Creating Perfect Link Building Personas with Pinterest

By Monique Pouget

Welcome to Link Building Month on the Thunder Blog! I’m really excited to kick things off with a post about defining an audience for your linkable asset.

Before you can create that next amazing infographic or piece of content, you’re going to want to carefully study your target audience, figure out where they engage with others online, analyze the way they speak about your topic, discover their current need states and THEN start thinking about content creation. It’s also a great time to align your business goals with your link building ideas; we’re not just shootin’ in the dark here folks!

And then there’s Pinterest…oh how I love thee! I’ve been meaning to write a Pinterest post for quite some time, and I actually groan out loud every time I see a new post that should have been written by me. I’ve even created a Pinterest board about using Pinterest for search marketing (and yes, this post is totally getting pinned on that board)! While most posts I’ve seen talk about building your brand on Pinterest, followed links, and tips to get you started (all worthy topics…grrrrrroooannnn), I haven’t seen much about using Pinterest to build personas for your link building efforts. I’m all about adding value to the Pinterest conversation, so let’s get started on this Pinteresting path of perfect personification! Did I also mention I love alliteration?

Quick Competitive Research on Pinterest

Let’s say I have a site that produces really well-designed beauty tutorials. I’ve identified many of the big players in my community, and now I want to build out a few different personas for my link building efforts. These personas will not only inform my content, but they will also help me identify and target the people that are likely to link to my site in the future, shall I prove myself worthy of their link equity. Since The Beauty Department creates amazing content, we’ll use them for this example.

First, I’m going to look at what’s been pinned from The Beauty Department (TBD). The site is all about hair and makeup how-tos, so it’s no surprise that everyone is pinning these DIYs. Also, the design of these tutorials is pretty sleek, but that’s okay because ours will look incredible too.

Pro Tip: You can perform a search like this with any site by entering the following into your browser of choice:

Exporting Pinterest Data to a CSV

Well that’s all fine and good, but it’s difficult to sift through each pin that was pinned from TBD, and even if we did, creating some sort of useful pattern out of the information seems impossible. However, thanks to Aaron, our sleuthing skills can take a break…at least for a few minutes.

With this awesome Pinterest tool, we can quickly export all TBD pins and pinners to a CSV and sift through the information (which includes username, board name, and pin descriptions; so this is how my link building audience talks about hair DIYs!). This resulted in over 500 different pins, which seems a little on the low side to include EVERYTHING that has been pinned from TBD, but it’s still an awesome sample nonetheless (take that, horrible business stats professor!).

Next, I’ll sort the CSV by User URL (a person’s Pinterest profile), and browse through the list for repeat offenders. I’m looking for the pinners that have pinned at least 5 different things from TBD, and I’ve highlighted their names to make it easy to find them in the spreadsheet again. In the same workbook, I’ve added another sheet to take this list of 543 down to 35 qualified pinners. Seems a lot more manageable, and now the real sleuthing begins.

(Side note: To make this tool even more powerful, I think Josh and Aaron should also pull in other Pinterest profile data if possible, like Website, Twitter and Facebook profiles, and location. For now, I’m going to have to look manually, which is A-OK because I’m trying to get a feel for my TBD Linkerati anyway.)

Analyzing Pinterest Data and Identifying Mavens

First discovery: I was surprised to see that many of these profiles don’t list a website and/or a Twitter profile. Also, since most people restrict access to their Facebook, you can’t gain too much insight, but once in a while there is some public information available, like “likes,” music preferences, photos and quotes. Thankfully, I was able to fill in some of the missing information with tools like KnowEm and basic Google searches.

After taking about an hour to sift through these pinners, I’ve found 5 different profiles that stand out to me. I’ve selected three profiles that have about 300 followers or more, and 2 profiles whose sites look like good candidates for my DIY tutorials.

Let’s even take it one step further by analyzing their Pinterest influence in PinReach, a tool I just discovered today. Now, PinReach is supposed to be a tool you use to analyze your own Pinterest profile, but I think we all have a good idea about what sticks from our boards. However, I’m interested in analyzing my 5 persona-worthy profiles, which I can easily do by selecting the option to “Change Your Pinterest Name.” After popping in any Pinterest username, I can check out each Pinner’s most far-reaching boards, most popular pins (based on repins), and even their most influential followers! I can also see the total number of repins, likes, and comments for each user. What?! This is almost too easy!

Creating Link Building Personas from Pinterest Analysis

So now that I have a good idea about my 5 different TBD Linkerati personalities, it’s time to create my personas. I’m about to make some harsh generalizations here, but stay with me! Remember, we don’t have to perfectly define our personas to the T, but we do want to get a good idea of the types of people that would link to our DIYs, and what they’re interested in. Taking cues from Justin Briggs, we’ll attempt to answer the following:

  • What does this person care about?
  • What are the types of things they’ll respond to?
  • What’s the value add our pitch offers them?
  • What are their turn-ons and turn offs?

Keep in mind that this will be a mostly qualitative process, since we’re manually reviewing the data. It’s not a perfect science (we’ll leave that up to Vanessa Fox), but it does give us insight into our audience’s sharing patterns. Thankfully, we now have lots of networks to pull from, since we’ve discovered their Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook and blog.

