Early February 2017, one could read in searchengineland that Pinterest had hired Randy Keller, a “senior engineer” specialized in image search from Google. This recruitment is not insignificant. It confirms one of Pinterest’s ambitions: to become THE leading image search engine when it has often been considered to be a social network for sharing photos and inspiration.
This summer while conducting a benchmark analysis for the implementation of a client’s content strategy, I became aware of Pinterest’s breakthrough in Google search engine results.
Out of 11 of our client’s strategic search requests (coiffure soirée, tuto coiffure cheveux longs, boucles spirales, etc.), Pinterest was positioned in the Top 50 seven times with an average position of 15, and as a result had the 2nd best score of the 50 sites that were compared.
In pushing the analysis even further with the use of a SEM Rush-type position tool, here are the results of the analysis of the FR domain positions in Google.fr
One sees a curve with strong growth that breaks out more specifically
|Février 2016||Février 2017||Variation|
|Positions TOP 3||8 972||129 484||+ 1343%|
|Positions TOP 4-10||41 257||334 226||+ 710%|
|Positions TOP 11-20||110 296||664 038||+ 502%|
|Total de 1 jusqu’à 20||160 525||1 127 748||+ 602%|
|Total de 1 jusqu’à 50||160 536||2 707 389||+ 1586%|
We note very strong growth of the Pinterest share in the SERP (search engine results).
Here, for example, are the site’s Top 10 key words in France (1st position + greatest search volume on the basis of SEM Rush)
How did Pinterest advance so far in SEO?
Of course one of the first explanations that comes to mind is the increase in the use and creation of content by its members. But there are also 3 primary SEO optimizations that are, let’s say it, a little black hat!
Searching for the /explore/ directory
The first of these optimizations was the creation of an /explore/ directory allowing Pinterest to position itself on a large number of search requests.
The directory is built in the following manner: https://fr.pinterest.com/explore/ but when you go to it, the url redirects to https://fr.pinterest.com/categories/.
But analysis of the Top 10 urls (see above), gives, for example: https://fr.pinterest.com/explore/maquillage-halloween/
From an SEO perspective, this is nothing extraordinary, an automatic management rule for the meta tags:
Meta Title = 1000 ideas on the subject of Name of the explore directory on Pinterest | + titles of the first 3 categories highlighted in the “header”.
Meta description = Explore and save ideas concerning name of the explore directory on Pinterest, your catalogue of idea. | See more pins on + titles of the first 3 categories highlighted in the “landing header”.
If we analyze the page’s semantic structure, there is no H1 nor H2 but only H3 on the pin titles.
As for the images’ ALT attributes, they all take the pin description.
I was then interested in this directory’s linking when connected to my account and also when browsing the site. Impossible to find the following url: https://fr.pinterest.com/explore/maquillage-halloween/ or besides any url that began with https://fr.pinterest.com/explore/.
The same was true for access to the following URL (from a French account): https://fr.pinterest.com/categories/ and variations.
Magic? Not really.
That being said, I was still searching for this url https://fr.pinterest.com/explore/ and its variations that had to be linked somewhere; generally in these cases, from the footer or the site map, but impossible to find them.
With a little help from a colleague (@a2exandre) tadaaaa…. Here is what we discovered.
After 35 seconds, a second footer in grey appeared on the home page when not connected.
From a technical point of view, this footer is hidden then displayed by way of a simple CSS3 animation.
Is this for the explorer bots? Of course!
Cloaking via CSS? It really doesn’t matter.
Pinterest is intentionally hiding content from the majority of its users. There are 9 categories highlighted, certainly the most important in their eyes and for access to the site map.
An SEO-friendly Site Map
A web site’s site map is often a subject of SEO debate: useful? not useful? does it allow optimized crawling? etc., etc., etc.
What is certain when we analyze the Pinterest site map is that it is organized to enable robots exploration of the entire site’s content.
It is divided in 4 entries, that is, people, boards, categories and my infamous explore directory that I was looking for everywhere.
Inside these 3 entries (excluding categories), it is possible to search alphabetically.
Beyond these UX concerns, it is clear that this site map is present to allow robots to crawl the site and notably to best index the contents of this /explore/ directory.
An AMP Pioneer
At end 2015, Jon Parise, lead tech at Pinterest, mentioned the implementation of an AMP for Pinterest.
The arguments for were undeniable: 80% of Pinterest users use Pinterest on their mobiles, an AMP that loads 4 times as quickly and above all, it uses 8 times less data than a “classic” mobile web page.
Beyond technical arguments, to be present in AMP, is to occupy all the space above the float line (screen with an i-Phone 5).
A little over a year later, it’s hard not to notice that this implementation was beneficial. Today there are more than 5000 AMP results for Google.fr and further to the “AMP conference” of 07/03 in New York, Pinterest announced an improvement of 50% on mobile performance as a result of AMP.
By way of these examples, one can observe that Pinterest optimized its SEO through the creation of an explore directory to climb in the SERPs, the implementation of an efficient site map for its crawl and substantial work on AMP which is only just beginning.
Beyond these optimizations, the Pinterest teams have implemented other tricks that I could have mentioned but I’m keeping them for this address: