The Pinterest Algorithm

Kylie Carrasco
By Kylie Carrasco

Pinterest. Is it an organization tool? A craft lovers paradise? A social media platform?

Not quite… It’s actually a search engine!

When most people think of search engines they think Google, Bing, and Yahoo. However, Pinterest is actually one of the most commonly used search engines of them all! Pinterest acts as a web-based bulletin board – in which users can organize and save their searches to various boards.

Because search engines use specific information to rank content, knowledge of basic SEO strategies is an essential part of mastering the Pinterest algorithm. Knowing the right keywords to rank for and how to curate your pins around them will help boost your engagement and get your pins in front of a larger audience.

How Pinterest Works

Pinterest users save or “pin” images found on the internet and on Pinterest to different boards that categorize image collections. Many of the images saved on Pinterest are linked to their original web page, making it easy to find exactly what you are looking for. An example of this is if you were searching for a new Chili recipe. By simply searching “Chili Recipe”, Pinterest allows you to scroll through numerous, delicious, images of chili. Once you find a photo that appeals to you, you simply click on the image and are taken to the webpage with the recipe. By using Pinterest, you’re able to see a variety of curated content in photo form catered directly to your search results. You can then save and categorize content that you’d like to reference in the future.

Showing you a variety of images based on search results isn’t all Pinterest does, though!  Once a user enters a search query Pinterest’s Smart Feed ranks and prioritizes pins based on their quality, which the algorithm determines for them. This presents a series of more accurate images, in which users can then click on to access their desired content. The Pinterest Smart Feed aims to only show relevant content that meets your search results and interests.

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Aside from the smart feed, Pinterest also has a social media component where users interact with each other through liking, commenting and re-saving other’s pins and even private messaging.

What Factors Determine What I see?

For now, let’s dive into the Pinterest Smart Feed even more and understand how the algorithm uses multiple factors to determine what shows up in your Smart Feed.

Domain Quality

Domain quality is how Pinterest determines the quality of your website. By using the algorithm, Pinterest is able to detect the popularity of pins that came from your website. The more popular the pins, the more Pinterest sees your website as a source of high-quality content.

Improve your websites domain quality ranking by following these simple steps:

1. Convert your Pinterest account to business account. This will allow you to dive deeper into analytics, website visits, and the amount of repins you’re receiving.

2. Claim your website. This will show Pinterest that you’re a legitimate and engaged pinner, and that the source in which the pins come from is verified.

3. Rich pins are key to improving your ranking! Rich pins allow information to be transferred straight from your website to the pin. Because rich pins are constantly updating, your Pinterest content will never be outdated.

4. Pin often. Pinning consistently will let Pinterest know that your an engaged user and you’ll be rewarded for the time spent on the platform.

5. Create and pin high-quality content. By pinning high-quality content that encourages saves and comments, Pinterest will continue to show this content to even more users.

Pin Quality

The quality of your pins is also very important. Pin quality is often determined by the popularity and engagement level of your pins. The more people who engage with your pin by clicking through, saving, zooming, adding a photo or commenting, the higher your pin will rank for quality.

Improve your pin quality by doing the following:

Make the titles compelling. You only have a few words to make a big impression, make sure the title is something that encourages a viewer to learn more and want to click through.
Create pin-worthy graphics and images – Because Pinterest is a visual platform it’s important to create graphics that are just as compelling as your headlines!
Monitor pin saves and clicks to see what content is performing best and what content it’s time to archive.

Pinner Quality

Aside from pin quality, Pinterest also ranks content according to pinner quality. The more incredible content you create, the more Pinterest will share your feed with others.

Improve your Pinner quality with these easy steps:

Be active! Pinning daily and consistently will keep your account active throughout the day.

Pin popular content. By pinning already popular content to your board it will bring more viewers to your profile and introducing them to additional pins of yours.
Increase sales of your content pinning pins that resonate with your audience.
Increase engagement. By using Pinterest analytics to determine “trending” pins you’ll have a head start to knowing the type of content your audience would like to see.

Increase Pin Relevance

Domain quality, pin quality, and pinner quality all let Pinterest know how relevant they are to their users. However, keywords tell Pinterest what your pins are about.

Pin relevance applies to how closely your pins match your audience’s specific searches, overall interest, and search history. Pinterest determines this relevance much like Google and Bing would. Keywords placed throughout the content are used to determine what the pin is about and when it appears in searches.

Here’s how to make your pins more relevant:

Perform keyword research using the search query on Pinterest itself. Determine what is being searched for and what words are being used together.
Optimize your profile – Add keywords right after your username and in your bio to show viewers and Pinterest what you do.
Use intelligent keywords in your Pinterest boards, the board descriptions, and the pins you’re creating.

Hashtags on Pinterest?

While hashtags are fairly new to Pinterest they’re a great way to boost your relevance rankings! Because hashtags are searchable and clickable they’re extremely effective at getting more eyes on your content. Just remember that Pinterest is a “newest first” platform, meaning hashtags are only relevant when added to newer pins.

The Pinterest Lens and How it Affects Businesses

In 2017, Pinterest came our with a visual search tool called “Lens.” This tool enables users to take a photo of a product and upload it to Pinterest. Pinterest then takes that photos and will return pins it deems to be a match.

For businesses selling a physical product, this is a great way reach more consumers. Remember, In order for your product to come up in search results it needs to be a match. This means making sure that product images have the product front and center and clearly labeled.

For those not selling a product, “Lens” can be used to find relevant pins based off of text overlays and image components. When creating pins it’s important to ensure that your trending keywords on your text overlays and using relevant photography.

Normalizing and Scoring Your Pins

Normalizing is a complex name for a rather simple task. Normalizing behind with the Pinterest algorithm extracting interests from the text shown by lemmatizing the text and then matching it against a dictionary.

To break it down in simpler terms Normalizing is the action of associating similar words to streamline search results. For example, “dogs,” “dog’s” and “dogs’” all lemmatize to dog.

Pinterest lemmatizes pins to make them easier to score based off of high quality and frequency of text. It also rewards you for discarding random unrelated text and blacklisted text such as spam.

Normalizing your pins improves their score. The amount of interest that’s assigned to your pin will dictate where it falls in the Pinterest Taste Graph and identifies which consumers will see it in their Smart Feed.

Here are just a few of the factors that affect yous pin score:

  • Word embedding
  • Frequency counts from Pin, board and link texts
  • Normalized TF-IDF scores
  • Category affinities–do interests belong to the same or similar categories
  • Position within the text
  • Whitelisting
  • Graph queries
  • Pluralization
  • Blacklisting
  • Head queries

Now that you know about Pinterest, the Smart Feed Algorithm, new features, changes, and how to optimize your pins so they show up in search and in the smart feed it’s time to start working on your profile! Be sure to update your Pinterest bio, boards, and pins with relevant keywords so that your content gets found. If something’s working, copy the process, and by all means… pin more of it.

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Kylie is a Social Media Manager at Power Digital. Passionate about providing an integrated and unrivaled approach to marketing, she uses the latest industry trends and data led decision making to help clients grow their social presence and improve brand recognition.