How to Use Pinterest Ads to Make Money

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Many marketers think that Pinterest marketing is about creating boards, having contests where your followers upload images, commenting on pins and then cross promoting with other Pinners.  All of these are great ways to engage an audience, but Pinterest also has a great ad platform that is very affordable to use.  The cost per click are still very low for many niches and the tracking is almost 100% perfect making it a great opportunity for affiliates, small businesses and bloggers to drive sales, build a following and grow their businesses.

This post will walk you through a strategy to get started using Pinterest ads.  I’m using my client’s plus size lingerie affiliate program featuring their Halloween costumes for the post.  These costumes do amazingly well in September and October which make them a great fit because they hit all of the goals of a potential shopper that may be on Pinterest.  What do I mean by that?

There are many types of pinners and processes they are in as a consumer:

  • Shoppers – creating wish lists and holiday lists of things they’ll buy.
  • Researchers – just doing research and looking for ideas, they are creating pinboards filled with things they want, but aren’t ready to buy just yet.
  • Enthusiasts – people who just pin because they like to pin.  They may have less of a chance of buying and create boards based on interests instead of things they want to use in real life.

You also have types of boards:

  • Planning boards – weddings, parties, costumes – these are things the pinner will use while they are putting together their ideal event, outfit, etc…  They might not purchase everything, but they may be more likely to shop through them as they put their event together.  They are shoppers and researchers.
  • How to boards – crafts, recipes, home improvement – these are boards where people might plan on making something and may need the supplies.  By having your blog posts and guides pinned, as the pinner comes back to create the project, you can now make money if they click your links or go to your site and make the purchase.  They are shoppers and researchers.
  • Fan boards – Celebrities, TV Shows, Fictional Characters – these are great boards to be on if you’re promoting merchandise.  If someone loves a specific show, character or celebrity and you have the merchandise as a pin with a link or on a blog post with an affiliate link, they may be more likely to buy it for birthdays, the holidays or because they love it.  These could be all three of the types of pinners mentioned above.
  • Wish boards – dream homes, yachts, designer clothing – these are boards people build with things they want to achieve or dream about owning.  They may never be able to afford it and create boards as things that motivate or they dream about.  You want to try and avoid being on these, unless there is a big following with shoppers.
  • Fantasy and pretty boards – gorgeous images, expensive artwork, hot bodies/people – these are boards you do not always want your pins to get pinned to, unless there is a following of shoppers on it.  These boards tend to be for fun, but if there are shoppers and your product is relevant, it could drive sales.  I try to stay away from these boards since they are less targeted and more for fun.

So why did I post all of this instead of jumping right in?

Before you spend money, you need to define who your customer is, what types of boards they can find you on and how to try and get the pinner to add you to those boards.

If your pin is only on boards where people may be less likely to shop or do not have a following with shoppers, you can change your targeting or eliminate targets to help get your pins onto boards with shoppers and researchers. If you’re getting added to board and attracting shoppers and making money, you can now modify the target groups and try to grow the campaign to make more.  Finding the right audience and getting them to add you to the right boards or to click through to your website is the key to making money with pinterest ads.  Now, here’s the step by step guide on how to use Pinterest ads to target shoppers and make money.  

How to Make Money With Affiliate Links and Pinterest Ads

I’m using affiliate marketing as an example instead of a clients site.  This still applies to you if you’re not an affiliate, you’ll want to skip this first step and go to the screen shots that show the Pinterest ad platform.

First log into the affiliate network, for this example it’s ShareASale, and get the product links and image links (if the merchant has ok’d you to use them).

how to make money with pinterest and affiliate marketing

Next you want to start loading the images and your affiliate links as the source (with an advertising disclosure) to Pinterest.  (The other option is to do a blog post with a theme that matches your pins and then upload the images from your blog post or page separately).  If this is for an affiliate or blogger, I would normally use a blog post for a landing page instead of the merchant’s website.  Ecommerce stores will normally link directly to their own site so that is why I’m doing it this way for this post.

One you have your board set up and all pins pinned, you need to go to the ads center and choose the goal of the campaigns.

choose a pinterest campaign goal


There are two options here and both are good choices.  You can boost engagement or drive traffic.

