SEO vs. Pinterest Traffic: What’s Better?

Make a decision to go off cliff or stay on the road

Should you focus on Pinterest or organic search (Google) traffic?

There’s a lot of chatter these days about Pinterest for website traffic, especially since Facebook pretty much kicked all media publishers in the teeth in January 2018.

Pinterest at its heart is an image/graphics search engine.  I approach Pinterest as a search engine with a viral component which makes it really cool and a potentially outstanding traffic source.

Google search is also an outstanding traffic source as you all know.  It’s the traffic source that can keep on giving.  Publish once, earn forever (or at least earn for months or years).

The issue is whether you should focus your traffic on Google search, Pinterest or both?

This article compares and contrasts both traffic sources in detail.

What do I know about Google Search and Pinterest traffic?

I know a lot.  I get thousands of daily visitors from both sources.  Here’s traffic numbers from both sources for the last 30 days:

Google search and Pinterest traffic numbers for last 30 days

6 traffic source considerations

When choosing a traffic source, there are 6 important considerations.  They are as follows.

1. Ability to get it

The most obvious consideration is your ability to get the traffic.  We’re not all experts at all traffic sources.  Moreover, our skillset may be more attuned to some traffic sources than others.

While I get plenty of organic search and Pinterest traffic, I’m better at getting organic search traffic.

a. Skills needed for SEO traffic

Excellent keyword research

Solid SEO starts with finding the right keywords to target.  I know from experience.  For a few years I did no keyword research and my SEO traffic plateaued.  Once I dug in and uncovered hundreds of great keywords, my SEO traffic blew through the plateau.

Content management/generation

You need content to rank in the search engines.  It must be good content (although I still see bad content ranking as well).  If you want search traffic, you need to publish content.  If you go the “lots of content” model, you need to have a system in place to produce and publish that content.  If you opt for a “less content” model hoping that each piece of content attracts lots of traffic, you need to publish outstanding long form content.

Link building (optional, depending on your approach to keyword research)

If you prefer publishing less content and instead like going for higher search volume keywords (or more valuable keywords), you’ll need to build links.  Some people are very, very good at building links.  If you have a penchant for link building, go to it.  Focus less on publishing frequently and put your time into attracting links for mega traffic content.

However, you don’t have to be a master link builder to get SEO traffic.  You can, instead, perfect finding longer tail, low competition keywords that can rank without links.  Each piece of content may not haul in much traffic, but if you publish enough content it can add up to a lot of traffic over time.

b. Skills needed for Pinterest traffic

Getting access to great images/graphics

Pinterest is all about graphics and images.  In order to succeed on Pinterest, you need a source of excellent images and/or graphics.  Whether you outsource it or network for permission to use or take photos yourself, you must get visuals.

No skills needed?

What on earth do I mean by no skills needed?  I’ll tell you.  Some of my best performing pins  are a result of website visitors pinning images from my site.  In other words, Pinterest traffics arose and continues just because I have images and graphics on my site.  This is of course the best result of all.  If you publish images and cool graphics and you get some traffic, you could opt to let your visitors do the heavy pinning lifting leaving you to focus on SEO or some other traffic source.

2. Performance

Another very important consideration is how well the traffic fulfils your objective.  If your objective is ad revenue but a particular source doesn’t generate ad revenue (compared to other traffic sources), then it’s not good.

Same consideration if your objective is email subscribers, sales, engagement, etc.  You need to focus on traffic sources that fulfills your objective(s).

For my main Pinterest traffic site, I’m torn.  Pinterest traffic generates more page views per visitor and longer time on site.  In other words, it performs well.

Organic search, on the other hand, earns more money because it does well with display ads and more importantly affiliate commissions.

3. Long-term viability

We all love passive traffic because that equals passive income.  Work now, earn for years.

Both Google search and Pinterest can deliver traffic for months or even years from one piece of content (be it an article in Google search or image in Pinterest).

Generally, I’d say Google traffic has better long term potential, but I do have pins that have delivered thousands of visits every month for well over a year.