We can also drop their websites and blogs into visualization cloud sites like TagCrowd or Wordle to get a quick sense of their interests.

I can even throw their Twitter profile into twtrland to get a good idea of their authority, Retweets, links they share and @mentions.

So, ready to put a name (and face and age and values) to these personas?

5 Beauty DIY Personas

Up Next: Content Creation and Prospecting

Now that you’ve clearly defined your different personas, you’re ready to get started on content creation! Isn’t it much easier to build something amazing when you have someone specific in mind? The best part about this process is that you’ve actually started a mini prospect list, which you’ll learn more about next week with Amanda’s post.

So, how do (or would) you use Pinterest to build a perfect link building persona? Do tell, I’d love to hear all about it!

Editor’s Note: The fine folks at Pinerly were kind enough to give me access to their new Pinterest Analytics tool, but it wasn’t appropriate for this type of competitive research. However, I can’t wait to start testing out some of the tool’s features, like campaign tracking and pin scheduling. They’re definitely filling a void that Pinterest is missing out on.

Share with Your Colleagues:
  • Great post, Monique! I love how visual it is – actually SHOWING what you found and not just explaining it to death. Long live Pinterest!

  • Wow…Pinterest really is more than just pretty pictures. Thanks for making it so clear and easy to use Pinterest for learning about target audiences. Also, thanks for the great tools and tips…and the alliteration, too! Really great post!

    • Thank you Max! I’m happy to hear this was helpful, and it was a super interesting experiment to test out. Looking forward to gathering more insight from Pinterest in the future!

  • Great post Monique. Glad you are on my team!

  • WOW Monique – this is one of the most badass deep dives I’ve ever seen on Pinterest. I loved the Vanessa Fox-style persona mapping, and the link at the end to the Pinterest Analytics tool Pinerly, hadn’t ever seen that. I originally wrote off Pinterest, threw my hands up and said “it’s for e-retailers only!” … clearly that’s not the case. Nice work! – Tommy

    • Thanks for the thoughtful comment Tommy! Super stoked to hear you dug the post. I’ve heard plenty of Pinterest denial, but there’s so much to be discovered there! People are using sites like Twitter and Pinterest to express their precise interests, which pretty much gives us a gold mine of marketing research in real-time. That being said, I still think it’s important to consider your audience; but if they’re on Pinterest, you better be too!

      I’m definitely looking forward to more analytics insight as well. Let me know if you come across any other tools!

  • This is a really interesting look at Pinterest. I am amazed by the time and effort of this post. It is really cool to see how the site is evolving. Hopefully spam does not become too large of an issue, especially with the pay for pinning problem.

    • Thanks for the kind words! It’s amazing how much time you will spend on something when it really fascinates you.

      And I totally agree about the Pinterest spam. I didn’t really notice it too much before writing this post, but then I saw this: and subsequently started noticing tons of mysterious links and weird, half-filled Pinterest profiles. Let’s keep our figures crossed that the Pinterest team will figure out a solution for this issue, and that the strength of the community will eventually overcome those that are abusing it!

  • Hey Monique,

    Truly amazing post. I haven’t seen that much detail and deep diving in to Pinterest data yet.

    I tried to use but I keep getting blank spreadsheets being outputted. What am I doing wrong? I’ve tried my profile URL, a board URL and an individual pin URL.

    Hope you can help!


    • Thanks Michael! It was quite the dive, I agree.

      And yes, I can totally help you! It’s actually tied to the “source” page (e.g., so it pulls in all of the pins for a particular website vs. individual profiles. Does that make sense?

      So, for your site, you would enter the following into the tool:

      By the way, loving all the awesome infographics you share on your blog! Thanks for the thoughtful comment and let me know if you still need any guidance.

      • I figured it out shortly after. I don’t find it works for every site but it’s better than nothing

        Thanks again for such a detailed account!

  • Thanks Monique for the in-depth research. I do have a Pinterest account but it has been sitting idly for about a month. After the hockey game tonight, I guess that will be my weekend project.

    It actually seems to be just as much fun as it is work.


    • Go for it, Ed! Like any new-ish social site, I think people are pretty hesitant to get started; it’s like “I already use Facebook and Twitter, why do I need a third sock?” But I’m positive there is some real value to be gleaned from Pinterest, and at the very least, I hope you use some of these tools to see what people are sharing from your competitor’s sites.

      Looks like you are ahead of the game in terms of Virgina auto insurance blog content, and would love to see some more of your content pinned!

  • Thank you for the usefull information on Pinterest. I will try to use it in the future.

  • If you have a Pinterest user’s Twitter profile, The Klout Chrome browser extension allows you to view users Klout scores (a measure of their influence online) in Twitter.

    • Thanks for the tip! I’m still not entirely convinced on Klout as a whole, since the scores are pretty arbitrary and seem to fluctuate on a daily basis. However, you’re right that it could be used as another metric to measure influence.

  • Awesome post Monique. These tools and processes are even as visually appealing to bathe my eyes in. Some of my coworkers have already been raving about Pinterest as a link building tool, but not to this level yet. The usual marketing efforts done for Pinterest are just linking and visual bookmarking. This next-level stuff can be integrated with other persona based link building.

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