Boost engagement – This lets you build followers, get more eyes on your pins and helps to get you in front of more people.  If you can wait for a while for sales to start taking place and are using your blog instead of a direct affiliate link, this may be a great option for you.

Drive traffic – Since Halloween shopping has already started and my goal is to drive sales sooner than later, I’m choosing the get traffic to my site option.  Instead of going for more long term success, this will give me more information on how the image, ad copy and conversion rates will work.  The pins are still getting pinned to pinners boards so I’m also getting exposure helping to make it a double win for me.

Now we have to name our campaigns and set a budget.

When working with multiple merchants and using Pinterest, I always start with the merchant’s name.  This way I can sort my campaigns and find each merchant.  Next I use the product category I am promoting and finally I list if I am driving people to a specific blog post and the site’s name or direct if I’m using a direct link.  One other possible addition to the naming structure could be the main targets you’re using as well.  However, if you add too many keywords, it can end up being to long to use.

how to name your pinterest campaigns


Now we start creating our ads and targets.  First click the “Pick a Pin” button from the image above.  Then select the first pin you want to promote.

how to create pinterest ads for affiliates


Start by selecting terms and keywords that are relevant to a shopper for this pin.  It is very similar to adwords and using negative terms.  Pinterest recommends a few based on what they can see like Google ad planner, but they aren’t always good or accurate.

For this example we’re pushing Halloween costumes and need things that would speak to a potential customer.  They recommend crowns and gold, but that could be for a king, a kids costume or a men’s costume.  We’re also promoting a plus size store so so if plus size terms come up, we may want to add them.  You can also add your own keywords if the ones you want aren’t available.

The next section asks you to pick locations.  If you are doing location specific products or things that wouldn’t make sense to run somewhere, you can use this.  Since Hips&Curves is able to sell to the entire US without problems, I’m leaving locations as the US.

The next section asks you to pick a language.  This is actually more important than you think.  If the website isn’t available in French, Dutch, etc… and the end user cannot read English, they may not convert into a sale for you.  Test and see what languages the website can handle and make sure you create your ads using the language you’re targeting for consistency.  Below I unselected everything except for US English.

how to select a language with pinterest ads

Now we have to choose devices.  This is one of the more important filters you’ll want to pay attention to.  If the merchant’s website is not optimized well for mobile devices, then the visitor may not turn into a sale or switch devices making it hard to track the sale.  If the checkout process is tricky, has leaks, etc… you may want to turn mobile off for these campaigns.  Remember, you only make money when a sale occurs if you’re an affiliate, so if the mobile experience is bad, why waste your money sending mobile traffic directly to a merchant?  Instead, try running ads on desktops where the experience and checkout may be easier for the potential shopper.

why choose devices with pinterest ads


The next filter is Gender.  This one is a bit tricker than you think.  You may think that women’s costumes are for women only.  Remember, there are transvestites, straight men that are doing drag for Halloween, drag queens and other people who may be looking for these types of outfits.  If it was lingerie, it could be a boyfriend or husband shopping for his wife.  You want to make sure you don’t exclude people and also think of other opportunities.

For this example I’m not going to do a ton of additional targeting so I selected women, but if it was me running different campaigns for myself or a client, I might try different wording and try to target some of these groups as well.  Remember, the person who the product is designed for isn’t always the only customer.  By finding those groups and catering to them, you may be able to make more money while spending less since other people haven’t thought of it yet.

The last step is to enter your bid.  This is almost exactly like adwords.  You’re entering in the most you would pay for a click.  What I’ve learned from running ads is that I almost never spend the amount I bid.  Sometimes if they don’t have the traffic I’ll run an entire campaign with no results and not spend anything.  Other times nobody else was running similar targets and my actual cost per click was less than 1/2 of what I was willing to spend.  Pinterest seems to be the most accurate with their bidding strategies and pricing which is one of the reasons I really like their platform.

The next step is to add the rest of the pins that you want to run in your campaign.  Go back and hit promote pin again, add the next pin to the campaign, choose your keywords and targeting and add it to the campaign.  Now measure the results and then optimize until it’s profitable or try something different if it doesn’t generate any new customers or revenue.  .  It might not always work so you have to be ready to lose money, but if it does, you now have something you may be able to scale and grow.

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