Pinterest Search: Why It Sucks and How You Can Improve It

EDITED TO ADD: This post is REALLY outdated and Pinterest has come a long way, baby! If you wanna learn tricks to making your pins come up in search, register for the ecourse Pinning Perfect. Lessons are emailed to you so you don’t have to be online at a certain time. Plus, you’ll get instructor feedback in a private Facebook group and two live chats.

Pinterest, you know I love you but your search box sucks.

Pinterest is a visual beauty.

Good for us people since we love visual things. Bad for search engines since they can’t see images.

Like Google or other search engines, Pinterest relies on words to actually know what a pin is about. Unlike those search engines, the image name doesn’t matter. What matters is the pin description because Pinterest considers that one big fat alt tag.

If you don’t know what an alt tag is, it’s basically alternative text that tells search engines what a photo is about (since they can’t actually “see” the photo). In Pinterest, you have 500 characters to describe a pin. That, my friends, is what Pinterest searches.

So, the search box suckage is partially our fault because we’re crummy at describing things. But even when we do a good job adding a pin description it still doesn’t work. That we have no control over (at least to my knowledge).

Here’s an example of something funny that I came across on Pinterest.

You KNOW that’s been pinned a ton. I mean, it’s about yoda for crying out loud.

Now, if I actually try to search for it using the phrase “yoda pie,” here’s what I came up with.

pinterest search for yoda pie chart

FIVE ENTIRE RESULTS. In ALL of Pinterest. And I even tried to capture more results by just saying “yoda pie” instead of “yoda pie chart.” So while you may be searching for “chicken recipe” you’ll only get search results that actually say “chicken recipe” which I doubt all that many people are typing into the pin description box.

How You Can Improve the Pinterest Search Feature?

It’s a bummer that Pinterest can’t work better than that, but each time we pin something, we can improve the searching just a wee bit. How?

Add a Little Description

If you are pinning using the Pin It bookmarklet, it won’t add a description so you’ll need to do it. No need to do any keyword research or make your description devoid of any personality, just try to at least add a word or two that will help describe the pin.

Pin descriptions like this are helpful (the first two probably pulled into the description automatically):

But pins like this aren’t so much help:

Does it matter if you don’t add a description each time you pin or re-pin? It’s a gray area. For that pin on the left with the animals, I doubt many people are searching for a lion riding a horse. For that center one, adding a simple thing like “I love this motivational quote” would help if someone searches “motivational quotes.” And on the right? How about “love this! cool furniture idea!” or “love! chest of suitcases.” It’s hard to know what people would search for though so don’t overthink it.

Take control of your own blog

Even if you can’t be bothered to do anything with other pins, at least take control of ones from your own blog. When someone pins something from your blog, do the work for the pinner so you can be sure it includes the keywords you want. You can use a Pinterest Pin It button that pulls in your blog post title (it’ll get you writing better post titles too). I use the Digg Digg plugin but you can use a plugin just for Pinterest or even just create the Pin It code for a particular post.

Maybe Pinterest will eventually change some things on their end to improve the search feature but until then, we’re stuck with it.

So, what experiences have you had with the Pinterest search feature?

Psst- want to know things you shouldn’t re-pin, tips for using secret boards and more Pinterest good stuff? Check out my Pinterest category page for all my Pinterest posts. BOOM.

Comments

  1. says

    Great post! I do all of what you said when I want something to be found with a search- but honestly? I think Pinterest’s search function just kind of sucks period.

    Look at this pin I posted last week (I actually did a bunch for me and my client) during Toy Fair.
    http://pinterest.com/pin/237001999110223571/

    I tagged it Toy Fair. I even created a board called “Toy Fair” for my client-

    http://pinterest.com/thebigtoybook/toy-fair-2012/

    and NONE of it shows when you do a Pinterest search for the term. Frustrating.

