Pinterest SEO Best Practices 2017

Pinterest SEO: How to Optimize Your Pins for the 2017 Algorithm Change

Want to learn Pinterest SEO best practices for 2017? Pinterest just made some big updates to their algorithm this 2017. In this step by step guide, we’ll share Pinterest SEO best practices for the 2017 algorithm change.

Is Pinterest on your list of things to do this year?

Well, the first thing you should know about Pinterest is that it isn’t a social media site.

It’s a search engine.

There are over 2 billion monthly searches on Pinterest.

But, why should you care? Surely only DIY, food, and mom bloggers are having any luck on Pinterest?

Actually, Pinterest is a huge driver of website traffic across all industries, responsible for about 5% of all referral traffic.

But traffic isn’t the only consideration for hopping on the Pinterest bandwagon. It’s also good for business.

pinterest-statistics
via Brandon Gaille

You see, Pinterest users are ready to buy. While surfing their Pinterest feeds, shopping carts ring up at $58.95 on average. That’s more money than people spend from Facebook or Twitter.

Pinterest also represents a huge opportunity to overcome your competition, as many online businesses are using Pinterest all wrong, or not at all.

Leveraging Pinterest SEO can give you a practically unlimited supply of free traffic to your site. Traffic that is ready to buy. Are you ready to learn how?

Good! Let’s start by introducing you to the 2017 Pinterest algorithm change…

Meet the Pinterest “Smart Feed” Algorithm

The “Smart Feed” is the name of Pinterest’s algorithm. It determines what a user sees in their Pinterest home feed.

pinterest-home-feed

Here’s how it works:

Pinterest wants to show you a mix of content you care about. Good content. The kind of content that will have you clicking and coming back for more.

Pins used to be seen in real-time, however, that’s not the case anymore. Pins are shown as “best first” rather than “newest first”. And Pinterest’s Smart Feed is responsible for prioritizing and ranking pins based on their quality, with quality being determined by their algorithm.

There are three different content pools of content that your home feed is drawn from:

pinterest-smart-feed

  • Repins from users you’re following
  • Related pins
  • Pins from your interests

Pinterest chooses pins from each of these three pools to display in your Smart Feed.

But how does Pinterest decide which pins to choose? Well, like any search engine algorithm, Pinterest’s Smart Feed algorithm is complex and they hold their cards close to their chest.

However, there are 4 main factors which are known to influence whether or not your pins show up on Pinterest:

  1. Domain Quality
  2. Pin Quality
  3. Pinner Quality
  4. Relevance

Once you understand how to optimize each of these 4 factors, you’ll be well on your way to driving consistent traffic with Pinterest!

Let’s begin with how to increase domain quality…

1. How to Increase Domain Quality

Domain quality is Pinterest’s idea of the quality of your website.

Pinterest can see how popular pins from your website are, and it learns whether your site is a source of high-quality content over time.

How do you improve your domain quality ranking and get Pinterest to trust you?

Step 1. Convert to a business account if you haven’t already done so.

Step 2. Verify your website to show Pinterest that you are a legitimate pinner.

Step 3. Enable rich pins on your account.

Rich pins add extra information to your pins directly from your blog. The best part is that if you update the information on your blog, it’ll automatically transfer across to Pinterest. The added information helps to improve your ranking.

Step 4. Create and pin high-quality content that gets many repins and likes.

Easier said than done, you say? Don’t worry, we’ll explain how to get more repins and likes in the next section…

2. How to Increase Pin Quality

Pin quality is determined by the popularity of your pins.

If a lot of people repin, like, and hit the “Tried It” button on your pin, Pinterest will view that as a high-quality pin.

Pinterest also looks at all versions of your pin when determining pin quality. So if you repin one of your pins to another board, Pinterest adds up how many repins, likes, and “Tried It’s” that pin received as well.

How do you improve your pin quality?

Step 1. Write compelling blog post titles.

The entire point of a blog post headline is to get people to read the next sentence. Similarly, a juicy or compelling headline goes a long way towards getting repins and likes on Pinterest.

Step 2. Create pin-worthy graphics.

You can have the best post in the world, with a great headline, but if your pin graphic is ugly it isn’t going to do well on Pinterest.

Here are some best practices for creating pin-worthy graphics:

pinterest-pin-example

  • Make sure your image is tall rather than wide.
  • Use a high-quality image.
  • Overlay your blog post title on the image.
  • Use multiple images in your pin. This works well for food, DIY, and craft bloggers who can show the steps in their process. It also works well for outfit posts, roundup-style posts and before/after transformation posts.
  • If you have a free download you’re giving away with your blog post, create a mock-up of it and add it to the pin. People like to see what they’re getting and it shows that your post is packed with even more value.
  • Use longer images. They take up more space in the feed and get more engagement.

