Are you struggling with your SEO for Pinterest and getting your pins seen by more people?
So, did you know there’s a lot more to Pinterest than meets the eye?
Would you love to be able to see how Pinterest actually sees your pins?
If so, you’re in the right place.
And in the latest episode of Tailwind’s Marketing Unleashed, Alisa Meredith and I sat down with Jennifer Priest, super-smart owner of Smart Creative Social to talk all about Pinterest SEO.
Alisa recently did a bunch of heavy lifting for us all by going through the Pinterest engineering blog with a fine-tooth comb.
And what she discovered will shock! and amaze! you. Well, that may be going a bit far, but it is super helpful stuff, as it gives us important insights into how Pinterest sees and ranks pins.
But before we dive into that…
Do you feel like you’re spending way too much time creating new content and pins?
If so, stop!
Instead, download the free Perfect Pinterest Pins Toolkit right now. It comes with 16 completely optimized pin templates, a handy-dandy pin checklist, and a guide to writing amazing, high-converting pin descriptions.
And I promise, it’ll not only save you a ton of time, but it will also make your pins so much more effective!
Now…back to SEO for Pinterest.
Do Keywords Matter on Pinterest…and if so, How?
Not surprisingly, keywords matter – a lot – on Pinterest.
Now, how and where do you need to use them for optimal results?
Jennifer identified 9 specific areas that matter the most when it comes to keyword integration.
- Pin title, obviously. But here’s a cool little trick Jennifer recommends that take things up a notch – create pins that target different sections within your content. For instance, she has a blog post about gravel patios. But rather than only having only one pin targeting the keyword phrase “gravel patios”, she also has one targeting a sub-section of the post – “best underlayment for gravel or weed barrier”. Brilliant!
- Pin description. One of the tips submitted by a viewer this week was to create keyword lists for each of her boards so she can easily copy and paste them for each pin and this is a great idea! However, Alisa warns against simply writing out your keywords in your description; instead, use them naturally throughout your text. Don’t be spammy…write for the people who are reading your descriptions! You may have noticed recently that sometimes you type up your brilliant description, publish it, and poof! It seems to disappear. Instead, the pin shows your meta description. However, according to Alisa, your description still appears to be working in the background, impacting your SEO. So definitely continue using your keywords in your description!
- Board title. Be specific when naming your boards – no generic “Jennifer’s blog board”! Jennifer also mentioned that you don’t have to be afraid to have too many boards. She compares your Pinterest boards to shelves in a store, and your content is like the products on those shelves. If you have lots of different types of products, you need more shelves, right? And, in the same way, don’t be afraid to have lots of boards to accommodate all your content. She uses the 5 and 5 concepts as a general rule of thumb: for every piece of content you have, you should have at least 5 boards you can put it on.
- Board description. As with pin descriptions, sometimes these are visible and sometimes they aren’t. Nevertheless, definitely keep including your keywords in your board descriptions. You only have so many characters in your board title, so if you want to include multiple keywords for your board, this is the place to do it. Pinterest is giving us a place to put data, so we should put some data there!
- Linked content. If you’re familiar with regular SEO, this one won’t surprise you. Pinterest looks at the content your pin is linking to (like your blog post or product page). They look at the page title, description, and the main text of the page to see which keywords are being used. So, make sure you’re being consistent and using similar and related keywords on your pins and your linked pages.
- The keywords Pinterest assigns to your pins based on clicks. This one is a bit tricky but here’s our best explanation: if certain search queries frequently lead to a click on your pin, Pinterest will assign these keywords to your pin, even if you never actually use those keywords. For instance, if people frequently search for “favorite whiskeys” and then click on your pin, Pinterest knows your pin is highly-related to favorite whiskeys …and will basically assign that keyword to your pin. Make sense?
- Objects in your images. Did you know Pinterest can actually identify different objects in your pins and then assign keywords to those? These are called image text annotations. For instance, Pinterest can “look” at your pin and see there’s a chair over there, a plant over there, and a door over there. And all of those keywords are pulled out without you having to do anything. Pretty cool (and freaky), huh? This is why it’s so important to make sure you feature your product or service prominently in your pin images…as much as you’re able to.
Super-amazing quick tip: Want to know what Pinterest sees in your image? Jennifer recommends trying this: Create a secret board called “test” and upload new pins – without names or descriptions or anything else – to this board.
Immediately, Pinterest will populate it with related pins. And this isn’t totally accurate, but it will give you a sense of what Pinterest sees in your image, and what they think the image is all about. And what’s really cool is that Instagram’s AI works the same way…so if Pinterest recognizes what’s in your image, Instagram likely will too.
