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How Businesses Can Use Guided Search On Pinterest

How Businesses can Use Guided Search on Pinterest by Vincent Ng of

It seems like there isn’t a month that doesn’t go by where Pinterest doesn’t add a new feature, or tests out one. So after taking a vacation in Paris and Barcelona, and returning a week and half later, I wasn’t surprised to hear that there was a major update with Pinterest.

As a side note, I would like to happily announce that the main reason I was in Paris was to propose to the love of my life. I am now engaged to an amazing woman who I plan to spend the rest of my life with…but back to business.

After returning from my trip, I had a chat with Cynthia Sanchez from Oh So Pinteresting , and she informed me that Pinterest introduced a new search feature known as Guided Search, which is currently available on mobile to English users to start, but will be rolled out to desktop users and will most likely rolled out in other languages as well.

Guided Search On Pinterest - What this Means for Your Business

What is Guided Search on Pinterest?

Guided Search is a search function on Pinterest that offers additional recommendations that may or may not be related to a search term. These additional recommendations are based on popular and associated terms with the search term you typed in the Pinterest search box.

For example, on my Android smartphone I decided to type in the city, Vancouver. Other terms that were popular and associated with Vancouver on Pinterest, showed up. Search terms such as Canucks, Island, BC, Stanley Park, Cafe, Restaurant and so many more showed up.

How to make the Most of Guided Search on Pinterest by Vincent Ng of #Pintalysis

Another search term that was recommended that were associated with Vancouver was wedding. All you need to do is tap on the search term tile, and then Pinerest begins to load new pin results based on those combined search terms.

What I enjoy about using Guided Search is that it gives me more options for different types of searches, and offers a spontaneity factor when it comes to search. Adding that extra “unknown” factor can actually make search, dare I say, fun.

What will be interest to see is how the terms will change over time. As more Pinterest users jump aboard, the search terms provided by Guided Search will change as well. And of course, depending on the country and language Pinterest is being used in, Guided Search will bring back different results.

In the past I’ve called Pinterest the, “Accidental Discovery Engine” because users are discovering new ideas and pins by accident all the time. With Guided Search, accidental discoveries are going to be even more prevalent.

Pinterest is the Accidental Discovery Engine

I never thought of Pinterest as a search engine per se, but more as a lifestyle and discovery tool. I’ve written about 5 reasons why Pinterest is better than Google and why.

One of the main benefits that Pinterest has over Google is Pinterest’s ability to act as an accidental discovery search engine. When you go to Google, you’re going their with a specific intent, most likely to gain knowledge or collect knowledge to make an informed decision.

But with Pinterest, people discover pins and are presented a visual feast with a site that now has 30 billion pins, and growing by the billions each and every month.

You can type in the word pancakes in Pinterest search box and you get hundreds of pins about pancakes. You may have been so enamoured with the results that you may have forget what you were secretly, and unknowingly looking for.

But Guided Search suggests to us “what we don’t know” so that we do become aware of what we may want.

When I searched up pancakes, Guided Search suggested the words buttermilk, and fluffy. I love buttermilk pancakes, and love fluffy and light pancakes. But I didn’t know that that’s what I was looking for until Pinterest suggested the search term to me.

I landed on that suggestion and pins about fluffy pancakes by accident, simply by typing the word pancakes in Guided Search. And to me this was a GREAT accident. And the terms that are not relevant to me, such as healthy pancakes, well…I don’t click on them.

This means that more and more business pins are going to be discovered serendipitously. And since Guided search allows for more specific terms, this means that it’s going to be a more specific audience that’s interested in those pins. Guided Search is working hard on helping your business find the right customers, you just have to ensure you’re taking steps to do the same.

How to Make the Most of Guided Search for Your Business

The good news is that I believe the core Pinterest search algorithm hasn’t changed. This means using the right keywords in your pin descriptions, as well as the url of where an pin originates from matters.

It’s important to put in multiple keywords or search terms that you want your pins to be found for. If you’re trying to promote your pancake recipe site, you may want to add words like fluffy, healthy, and recipe along with the word pancake in a pin description to maximize exposure.

The key is to use the terms that have popped up with the main search term in Guided Search.

