Pinterest SEO in 2020: How to Optimize Your Pins for the Changes

traffic Jul 01, 2020

Want a winning Pinterest strategy? Bloggers should know that Pinterest made some changes this year. In this in-depth guide, we’ll share Pinterest SEO best practices for 2020.

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 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.

You see, Pinterest users are ready to buy. Of the 300 million people who use Pinterest every month, 84% say they use Pinterest when they’re trying to decide what 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 state of Pinterest in 2020…

Affiliate Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, which means we may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link.

How to Get Found on Pinterest in 2020

There are several different ways to get found on Pinterest:

  1. The Following Tab
  2. The Hashtag Feed
  3. The Smart Feed or ‘Home Feed’
  4. Related Pins
  5. In Search

How do you get your content into these feeds? Don’t worry– we’ll cover each one, starting with the following tab… 

>> Free Checklist: Grow Your Pinterest to 140K+ Views in a Few Weeks <<

Meet the Following Tab

If you’ve ever wished you could just see content from people you follow… well, Pinterest was listening and now you can. In March 2018, Pinterest started rolling out the following tab, which only shows content from people you’re following.

You don’t need to take any action to get into this feed – your followers will see content from you (and everyone else they follow) if they click into this tab.

Using Hashtags on Pinterest

Hashtags are relatively new to Pinterest, and the way you get your content into a relevant hashtag feed is easy – just use relevant hashtags.

But, before you go and add hashtags to all your old pins, don’t bother!

The hashtag feed is ordered by freshness, so adding hashtags to old pins won’t have any effect. Simply add hashtags to new pins from here on out. They’re here to stay.

The Pinterest Smart Feed (a.k.a. Home Feed)

The “Smart Feed” is the algorithm that Pinterest uses to determine what a user sees in their 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, saving, 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.

In 2014, Pinterest shared there are three different pools of content your home feed is drawn from:

  • Saved pins from users and boards you’re following
  • Related pins
  • Pins from your interests

Pinterest chooses pins from each of these three pools to display in your Smart Feed. Getting your pins into the Smart Feed is a great way to see spikes of viral traffic, however, for long lasting, steady traffic you need to get your pins ranking in the Pinterest search engine.

How Related Pins Work

Over 40% of user engagement on Pinterest is based on related pins, Pinterest’s recommendation system. Whenever a user clicks on a pin on Pinterest, if they scroll down, Pinterest shares other pins that are similar.

Related pins are selected and displayed based on:

  • Board co-occurrence – pins that are saved to the same boards.
  • Session co-occurrence – pins that are saved during the same session by users.
  • Search query relevance
  • Visual similarity of images

Can you influence these factors to get your pins relating to the top pins in your niche?

Yes, you can!

There are a few things you can do to help your pins get into the related pins pool:

  1. Make sure your boards are carefully curated with highly relevant, top quality pins (including third party pins). You want your own pins to be in good company!
  2. Save popular and relevant third-party pins at the same time as you save new pins to Pinterest for the first time.
  3. Use our Pinterest SEO guidelines to help your pins rank in search.
  4. Use relevant images on your pins so Pinterest can tell your pin is related to others with a similar image.

These actions will help you give your pins the best possible chance of getting into related pin feeds. Now, how do you get your pins found in search?

How the Pinterest Search Algorithm Works

How does Pinterest choose which pins to show in search? Well, like any search engine algorithm, Pinterest’s algorithms are complex and they hold their cards close to their chest. They also update them frequently, much to the chagrin of bloggers!

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. Topic 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!

We are going to go really in depth on each of these 4 factors, so we’ve separated them into sections below. Feel free to jump to whichever section you want to work on first…

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. Claim your website to show Pinterest that you are a content creator.

Pinterest has stated that they give ‘a boost’ to content creators pinning their own fresh content. This boost helps your pins get some initial visibility which helps your pin get the clicks and saves it needs to be shown more widely.

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. Be a consistent pinner.

Make sure you’re pinning consistently every day. Pinterest would prefer you to pin 10 pins a day, every day, than 70 on one day and none for the rest of the week. This is easy to manage using a scheduling tool like Tailwind, an approved Pinterest partner.

Step 5. Create and pin high-quality content that gets engagement.

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

2. How to Increase Pin Quality

Pin quality is determined by the popularity, freshness, and engagement level of your pins.