Step 3. Monitor your Pinterest boards for repins.

If your pins aren’t being repinned from your personal boards or your group boards, consider leaving (or deleting) them.

Should you participate in share/like exchanges?

If you want to give a certain pin a boost, there are many groups on Facebook that run promo days where you can post a link to your pin and ask for repins. However, are share/like exchanges really beneficial?

On the plus side, participating in share exchanges gets you:

  • A boost in repins that helps your pin look better to Pinterest.
  • Increased reach from the shares you receive.

On the negative side, you might find:

  • Your pins may be negatively affected by being pinned to irrelevant boards.
  • Your pinner quality ranking could be negatively affected by reciprocating and pinning poor quality pins that don’t fit your niche.
  • It takes a great deal of time to reciprocate on exchanges.

Should you participate? As a general rule, we recommend that you avoid like/share exchanges because most of them cause unnatural pinning activity and can get you penalized by Pinterest.

However, feel free to participate in promotional activities with other people in your industry who you think would genuinely love your content. Look for industry-specific support groups where you can promote your pins… there are tons of them on Facebook!

3. How to Increase Pinner Quality

Pinner quality is Pinterest’s estimation of you as a content curator.

Does Pinterest trust you to curate the best and the most relevant content? Or not?

Pinner quality is largely based on how well your content is received. Do you receive a lot of repins and likes? Do you pin content that Pinterest already rates as high quality? Are you an active Pinterest user? How often do you pin?

So, how do you improve your pinner quality?

Step 1. Be active on Pinterest throughout the day.

You can invest in a Pinterest scheduler like Tailwind or BoardBooster to save time. This keeps your account active on Pinterest throughout the day, without you spending all your time pinning.

As a bonus, Tailwind is packed with analytics and other features that will help you identify your best performing boards and pins and tweak your strategy for more repins and likes.

Step 2. Pin already popular content to your boards.

There are several ways to find popular pins. Here are some you can try:

  • Browse the “Popular” category.
  • Check out Repinned.net for the most repinned Pinterest pins by category.
  • Simply do a search for your topic on Pinterest, and usually the first pins to come up are very popular with thousands of repins.

Step 3. Increase your repins and likes.

Follow the steps in “How to Increase Pin Quality” above.

4. How to Add Keywords to Pinterest (Relevance)

Up until this point, we have discussed how to increase your authority in Pinterest’s eyes. But even if Pinterest views you as a high-quality pinner, they won’t show your pins to their users unless they think your pins are relevant to their users.

Relevance is how closely your pins fit your audience’s overall interests, specific searches, and recent search history.

If you know much about SEO, you’ll know that the only way for a search engine to know what your content is about is with keywords. Just like on Google, keywords influence what appears in searches on Pinterest.

While domain quality, pin quality and pinner quality tell Pinterest how important your pins are, keywords tell Pinterest what your pins are about.

So how do you use keywords to show Pinterest that your content is relevant?

Step 1. Do Pinterest keyword research.

When it comes to optimizing your pins for SEO, you may be wondering whether there is a good Pinterest keywords tool you can use.

Actually, the best way to do keyword research for Pinterest is on Pinterest itself. Here’s how:

When you’re typing in a search query on Pinterest, you’ll notice that it auto-suggests keywords to you. Similar to the way Google does. These suggestions are popular search phrases.

pinterest-seo-1

After you’ve run a search, a set of suggested keywords will appear beneath the search bar for you to add to your search to narrow it down even further.

pinterest-seo-2

Like Google SEO, Pinterest SEO is all about long tail keywords (think multi-word phrases rather than single words). There’s a lot of competition for general keywords, so the key is to get as targeted as possible with long tails.

Sadly, you can’t see the exact number of searches for keywords on Pinterest. But, if you’re interested you can look at Pinterest categories and drill down into Topics to see how many people have indicated that they’re interested in the topic. This will give you an idea of how popular any given keyword is.

Now you’re a big step ahead of the competition just by researching keywords, but you still need to know what to do with them. Where and how should you add these keywords? We’ll cover that in the following steps…

Step 2. SEO your Pinterest profile.

There are three places you can add keywords to optimize your profile:

pinterest-seo-3

  • Your username
  • Your business name
  • Your bio

Your username determines the URL of your Pinterest profile. You can use this to add one of your broader keywords or, alternatively, use your business name.

To add a business name, you’ll need to upgrade to a business account. You’ll get access to analytics, promoted pins, and you’ll also be able to verify your website.

Pinterest gives you plenty of space in the business name field to add keywords. Add keywords right after your business name to show people what you do.

