Imagine being able to combine the best of search engine and social media advertising: the ability to have your ads shown to users who are actively searching for products like yours, alongside the capability to promote your products to users passively browsing through their feed.
That’s essentially what you get with ads on Pinterest, formerly known as Pinterest ads.
Factor in Pinterest’s extraordinary selling power and it’s easy to see why so many big-name brands regularly use the platform to run ad campaigns.
If you aren’t familiar with ads on Pinterest or how to use them, don’t worry. This beginner’s guide to Pinterest advertising will take you through the process of setting up successful Pinterest ad campaigns.
Table of Contents
Are Pinterest ads worth it?
While Pinterest users are mostly women (60%), the platform has also seen a big increase in the number of men signing up, as it fast becomes a go-to site for finding and saving ideas and inspiration of any kind.
Ads on Pinterest generally work best for merchants who run stores in those industries that dominate Pinterest feeds to begin with:
- Home décor
- Handmade goods
But this doesn’t mean that only businesses within these verticals can rock Pinterest ad campaigns and see great results. Instead, it may require fine-tuned targeting or a more creative angle. I’ve seen great ads from companies in the education, photography, and even marketing industries.
Are ads on Pinterest effective?
Ads on Pinterest absolutely can and do work for businesses with products and services that are a good fit for the platform.
Keep in mind, however, that even organic content on Pinterest can have a lot of sales potential—those that use the platform weekly are 2.2 times more likely to say it’s the most influential platform in their purchase journey versus social media platforms. And 45% of people in the US with a household income of more than $100,000 are on Pinterest—that makes for quite a bit of spending power.
Regarding ads, Pinterest says that retail brands see a two times higher return on ad spend compared to social media.
However, your own results will vary depending on your products, your target audience, and how you approach Pinterest advertising.
Pinterest ad types
You can use Pinterest to display a wide variety of ad formats throughout the platform. Here are the types that are currently available.
Standard pin ads are exactly the same as regular pins, although they’ll say “Promoted by” next to your company name.
Either a vertical or square static image format, they’re a great opportunity to directly illustrate your brand in Pinterest’s native format.
You’ll have the chance to add your logo, a link, and a short text overlay, which is indexed by the search function. You can also add a longer description (500 characters) for the text that appears when someone clicks to expand your pin (make sure to optimize this for readability and search).
Video pin ads are a particularly eye-catching form of Pinterest ad. Not only does it give you more space for creativity and attention-grabbing visuals, but you can convey more information in them—like a whole range of products rather than just a single one.
The recommended length is six to 15 seconds per video, and you can use sound; just remember that not everyone browses with sound enabled, so you’ll need to prioritize the visual side first.
You can either make a standard format vertical video pin, or go for a wide version. The maximum width ad is four times bigger, making a square that goes over two columns. Your investment in this type will likely be higher, but it could also be more effective.
Also known as story pins, these allow you to record multiple videos, adding images, lists, and custom text to a single pin. You can flip through their “pages” like you would in an Instagram story, and they’re great for “how-to” guides or product demonstrations.
Idea pins are well suited to educational content, and Pinterest provides tons of interactive features and metadata for each one. You can select music, record voice-overs, add detail pages for specs, recipes or instructions, tag people, add stickers, and more.
They’re one of the more creative, densely packed types of pin, and you can promote them as an ad in the same way you can with other pin types.
Carousel pin ads look the same as standard image pins, but can be swiped or clicked to reveal more images. You can include two to five images per pin and people can swipe through them.
Similar to standard pin ads, your company name will appear under a “Promoted by” label to make it clear that it’s a promoted ad, and there’ll be an “x/x” counter to show which part of the carousel is showing. Carousel ads are great for sharing more information about a product range, like different variations of a certain item, different items within a category, or action shots of the product in use.
Shopping pins are pins that users can click through to immediately make a purchase, either from a Buy button that keeps them within the Pinterest app, or via a link that takes them to an ecommerce site.
Products can be directly imported from your product catalog (and if you’re a Shopify user, you can do this automatically for existing and new products with the Shopify Pinterest app).
According to Pinterest, “When brands add Shopping ads to their Pinterest mix, they see 3x the conversion and 2x the positive incremental return on ad spend (ROAS).” So you definitely shouldn’t sleep on this type of product pin if you’re selling online.
