Increase Search TrafficPinterest is one of the fastest-growing social networks out there. It’s quick, visual and a lot of fun to use, so it’s no surprise that users end up being very loyal to the platform. It has the potential to drive great, high-quality traffic to your blog, community or e-commerce site — but only if you use it correctly.

First things first: You need to have pinnable content on your site, and you need to make it easy and seamless for Pinterest users to pin that content. Pinterest relies on big, colorful, compelling imagery. If you have low-quality images or use something like Flash rather than modern, semantic code on your website, it can be frustrating or impossible for users to pin your content to their pinboards. When they use their own “Pin It” button (such as the one that Pinterest supplies its users), it will search your page for pinnable images. If it can’t find any, the user isn’t going to bother messing around with it; they’ll just skip it.

Images should be large enough to be visible on Pinterest; at least 250 pixels wide, but preferably more. You should also make sure to implement a Pinterest “Pin This” button generously on your website, particularly if you are running an ecommerce site. If you are selling products on the web, the Pin This button should be on every single individual product page. Make sure that the Pin This button is on its own URL (for each page on your site) rather than a general URL for your overall store page. For example:

If your URL for your Widget product page is: http://mysite.com/shop/widget01.html

The Pin This button should be on that page, NOT: http://mysite.com/shop/

In the latter case, the Pin This button wouldn’t really be what your user is looking for; they wanted to pin a specific product, not sift through all the images on that page. Don’t make it a chore for the user, and they’ll happily pin away.

Another thing you can do is engage with other Pinterest users by re-pinning images from people that are relevant to your brand. Don’t just fill your own Pinterest page with your own products and content; find things that complement your products, talk about the city your business is located in, or pin events that your customers may be interested in. That way, when you update your Pinterest profile with your own new content, people will be more likely to engage and re-pin your images and videos.

Speaking of videos: Don’t be afraid to pin them! They thumbnail nicely, and they play right on Pinterest. If your brand has a YouTube or Vimeo channel, pin your videos!

We’ve covered the fact that Pinterest is primarily a visual platform, but don’t forget that each pin has a 500-character text box to use for descriptions. This is a perfect opportunity to get some descriptive text in there about your products. Now, understand that Pinterest links to your site are “nofollow,” so they don’t have a direct benefit on external web search engine results, but that’s OK; the more descriptive and relevant the keywords are, the more likely people will find you using Pinterest’s search function. If your widget pin’s description box says, “The latest widget model, featuring widget handles and widget knobs. Now available with gold, brass, silver or brushed steel finish for $99”, that’s much more rich than saying something like, “Our new widget!”. When people go to Pinterest and search for “Brushed Steel Widget,” they’ll find you if you’ve taken the time to detail your descriptions.

Well, those are the basics. Every business that sells a product or has a story to tell can get some benefit from Pinterest, but you’ve got to get involved. So get pinning!

Gabriela D. Acosta manages the social work blog for the University of Southern California  social work masters programs. She is passionate about social justice, community organizing and leadership development. Connect with her on Twitter @Gabyacosta101