If a lot of people closeup, click through, save, add a photo or comment on your pin, Pinterest will view that as a high-quality pin.

Pinterest looks at all versions of your pin when determining pin quality. So if your pin is saved to another board, Pinterest adds up how many saves and comments that pin receives as well. In fact, Pinterest combines comments and photos from every version of your pin. Now, if you save something that’s already been saved to Pinterest, you’ll find comments and photos will show up on your pin from other pin versions almost immediately.

While you might think this means new pins and new pinners have no chance to make it on Pinterest, this isn’t so – another important factor Pinterest considers is the ‘freshness’ of a pin. Pinterest is increasingly focused on providing fresh content to their users. We’ll dig into what exactly makes a pin “fresh” in step 4.

So, 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 saves and comments 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:

  • Make sure your image is tall rather than wide. Pinterest Creative Best Practices guide recommends a 2:3 aspect ratio for best performance. Pins outside this ratio may be truncated or perform poorly. 
  • Use a high-quality, relevant image.
  • Overlay your blog post title on the image – use a large text size so it can be easily read on small screens on the fly. In fact, you should try scrolling through the Pinterest app on your mobile device to make sure your pins are eye-catching and your text is readable.
  • 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.

If you’re not a graphic designer, don’t worry! Attractive pins are easy to achieve using templates – there are many free templates right inside Canva. Many Pinterest experts also offer pin templates for free as a lead magnet. You can also find pin templates for sale from individual bloggers or on sites like CreativeMarket.

Step 3. Monitor your Pinterest Boards for Saves and Clicks

If your pins aren’t being saved from your personal boards or your group boards, consider leaving (or archiving) them. However, also check for clicks to your site in Pinterest Analytics – you don’t want to leave a board that’s getting you clicks!

Pinterest Analytics will show you your best performing boards – you can use the drop down menu to view by impressions, engagements, close-ups, saves, and link clicks.

Now you know which of your boards are performing the best, make sure you’re pinning your own new content first to the top performing boards, and pinning popular third party content to your less popular boards to improve them.

Step 4. Make Fresh Pins Regularly

In February 2020, Pinterest shared during a live with Tailwind that they were focusing on fresh content.

What is a fresh pin?

A fresh pin is an image that has never been seen before on Pinterest. That doesn’t mean only the photo you’ve used – it’s the pin as a whole entity.

You can make a fresh pin by:

  • Changing your headline, font, or text color
  • Using a new photo
  • Zooming or cropping your photo background differently
  • Adding a border or other elements to your design

Making multiple pins for your posts is something we’ve always recommended as part of your Pinterest marketing strategy – and now it’s even more important.

Should you participate in share/like exchanges to improve the engagement on your pins?

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 saves. However, are share/like exchanges really beneficial?

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

  • A boost in saves 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 saved to irrelevant boards.
  • Your pinner quality ranking could be negatively affected by reciprocating and saving 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 saving activity and can get you penalized or even get your account suspended 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 share your pins… there are tons of them on Facebook!

An alternative to share exchanges is using Tailwind Tribes. Join niche specific Tribes and promote your own pins and you’ll also have access to high-quality, relevant content to pin to your own boards so you don’t have to spend as much time curating content.

Should you participate in follow exchanges?

Definitely not! The 2018 update placed a huge weight on follower engagement, and you aren’t going to get the right kind of followers from a follow exchange. Instead, allow your followers to accumulate organically. They’ll be much more engaged with your content which will improve the overall quality of your Pinterest account.

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 your activity levels and how well your content is received.

  • Do you receive a lot of saves and comments?
  • 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 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 saves and comments. Tailwind has also recently introduced SmartGuide, which monitors your pinning activity (through Tailwind) and gives guidance and updates on Pinterest best practices.

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 saved 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 saves (even if you can no longer see the exact number).

Hint: you should definitely pin high ranking pins for search terms you want your pins and boards to be associated with!

Step 3. Increase your saves

Follow the steps in “How to Increase Pin Quality” above. You can also create infographic pins for your top posts – infographics tend to be very popular on Pinterest and generate lots of saves. Be warned, having a popular infographic rarely translates into clicks!

Step 4. Increase your follower engagement

Use Pinterest analytics to find out what your top performing pins are. This is likely to be content that resonates most with your followers.