For example, Pinterest experts like Peg Fitzpatrick and Anna C. Bennett show up in the top results for “Pinterest Tips” because they’ve included the “Pinterest Tips” keyword in their business name.

pinterest-search

Next, add keywords to your bio. You’ve got a short 160-character space to fill with your bio. This is not the place to get wordy. You need to be concise, mission-focused, adding keywords and a call to action in there as well.

If you’re not sure where to start, try this Pinterest bio formula:

“I help __________ to __________ by __________. Learn more/Click here/Sign up for my free thing: [your URL].”

Here’s an example from Summer Tannhauser. Her bio reads:

“I teach small business owners to build a list, gain leads + secure clients through Pinterest. FREE 5 Day Pinterest Power Biz Course: bit.ly/freepintraining”

pinterest-bio

Step 3. SEO your Pinterest boards.

If you want your boards to be found in the search, optimize them with intelligent keywords. Both in the title of your boards and in their descriptions.

pinterest-seo-5

It’s easy to get carried away when naming your Pinterest boards. Unfortunately, cute board names like “Yummy!” or “My Style Miles” are probably never going to show up in a search. That’s not what you want if you’re using Pinterest for business.

You also need to add keywords to the description of your board. Don’t leave it blank! You’ve got 500 characters to spend on your best keywords. You can simply list your keywords out separated by commas, or you can work it into a short paragraph.

pinterest-seo-4

As of March 2017, there doesn’t appear to be any penalty for “keyword stuffing” your board descriptions. However, this may change in the future, so strive to make your board descriptions as user-friendly as possible.

Also make sure to categorize your boards correctly. If you’re pinning marketing content to a board that’s categorized as “Animals”, you’re sending conflicting messages.

Step 4. SEO your pin descriptions.
pinterest-seo-6

Don’t forget to optimize your pins themselves by adding keywords to them. It’s not enough to just write an enticing description anymore. In fact, space is so limited that you don’t even have room for a full sentence.

As of 2017, Pinterest has updated their platform to cut off descriptions at about 50 characters. You don’t have much room above the cut-off for both an enticing description and keywords.

So which do you choose? Keywords or an enticing description?

It seems to make little difference to where pins appear in the search. Try both and monitor your results!

Step 5. SEO your pin images.

Not many people take this final step and take the time to keyword their image names. Rather than allowing your image to go out named “IMG10486.png”, change it to something meaningful with your keywords in it, like “chocolate-butterscotch-cake.png”.

Step 6. SEO your blog posts.

Another thing you can do with your keywords is to use them in your blog post title and in the body of your post. Using keywords here will transfer through to Pinterest if you’ve enabled rich pins.

Step 7. SEO your buyable pins.

If you are using “buy it” buttons on your pins, don’t forget to SEO those pins as well by using keywords in your pin title and description.

Frequently Asked Questions about Pinterest SEO

Now you know how to get your pins to show up on Pinterest. However, there are still a few questions that are commonly asked about Pinterest, especially when it comes to SEO.

Let’s go ahead and answer those questions right now…

1. Should you delete underperforming pins?

There is some anecdotal evidence that deleting pins with low recount numbers can increase your Pinterest quality ranking. Which means better overall rankings in the feed, more repins, and more followers.

On the flip side, there’s also stories of pins going viral months or even years after they were first pinned and had few repins until then. If you’d deleted that pin you might’ve missed out on thousands of visitors.

Ultimately it depends on where you’re willing to invest your time. Do you want to spend time deleting pins or creating new content?

2. Should you change the description when you repin other people’s content?

There are a lot of bloggers and website owners out there who don’t know much about Pinterest. As a result, there are a lot of great articles being let down by descriptions lacking in keywords.

It takes time to change the descriptions on pins. And it seems like it would benefit the blogger who owns the pin more.

However, it benefits your pin quality to get more repins, even if they aren’t your own original pins. If you try this, monitor your results and weigh it against the time investment.

3. Should you use hashtags?

Hashtags are not native to Pinterest and they don’t work the same way as they do on social media sites like Twitter. There’s little benefit to using hashtags, and using too many can even negatively impact your rankings.

So, proceed with caution when it comes to hashtags and use one at most.

4. How do you make sure your optimized descriptions are used when people pin your blog posts?

If you run your blog on WordPress, you can use a WordPress plugin like Social Warfare to add the description and image that you want people to use when they pin your blog post from your website.

Alternatively, if you aren’t using a plugin, add your description to the “alt text” of your image. The alt text is where Pinterest automatically pulls your description from.

What’s next for Pinterest SEO in 2017?

Like most online platforms, Pinterest is constantly tweaking and improving their service.

In 2016, some of the most noticeable changes were the board cover size changes (Pinterest went through 3 different sizes!), the introduction of a “showcase” on your profile, and automatically sending messages each time someone pinned in a group board with less than 25 members.