Here’s a great article written by Alisa Meredith about how to use keyword rich descriptions in pin descriptions to help maximize your search results with Guided Search.

Go Backwards, Not Just Forwards With Guided Search Terms

Let’s say you type in the search term, wedding, on Guided Search, notice what other words come up. When I typed in wedding in search results for my Android smartphone, it recommended search terms like dresses, ideas, hairstyles and more.

If you’re looking to get more exposure for your pins, I would suggest you reverse your keyword search.

For example, dresses, is one of the word tiles that shows up for the term wedding. I suggest that you wipe out the term wedding, and do a new search for the word, dresses. When I did this I noticed the search tile, “to wear to a wedding,” came up.

How to make the most of Guided Search on Pinterest by Vincent Ng of

For me this is actually quite fascinating, especially if I ran a wedding dress business. Since my core business would be wedding dresses, I would start a board that would help cross promote a local business that sells dresses to wear at weddings.

And in return, I would ask the business owners who does sell dresses for weddings to promote my wedding dresses on their Pinterest account. This way both businesses cross promote each other, without the need to compete in the same target audience.

The word casual is also another word that’s associated with dresses. So I may create pin descriptions that would have the words, casual dresses to wear at a wedding.

But it’s important to realize that keywords play only a part, not the whole picture (pun intended), and so it’s important not to just stuff keywords in pin descriptions. It will only go so far.

You’ll often find pins in search results that don’t have the keywords in them. This is because multiple search factors can play a role, such as the number of repins.

Local Businesses Need to Take Advantage of Guided Search

What’s been quite fascinating is that in the past, Pinterest often rolled out new features on the desktop version of Pinterest first, but this new feature was rolled out to mobile.

To me this is quite a shift in the way that Pinterest is thinking. Considering that 75% of daily usage on Pinterest comes from native apps, it may making the search function available on mobile first because it’s trying to make Pinterest incredibly appealing on a local level, similar to the way that Yelp is.

While Place Pins have been a big shift in helping promote local neighbourhoods and businesses, but it’s still far off. If I type in the search term cookies, and searched based on Place Boards, it doesn’t give me results of cookie places that are in my city. This is because it returns board results, and at this time there’s no way to get search results of just place pins.

When I typed in Vancouver in Gudided Search, words such as Aquarium, Cafe, What to Do, Stanley Park, and so much more came up. And what’s really interesting is that the results are visual results of pins, so this allows me to see pictures of the Vancouver Aquarium or Stanley Park.

Now are tourists, and locals going to start using Pinterest for local search the way they would use Yelp, or another other directory. I don’t know, I think at this time it’s a long shot. But what’s scary is that Pinterest’s mobile search may move into that field.

When Pinterest first started, nobody in their right mind would have thought that Pinterest would pose even the smallest threat to Google and other search engines. And yet, you can’t deny that it’s nibbling away at Google.

Pinterest’s mobile could do the same against Yelp. People search for Vancouver restaurants on Pinterest, and see the beautiful pictures. Click on the pin that leads to a blog post about the restaurant, find out it’s a good review and then eat there.

A more likely scenario would be that they may like the pictures they see on Pinterest and then go to Yelp to do more research about it. In this case Pinterest acts as supplementary information provider.

But with Guided Search, it may, because I haven’t tested this out, add supplemental search terms that are related to local businesses. If I type in Vancouver Restaurants, it may provide me with search terms like Chinese, Brazillian, Steak, and so much more.

This is why it’s important that if you have a local businesses to start putting in the name of your city in those descriptions. If you’re a restaurant in Chicago, you’ve got to put the word Chicago in there. After all, you never know if it’s going to be tourist, a local, or even somebody from a far away city that’s going to be bookmarking that pin on Pinterest.

If it seems like a stretch that this might happen, just remember how four years ago, it seemed like a stretch that Pinterest would be perceived as a potential competitor of Google.

What are you thoughts about Guided Search? What do you like or dislike about the new feature?

4 Pinterest Tips to Make Your Pins More Searchable on Pinterest

Pinterest Marketing Tip: Can't find your pins on Pinterest? Here's 4 tips to help your pins be more searchable within Pinterest.

Note: This post was updated to include more findings on how to use the Pinterest Search Engine to your business advantage. There will be some more tips added on to the original four that were posted.

