Should new bloggers focus on SEO or Pinterest when they first start out? What are the pros and cons of using SEO vs Pinterest? I’m going to share my experience.
When you’re doing research on starting your blog you might see a lot of people recommend focusing on Pinterest as a quicker way to get traffic over SEO (search engine optimization) because SEO can take up to 6 months to kick in, if you’re doing it right.
That’s what I chose to do with my first blog. SEO seemed so complicated and the “best” courses were $500 (no I’m not joking).
I started a blog to help people, but also to make money doing it and that’s probably why you wanted to start your own blog. That’s why you’re willing to spend money on hosting, and courses, and keyword search tools. That’s why you spend hours doing research on how to start a blog and how to make it successful.
So I followed some bad advice and put all my energy into Pinterest because it promised faster results.
Not learning SEO first was a huge mistake on my part.
Pinterest Expectation vs Reality
I figured SEO would happen by itself over time, after all many other bloggers said you just had to wait 6 months for it to kick in, and I could just focus on Pinterest and get that fast traffic in the meantime.
It seemed to be going OK at first, my Pinterest traffic wasn’t climbing as quickly as other bloggers did but as long as it was steadily climbing I was willing to be patient.
Well, when 2020 came Pinterest updated their algorithm and everything went to crap.
It seemed ok at first, I was getting a few viral pins every month. Up until May I was pretty darn happy. But the thing was viral pins are just random temporary blips, not a sign of real growth on the platform.
Then my traffic sunk like it just hit an iceberg.
Suddenly tons of bloggers were panicking. Accounts were wrongfully marked as spam or suspended without notice. Pinterest suppressed visibility on many people’s pins while essentially telling content creators to just make more fresh pins, dummy!
For a while they were telling people to stop repinning pins, then repinning was OK but they still wanted more new pins than repins.
I started making more and more pins, I was uploading new 5-10 new ones a day and yet aside from a viral spike in August my traffic was back down to January levels.
Every blogger who emailed them got different vague replies that totally went against what they were seeing on the platform.
Despite pushing for new pins many bloggers, myself included, mostly just saw moderate traction on old pins.
Why are we spending hours making new pins if only the old ones are being circulated?
Bloggers still don’t have an answer and many are rethinking their reliance on Pinterest.
Of course not every account on Pinterest was suffering, but it was mostly the older accounts with tens of thousands of followers that were still doing ok.
SEO Expectation vs Reality
The thing I wish I knew a year ago was that the better strategy would be to focus on SEO first.
Now sure sometimes Google updates their algorithm and people freak out for a few days, but generally it’s a bit more stable.
That does not mean that you should only focus on one platform, in fact diversifying your traffic sources is really smart.
However, I’m going to tell you to get your SEO foundation down first. Do not wait, because after hitting your head on the wall in frustration with Pinterest for weeks or months you’re going to start looking to SEO.
You’ll look at all your posts that aren’t getting organic traffic because you didn’t do keyword research the right way from the start and want to kick yourself.
You’ll also find that SEO isn’t as complicated as you thought, but it isn’t just using Yoast or RankMath and getting a green light isn’t enough.
I was so intimidated by SEO initially but after a few weeks of research I realized it wasn’t half as complicated as I thought.
Why I still use Pinterest, just not as much
There is still value in using Pinterest. It has over 300 million users and some niches like food, beauty, fashion, and home decor do great on there. Some bloggers get 100,000 to 200,000 monthly visitors from Pinterest. Don’t write it off, just don’t make it your top priority.
Despite it’s unreliability I still use Pinterest, but not nearly as much as before.
I used to spend the majority of the day making pins, scheduling pins, repinning pins, etc. I spent hours trying to figure out how to make my pins better and get them to go viral. The usual Pinterest grind many bloggers do.
I was exhausted and not putting enough time into actually writing and creating content for my blog
Now, I spend a few hours one day a week to batch create pins with Canva templates and schedule just 3 new pins a day. I still use the best Pinterest practices but I don’t live and die by the results, because realistically Pinterest isn’t my long game.
As long as they are screwing over so many content creators I’m not going to be invested in them.
That said, currently Pinterest is my best source of traffic until I go back and update the rest of my old posts for SEO.
The ultimate reason SEO is more important than Pinterest
Listen, the thing about Pinterest is that you have to keep feeding the beast.
If you stop pinning eventually the traffic will die off.
Yes you can have pins that send you traffic months and even years later, but without uploading new content the traffic will eventually trickle down.
SEO does not take as much daily maintenance. It’s good to update posts once in a while to keep the information relevant and keep building backlinks but you don’t have to work to promote each post every single day.
You can use that time to write new content, create new products, build courses, etc.
What good SEO really is
SEO isn’t necessarily hard, but it does require some knowledge and strategies.
Here are the three main things Google wants:
- Fast website loading time, especially on mobile
- Content that answers the users question or solves their problem
On SEO Basics for Bloggers I go over what exactly this all means in depth, but the short version is this.
Your website needs to be fast. Studies show that most people will leave your page if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load, so Google will lower you ranking if your site is slow, especially on mobile as more people are using their phones to browse the web. Here are 9 things you can do to make your website faster.
You need to write good content that people are searching for, and most importantly that you can rank high on Google with. That means doing keyword research and finding low competition keywords. If you use a keyword that is high competition its going to be really hard to get in that top 10 spot.
Google likes articles that are at least 2000 words because that means it’s more likely to cover the topic thoroughly. Sometimes a shorter post will make it into the top 10 but that is the exception, not the rule. There is a basic structure you should use when writing posts that I go over how to write a good blog post. There is also a free printable with power words to make people click on your link when they see it in search results.
Google has to trust your website to rank it high in SERP (search engine results position).
To build that trust you need backlinks, which is what happens with another website links to your site although internal linking (linking to your own related posts in your article) is important too.
Backlinks is probably the most challenging for me personally, but I will eventually master it.
Final thoughts on SEO vs Pinterest
To sum up, both Pinterest and SEO are good tools for bringing in blog traffic. However when you’re first starting out, or even if you’ve been blogging for years, learning and implementing SEO is so important.
You never know when a social media platform is going to change and limit your exposure. Based on what I see in multiple blogging groups both Pinterest and Instagram have been changing their algorithms and so many content creators are getting burned.
You don’t ever want to be dependent on just one source for traffic. Learn SEO, implement it, and then start to build your social media traffic.
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