What happens when you’re blacklisted from Pinterest?

3.5 years ago we posted a few pallet projects photos on a new Facebook page we had called 1001pallets. It was just for fun.

It’s crazy how the smallest things can become life-changing moments. Since we first started 1001pallets.com, thousands of crafters from all over the world have become a part of its community, submitting their work and sharing it without asking for any compensation or even recognition.

We say it a lot around here, but 1001pallets really would be nothing without its community.

1001 pallets in numbers:

  • 3,600 pallet projects ideas
  • 10,000 active community users
  • 343K fans on Facebook
  • 126K fans on Pinterest
  • 30K fans on Instagram
  • 1.2 million pages viewed /month
  • Plenty of powerful resources such as : pallet safety, where to get pallets
  • And soon plenty of new features…

Running a website with the diligence of a good householder

Our website is a pure niche of the DIY market, and we run it with love. The site grew up slowly but surely to reach the numbers above.

We diversified the traffic sources, using Facebook and Pinterest, to complement our natural links and Google ranking. We worked on rich content to provide our readers with valuable advice and inspiration.

A few month ago, we started to see copycat websites in our wake, with original names such as 101pallets, 99 pallets, and half a dozen other websites stealing pics from the web and from us, not giving credit to the source ,or to the audience we had helped to create. But this is life… we were just hoping they weren’t getting most of the traffic concerning this niche since Google’s algorithms can sometimes help such networks in their ranking strategies.

On our side, we decided to transform this constraint into an opportunity to be creative and challenge ourselves to bring better added value to build an even stronger community.

The result of this “householder strategy” is a balanced traffic source as shown below (source similarweb)

Share of the traffic sources for 1001pallets.com (as of oct 2016)

Social media as a third of the traffic, and Pinterest 85% of this third

The graph above shows the social media part of our sitetraffic, and the one below is even more explicit on the share of the traffic between the different social medias sources:

Social media sources for 1001pallets.com (as of oct 2016)

As our community uploaded their content 95% of the time, we can definitely say that what we share on Pinterest is “original content” not stolen from other websites. Until last week, this content had been repinned 21million times by the Pinterest community. But this was before October 5th, 2016…

The day you’re blacklisted

We live in Europe and when we woke up this day, like any good site manager who works with the US market, we looked at our statistics from the day before. Panic ensued! Traffic dropped by nearly 30%, which is second to none for sites whose income is directly dependent on the traffic!

I logged on our Pinterest account and realized there were no more pins available from our website, nor from our boards, neither from any other boards (reminder: our content had been pinned 21 Million times, so you can imagine the long tails effect we lost…)but at this time, our account still existed!

sudden drop in Pinterest traffic

What is amazing, is that we received no preventive email from Pinterest stating we had done something against their policy! No warning whatsoever! So we contacted their helpdesk immediately and received an automatic reply a few hours later with the following message:

So of course, we wrote back to tell them they had made a mistake since our content is 100% original as created by the community. In the meantime, people started contacting us to report and complain that our website was blocked by Pinterest, and we redirected them to post messages on the helpdesk as well. Nevertheless, a few hours later, we had to turn the other cheek as not only our links were blocked, but our account was suspended!

Gone! The 126 thousand followers and the traffic that goes with. Gone! the 21 million links wrought out by the sweat of the keyboard…

How in the hell is a website considered “spammy” when it’s content has already been repinned 21 million times? We were stunned and baffled by Pinterest’s actions so far.

When you investigate and find there is a Pinterest mafia…

The first thing you do in this case is Google “website blacklisted by Pinterest”. And that’s how I stumbled upon this recent paper from Hibusiness.ca: Website Marked As SPAM on Pinterest? The Mafia Is Doing It

When reading this post, I realized we were victims of what they call the “lazy scammers” (second category of the Pinterest Mafia):

The Lazy Scammers (LS) have no interest in creation. They have no interest in doing the work. They also control lots of accounts on Pinterest and use them to do two things and two things only:

- get your site “Marked as Spam”

- and repin their own pins.

They don’t care about search engine traffic, they feed on traffic from Pinterest. They look for normal Pinners whose pins start to gain traction. If your pins are gaining traction and they like the content, you are in trouble. They work in any industry but Food and Health/Fitness are the biggest ones they go after.

First they take one of your images, which is already working for you. They use it as their own. They know there is not much you can do. Pinterest doesn’t really have the resources to enforce all the image stealing (Pinterest does allow you to report infringements but Lazy scammers just does it with one of their other accounts). Plus if the The Lazy Scammers make even a small change to the image, there is nothing the owner can do.

In the beginning, LS actually even help repin your pins. Why would The Lazy Scammers help repin your content?

They want you to get traffic. They know more traffic you will get, more content you will create. More time and money you will spend on creating content the better the content will be. You might be wondering why they are labelled as “Lazy Scammers” if they help you get traffic?