Pinterest is amazing, I can honestly spend hours at a time looking at different infographics, advertising boards, and pins. Now with more than 70 million users of the social media, it’s a great social media marketing tool. But with 70 million users pinning dozens of pins to amass more than 30 billion pins, trying to get your pins to show up on Pinterest search results are much harder.

Old school tactics such as constantly pinning again and again for a category used to help drive traffic.  And the Pinterest feed used to be in chronological order but this is no longer the case with the Pinterest smart feed, which “recommends” pins based on what Pinterest believes a user is interested in.

Learning to search optimize your pins for keywords on Pinterest’s search engine will be very vital. And I will try to answer the age old question “Why don’t my pins show up on Pinterest search?”

As marketers, we need to think about how Pinterest works as a search engine, not just a social network.

While this blog post doesn’t have all the answers, it will shed some light as to how to increase your chances of getting them found at the top of search results for specific search terms.

This specific post only discuss about optimizing your pins. I will write another article about search optimizing your board names, and your user profile in the future.

Optimizing your pins will be more important, since this is the default search setting for Pinterest and since it’s blatantly in the middle of the desktop version of Pinterest.

Here are four ways to make your pins more searchable on Pinterest.

How to Get Your Pins to Show Up in Pinterest Search Results

1) Keywords Should be in the Description of Pins

Please don’t be mistaken, I’m not talking about search optimization for Google or Bing, this is just for Pinterest’s search engine when looking for pins with the keyword.

The first thing you need to do to optimize your pins for search is to ensure that you put keywords into your pin’s description. For example, let’s say you want to create pins that are more locally targeted, then you may put in keyword, “Fashion trends in L.A. or fashion trends in New York.”


It’s important for localized businesses that they put their city in pin’s descriptions. The huge majority of pins that were searched based on a keyword, I believe, are found using this particular method.

What really bugged me was that some of the pins that were searched by keywords never even had one single keyword in the actual description itself, yet it was showing up. This is when I clicked on them and was able to determine that the second factor played a role in which pins showed up in search feeds.

Pinterest Tip for Search Optimization 2 2)The Pin Should Come From a URL with the Keyword In It

What I also noticed when searching for pins was there was a good chunk of pins that didn’t have any of the keywords that I was searching for but still popped up in the searches. For example, when I typed in Pinterest infographic, I would sometimes get social media marketing in the description. Though the number of pins that did show up without the keywords in the description were much lower than those that did.

I know for a fact that Pinterest can’t read text on pictures (but they are able to identify colours and shapes), so I decided to click on where the pictures were hosted. And what I noticed was that the many of the pictures that didn’t have the keywords in the descriptions had keywords in the urls that they were from.

When I clicked on it the pin that had social media marketing as the description, it led to a site that had the key words “Pinterest Infographic” in the url such as.

My speculation is that Pinterest scrapes the url, or the webpage and takes that into consideration into its search algorithm.

Pinterest Tips for Search Optimization 3 3) Keywords Should be in the Name of the Picture/Photo File

What also helped, but I couldn’t find as a strong correlation, was the name of the file contained keywords as well. Based on closer inspection I believe why it helps is because some people will pin the actual url where the file is hosted.

For example if the name of your infographic or pin is whateveryouwant.jpg and it’s hosted on the site then Pinterest probably won’t pay too much attention to it. However, if you if the file name is pinterest-infographic.jpg and your pin is directly taken from then this will help in the search results of the actual Pinterest search feed.

This is really just an extension of the second point that was made.

4)The Number of Recent Re Pinterst Tips for Search Optimization 4 pins and Repins Matter

I typed in a bunch of random keywords and noticed that many of the pins that showed up for heavy used keywords such as, red velvet cupcake and cotton candy were quite interesting. It was hard to find pins that showed up on search that had not been repinned at least once.

For strongly competitive words, the number of recent repins that a pin gets can help shoot it straight to the top, but once the number of repins has cooled down, it’s mostly likely going to move much lower in the search results or completely disappear.

One of the clients I worked with operated a hair styling blog.I was able to help them rank for a specific keyword that received 92,000 monthly searches. The pin hovers at spot number 1 and 2, and has received over 3300 repins within 2 and half months, and it’s still going, and it seems to be staying at the top, however I believe it’s not just the number of repins, it’s also who is repinning that content.