The point is that both Google search and Pinterest are great traffic sources because that traffic can keep coming in for many months or even years.

4. Ability to scale it up

If you want to build up a blog or site, you need to have traffic sources that can be scaled up.  That means that you can grow it without more effort on your part.  In fact, you want to be able to grow your traffic with less of your effort.

How to scale Google search traffic?

Google search traffic is very scalable once you have a system in place.  There are 4 approaches to scaling Google search traffic:

  1. Publish more content
  2. Improve existing content
  3. Build more links
  4. All of the above.

How to scale Pinterest traffic?

Pinterest traffic can also be scaled up.  Here are your options

  1. Create pins that are popular
  2. Join quality group boards
  3. Pin more frequently each day
  4. All of the above.

Outsourcing the work is a must to scale

Whether you pursue Google search traffic, Pinterest traffic or both, if you really want to scale it up, you need to get help with the process.

Generally, I find it’s easier to outsource publishing content for search traffic.  There are fewer moving parts.  There’s keyword research, content production and publishing that content.  This can be done with one or two people (writer and content formatter).

Pinterest has more moving parts.  There’s creating pins, writing descriptions, looking for hashtags, joining group boards and honing a solid pinning strategy. The problem arises in that most graphic designers aren’t interested, nor are they good at writing the pin descriptions.  This means you likely need more people involved in the process.

5. Website buyer preference

To answer which traffic source is preferred by website buyers, I reached out Eric Leighton at Latonas.  Here’s what he said when I asked him whether website buyers prefer Google search or Pinterest traffic:

Organic search engine traffic is always preferable to social media traffic. People could hate Pinterest in a month when a new social media platform launches. No one is getting away from google

Google has a far broader reach and most likely always will.

All ages, economic, and social classes use Google, whereas social media like Pinterest can have large gaps. For example, my Grandmother will use Google every day but has never used Pinterest once in her life. My wife and her friends use facebook everyday but use Pinterest sparingly, while many of the Kids she teaches don’t use facebook but love Pinterest in snap chat.

Google cuts across all of those boundaries and maybe more importantly can be expressly analyzed with tools such as google Analytics.

Google traffic is, has been, and for the foreseeable future, will always be the preferred traffic source by serious website buyers than Pinterest and other social media traffic. That includes facebook.

6. Speed

If starting out with no traffic there’s also the speed at which the traffic source can generate traffic.  After all, you want traffic and revenue fast, right?

In this regard, Pinterest is the better option.  A good pin can get traction quickly and start delivering traffic very quickly, even if your site is new.  Please note that just because you pin to Pinterest doesn’t guarantee fast traffic.  You need the right pin and it helps to join quality Group boards to ramp up exposure quickly.

SEO traffic for a newer site, on the other hand, takes several months to materialize.

Benefits of Running Both

Traffic diversification

Traffic diversification is touted as a way to protect your business so I’ll list it.  In theory it sounds good.  If you lose one source of traffic, you’re still in business… or are you?

Let me put it this way.  If you lost all Google rankings and traffic even if 50% of your traffic was from Pinterest, would you be motivated to keep working on the site?  Maybe somewhat, but no doubt you’ll have lost a lot of the wind in your sail.

Sure, some niche sites get all traffic from Pinterest because they’re set up that way.  But going from 50% Google search traffic to no Google search traffic really hurts.

Publish more types of content

This, for me, is a significant benefit of getting both Google and Pinterest traffic.  I publish a lot of content with the intention of getting Google search traffic.  But I also publish content that won’t do well in search, but does well on Pinterest.  I like the flexibility it offers; it makes publishing in my niche more fun and liberating.

More traffic overall

You may or may not get more traffic overall by pursuing two traffic sources instead of one.  For example, if you have to put three times as much time into Pinterest traffic which generates 40% of your traffic, you may be better off investing all your time in the traffic source that generates 60% of your traffic with much less time.

Benefit of choosing one or the other

Able to focus and master one source

While there’s only one benefit in my experience, it’s a huge benefit.  Focus is the name of the game in this business, especially when that thing thing you focus on works.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: when something works, focus like crazy on it and scale it as much as possible.

