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If you were a Pinterest user before 2014, you would have known that at one time, pins appear based on chronological order.  Top of the page was the most recent and down from there.  Then Pinterest introduced the Smart Feed and suddenly, the whole process was a mystery.  Pins appeared seemingly at random and panic set in.

Since then, people who know a lot about the topic have managed to figure out a lot about the Smart Feed and how it works.  Here’s a summary to help you gain some insight into how it all works.

What is the Smart Feed?

The Smart Feed appeared back in 2014 in early autumn and was, according to Pinterest, aimed at showing people more of what they ‘cared about’ based on algorithms.  This meant the chronology of pins went out of the window and you no longer saw the newest pins first.  Instead, you saw what Pinterest believed you wanted to see based on those algorithm results.

Now sites are pretty secretive about their algorithms, so we never know completely how they work.  However, we know that there are three things they use to determine when a pin goes out:

  • Mixing the different pins
  • The quality of the pin
  • Adding them into following, related and interest pools (more on that in a minute)

How the Smart Feed has changed pinning

The introduction of the Smart Feed forever changed people’s approach to Pinterest.  There were people who vowed never to use it again but the majority simple began to study it and try to figure out a way to make it work.

First thing they realised is that the time of the pin isn’t as important as before.  With the chronological order, you wanted to pin the most important pins when your audience was most likely to be on the site.  But with the Smart Feed, this didn’t matter as much so you could spread out your pinning efforts and still have the same chance of being seen.

The other was learning about the smart feed system.  This is the system that drives the Smart Feed – it is the process of judging a pin and then sending it out.  It works like this:

  1. The smart feed worker assesses the pin

The worker starts by looking at the pin and assigning it a score based on its importance to you, the Pinterest user.  It then stores that score for later use.

  1. The smart feed content generator chooses the pins

Next, the smart feed content generator chooses pins using the score created by the worker and starts to build your feed from three sources – pins from people you follow, pins related to your pins and interest pins.

  1. The smart feed service now generates your feed

The smart feed service takes a look at your Smart Feed from the last time you visited the site and combines ‘old’ or materialised pins and ‘new’ pins from the different pools to create a new Smart Feed for you to view.

Pinterest's smart feed

My diagram (trying) to show how the Smart Feed is created

How the Smart Feed rates pins

Complicated right?  And there’s no way to really work with the system to ensure that your pins are seen!  Yes and no.  You can’t guarantee that your pins are seen but there are ways to increase their chances – by understanding how that initial score is created.  There are several factors used by the smart feed worker to rate a pin:

  • Domain quality – bit like domain authority in Google, this is how well Pinterest audiences have responded to your pins in the past and helps to ‘rate’ your website and therefore your pins
  • Pin quality – this looks at the quality of the pin and how it will stay relevant, although some think there is an element of freshness in this rating
  • Pinner quality – this is someone who pins good quality pins often with positive reactions such as likes, clicks and repins
  • Topic relevance – this is probably the most straightforward: how relevant is the pin to the query of the user? How people pin it will help with this as well as things like keywords in the description and is where all that Pinterest SEO work pays off

How to optimise for the Smart Feed

It’s true that we don’t completely know the ins and outs of the Smart Feed and that’s why it is always a little of a guessing game when creating pins.  We’ve all had ugly pins do well and beautiful pins never more.  However, there are some ways to optimise your pins to help boost their chances.

  • Make beautiful pins

Stick with tall, vertical images on Pinterest, almost the opposite of other sites.  The ratio should be 2:3 or 1:3:5 and I use the recommended 735×1102 pixels size for standard ones, longer for some food pins.  Make sure images are high resolution and use text that is easy to read on mobile without overwhelming the image.

  • Use keyword rich descriptions

We’ve chatted before about those keyword rich descriptions and they do matter so brush up on your keywords and make sure you are using the relevant ones in pin descriptions (and on board descriptions too)

  • Repin great pins

While making your pins high quality, make sure you repin other pins that are equally high quality.  There are lots of ways to find these including searches, group boards and Tailwind Tribes which is quickly becoming a favourite of mine.

  • Make sure there is always a link on a pin

If there’s no link, then you can’t send people to your post and also Pinterest can’t recognise the quality of your website based on previous pins and rate it accordingly

  • Tidy up your profile

Make sure your profile is full of quality, relevant boards.  Just how niche you go is up to you and there’s lots of different ideas.  But try to think about what your reader would want to read about in addition to your own pins and make boards accordingly.

  • Make it easy to pin from your blog

Sometimes we need leading by the hand – make sure it is easy to pin from your website with prominent social sharing buttons.  Even little captions like ‘Pin for later’ beneath a pin image in a post can prompt people to do just that!

Conclusion

I’ve said before that Pinterest is a long game and it can be a confusing one.  I know lots of people get baffled and even put off by it but by trying to understand what Pinterest wants from your account and your pins, you can increase your chances.  And remember, it takes time to build that domain authority so stick with it!