A guest blog post by Jason Miles, author of Pinterest Power:

It is hard to believe, but Pinterest recently passed the Yahoo Network to become the Internet’s fourth largest source of referral traffic. It refers visitors to websites at an astounding rate, only surpassed by Google Search, direct typing of a domain name into the browser, and not surprisingly, Facebook.

While it is very clear that traffic from Pinterest is helping online sellers immensely, it has not always been clear that Pinterest wanted businesses on the site. But recent changes have removed any doubt and make it clear Pinterest is very interested in supporting commerce.

The confusion for business users goes back to the beginning of the site. There was no clear business related functionality, and a detailed reading of the Terms of Service didn’t reveal any pro-business language. Then there was the etiquette guidelines of the site that mentioned not being to ‘self-promotional’, a vague prohibition against things that sounded business related.  But over the last few months Pinterest has systematically resolved these concerns with the majority of the new functionality for businesses being launched this week.

Pinterest’s new business tools and resources come just in time for the holiday shopping season, and many retailers are eager to explore the new options. The new features include:

  • An updated Terms of Service for the unique needs of business owners.
  • A resource section for business owners, which includes best-practices and case studies.
  • A method for verifying your website and having it be clearly marked with a verification badge so prospects and customers can ensure they are engaging with the “real” company.
  • New widgets and buttons to help website owners increase integration with the site.
  • A new profile option for companies upon sign-up.
  • Secret Boards that allow you to collaborate on projects with co-workers without making the content publicly visible.

So how can Pinterest help your holiday sales? Here are 7 steps to make sure you begin to receive quality prospects from the site:

  1. Claim your corporate profile. Even if you don’t want to launch your Pinterest profile immediately, make sure you sign-up for an account using your company’s name.
  2. Set up a professional profile including a well crafted description and a professional headshot or logo.
  3. Pick five topics that resonate with your core consumer, and create a pinboard associated with each topic. Ensure that your product images, and best corporate photography are fully integrated.
  4. Audit your website to ensure that your products, blog-posts, and pages can all be pinned easily with quality pictures. When your website is Pinterest friendly your customers and fans will help you share your story on Pinterest.
  5. Integrate Pinterest’s social sharing buttons and widgets into your website, so your customers and fans know immediately that you want them to Pin your content.
  6. Begin to promote your Pinterest profile on your blog, newsletter and Facebook Fanpage. As you bring your tribe into Pinterest they will follow you as well as their existing friends, and your social reach will spread.
  7. Consider holding a 12 Days Of Christmas contest on your new Pinterest profile, and offer a very generous prize. Incent people to follow you, leave comments, and like your content. A well-designed contest can attract a significant number of new followers.

The benefits of using Pinterest are clear, the functionality is easy, and the prospects are waiting to be cultivated. So take time this holiday season to jump in and begin leveraging the power of Pinterest.