Pinterest is a social media platform with huge potential. In fact, it has become a second source of traffic and revenue for many bloggers behind organic search engine traffic.
With more than 300 million users, and a high percentage of Pinterest users looking for things to buy and hungry for content, you’re missing out on traffic and sales if you’re not actively pinning. If you are using Pinterest, check out our Pinterest Developers Platform to learn how you can reach Pinners in a new way.
Like all algorithm-driven platforms, however, the landscape is always changing. If you’re a Pinterest user, it’s vital to your success that you keep on top of the updates, algorithm changes, and do your best to predict the direction the platform is going in the future.
Whether you’re new to Pinterest or if you're a Pinterest marketing maven—you’ll see from the list of notable updates, changes, and trends below that it’s been a crazy couple of years.
What Are Pinterest Updates?
First, I’ll start by explaining a few things about Pinterest updates because they are very different from Google updates. I use Google updates as a comparison because, as webmasters, a Google core algorithm update can make or break our online business.
Pinterest algorithm updates aren’t as harsh, and not many webmasters rely on Pinterest as their primary source of traffic. Their updates tend to focus less on how their algorithm presents results and more on improving user-experience. They have taken significant steps over the last couple of years to reduce spam, however, which is always a welcome change from the majority of the community.
As you read through some of the updates from the last couple of years, you’ll notice a trend. Pinterest is getting smarter, better at returning more relevant results, and giving more control to users over what types of content they see. All steps in the right direction.
Major Pinterest Updates from 2018-2019
November 2019 Update - Facelift and Cosmetic Changes
On November 1st, Pinterest announced they were rolling out subtle updates to improve the look and feel of their platform for users.
We don’t know exactly when they released which changes, as users were noticing small differences towards the end of October. By November, however, Pinterest was happy to announce the changes.
The main noticeable changes in these updates were:
- You can now access trending and personalized searches from the main navigation bar on mobile by swiping
- A new profile and board view make it easier to find saved pins
- Ideas and topics of interest based on your activity now appear at the top of your home feed
- Some other minor cosmetic changes
As you can see from the main changes, these updates focused on helping users find content and make pinning a lot easier (especially on mobile devices).
October 2019 Update - Home Feed and Recommendations Changes
The home feed is pivotal to navigating the Pinterest platform and finding new content ideas quickly and efficiently.
On October 15th, Pinterest announced they’d started rolling out an update that makes it easier for pinners to control the recommendations populated in their feed, and access the pins and boards they want.
This is all now controlled in your Home Feed Tuner.
Here, you can easily toggle recommendations on or off for various categories and boards. You can also click on a pin you see in your feed and find out why Pinterest added it to your feed. These are some pretty powerful tools to help users control what they see in their feeds.
August 2019 Update - Spammy Sites and Pins are Targeted
This was one of the updates that Pinterest didn’t release any details about on their blog. But it had a pretty substantial global impact (source).
A lot of bloggers reported having their content and sites blocked, as well as having their Pinterest accounts suspended. This was due to a spam clean up, and while I’m sure most of those bloggers would not consider their content spam, if Pinterest does, then they have the right to block it.
The way Pinterest works—allowing anyone to pin as much content as they like to as many boards as they want—does attract spammers. They’ve periodically made efforts over the years to delete bad accounts and remove spammy pins.
Occasionally it’s noticed in the timeline as it was in August 2019. For the most part, however, it’s something that’s happening in the background, so it’s hard to identify a large amount of spam in one swoop.
May 2019 Update - New Analytics Dashboard Released
In May 2019, Pinterest released a newly revamped analytics dashboard to help users get a better understanding of how their pins are performing. They did an excellent job—it makes you realize just how faulty their old dashboard was.
Users can now take a much deeper dive into how many impressions and clicks their pins are getting. Further breaking it down by device, comparing promoted pins vs. organic, the format of the pin, and loads more.
And with Improvado's Pinterest API integration, marketers can automatically aggregate all their Pinterest data and send it to a visualization tool, like Tableau, Looker, Excel, or Google data studio. It's a quick and easy way to view pin performance, see which groups are engaging with your pins, and more.
November 2018 Update - Following Tab Updates Introduced
In November 2018, Pinterest announced they were updating how you can interact with pins in your follower tab. Most notably, on mobile, you can now click-through to the webpage for a pin by clicking it in your follower feed. This allows you to toggle back and forth with the source of each pin—a big plus for content creators, and a strategic update designed to encourage more pinning.
They also added a chronological following tab enabling you to toggle between seeing pins generated by Pinterest’s algorithmic recommendations, or in a flat chronological order.
This sounds like a small change, but it can completely change the recommended pins you see in your feed. Opting for pin ideas in date order means you’re able to follow seasonal trends, the latest insights, and not miss any updates from the accounts you’re following.