It’s simple, they want you to create as much good content as possible. Once you get to a certain level. They press a few buttons and their army of BOTS and humans flag your pins and boom, you are gone.

GAME OVER.

That’s what happenned to us, since when we were searching for “pallet projects” in Pinterest, a lot of images from our native content were poping up, but redirected to other websites….For us, it’s hard to tell how many of the content was stolen but we are still investigating…

You might be wondering why do The Lazy Scammers do that?

This is what is followed:

  1. Before they get you banned, they crawl your entire site’s content — all articles and images.
  2. They then get you banned
  3. Once you are banned, what happens next?
  4. You guessed it right, they take all of your content and use it as their own.

While you try to beg and convince Pinterest that you did not break any rules, your content was appropriate and original, and you are member in good standing of the Pinterest community, The Lazy Scammers reap the benefit.

Now it’s time to recover!

So how did we get back on Pinterest? Thanks to the community of course… We received a lot of messages and used other social networks (Facebook mainly + a pointed newsletter) to ask people to reach out to Pinterest and share their experiences — and the fact that 1001pallet.com was not a spammy website, and never has been. Some of them did not need us to do it, and this rousing response was glorious feedback for us. It was a warm moment where we realized again we were not alone and were doing that for these hundreds of gentle crafters who wanted to bookmark valuable pallet projects!

And the funny thing is that Pinterest answered the protests from them after 2 to 3 days (such as the answer Debi received below), and our own protests after 4 days only.

And we think recovery will be long… After 1 day Pinterest unblocked the site, we recovered 20K followers on 126K, and no traffic. After 2 days, people could pin again, but oldest pins (some of them shares 50K times) were not there… After 3 days we recovered all of the followers, but all of the previous-incident pins — the one bringing the most traffic- still are not there. Some of our boards now have 1 pin while they had hundreds… After one week, Pinterest traffic is now just one third as it was before as seen in the graph below:

Sessions from Pinterest

It’s like we have to pray for new buzzing pins. Meanwhile, others have stolen them and are promoting them like crazy…and sometimes misreprenting them as another type of craft or project altogether. The crafters are receiving NO credit for their work. Of course we have plenty of questions and asked them to Pinterest through the helpdesk. Their answers were really helpful…

Pinterest explanations when you ask for clarifications

But… I mean, we are the 4,266 most followed account on Pinterest, we provide them with original content every day, and we cannot have a better answer than that? I mean Aubrette, I like your first name, but when will my traffic be back ?(and money that pay my bills at the end of the month?) Why do I still have empty boards while I had hundreds pins on them ? Will we recover everything or is there a chance it stays like that?

So what Pinterest can do?

I carried on investigating and realized this strange thing in September where 6% of our traffic came from Sudan. We’d never seen any significant traffic from this country before. We believe that this was possibly the starting point when they started stealing our content…

There are still a lot of questions, such as:

1- How many pins do LS have to declare as spam to push you out? It seems that they know the rules quite well!

2- Is Pinterest aware of the phenomenon, and did they already start to monitor it? Deeper Pinterest understanding of the users who flag a site as a spam, will provide key data points to the blocking algorhithm.

3- How many of the users that pushed us out have flagged other sites? If the user has pinned other similar content, which ones did they avoid flagging? Which sites had similar, but unflagged content? Were they in the same genre?

4-What were the actual flagged pin(s) from each of the users? I could even help them in sourcing these users if they needed help!

The big data algorithm was stonger than us, and tracing back the Lazy Scammers Mafia in Pinterest is, in reality, a small data challenge.

Reading a lot of posts on the subject, we understood that we’re still at risk! And we are not the only ones since it can happens to anybody using Pinterest in their business strategy! We could be kicked out a second time; proof that “Big Brother” decides it all!

On the other side website owners see everyday in all the sectors, competitors that are simply stealing their content, but pretending this content is now their and flagging you as a spammer is another thing. We think we can help Pinterest in detecting these guys, as we want to carry on using this great platform.

But anyway if it happens to you, here is what to do:

1- Write a comment here

2- Use this URL: https://help.pinterest.com/en/contact; Select the following options:I have a question about.. select Account settings More specifically.. select I disagree with a policy notice Click the red button: I still need help

3. Rally your fan base, contributors, etc. Ask them to pick up the flag for you and reach out to Pinterest as well.

4. Review your site traffic. Are there suddenly spikes from countries that previously never even showed as a blip on your radar?

5. Don’t give up! This was a painful process — and it’s still ongoing to recover fully, but thankfully we’ve got excellent incentive. We do it for our amazing community. Every single day.

Written by

Key Account Manager @ Noveltis / Founder @ D.Q. Network. Editing www.1001pallets.com

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