Collections ads are data-rich pins that appear as one large hero image or video, with three smaller assets below them. They can then be tapped to expand into a full screen display, which then shows up to 24 secondary items.
They only appear in the mobile app feed, and can be a really effective way to pique interest with a main image and follow it up with a full gallery. So you can show your most attention-grabbing item as the main image, and expand it into the full product range. Collections ads can be created manually, or by importing data from your catalog, just like with shopping pins.
Pinterest ad sizes
Each type of ad on Pinterest has a specific optimal size, defined as a ratio between its width and height. By creating your visuals to these specifications, you’ll ensure they look their best, and that there are no parts missing around the edges.
- Standard ads: 2:3 aspect ratio (1000 x 1500 pixels)
- Standard video ads: 1:1 (square) or 2:3, 4:5 or 9:16 (vertical)
- Max width video ads: 1:1 (square) or 16.9 (widescreen)
- Idea pin ads: 9:16 aspect ratio
- Carousel pin ads: 1:1 or 2:3 aspect ratio
- Shopping pin ads: 2:3 aspect ratio
- Collection pin ad: 1:1 (square) or 2:3 (vertical) for the static hero image. Square (1:1) or vertical (2:3 or 9:16) for the video.
When creating your ads, you’ll also have to take into account the layout of your images and the copy text you lay over it. If you have a light part of an image, for example, you’ll need dark text if you want to overlay it.
How much do Pinterest ads cost?
Because of the auction system, there’s no set price for a Pinterest ad. You’ll set the maximum price you’re willing to pay for a particular campaign goal (driving engagement, click-throughs to your site, or impressions). And the rate you’ll see depends on the keywords, categories you’re targeting, and types of ad along with their sizes.
With CPM, for example, you might expect to pay $2 to $5 per 1,000 impressions. Engagement can run anywhere from 10¢ to $1.50 per engagement, and driving traffic could be between 10¢ to $1.50 per click. But these are wide ranges, and are liable to change depending on multiple factors (including Pinterest’s base pricing model). You can, of course, find out more about pricing during the ad setup process.
Read more: How to Get More Followers On Pinterest
How to create a Pinterest ad
In order to create ads on Pinterest, you must have a Pinterest business account. Once you do, you’ll see the Ads tab in the top left hand corner. Click on that drop-down menu in order to start creating your Pinterest ad campaign. Click “Create ad” to get started.
Choose your objective
The very first thing you’ll do is choose your campaign’s objective. This essentially defines what you want to get out of the campaign and how you’ll be charged.
Your options are:
- Brand awareness.The goal here is to have your pin seen by as many relevant users as possible. You’ll be charged per 1,000 impressions.
- Video views.This is closely tied with brand awareness, and the goal is to build awareness through video. You are charged for impressions as well.
- Consideration/traffic. These campaigns seek to drive traffic to your site, though it’s important to note that all objectives still let you do this. With this option, however, you pay per click.
- Conversions. Here, you’ll drive people to take a particular action on your website.
- Catalog sales. This is where you create specific shopping pins to promote your product inventory.
In this section, you’ll also name your campaign, establish your budget, and decide whether you want to run ads continuously or on specific dates.
If you’d like, you can always add new ads on Pinterest to an old campaign, which lets you have multiple individual ads under a single campaign title. This makes it easier to track everything, so if you’re running a brand awareness campaign for a specific offer or product, keep them together when possible.
Set your targeting criteria
In Step 2 of Pinterest ad creation, you’ll set up your ad group. You can have multiple ad groups under a campaign, and multiple individual ads (the actual ads on Pinterest) under each ad group. Ad groups determine targeting, schedule, and a more specific budget.
When it comes to the actual targeting, you have several different options of how to proceed. You can focus on reconnecting with people who’ve already interacted with your brand, or instead seek to find new customers.
You also have the option to create Target Audiences, which work like Facebook’s custom audiences. You can upload your entire email list (or sections of it), or create audiences based on recent site activity or users who interacted with a certain pin.
If you want to reach similar users to any of these audiences, you can create an “actalike” audience, which will show your ads to users with similar qualities.
In addition to this option, you can also use any combination of basic demographic criteria like location, language, gender, and more with interest targeting and keyword targeting.
Interest targeting will affect where your ad shows up for browsing placements when users are either browsing in certain categories or on their home feeds.
You want to choose the interests that are actually related to the Pinterest ad you’re going to select in order to get the best results—even if someone likes photography, they may not be overwhelmingly interested in your pin about camera lenses when they’re intentionally browsing home décor feeds.