July 2018 Update - New Tools for Collaborating with Friends and Family
Following the February update in which Pinterest released some new tools for pinners, in July 2018, Pinterest announced they were releasing tools to help users collaborate easier with other pinners. The core of these tools was a group activity feed that applies to group boards. Board group members could now talk with one another and see a timeline of activity notifications.
While group boards became less relevant throughout 2018 in terms of sending traffic to websites, Pinterest continues to support group boards as they provide an excellent platform for friends and family to collaborate.
As long as bloggers don't use boards to try and boost traffic numbers, group boards are a fun and valuable resource. With these new communication tools, you can now use them as a place to connect and discuss pins.
February 2018 Update - New Tools for Pinners
On February 14th, Pinterest announced they were releasing some new tools to make it easier for pinners to plan, rearrange, and archive their pins and boards. These tools were mostly quality of life improvements, but made some pretty significant changes to how easy and fun the platform is to use.
Pinners can archive boards they no longer want to modify, enabling you to take them off your main profile so that you can focus on active boards. They also introduced a feature to help users arrange their pins into different topics.
2018 Core Algorithm Update - Group Boards Became Less Relevant
Pinterest started the group board feature to enable people to collaborate and build a huge board of relevant pins collectively. Sounds like a great idea in theory, doesn't it? And it was.
However, bloggers used this as an opportunity to leverage other blogger’s large audiences and followers by jumping into their boards and promoting their pins. They also started forming little groups of users who would all click and like each other’s pins.
This wasn’t what Pinterest intended to happen with group boards, so they made some changes to how their algorithm treats pins on the group boards. It became apparent as 2018 progressed that Pinterest was giving less and less relevance to group boards (source).
Pinterest’s algorithm changed to make pins on group boards less relevant. But it was a change that had a significant impact on pinners using group boards to send traffic to their websites.
For some bloggers, they lost hundreds, even thousands of visits a day that were coming from Pinterest. So, where did the traffic go?
Pinterest’s algorithm started giving more weight to pins outside of group boards that were getting good interaction. They would then show these pins in user’s smart feeds, and the more likes, views, and engagement these pins got, the more exposure they got.
This has been one of the most significant changes in the last two years. It was a move for the better, as all good algorithms should be designed around rewarding content that’s attracting organic engagement.
Pinterest Best Practices for 2020 - Future-Proof Yourself Against Updates
There will always be an element of uncertainty around when and what effect the next update will have on our Pinterest accounts. There are some things you can do to future-proof yourself. The main thing you need to do is optimize your account and pins the best you can, and adhere to Pinterest’s best practices.
Here are the main things you should be doing in 2020.
Use Quality Images
Keywords drive Pinterest search, but it’s a visual platform. Better images perform better—that’s just a fact. This means starting with a high-quality, relevant image for your pin, then using the right colors, fonts, and any other graphics you’re adding to improve the image.
Ideally, you’ll be taking your own photos. You can’t beat the trust personal pictures give to a piece of content. That’s not always possible, however, so picking up good quality stock images is a second best.
Add Keyword-Rich Text to Pins
Being a visual platform, pinners often overlook the importance of using the right keywords to give their pins maximum exposure within Pinterest’s search results.
You have to approach Pinterest SEO in a similar way to Google SEO. Users are typing in keywords to find relevant results within Pinterest, so the better you optimize your pins, the more chance they’ll appear in the results.
Plus, you may have noticed Pinterest results appearing in Google’s SERPs. Well-optimized pins will come up in the SERPs, so that’s another potential traffic source.
Pinterest introduced hashtags back in 2017 to make finding topics you’re interested in easier. As I look through dozens of pins, however, it seems like most people missed the memo on this one.
Hashtags are massively underutilized. Meaning this is not only a best practice to use when pinning, but it’s something that’ll give you a competitive edge over all those pinners skipping hashtags.
Use Boards Properly
Boards are the areas where you pin individual pins to. Boards need keyword-rich descriptions and should contain pins that are relevant to the name and topic of the board.
This has an effect on the SEO of the individual pins by helping Pinterest better understand what they’re about. It also helps people who find your boards discover more of the types of content they like.
In essence, Pinterest is just a search engine like Google, but it’s driven by visual content, and users have a lot more control over the results they see in their feeds. As such, it’s always going to be a work in progress undergoing various updates and changes to improve how their algorithm works and the user experience it delivers.
If you are enjoying success on the platform, updates should be something you look forward to, not fear. I hope some of the best practices I outlined above, and the now better understanding you have of how Pinterest, works helps you grow your brand on this network even further.
For more tips on supercharging your Pinterest marketing strategy, check out our guide.