  2. says

    I Pin mostly desserts so I always type out exactly what it is, which is not a hard thing to do, as I Pin directly from the sites themselves, that already HAS the description. What I find hard is when I Repin and the description is lacking, I have no idea what it is exactly, so rather than run the risk of getting it wrong, I just go with the original wording.

    I do think I can reword some of my Pins for quotes.

    Great post, Melissa!
    Alison@Mama Wants This recently posted..11 Questions and Answers

  3. George Peters says

    This is a great post. I also was very not very happy with the pinterest search. I will be following your tips from now on, and hope that the pinterest search engine will get better day by day.

    Thanks for sharing.

    -George
    George Peters recently posted..how to seduce a woman

  4. says

    I’m so glad someone said exactly what I’ve been thinking! The thing people do with just putting a period in the description REALLY irks me. Sometimes I think I repin stuff just so I can change the description :)
    Trish recently posted..Hello, Linky Followers

  5. says

    Thanks for that! Great advice. Will try to apply it from now on.

    I wanted to ask you, when I press the Pin it button on your blog it gives me a whole bunch of options for pictures to pin. As it should. Where did you find the code for this button? The button that pinterest gives requres you to choose a photo and the web page it links to in advance and its just so inconvenient.
    Vanja @Emma’s Lunch recently posted..Handprint Carnival Masks Craft

    • melissa says

      It’s a WordPress plugin called Digg Digg! It lets you add Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, etc. buttons at the bottom or top of your posts with no coding on your part. Not sure of any Blogger alternative for it though!

  6. Clair says

    Oh yes! I have problems with the search on pinterest all the time, but at least now I know Im not the only one. Thanks for the tips Melissa will try them out next time.
    Clair recently posted..3D Models Art

  7. Heather says

    Thank you! This is the first thing I’ve been able to find about people having the same problem with the search feature. I’ve found a billion articles on how great it is for brands and individuals, yet no one seems to acknowledge the fact that the search function is awful, which is surprising considering that seems pretty important for a brand to even be successful there.

  8. Isabelle Ewers says

    Pinterest is the most happening thing currently in the social network market and is also attracting lot of new people. To be honest I learned something new in this post even if its my first time to know.
    Isabelle Ewers recently posted..constructionhelpz

  9. JoClare says

    Hi Melissa,

    Enjoyed your post about the problems with searching on Pinterest and agree with the frustration! I wanted to point out though, that if a Pinner highlights descriptive text on the page they are pinning from before they hit the “Pin It” button, the Pin Marklet will pull that info into the description field for them; no typing required.
    I didn’t read all the comments, so if someone already mentioned it, forget I did :)

    Best, JoClare

  10. says

    What if you add all those wonderful descriptions to your pins and they still don’t show up when people search? I added a couple of my handmade cards to one of my boards and used good descriptions, like Fuzzy Bunny Easter card. When I search for Easter Cards, it does not show up….have no idea where I an going wrong??? UGH!

    • says

      Great article!

      I have the same issue. I can describe an item to a tee (a specific kitchen, light etc) and my PIN’s won’t show up in the search. It’s as if they don’t exist and yet I know they’re there.

      My biggest annoyance with Pinterest’s search is the repeated photos. There has to be a way of filtering down repeated entries. Sometimes you get pages and pages of the same photo.

  11. says

    None of my pins show up in the search. I’ve had this issue since I joined. I use descriptive text. I will be closing this account soon and leaving pinterest.

  12. says

    I foud this post by searching for an answer on why some pins go onto the first page of the search results and others don’t show up at all, even though you have used the same method of using keywords.

    I see now that there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to the seach results.