Here’s an example:

You can see that my audience is interested in Instagram and Pinterest marketing (especially this very post!).

You can also use Audience Insights to view the broad categories of your audience’s interests.

For example, you can see that my parenting blog’s audience is most interested in baby, baby care and baby feeding. I can use this information to guide my content calendar so I can create more posts my followers want to read and will engage with on Pinterest.

4. How to Add Keywords to Pinterest (Relevance)

Up until this point, we’ve 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 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 keywordsJust 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?

Understanding Pinterest Keywords

In August 2019, Pinterest gave insight into how they extract and assign keywords to pin images.

Pinterest assigns keywords (called annotations) to your pins that are between 1 and 6 words long and analyses your pin’s relevance to these keywords with a confidence score.

The confidence score is based on the quality of the information extracted (text based keywords are more highly rated) and how many times that keyword appears where they look for keywords.

Here is an example from the Pinterest Engineering blog:

You can see that Pinterest is picking up a lot of information about this pin in order to categorize it and place it in the Pinterest database.

So, Where Does Pinterest Extract Keywords From?

The answer may surprise you! Pinterest extracts keywords from:

  • Pin title, description, and the URL of your blog post
  • Board name and description where the pin was saved
  • Page title and description of the link
  • The names of objects identified in the image
  • Your text overlay

Pinterest is also watching what search terms lead to clicks on your pin. If users search a keyword and click on your pin regularly, Pinterest will begin to associate your pin with that keyword.

How can you put this into practice and improve your Pinterest relevance?

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.

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.

Like Google SEO, Pinterest SEO is all about long tail keywords. There’s a lot of competition for general keywords, so the key is to get as targeted as possible with long tails (up to six words).

Once you’ve found some great keywords in Pinterest search, you can use Pinterest Trends to give you an idea of the popularity of search terms over time. Pinterest Trends is a new feature similar to Google Trends and can help you decide the best keywords for you to target.

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.

Your profile is the place to use your broadest keywords that cover the main categories of what you offer your readers.

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

  • 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 claim your website.

Pinterest gives you limited space (up to 30 characters) in the business name field. Add your most important keywords right after your business name to show people what you do. If you run out of space, try using the mobile app as it allows for a few extra characters.

If you have a long business name that leaves no room for keywords, don’t worry – using keywords here is only one factor Pinterest can use to rank your profile in search. Your content and boards will also influence where you appear in search results.

For example, Pinterest experts like Peg Fitzpatrick show up in the top results for “Pinterest Tips” because they’ve included the “Pinterest Tips” keyword in their business name. However, social media expert Louise Myers also appears in the search results because she frequently pins content relating to Pinterest Tips and has many boards on this topic.

The next step is to 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, and add your most important keywords.

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

“I help __________ to __________ by __________.”

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

“I help online entrepreneurs create more passive income through blogging, social media, email marketing, and marketing automation strategies.”

We used to recommend adding a call to action in your profile to get people to visit your site and download a lead magnet, however, these links are rarely clicked. The limited character count is better used for your most important keywords.

Step 3. SEO your Pinterest boards.

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

Pinterest recommends always saving your own content to your most relevant board first because the keywords of your board become associated with the pin and will help Pinterest categorize it and distribute it when relevant.

This is why it’s incredibly important not to use cute board names like “Yummy!” or “My Style Miles” – these boards (and the pins on them) are probably never going to show up in a search. That’s not what you want if you’re using Pinterest for business.

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 saving marketing content to a board that’s categorized as “Animals”, you’re sending conflicting messages.

Finally, you should never save irrelevant content to your boards. Pinterest has said saving content to an irrelevant board won’t help and can hurt your distribution.

Step 4. SEO your pins

Don’t forget to optimize your pins themselves by adding keywords to your pin titles and descriptions. It’s not enough to just write an enticing description anymore, sadly, most pinners won’t even see it unless they click on your pin.

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

You need to do both!

Keywords get your pins found in search and enticing titles and descriptions will get you the click. The only thing you shouldn’t do is keyword stuff (or hashtag stuff). Pinterest considers this off-putting and may demote these pins in search.

Step 5. SEO your text overlays and make relevant image choices.

In 2017, Pinterest introduced Lens, a visual search function that allows you to take a photo of a product and Pinterest returns pins it thinks are a match.

What does this mean for you?