Keyword targeting will determine which searches your ads on Pinterest appear in, and this is the part of the campaign that I probably place the most importance on. Users who are searching, after all, are pretty far along in the buying cycle, and probably closer to actually purchasing.
When you enter in the keywords you want to target, Pinterest will show you a long list of related keywords and their monthly search volumes. This will give you an idea of the potential audience size you could reach.
While it’s easy to just go for the most obvious keywords, I’ve had the best luck when I think outside the box and use a combination of broad and specific keywords.
In the example above, we’re using “hiking.” We’ll obviously want to target “hiking gear” and similar terms, but also “hiking trails” or “hiking aesthetic.” There are tons of opportunities for thinking outside the box. If you feel stumped, go ahead and use the keyword tool to get some new ideas.
At the bottom of this section, you’ll see the option to set a frequency target and cap. The ad group frequency target is the number of times you want users to see your ad on a weekly or monthly basis (between two and 20 times). The cap is the upper limit for monthly views.
Finally, you’ll either let Pinterest automatically bid on your behalf to get the maximum impact for your budget, or you can set a target rate per action. For example, if you’re going for awareness, you can set an amount you’re willing to pay per thousand impressions (CPM).
Select your pin
The last step is to actually choose your pin. I normally recommend having the pin in mind before you go through the rest of the process so you can choose the right audience and keywords. You also have the option to create a new one at this point in the process.
On this screen, you’ll see all of your pins, and all you have to do to select one is to click it.
Once you do, you’ll be able to enter the pin’s name, and establish the specific URL you want to send traffic to.
When it comes to actually choosing a pin and deciding which would be best to promote, there are several strategies you can use to make your choice. These include:
- Using Pinterest’s analytics to help you decide, finding your top performing pins of all-time or within a set time frame. On this screen, you can actually sort pins by which have been most saved or most clicked on in the past 30 days, giving you an idea of what pins your audience is most responsive to.
- Strategically create new pins. If you want to, you can get away with being a little more promotional in a Pinterest ad. A great example of this is app installs. If you want to push app installs, you’ll almost definitely need to create new pins for it, because you likely won’t have them already in any of your boards.
- Opt for a content-based approach. I remember seeing a recipe for a breakfast parfait and saving it, only to realize later on that the recipe was from Fage, a Greek yogurt brand, and it featured a specific flavor of yogurt none of their competitors had. It was a smart move, because content like recipes and DIY tutorials perform great on Pinterest. If you can feature your products in a similar way, this is a good strategy to try, especially for brand awareness campaigns.
Once you’re all set here, you can submit your campaign for review. When it’s been approved, it will begin running on the scheduled start date.
Track your results
Once you’re running your campaigns, you can monitor their progress and edit them at any time in the Pinterest Ads Manager. You can see which campaigns are running, how much you’re spending, and the results you’ve gotten so far.
Your ad manager can give you the following information:
- Number of impressions
- Number of saves
- Number of clicks
- Click-through rate (CTR)
- Effective CTR
- Average CPC or CPM
- Total ad spend
If you have the conversion tag in place (which Shopify store owners can enable through the Pinterest Sales Channel), you can even track return on ad spend when users convert. This factors in how much the ad cost you, and how much users spent on your site.
Benefits of advertising on Pinterest
Ads on Pinterest run on an auction system, like many other pay-per-click systems. Advertisers select a Pinterest ad, choose an objective they want to accomplish, and enter targeting criteria. They’ll place “bids” on having their ads shown to their target audience, and those who bid the most could win the placement.
Ads on Pinterest can work in two different ways, which we touched on above.
1. Your ads can be shown to users who are browsing on Pinterest
In this case, your ad would either be shown to users who are browsing categories that your Pinterest ad belongs to, or in the feeds of users that Pinterest believes would be interested in your product.
This interest is typically gauged based on past behavior on the platform, including the pins they’ve saved, though advertisers can target specific users based on things like email lists or recent site visits.
2. Your Pinterest ads can also appear in search results on Pinterest
If someone is searching for “handmade vase” and you happen to sell those, your ad could actually appear in their search results.
As you can imagine, this option lets you promote your products to users who are intentionally seeking them out.
Pinterest Ads best practices
If you want to get the most out of your ads on Pinterest, here are some best practices and strategies you can apply to create pins that will stand out in the feed and make users want to click.
