How To Use Pinterest’s Visual Ranking Factors To Your Advantage
Last Updated on May 17, 2023 by Bert-Jan Schilthuis-Ihrig
How your pins look determines how they’re distributed on Pinterest and how they rank in search results.
Most marketers are nodding their heads, like of course only the shiniest-looking pins rise to the top, but there’s something much more specific at play here.
The color, style and text on your pin *directly* influence which pins get placed in search results on Pinterest.
Pinterest’s algorithm weighs the LOOK of each pin as it decides what to rank in searches. Here’s how to use it to your advantage.
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Pinterest’s Search Algorithm
You may be aware that Pinterest is a visual search engine, but are you aware of how big a role this visual search function plays in your Pinterest marking?
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Pinterest’s visual search software…
- Reads the text on every image
- Identifies a dominant color
- Looks at the formatting
Sound mysterious? See the Pinterest visual search function in real-time by taking a look at these searches.
Dog tattoo ideas:
- Photos only
- No text
- White / muted colors
- Products displayed
- Either illustration or picture
- Heavy on text
- Bowls of food
- Minimal text
You can see very clear visual themes throughout these ranking pins, from font to color to format.
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Exercise: Search 5 keywords that you would want your content to rank four. Look for similarities between the raking pins.
Not EVERY search will have themes this clear, but look for some dots to connect.
Learn even more in this video:
In your observations, exclude:
- Idea pins and video pins. The indexing and ranking of idea pins is erratic and less predictable than static pins. It’s harder to identify themes between video pins (for both you and the algorithm) so stick to static pins to get the best data.
- Promoted pins. Pins that are paying for placement aren’t being judged by the algorithm.
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Once you pull back the veil on the visual ranking factors, the promoted pins stick out SO much, as you can see in this example:
You can see that the promoted pins do not match the visual search ranking factors that all of the other pins fit into.
With this peek behind the curtain on Pinterest visual search factors, let’s look at how you can understand and use this to your advantage by making pins that match the visual ranking factors for your Pinterest account.
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Why do pins on Pinterest all look the same?
There’s a reason that Pinterest search results are more pleasing to look at than a Google image search.
Google doesn’t rank images based on aesthetics such as fonts, colors or image type.
It’s clear as day when you compare these images:
While it can be frustrating to some creators who want to stick to strict brand standards and one aesthetic, understanding the visual ranking factors for each search gives you an advantage over other pins (if you implement what you see).
I tailor my pins to match the overarching style that Pinterest’s algorithm is preferring. Here’s an example of my pins related to Pinterest marketing.
Exercise: see if your pins fit into your desired search results.
Look at the colors, fonts, graphics versus pictures and overarching themes.
Here’s how my pins stack up against the search results:
Making pins this way initially takes a lot more time than just cranking out your standard branding, but soon you’ll develop your own template based.
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How To Make Pins For Pinterest’s Visual Ranking Factors
If changing the colors and look of your pins is a deal-breaker, then this is where we part ways sadly.
Just in this specific conversation. I’d love to keep sharing Pinterest marketing tips with you.
And honestly, I don’t blame you one bit.
It’s HARD to make pins that look like everyone else instead of looking like you.
Disclaimer: there are downsides to this approach to Pinterest SEO. A function of branding is building trust. When Pinterest users see your branding and recognize it, they’re immediately more likely to engage with it whenever they remember your brand and know that they trust you. You lose that recognition when you alter your branding, and that is a genuine disadvantage of the Pinterest visual search factor.
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But if you’re curious about the improved impressions and search rankings, then here’s what you need to do.
Step 1: Identify Your Targets
Pick one of your big umbrella keywords you want your brand to rank for.
Search it on Pinterest and look at the ranking pins for this query. For this example, let’s use the search “Pinterest audit.”
Take notes on what these ranking pins have in common.
- Are they using photos or graphics?
- Do they use a similar font?
- Are they all ace using a similar layout?
- Are there clear dominant colors showing between the pens?
Dominant colors are one of the biggest search factors for visual for Pinterest’s visual ranking. You can find the dominant color of each pin within the code of Pinterest by going into the HTML and looking for the hex code of the pin itself.
This method is too rich for my blood, so I use Pin Inspector to see all of the dominant colors of search at once:
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You can get 20% off of Pin Inspector with the code PIN20. This brings the lifetime cost of this tool down to $47.00.
Remember to exclude idea pins and promoted pins, ads, from your observations.
Step 2: Create A Cheat Sheet
Create a visual ranking cheat sheet for each big umbrella search.
This is the bullet list that is going to guide your pen creation as you try to make pens that fit into the pattern that Pinterest is promoting in his search results.
This should include generalizations such as type of graphic and the specific hex codes. Don’t pick just one hex code but rather choose a handful and use that to guide your pin creation.
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The hex codes may very well be different from your brand colors and that is a big hurdle to overcome for some creators.
Abandoning your branding and your brand color palette is difficult to do but can make an enormous difference for your pins’ abilities to rank in search results. Take the time to experiment with different palettes and learn to adapt your style to learn to make your branding more adaptable.
Then, A/B test. And if your branding outperforms the dominant colors, then you know what to do! Why not let the data decide?
Reminder: you should be embodying the essence of what is ranking, not copying.
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Step 3: Make Pins
Make pins that embody the style that Pinterest is preparing in search results.
This is very difficult at first. It’s normal for your pants to feel ugly awkward and ineffective whenever you’re slapping on your colors and trying to make what is often a very homogenous color palette work on your pins.
Here’s one of my first pins using dominant colors:
And now I’ve become a lot more adaptable:
Remember that you’re not married to the colors, fonts or style that Pinterest is preferring and search for results. You can add the odd color font or graphic or emoji onto your pins even if you don’t see them in search results.
It’s unclear how strict Pinterest search factors are and I’d be lying if I told you that there was a secret equation of personal flair versus homogeneity that will strike you with the best results.
This is truly an area of Pinterest where trial and error are going to yield the best results.
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Implementing This Pinterest Strategy
Try a mix of your own pin style and branding alternating with the style and colors that are ranking in Pinterest search results. Try targeting similar umbrella keywords with similar URLs and gauge the results. Are
Look for the following results. Which pins are…
- Getting the most impressions?
- Getting the most engagement?
- Most saves and outbound clicks?
- Ranking in searches?
The Pinterest algorithm is a mysterious beast, but I hope it’s a little less confusing after this breakdown! What questions do you have about the Pinterest algorithm? Let me know in the comments and I’ll try to help!