- Text on your pin. As with objects, Pinterest can actually read the words on your pins. This is called optical character recognition, or OCR. However, what they can’t read is scripted, curly fonts – so don’t use those. They can even read background text, so pay attention to ALL the words in your images; even the ones that might be on books or signs or background objects in your pins.
- Related words. Pinterest will pull out words that are similar to the ones you’re using, and assign these to your pin. This is called lexical expansion. It will pull out plurals, synonyms, and can even reverse terms. For instance, if you use the phrase “gardening tips”, they’re going to assign keywords like “gardening ideas” and “gardening tip” (singular). And the good thing about this is it means you can actually write like a human and you don’t need to worry about getting your phrasing exactly right or about keyword stuffing because Pinterest is smart enough to figure out what you’re talking about.
What’s Up With “Interest Mapping?”
Moving on from keywords…
Did you know that Pinterest maps every single one of their 175 billion-plus pins to interests?
Because interests are central to everything that happens on Pinterest, and yet most people don’t really know much about them.
When Pinterest looks at your image, it connects it with specific interests to help them categorize the pin and figure out where to show it in home feeds and related pins. This is known as interest mapping.
And to show you just how specific interests get, here’s a screenshot of the interests for “Home Décor”:
So here’s an example of interest mapping at work: looking at the pin below, Pinterest can take it down to 10 levels of specificity: starting with a level 1 match for “animals”, 2 for “mammals”, 3 for “dogs”, etc.
Because interest mapping comes in really handy for ad targeting, as you can target people who have very specific interests; you can actually choose from thousands of different interests in ad targeting.
And it’s also useful for getting rid of unsafe and dangerous pins. For instance, if Pinterest maps an image to “self-harm” or “pornography”, it will know to automatically get rid of it.
How Does Pinterest Rank Content?
Now, we’ve looked at how Pinterest sees our pins, and how they categorize them.
But how do they actually rank them?
- Text relatedness. Pinterest wants a good user experience, so your pin and content should definitely be closely related. They want to see your keywords being used in more than one place: which is why it’s so important to use them in your title, description, website, etc. And this gives Pinterest a really strong signal and confidence that they know what this pin is about, and that it’s going to provide a really good user experience.
A note on stolen pins: You may sometimes see a stolen pin ranking really high for a keyword, and wonder what’s going on.
This is because it will initially just go off the signals of that pin.
But once they’ve had time to crawl the site and do daily indexing, the rankings for that stolen pin will begin to drop…and will eventually fall off completely.
- Pin cohesion. There’s actually a lot to this one, but Alisa broke it down nicely for us. Pin cohesion means your image is complementary to the text on your linked content. So for instance, if the text on your pin says “beard oil” and the product page it links to talks about beard oil, there is pin cohesion. It doesn’t have to be exact: the point is that when people click through to your page, it should be clear to them that they’re in the right place. This builds trust, improves user experience, and ultimately boosts your Pinterest rankings.
- Semantically-related image pairs. This is when Pinterest “sees” two different images but recognizes they’re pictures of the same thing. For instance, it will see a picture of a kitchen cart full of books, cups, etc., and annotate it as a kitchen cart. Then it will see another picture of a kitchen cart that’s empty, or where the picture is taken from a totally different angle. And yet it’s clear to them that these are pictures of the same thing.
Pinterest knows these both kitchen carts and considers them a “semantically-related image pair”
- Personalized ranking factors. You know how when you go to Google and search for something, it returns results based on your search history? (assuming you’re logged into your Google account). The same is true on Pinterest, but Alisa believes Pinterest does it to a much larger degree. And Pinterest is going to share pins based on not only what you’ve searched for or engaged with in the past, but also what other people like you have engaged with. Even if you haven’t entered your gender or age, the algorithm is figuring it out based on what actions you take…which is pretty cool.
I don’t know about you, but I find all this behind-the-scenes Pinterest stuff super interesting and helpful.
A huge thanks to Alisa for her hours spent sifting through the Pinterest engineer blog and for sharing this info with us!
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Are you still confused as to how Pinterest sees, categorizes and ranks your content? Have questions? Ask away in the comment section below.
If you haven’t already, I’d seriously recommend downloading Tailwind’s Perfect Pinterest Pins Toolkit – it takes a ton of the guesswork out of the process of designing your pins and coming up with high-converting descriptions…and it’s 100% free!