1. Test different strategies
Experimentation will always be your best friend when you’re doing any kind of marketing, and this holds up for ads on Pinterest as well. Ultimately, there’s no telling what your audience will really respond to and what they may be actually searching for, even if you’ve done your homework.
Because of this, it’s best to test different strategies, pins, and even targeting options like keywords while you figure out what works best.
Want to run split tests quickly for ads on Pinterest? You can now create multiple ads under a single ad group or campaign, and you can duplicate a past campaign and make some changes. This will allow you to test specific factors and see how they affect your results.
2. Make the most out of your description
Your pin’s image will be what catches the user’s eye, but the description adds a lot of context. It really explains to users what the pin is and why they should click, so it can make all the difference.
When it comes to Pinterest, it’s better to offer explanations as to why your product is valuable, instead of just stating what the product is.
Let’s look at an example. The Pinterest ad below from Society6 tells users they have “TONS of throw pillows to choose from.” OK. Are they great quality? Quirky styles? Essential to me having that Pinterest-worthy living room? This ad doesn’t really make me want to click, even if I’d searched for throw pillows.
3. Skip the hashtags
Pinterest is already essentially a giant search engine, so hashtags don’t really have a place, even on organic pins. Users won’t be overwhelmingly tempted to click on hashtags to take them to a new topic, when they’ve likely already searched to get where they want.
Skip the hashtags in your image description and use that valuable copy space for something that will better serve you instead.
4. Choose your landing page carefully
If you’ve run PPC campaigns before on any platform, you know how important the landing page is. You should be sending users directly to the content that they’re expecting to see after they click on your pin—don’t send them to your home page, or to a random lead offer or email subscriber page.
Instead, send them directly to the pages of the products or content you’re promoting. If you don’t, they’ll get frustrated and click away, even if they were interested in buying before. This will lower the chance of them clicking on your ads again, so you don’t want to blow your opportunity.
5. Use video
You’ll find “use more video” in the best practices of a lot of blogs talking about marketing, and it’s true on Pinterest too. You don’t see a lot of videos on Pinterest and Pinterest ad videos autoplay on mobile devices, so it will automatically help you stand out.
How-to videos and video content that highlights products briefly both do well on the platform.
When creating video for Pinterest, it should ideally be:
- High resolution. Even if the video is small, if it’s even a little blurry, users aren’t going to click and it will reflect poorly on your brand.
- Short. Pinners are browsing, and they aren’t necessarily ready to sit and watch a 10-minute video in the pin. Instead, it's better to use the pin as a sort of teaser.
- Not using sound as a crutch. When videos autoplay, they do so without sound. Users can choose to enable the sound, but you’re going to be better off if you can establish context and really reel them in without it. Use on-video text and subtitles for the best results here.
6. Install the conversion tag onto your site
Pinterest’s conversion tag will give you incredibly valuable information, telling you what actions users take on a site after they’ve clicked on a Pinterest ad. Instead of just measuring the number of clicks, you can actually track how valuable that click was to you.
The conversion tag also lets you track activity on your site, period, so that you can set up retargeting campaigns.
The pixel is made up of two different parts: the base code and the event code. The base code is unique to your Pinterest account and it lets you build retargeting campaigns based on site activity.
Event codes are attached to the base code on pages where you want to track specific events, like conversions, add to carts, and sign-ups. You would add the checkout tag to the “Thank you for your order page,” which might only flag if users purchase, for example.
Pinterest ads: Boost your marketing efforts
If you’re still unsure whether or not ads on Pinterest are right for you, it doesn't hurt to run a few test campaigns and actually find out.
One important thing to remember is that ads on Pinterest shouldn’t be your sole focus in Pinterest marketing; they’ll be much more effective alongside organic campaigns.
They can help you gain a lot of traction on the platform, but if you’re able to get users to discover your content because it’s been repinned by others, for example. That's a long-term benefit that requires no financial investment from you.
So, for best results, put emphasis on both organic and PPC marketing on Pinterest, just like you would with most other platforms.
Ready to create your business? Start your free 3-day trial of Shopify—no credit card required.
Pinterest advertising FAQ
How profitable are Pinterest ads?
How do I advertise a product on Pinterest?
- Create a Pinterest account
- Go to create an ad
- Choose your objective
- Set your targeting criteria
- Select your pin
- Track your results