and pattern releases after reading about the start of your experiment. I had one blog post pin shared by Aurifil recently (both on Pinterest and then on Facebook) and that certainly gave me a boost, both on repins and sign-ups for my newsletter! I was interested to see that your open rate decreases because of the people who signed up to get the freebie. That’s definitely something I had wondered about, especially since the opt-in freebies are being touted as ‘the’ solution to growing an email list.
I know that using content upgrades is now standard advice for growing your list. I think it does work (that graph is proof), but engagement rate can suffer if you’re not careful. And when you’re paying an email service provider a lot each month it doesn’t make sense to hang onto subscribers who don’t engage.
Yes, how many do you find then convert into paying customers through your newsletters? Have you been able to track that?
So that’s another part of my increased use of MailChimp. I now have WooCommerce and MailChimp connected so I’ll be able to track things more closely. I will say just from my experience of sending a newsletter that it’s an incredibly powerful tool to drive sales.
I’d love to see a blog post on how to use the WooCommerce/MailChimp connection well. I have been trying, and it feels fruitless.
I had Sarah Bailey connect the for me (it was a bit more complex than I wanted to wrestle with). The new automations make it worth doing, though. You can reach out to lapsed customers, loyal customers, and people with abandoned carts. I like it!
Thanks for sharing this information
Denise/DIY Crush says
That’s really great insight, Abby! I have actually decided against having people sign up just to get their free patterns BECAUSE of the high non-open rate. I am now only using a static subscribe option box in my sidebar and people signing up through it, will for sure have long term interest (at least that’s what I am hoping for). I have also read that lead page pop-ups are supposed to be a problem starting January for websites. Google is supposedly going to punish sites that use intrusive pop-ups although I have read that it should only affect mobile traffic. Have you heard anything about that? I’d be curious to hear your thoughts.
Cucicucicoo: Eco Sewing and Crafting says
This is really interesting! I am about to invest in Board Booster, but I wasn’t aware of the potential risks. It’s fascinating to see what results your experiments have had and I love that you share them! I knew that vertical images were much better for Pinterest, but it’s incredible just how much they did for you. I’ll have to go and make a bunch of new vertical images for my old tutorials, too. Thank you as always! 🙂 Lisa
Also, apologies if this has been addressed elsewhere, but please oh please HAVE pinnable images on your posts for people who manually pin things as they are browsing. If I stumble across an article or a recipe or something and I want to add it to my collection of pins myself and try to do so, but then don’t because none of the images that are showing up are relevant to the article/recipe in question, well, I find that really frustrating. (Not saying this is an issue for anyone here, just something I’ve had crop up whilst browsing other sites.)
Carolina Nicewarner says
Fantastic! I do not have an online business, but I love to read your newsletter, it has some very interesting information. The part about how you vertically displayed items on Pinterest is a unique observation of how we see things, and what appeals to readers. I always seem to pick up and learn something new from your newletter, and being of the 65+ age group, it is good for the old brain to learn new things. So thank you very much. Keep up the good work.
Thank you so much, Carolina!
I’m so glad you did this experiment! I realised while reading that I’m one of those people who found you through the new vertical pins, and I’ve since LOVED your newsletter, blog and podcast. Thanks for making such high-quality content. I look forward to every Wednesdayto see what gems the newsletter contains!
Oh that’s so awesome to hear!
Janette Bannerman says
Abby just a quick question (NB I haven’t read thru the comments)…. RE: You said “One thing I’ve been thinking about now is the $150/month fee that I’m paying MailChimp” QN: Are you actually paying $150 per month for Mailchimp or is that a typo? Should it say $15 per month?
Nope. I have more than 14,000 subscribers. That’s $150/month.
That is the big problem with newsletters, you focus really hard on gaining subscribers but then the costs go up really steeply. You have to constantly assess if you are getting enough from the newsletter for it to be worth the cost (not counting the time that goes into writing the newsletter).
Everyone tells you that you have to have a newsletter but the truth is you can often get much more response from $150 spend on online advertising.
