When Pinterest emerged as a popular and effective network for reaching new customers, businesses jumped on the new platform as fast as they could, filling up boards with pin after pin of content.

Naturally, with so many new pins demanding attention every day, people with something new or original to say were getting buried under the sheer weight of the constantly growing content.

With so many companies still vying for a limited amount of attention, pinners need to do something to stand out from the crowd. It's not enough that the pin looks good... It also has to accomplish something tangible, and it has to make the most of Pinterest's unique characteristics.

If you're still just pinning images for the sake of adding content every day, you might as well refocus your time on other marketing channels.

Just a bit of know-how and practice, however, can generate the kind of pins that engage other users and drive traffic to your website. There may be millions upon millions of pins going up every day, but you can still make yours stand out.

The Perfect Pin Formula

Pinterest users are inundated with infographics, images, recipes, movie reviews, and many other forms of visual media every time they log on. In that kind of environment getting noticed can be difficult—but not impossible.

So, to make it a little easier, we need a simple, repeatable formula that anyone can use to create memorable pins. Let's get the math-y bit out of the way first.

The formula goes like this:

And the variables are defined as follows:

Let's take them one at a time.

Visual Dominance

Don't rely on pins "just coming together." Every design needs to have a purpose and a strong focal point—something that captures attention and then guides it from that point all the way through to the end. That's done by establishing visual dominance in your pins.

The Poster Theory: Even before Pinterest, the same formula applied to other marketing materials, such as posters. For decades we've know that posters work because when they're well designed they grab attention and then deliver a message—efficiently, quickly, and convincingly. Your pins need to have many of the same characteristics.

You can create some important cues by using certain elements that are more likely to catch the eye: size, color, value, white space, density.

Your pin is going to be surrounded by countless others, and few people will take the time to carefully examine all of them. You need to use every advantage to distinguish yourself from the rest.

Pro tip: The size of the pin is one of the easiest ways to establish visual dominance. A good rule of thumb for size is something around 600-736 pixels wide and at least 1000 pixels tall. However, as more marketers go for this eye-catching tactic, you can turn it on its head and establish contrast by using a smaller pin. Just be sure to use several other elements that make it more remarkable, too.

Purple Cow Content

It takes a lot to impress someone these days. Internet users are fairly jaded and cynical when they're browsing around, and most of us have built up a natural imperviousness to the ordinary.

In Seth Godin's TED Talk, "How to Get Your Ideas to Spread," he discusses how to overcome that huge barrier and grab their attention.

Only things that are "remarkable" in some way (i.e., worth remarking on) will give other pinners a reason to notice and spread your content. A simple example is that of a regular cow versus a purple cow: Only one is going to give us reason to remark on it.

We can derive two important Pinterest lessons from that example:

  1. Make your content a purple cow—something you don't see every day. (Stock photos alone probably aren't going to cut it.)
  2. You can be unique without being completely original. You just have to give something a new spin.

Pro tip: Your goal with Purple Cow Content is to create something that makes a visitor say "I want to remember this" or, more important, "I want this." It doesn't have to be completely new, but it should be remarkable.


With a simple pin, you can create a mystery that your customers will want to solve. Creating mystery with a good pin is important because, when it's done right, it can do more than just get a few followers and repins. You can use it to get people to engage with your content and click through to your site.

You can get all mysterious by simply refraining from giving away all the answers in a single pin. Give them just enough to know that there's more for the taking. All they have to do is click through to your site and they'll find all the answers they need.

Put It All Together

This formula can be applied to almost any kind of pin. Simply having the tallest pin isn't enough any more. You need to combine all three of these elements to really get good results from all of your Pinterest campaigns and start driving more traffic to your website.

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Andy Eliason is the content marketing manager at SEO.com. He has been writing in the SEO industry longer than is technically healthy but swears he can stop whenever he wants.

LinkedIn: Andy Eliason