By Alexei Oreskovic
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Online scrapbook Pinterest is rolling out new tools that will show businesses the number of visitors it delivers to their websites, part of the fast-growing start-up's efforts to forge closer ties to companies and build a base for the introduction of money-making features.
The latest offering -- known as Pinterest Web Analytics -- will give site owners insights into how people are interacting with "pins" that originate from their websites. The start-up company will announce the free offering on its blog on Tuesday.
"The goal is really to help websites understand what content is resonating with people on Pinterest," Cat Lee, a product manager at Pinterest, told Reuters in an interview.
Pinterest, which allows users to create online bulletin boards of images and photos based on various themes such as travel, decorating, or sports, was the 38th most visited website by U.S. Internet users in January, with roughly 30 million unique visitors according to online measurement firm comScore.
Pinterest does not currently display any revenue-generating advertising on its website, but retailers and large brands such as The Gap, Patagonia and Dell are increasingly using the site to promote their products.
Providing companies with data about usage is a "pretty clear step in the direction" of monetizing Pinterest, said Greg Sterling, senior analyst with Opus Research, a San Francisco-based market research firm.
"They couldn't really start charging people without some way of measuring the efficacy of the spend," he said.
Pinterest is "building foundations to monetize" its service this year, Chief Executive Ben Silbermann told The Wall Street Journal last month.
In February, the company raised $200 million in funding from venture capital firms that include Andreessen Horowitz and Bessemer Venture Partners. The funding deal valued the three-year-old company at $2.5 billion.
The new tool will provide information about various types of user activity on Pinterest, such as the frequency with which people are clicking on a company's online photos.
Pinterest has not disclosed how many companies have set up official business accounts on its service since it began offering the feature in November.
(Additional reporting by Sakthi Prasad in Bangalore; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)