With all these changes, it’s impossible to predict with certainty the direction Pinterest SEO is going to take in 2017. If they loosely follow the evolution of the Google algorithm, it’s possible that we’ll see a crackdown on duplicate content, keyword stuffing, and penalties for pinning irrelevant content.

All of these tactics are a way of “gaming” the algorithm, which certainly puts them in a precarious position.

What can you do about it?

The answer is simple. Do what every search engine wants you to do: focus on creating high-quality content for your readers.

Wrapping It Up

In this guide, we showed you how to use Pinterest SEO to boost your blog traffic this 2017. We also introduced you to the new Smart Feed algorithm, and how to optimize your pins so they show up.

Now it’s your turn. Go ahead and flesh out your Pinterest bio, boards, and pins with relevant keywords so that your content gets found. Try out the different tactics we shared above, and make sure to monitor your results. If something’s working, you’ll want to know what it is so that you can do more of it!

How’s your Pinterest strategy going? Are you optimizing for Pinterest search? Let us know in the comments!

Cath Oneissy is the blogger behind This Mama Learns where she shares her love of Pinterest with the world. When not hanging out on Pinterest, you can find her whipping up tasty treats to appease her picky toddler.

16 comments

  1. Babs says:

    Good article Cath.

    I’m a Pinterest marketing pro myself. Reached a milestone of 7 million reach few days ago. Joy for me 🙂

    All these are good tips… Although I’ve not been much of a curator, focused on sending my pins to those group boards. Usually like stuff I want to see later and just move on.. I’ll work on curating by saving more pins.

    Good post, Thanks for sharing.
    Babs.

    • Cath says:

      Hey Babs! Congratulations on the milestone! That’s a great reach.

      Pinning your own content to group boards is definitely an excellent way to get your content seen by many. You must have some great group boards!

      Cheers,
      Cath

      • Babs says:

        Wow,

        Just seeing the replies. Thanks guys. And yes Cath… Ive got an awful lot of high quality group boards. Been collecting them for a while and its totally worth it.

        Reach at the moment is 17 million monthly BTW 🙂

  2. Cath says:

    This was such a great article! I shared it on Pinterest and on Twitter highly recommending your knowledge.

    As someone that is in the SEO industry, it is hard to find information about Pinterest SEO. But it can be just as important as Google SEO.

    Thank you so much for sharing! I have already made some important changes to my Pinterest page with your recommendations.

    Thanks again,
    Cath

    • Cath says:

      Thank you, Cath! I’m so glad you found it helpful.
      I was surprised myself at how rare up-to-date information is on Pinterest SEO. Particularly when it is so important for Pinterest.

      I hope you see a big upswing in your results from the changes you made.

  3. Excellent work here Catherine! I think many people still fail to see Pinterest as more of a search engine than a social network and therefore don’t even consider SEO as something that applies.

    • Cath says:

      Hey Dustin, thank you for your kind words 🙂 I know Pinterest still baffles a lot of people. There’s so much talk about the Facebook and Instagram algorithms, I’m surprised that few people talk about Pinterest’s!

  4. Simone says:

    This is a really great article, and I learned a lot from reading it! Thank you! Recently, I noticed a drop in my Pinterest traffic. Online I found many blogger who have been having the same problem. Have you noticed it as well? Could they have changed the algorithm again? Would love to hear if you might have some ideas or tips about this.

  5. Cath Oneissy says:

    Hi Simone,
    I’m glad you enjoyed my article 🙂 It’s possible that Pinterest has made some tweaks to their algorithm, it’s also likely that some of the other changes they’ve been making are starting to roll out across more users and we’re seeing some effects.
    For example, many pinners now have an image-only feed (no pin descriptions or headlines). This probably isn’t as much of an issue in your niche but, for others, if you aren’t including text on your graphic, your image has to be incredibly eye-catching to stand out and get someone curious enough to click on it and see what it actually is. It’s added an extra step and people are more likely to gravitate towards the easier options.
    My advice is to go back to your analytics and see what’s still working for you – what pins are doing well and really dig into the ‘why’. Is it the image itself? Is it the keywords? What pins does Pinterest think are related?
    Hope that helps!

  6. Alyson says:

    The best Pinterest guide I’ve seen in a long time. Pinterest has changed so much over the last few years, it seems to get harder and harder to get the big traffic. As my following has grown, the number of clicks to my website has been falling since the big boom a few years ago. Anyway…nice job, great post.

    • Cath Oneissy says:

      Thank you Alyson 🙂 That is high praise! I hear you on the Pinterest changes – even in the last few months things have changed a lot.

      I hope this post helps you increase your traffic again.

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