    Do you think your pins are more likely to be added to the first page of results if you are really active on Pinterest?
    Carrie recently posted..Artichokes With Garlic Mayonnaise

  13. says

    Thank you for the Pinterest search tips. I sure hope Pinterest can resolve their poor pin search issues. I have had the same problems as everyone else. I joined Pinterest in hopes to generate interest and sales of my book Adoption Detective: Memoir of an Adopted Child. My name and the name of my book does not show up in the search bar. My pins don’t show up under book, books worth reading, adoption, adoption detective… I will keep trying! I am glad I found your bolgs. Judith Land

  14. Kerry says

    I see absolutely zero of my pins in the search. If you look up baby food, there are only about 4 or 5 pins all together, so I know mine’s not at the very bottom. I have the description perfect as well. I think there is more to this mystery than just a good tag.

  15. says

    Thanks for clearing up this mystery for me, I have been very frustrated by Pinterests search feature. I set up my Pinterest account to promote my blog where I provied free digital images for Art and Craft enthusiasts. My main board is called ‘Free digital images’, you can see it here- http://pinterest.com/KarenLavenders/free-digital-images/
    I use ‘Free digital images’ on all of my pins in this board (like this one http://pinterest.com/pin/150800287493474264/) but only one of my pins shows up in the search and I have tried many times out of curiosity to see if it changes and it is always the same pin which is one of my earlier pins.

    This is so frustrating, hopefully pinterest fixes it soon!
    karen recently posted..Angel with gold wings

  16. GXO says

    I’ve done these things – they don’t help.

    I’m rethinking Pinterest – do I even want it anymore? Leaning more NO every day.

  17. says

    Thank you for writing this, I felt kind of crazy or that I needed to go to bed. I pinned a post of mine with the title “14 Methods to Make Zucchini Noodles” with 3 hash tags and when I searched Pinterest for ‘zucchini noodles’ it was nowhere to be found. Grrr.
    Michelle recently posted..14 Methods To Make Zucchini Noodles

  18. says

    Yes I was wondering how the Pinterest Search box works.
    I wondered if it used keywords or tags.
    But now after reading your article I realize that it works by searching the description of the pin.
    Thanks

  19. mollie says

    I find myself searching with the exact phrases I know pins are described as and still get no results! What’s going on here??

  20. Alan Robbins says

    It seems that they rarely re-index the search results, as you can find old things, but nothing new for weeks and weeks – if at all. One would think search would be important to the developers – how hard can it be to do a search on a string of text? I mean c’mon, really…. This is programming 101!

  21. katie says

    pinterest seach still sucks! for instance I have a “my pets” board and in it I have all my doggies and each picture has the dogs name and breed. I search for the dogs name and breed or just breed and my pictures never come up… even if i search the exact term used in the description…

  22. says

    I sometimes think I do okay with this…but I really need to do better. I mostly focus on writing something I think would entice someone to actually click the picture to read the article, but I need to think about search-ability as well. Great article!!
    The Dose of Reality recently posted..Damn You, Amazon.com

  23. says

    pinterest help center really sucks. For some reason I cna no longer pin and no one can help. The search bar does nothing for me. I have sent them numerous emails. Never in my life have I come across a non functional help center.

  24. Lavena Hiatt says

    Hi…I pinned three pictures a week ago and none of them are showing up in any search. I have appropriate keywords in my description. http://pinterest.com/pin/182044009909869228/, http://pinterest.com/pin/182044009909869320/, for example, and they are nowhere to be found. My description cannot be more simple and straight forward. How long after you post pins, does it take to show up in a search? Pinterest just says “Some users report that they can’t find their pins, boards or friends using search.

    It’s common for users to not be able to find content on Pinterest through the search box. We’re making improvements to make our search more comprehensive and reduce the delay in indexing content.

    Thank you for your patience as we make Pinterest better!” I see brand new pins that can locate using their keywords in the search, but mine aren’t showing up. Do I need to change settings? How long should it take? No one can do a search to find my pins!

    Thanks!

  25. Eliza says

    Whenever I search for a specific person on the search, they don’t come up. I really want to follow this person, but I can’t because I can’t find their Pinterest account ANYWHERE.

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