As an experiment I bought repins for some of my pins to see if they would help in the search results, while they do impact search, it wasn’t as strong as I expected. I believe that the reason is because Pinterest can detect whether these repins are coming from genuine active users, after all they are processing trillions of data sets.


More Tips On Getting Your Pins Found

Use Exact Word Matching:

I’ve also noticed that the exact keyword match plays a role in how your pins show up. If you want to be found for the words, Christmas tree skirts, it’s best to make sure that those words are together, instead of using the description, skirts for Christmas trees.

This doesn’t eliminate your pin from the original search term, Christmas tree skirts, it just makes it less likely that it’s going to be one of the pins showing up for that particular search term if you don’t use exact phrasing.

What I was also able to find based on a small sample of searches was that keywords that contained plural words showed the same search results for the singular version on search. For example, if you go and type in the word Pinterest Strategy, you will see the same results as Pinterest Strategies. This is quite different from Google search engines, that take in such small nuances.

I would suggest that you mix up your description keywords to have words that are plural as well as singular to maximize your potential of being found in Pinterest’s search engine.

If you use a # in between the words, I believe it doesn’t interfere with how it’s read by the internal search engine.

Short Descriptions Are More Likely to Show Up:

This is going to be a tough call, pins with descriptions of about 300 characters long tend to be repinned more often according a to an infographic by Dan Zarella.

However, based on my research, there seems to be a correlation between pins that had less than 100 characters that tended to dominate popular search words. A good example is the search word recipe, one of the most used words in pin descriptions, and yet when the word is searched on Pinterest, the descriptions remain relatively short for almost all the pins. Considering how many popular pins that have the word recipe in in it, you would think that more pins with longer descriptions would show, but that’s not the case.

Google has an algorithm that calculates keyword density, which is the number of times a word is found in a post divided by the number of words written in total. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is a ranking measure for Pinterest, where they take keyword density as a measurement. However, keyword stuffing doesn’t work, so repeating the word recipe three times in your description isn’t going to help you rank better for those specific words, it will only help you rank better if a person purposely types in the word recipe three times in the search box.

I’m speculating this is to make it easier for mobile users when they are searching for pins, since long descriptions can be an eyestrain on a smart phone.

What about Alt Tags and Titles of the Pins?

Based on my research and clicking on dozens of pins, it didn’t seem that the alt, or the title played a dominant role in showing up in the search results, but this would need more research and bigger sample size. I would imagine this isn’t of much interest because Pinterest isn’t interested in being a search engine like Google or Bing.

I still highly encourage you to properly label these pictures with a correct and detailed tag for your images. The reason for this is because when someone does use Pinterest’s official pin bookmarklet then the description automatically becomes what the alt tag is, however if you use a pin it button like the one I have on my site that’s from Addthis, they take the title tag from that particular page or blog post.

And it’s good for SEO on the Google and Bing search engines. This is why it’s important to ensure that you have an integrated optimization strategy.

Colours and Shapes Play a Role

In the last half year of 2013 I started finding more and more results that had less and less to do with texts. Instead I will see the EXACT same keyword search but from a different user. What’s interesting to note is that the description will not have any of the keywords, nor will it have a url with a keyword in it.

I’m speculating that Pinterest is using the data of certain keywords to be associated with certain shapes, colours and even specific photos. Like my friend Jack, from Call2Pin stated, Pinterest has been very good at detecting pins of porn. (Jack works in the lingerie wholesale business and has done extensive testing with Pinterest about visual recognition.)

To further support this statement,Pinterest acquired VisualGraph, further supporting that they may be moving towards being a visual search engine.

Keep in mind that this is all speculation based on observation. It would be interesting to see what other marketers and search engine optimizers think. I highly encourage you to do your own tests and see if you notice any patterns.

So if you’ve been asking the question, “Why are my pins not showing up in Pinterest search results?”

Now remember, the Pinterest search engine is always changing, but learning how it works can be the difference from a pin receiving 10 repins and a dozen visitors to 1000 repins and receiving hundreds of visits to the website, for more tips on how you can improve your Pinterest marketing, make sure you sign up for my newsletter.