I’m very much into focusing because most stuff we do online doesn’t work.  It’s finding something that works and running with it that takes a site or online business from start-up to something bigger.

Which one requires a more deliberate effort?

In my experience, SEO requires a more deliberate effort.  For my SEO approach, the deliberate effort is in choosing keywords and topics and then publishing great content on those keywords and topics.  It’s a very deliberate, analyzed process.

Pinterest, on the other hand, can be deliberate, but you can get results doing nothing other than adding images and graphics to your site.  Or, you can take a few extra minutes per post by creating  an optimal pin-size image and pin that and call it a day.  While it’s deliberate to some extent, it’s not much work… visitors and the images do the heavy lifting.

What should you do?

If you have an exceptional knack at Pinterest traffic, focus on that.  However, generally I prefer creating an SEO-friendly site first and foremost and then use Pinterest as secondary traffic source (but streamline the Pinterest process as much as possible).


11 thoughts on “SEO vs. Pinterest Traffic: What’s Better?”

  1. Hey Jon. Am a regular reader of fat stacks and I got an email about this block post and quite enjoyed reading it. And I do think the more traffic and repins one gets from Pinterest will also increase search traffic… And thanks so much for the post.

  2. Hey John,

    Great tips and like you, I chose to focus completely on SEO for the first year. About 3 months ago, I finally decided to put a little more emphasis on both Pinterest and SEO.

    It does take a while to figure out how to use Pinterest. I used to think that all you had to do was pin a pin and that was it.

    If you want people to actually click on your pin and visit your site. You need to take the time to create a pin that actually sticks out. This takes time to learn how to do, but daily practice seems to help.

    Thanks for taking the time to share these tips and I’ll be sure to pass it along.

    Have a great day 🙂


  3. What you have mentioned in what we are supposed to do is the thing I’m already doing, glad to know that I’m moving in the right direction. Thanks for such a great post! We need more of this.

  4. Hi Jon!

    First of all, I am too much fascinated by the content published by you. Using Pinterest for traffic is a great idea! I used to share my post (Their Images) on Pinterest last year but didn’t get any traffic to my blog! Now after reading this article I came to know that we should be Regular in sharing images. Images should be unique and different from others. I will also start using Pinterest for the traffic ?.

    Right now, I am focusing on FLIPBOARD, And I am surprised to see that we have to just share our post links in the Flipboard magazines and a small amount of traffic will always come ?.

    Sir, Do you use Flipboard? If yes, Let us know about it in detail.


    1. Hi Harsh,

      I’m slowly using Flipboard. I want to use it more. I’ve not had any great results, but I think there’s promise there. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  5. Hey Jon,

    Pinterest is a hidden source of traffic and works well with women-oriented niches because of the fact that 87% of users are women.

    I used to focus entirely on SEO but later started focusing on Pinterest as well. It took me almost a year to get the ins and outs of Pinterest and reach 2k+ followers.

    One simple tip is to use Tailwind or BoardBooster and let it do all the hard work. Without it, you’d spend too much pinning manually which ain’t worth it.

    Thanks for the great write up.


  6. I am launching a new website and have a few questions. I would really appreciate it if I could talk to someone who is experienced with this, for 20 or 30 minutes so I could get some answers. Jon, or anyone else reading this, please reply and let me know if we can chat. It would be greatly appreciated and I would be willing to help market some of your material also or whatever I could do to repay the favor. Thank you.

  7. I am very thankful to you as your article has given me lots of ideas. Such great information you have shared through this article, it is a really helpful technique. You did a really good job. Thank for sharing. Keep up the good work

  8. Hi,
    I am very surprised to see that the average session duration from Pinterest traffic is nearly similar to Google traffic. What I see is that my Pinterest ad creates 95% of 0 or 1 second sessions. It looks like people try to click on the picture to enlarge it and then they are suddenly forwarded to an external website…
    Any similar experiences?

    1. Hey Sascha, I find Pinterest traffic has decent on-site metrics as in they stay on the site for similar duration as other sources… not quite as good as search, but decent.

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