This morning I listened to the Oh So Pinteresting podcast with Cynthia Sanchez. She and her guest, Susan Wenner Jackson from Ahology, discussed the changes that quietly made their way in to our Pinterest feeds in August. It is absolutely worth a listen. You’ll get insights that you can’t get anywhere else because it seems, Pinterest isn’t really talking.
You may have noticed the changes to your own Pinterest feed starting about a month ago. The first thing I noticed were related pins. Then I noticed you could follow interests instead of just pinners or boards. Well, it seems those were all symptoms of a big Pinterest algorithm change rolled out in August.
What Pinterest is Trying to Do with Smart Feed
Pinterest has been about discovery from the very beginning. Discovering new interests, new ideas, new recipes… Now discovery is becoming almost mandatory. Looking at my feed right now, approximately one third of all the pins I see are labeled “related pin” meaning, they were not pinned by someone I follow, but are related to content I do pin or pinners I have chosen to follow. Pinterest has also always been more of a search engine than a social network. True, you can comment, like, repin, and even message people, but that’s not how most people are using it. In fact, I sometimes go to Pinterest to do a search before I Google something. Will “Pinterest” become a verb meaning “to search images” someday?
What This Means for Pinterest’s Business Users
This means the old rule of “pin when the people are on” is no longer as important. Your pin will not necessarily be displayed when you pin it. I’ve noticed this myself. Pin something from one account and then switch over to another that follows it and it is nowhere to be seen in the feed. According to the Pinterest Engineering blog, “Some Pins should be selectively dropped or deferred until a later time. Some sources may produce Pins of poor quality for a user, so instead of showing everything available immediately, we can be selective about what to show and what to hold back for a future session.” About as clear as mud, right? Well, you don’t have to be an engineer to understand the impact. Pinterest is beginning to filter content for you in an attempt to improve the user experience. Since the beginning, they have done that better than any other social network I’ve used. However, for power pinners, it’s a little disappointing that we don’t have the option to filter the feed ourselves. I’ve been hoping for some kind of circle-esque way to narrow down my feed for different uses. Instead we get something that feels a little like Facebook’s Edge Rank. Yes, it pains me to say it. Good news is, in order to get good exposure for pins, we’ll all need to start focusing even more on quality. Which leads us to this question:
What is Considered a Good Quality Pin?
Important to notice is that the engineering blog mentioned holding back some “Pins of poor quality to the user.” This does sound eerily like the Facebook EdgeRank algorithm which has driven engagement and traffic referrals off a cliff for most users. However, we do know in general what makes a good quality pin and THAT is something we should strive for every single time we pin. The Pinterest business blog gives some good basic tips for being found in search. We also like this one from MCNG Marketing. It does stand to reason that if you’re pinning well for search, you’ll likely do well in the feeds of your followers and those who follow interests that encompass your pins.
What Else Can Businesses Do To Make Pinterest Smart Feed Work For Them?
Well, it’s not on the Pinterest Engineering blog yet, but Ahology, which has a close relationship with the folks at Pinterest says, “We’ve also learned that pins are “weighted” by two measures: how influential the pin is (how many pins link to that same content), and how engaged the pinner is (how frequently she’s pinning and the quality of her pins’ content).” If you want to rule the feed with influential pins that originate from your own website or blog posts, create the best visuals you can and make it very easy for people to pin from your site. Don’t skimp on images, and make sure your descriptions are motivating and keyword rich. You know that your image alt text shows up as the pin description, right? In fact, it’s the only description a pinner gets when they pin from mobile. So, make it good. “Image of girl in green shorts” is not good. The part about being an engaged pinner means to me that while you should be pinning regularly, you probably shouldn’t be doing ALL your pinning from a scheduler. You should use the features of Pinterest as intended, which means liking pins, commenting on them, following new people and interest, etc. You know, like a real person. 🙂 In all ways possible, get on board with Pinterst’s provided features. Verify your website, complete your profile, implement rich pins. These are all signals that tell Pinterest you are on their team.
Secret Pinterest Weapon – BuzzSumo
If you aren’t using BuzzSumo for content curation – start now! You can easily see what content is getting the most social shares, by platform. You can search by URL or by keywords. So, if you want your curated pins to be found and shared (and you do), look at BuzzSumo for content that is already performing well. Obviously, content with a lot of Pinterest shares are easy picks, but if something does well on another network but doesn’t have the best image for sharing on Pinterest – create your own. Being on the leading edge of trending pins on Pinterest is going to seriously boost your exposure, especially with this new algorithm which rewards pins from oft-pinned content.