I disagree. The newsletter pays for itself the first issue of the month. There’s nothing more powerful. Truly. Worth every penny.
Really interesting experiment. I’ve just started making vertical pins for my older tutorials and it will be interesting to see how they do! It’s always good to see some stats that say ‘yes this works’ before trying out something new. I always look forward to your newsletters and podcasts!! Thank you 🙂
Jennifer O. says
What exactly does Board Booster do on Pinterest for you?
BoardBooster has several features, but I only used the looping feature. It repins content you’ve already pinned, then waits a few days, compares the two pins and deletes the one with less repins. Because Pinterest rewards activity it gets your pins constantly active and grows your following.
Wow, thank you so much for sharing. I feel like I learn so much when I read your blog. Great content!
Sheila Perl says
Thank you so much for sharing your experiment, Abby, I don’t have a Blog but I find all your information so interesting!!!
I’ve just started listening to your Podcasts, I really enjoy it, I didn’t listen before because I am not that computer literate and I didn’t think I could figure out how to turn it on—silly me!!!!
Debby Kratovil says
I don’t have any 3rd party apps to track or monitor my visitors and those buying my patterns. I use Craftsy to sell my patterns and out of the 62 patterns I offer, I have 18 (currently) that are free. That REALLY drives the traffic. The beauty of Craftsy is that I can download a spreadsheet of everyone who downloads a pattern (free or for purchase). I have emails of all! I post all of my patterns via my blog, Pinterest, Facebook and Craftsy. I can see that I really need to pay attention to the emails that are already harvested for me via Craftsy (FREE). Tens of thousands – and it overwhelms me, but I think I can get a handle on it with Excel! (Just to add a little context: I have published with magazines for 23 years and own the rights to almost 1,000 patterns.)
Although you do have access to those emails you should first ask those people if they’d like to join your email list before adding them. I think using an email service provider rather than excel is a good idea. If you try to send a mass email to thousands of people at once through a regular email address your account can get flagged as a spammer. Plus it’s very hard to make it look nice and in keeping with your brand. And by law people need to have a way to unsubscribe.
Debby Kratovil says
Yes, you are correct. I would have “massaged” those email lists to make it look less like an email spammer. I haven’t done this yet, but it’s been percolating in the back of my mind. All the possibilities via the internet and tracking people who connect with me are mind-boggling.
Hi Abby — I’m a retiree and a creative, and I’m finally at that wonderful stage of my life where I don’t have to sell my creative work in order to survival. Yes! I create fairly large macrame pieces, embroidered wallhangings, sculptural embroidery, and some woven work. I don’t have a blog or a website but have had my work in 2 local boutiques. The only other exposure I have for selling is Instagram and Facebook, and this is primarily so that friends and family can see my work and then let me know if they want to buy. I am happy with this setup and it is very low pressure, which is what I want. But to get to my point: Even though I am not actively marketing online, I get great pleasure out of your newsletter. Like someone else mentioned, it keeps me clued in to trends and the latest in online tools. Your podcasts are thoughtful and well-presented, and I look forward to your newsletter (especially the Did You See This? section). So informative and enjoyable. Please do continue this newsletter, because I am now a devoted reader!
Of course, my newsletter will go on! I love writing it and I love that it’s helpful and interesting to you!
Marjie Kemper says
Thanks so much for sharing this information, Abby. It’s really timely for me as I’m in transition on a lot of the issues (email service provider, LeadPages, etc.) Really appreciate your insight and transparency.
I was wondering if you had heard anything further about Boardbooster. Some bloggers believe that using BoardBooster negatively impacted their traffic from Pinterest. I’ve been using just the looping tool and certainly had only seen positive results. Refreshing those pins got even more repins on them that the first time around, and my followers went up faster too. I guess the only way to really know would be to ask Pinterest and I don’t suppose they are going to tell us.
Boardbooster is not an approved Pinterest API partner. Using it comes with risks. I did the 1-month free trial and used the looping feature and it was a powerful way to grow my Pinterest following, but I’m not sure I can recommend it wholeheartedly.