If you sell a physical product, make sure it’s front and center in your image!

If you don’t sell a product, this is still relevant to you because it’s clear that:

  1. Pinterest can read your text overlay (though they still have some trouble with script fonts.)
  2. Pinterest can identify objects in the photo you’ve used.

Pinterest is using these two things to assign keywords to your pin so make sure you’re using important keywords on your text overlays and making relevant image choices.

Step 6. SEO your blog posts.

Another thing you should do with your keywords is to use them in your blog post title, URL and meta descriptions. Using keywords here will transfer through to Pinterest if you’ve enabled rich pins.

It’s also very important to optimize your meta description (or first few sentences of your blog post) to entice Pinterest users back to your blog.

You can see from this example that the info Pinterest brings across with rich pins is far more prominent than your pin description. So, you want to optimize it to be both compelling for a reader, and keyworded for Pinterest.

Step 7. SEO your hashtags.

Hashtags aren’t as big on Pinterest as they are on Instagram, but that’s no reason not to use them! Make sure you’re choosing hashtags that are relevant and specific to your content.

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?

No, Pinterest has confirmed in a recent interview that you should not delete pins. A dud pin isn’t going to bring down the results of your account and may even see a resurgence later.

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.

However, there’s no benefit to changing the description when you repin. The original description is still linked to the image and changing up the description on an old pin image doesn’t count as new content.

3. Should you use hashtags?

Yes! Hashtags were a surprising new addition to Pinterest in 2017 given their previous anti-hashtag stance. Pinterest now recommends using no more than 20 hashtags per pin.

We recommend a quality over quantity approach and suggest using up to 5-10 highly relevant hashtags at the end of your pin descriptions.

Hashtags are clickable and searchable, but unlike the rest of Pinterest, pins are shown in order of ‘freshest first’ rather than ‘best first’. This means you should only add hashtags to fresh pins, so don’t worry about updating your older pins with hashtags.

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, you can easily add this snippet of HTML to your image:

data-pin-description=”Your Pinterest description here”

This is what it should look like:

5. Should you use board sections, and do they impact your SEO?

Board sections were rolled out on Pinterest beginning in September 2017, and looks like they’re here to stay! Basically, board sections are like shelves within boards.

Pinterest has stated sections are for organizational purposes only and don’t influence your content rankings in search. However, if you choose to use board sections, best practice is to use relevant keywords.

Here’s a suggestion on how you can use board sections:

  • use them to showcase your best pins in different categories
  • if you sell multiple types of products, use them to showcase each type
  • if you have recipe boards, use board sections to sort by meal type or by cuisine

You aren’t penalised for not using sections, but if you have a broad topic board it’s a great way to organize your pins. For a very niched board, you don’t need to use it.

Tip: Consider using sections for a ‘Dinner Recipes’ board, but not a ‘Chicken Recipes’ board 

What’s next for Pinterest SEO in 2020?

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

In 2017, some of the most noticeable changes were the introduction of hashtags, board sections, visual search, and the removal of likes and repin counts. In 2018 we saw a massive update to best practices, the introduction of the new following feed and the (quickly shelved) first five pins priority distribution, a new profile look, and new look pin stats that are in near-real-time.

In 2019, Pinterest continued to prioritize new content, meaning new blog posts and new pin images for old posts. Some interesting new features were added like video pins, Communities (which were converted to group boards) and Pinterest Trends.

With all these changes, it’s impossible to predict with certainty the direction Pinterest SEO is going to take for 2020. Our previous prediction of a crackdown on duplicate content has been realized in the focus on new content and the diminished reach Pinterest gives to older pins.

It’s possible that we’ll see a crackdown on keyword stuffing, disabling of repinning entirely, and penalties for pinning irrelevant content (there’s certainly no benefit to doing this anymore, if there ever was) in the future.

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 regularly 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 2020. We also introduced you to the Smart Feed algorithm, some of the new features and changes on Pinterest, and how to optimize your pins so they show up in search and in the feed.

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!

>> Free Checklist: Grow Your Pinterest to 140K+ Views in a Few Weeks <<


Cath Oneissy is the blogger behind catherineoneissy.com where she shares blogging tips and advice for moms with a healthy dash of Pinterest marketing strategy. When not hanging out on social media, you can find her reading the latest business books and juggling family life.

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