Despite the fact that I’ve had a crazy busy summer, I’ve been making a concerted effort to pin as many of my new jewelry designs to Pinterest as possible. That’s because I want to make sure that my products end up on as many holiday gift wish boards as possible come November and December. And to do that, I’ve got to get over the dreaded Pinterest lag.
If you haven’t made a concerted effort to spread your content on Pinterest, you might not even realize what I’m talking about. Or more likely, if you’ve given up pinning your own stuff on Pinterest after a few months of not gaining any traction, you’ve probably fallen victim to the Pinterest lag without even realizing it.
So what is the Pinterest lag and why does it matter?
Simply put, the Pinterest lag is the amount of time it takes from when you initially pin something (when a blog post goes live or when you release a new product) to when the pin starts to gain traction on Pinterest. (Where it actually starts to see a significant amount of repins and clicks.)
There’s no hard and fast rule for how long the Pinterest lag takes, but in my experience, it’s anywhere from a few months to a year from when you initially pin something to Pinterest. (If you have more followers, the time frame could potentially be shorter, but even having a lot of followers doesn’t mean you won’t see a lag, for reasons I’m about to share, particularly with the Pinterest’s algorithmic feed.)
The reason the Pinterest lag exists is that Pinterest is, first and foremost, a search engine, not a social media platform. While Pinterest’s focus on images means search operates in a slightly different way than Google (Pinterest likes to emphasize that they’re in the business of visual discovery), at the end of day, it takes time for content to be indexed and proved valuable. (Just like on Google.)
As more people see and pin a new pin, it gives Pinterest more data about the images and search terms that are relevant to that particular pin. The more times an image is pinned, the more likely it is that it will show up again when someone shows an interest in or searches for related content. But all of that takes time.
So why does this matter?
Well first, the lag causes many people to give up on Pinterest too quickly. Just last week, I posted a new blog post to Facebook and Pinterest, and on the day I did that, Facebook sent that post eight times the traffic that Pinterest did. When you look at those numbers, it’s easy to feel like Pinterest isn’t worth your time.
But by nurturing my content just a little bit on Pinterest, I’ve had viral pins send me hundreds of site visitors a day, for months, or even years, on end. (Long after I stopped posting them.) That’s something you’re never going to get from Facebook. (Or Instagram or Twitter.) But none of that traffic happened overnight. It always happened after a delay of a few months. (Or sometimes a year.)
Secondly, in order to get over the Pinterest lag, you need to nudge your own content along. Because Pinterest’s algorithm takes into account both keywords (in descriptions, image file names, and even the blog post or product page you’re pinning from) and what else is on a board that a pin is pinned to, it requires that a pin show up in conjunction with other pins before it will really start showing that pin to more people.
What that means is, if you only pin something once, to a single board, there isn’t enough data for Pinterest to start showing that pin to a lot more people. So in order to give your pin traction and get over the hump, it’s important to repin it it multiple times, particularly over the first four to six months of the pin’s life. (I recommend pinning every three to six weeks across various boards. The more boards you have that are appropriate for a given pin, the more frequently you can repin.)
The other place the Pinterest lag becomes really apparent is with seasonal content.
When it comes to content on Pinterest, a lot of it is seasonal. People are thinking about what they want to do over the summer or what they’ll wear when fall rolls around. Yes, there’s evergreen content, but often, people are searching for and pinning whatever’s coming up next in their lives. (Which changes throughout the year.)
Depending on the topic, seasonal activity generally picks up about a month or two out. For example, Halloween themed content gains steam around the end of September but gets intensified in early October, whereas Christmas themed content generally picks up a little earlier. (Like the minute Halloween ends, if stores are any indication.)
While the obvious thought here is to begin pinning seasonal content as that season is starting to gain steam, the Pinterest lag creates a problem here, because one to two months out is usually too short a time period to get over the lag.
What this means is if you post seasonal content when that season is happening, you probably won’t see traction for an entire year! For example, I originally posted “Eight Outfits that are Perfect for a Holiday Party” in December. And while it sent me some traffic, it wasn’t until December a year later that the pin went viral and started sending me hundreds of clicks a day.
If you have seasonal content (whether that’s something general like summer style or something specific like ways to throw the best New Year’s Eve party), it’s essential that you pin with enough time to get over the lag, or make peace with the fact that your content probably won’t take hold for a year. The same is true for products. You might consider something part of your fall collection, but unless you start pinning it in the spring, you may not see any traction until the following fall.
Now, I realize there is a lot of theory happening in this post, but I think understanding how Pinterest works goes a long way in getting past the frustration the Pinterest lag can often cause.
But since I know you are also using Pinterest as a marketing tool for your business, I want to wrap things up by giving you a few actionable tips to help get you over the Pinterest lag:
1. Give your content a boost by repinning every month or so onto a variety of boards.
If you aren’t making it a habit to pin your own content (whether that’s blog posts or product images) you’re missing out on one of the best ways to drive traffic to your site. Since most Pinterest users simply repin from within the site (rather than pinning from external websites) you’ll be waiting a long time if you’re hoping people will pin your content for you.
And in order to get over the lag, you’ll need to seed your content by pinning it every three to six weeks on various boards. (I recommend using a pin scheduling service like Viraltag, which I use, or Tailwind for this.)
2. If possible, start posting new seasonal content four to six months in advance.
I realize this one can be a little bit weird (no one really wants to write blog posts about Christmas in August) but if seasonal content is a big part of want you do, you’ll want to get it onto Pinterest as far in as advance as possible. One of the best ways to do this is to pay attention to trend reports so you know what’s going to be coming down the pipeline in the next four to six months.
But if you can’t bring yourself to do this (I have a hard time writing about fall style when it’s 90 degrees out, let alone creating holiday themed content), then you’ll need to realize your content might not bring you traffic until the next year. If you tend to create a lot of seasonal content, try mixing in more evergreen content (whether that’s blog posts that work year round or products that are perfect for every day) so that you don’t have to wait as long to start seeing traction.
3. If you make and sell products, pin heavily in the four to six months leading up to any major sales seasons.
The obvious one here is to start posting products in July and August if you’re hoping to see a spike in holiday sales. (As I mentioned at the start, I decided to write this post because it’s currently July and I’ve been pinning my jewelry like crazy in the hopes that it takes hold and appears on lots of people’s boards before the Christmas shopping season.)
But this can apply to lots of different seasonal products. For instance, if you make swimwear, you’ll want to start pinning your summer collection in January. (Even if it’s just sneak peeks that can lead to a page where they can buy in the future.)
4. Repost seasonal content from previous years starting one or two months in advance.
Since the seasonal content that you created the previous year may not have taken hold, it’s important to reseed it by pinning it again in the months leading up to that season. Since most seasonal searches start one to two months in advance, that’s when you really want to be active in repinning last years seasonal content. (And this is also something you can do with a pin scheduler like Viraltag or Tailwind.)
5. Don’t put all your eggs in one pin.
Finally, you can do everything right on Pinterest and a particular pin still might never get over the lag and go viral. (I’ve managed to have numerous pins go viral, but it’s still a fraction of the content I’ve pinned to Pinterest over the years.) That’s why it’s essential to put a lot of (good) content onto Pinterest.
Instead of trying to hit it big with one particular product or blog post, focus on getting as much content of your own as you can onto Pinterest. Make sure you’re using keywords in your titles, descriptions, and image files, and consistently repin your own comment.
Then, be patient.
Pinterest isn’t a platform that will send you mountains of traffic overnight. But if you have the patience to get over the lag, it’s a platform that can have huge results in the future.