Archive for January, 2015

Title: How Ranking Works In Pinterest’s Guided Search

Search Engine News, Search Engine Optimization

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Pinterest launched Guided Search last April as a new way to help users discover content with some nudging in the right direction. It’s basically Pinterest’s way of suggesting search refinements as you browse. For example, if you search for “pasta,” you might be presented with options like: recipes, dishes, salad, packaging, one pot, shrimp, sauce, chicken, etc. If you click sauce, for example, you’ll get results that are pasta sauce-based, but also a new set of guides, such as: homemade, recipes, with fresh tomatoes, olive oil, healthy, easy, creamy, etc. And so on, and so on.

“Guided Search helps Pinners refine and discover more relevant results for the answers that differ from person to person,” a spokesperson for Pinterest tells WebProNews. “As we build a discovery engine, searching is a key way for Pinners to find and save ideas Pinned by others. Searches derived from clicking on guides is one of the major sources of our search traffic, with guide clicking up 3x over the last 6 months.”

Guided Search Ranking Factors

Pinterest is now sharing some information about how guides for Guided Search are generated and ranked. Again, this is guides, not pins. They use the following signals: interests to guides, quality of results of composed queries, location, gender, current trend, and spam detection.

Interests to guides looks at how users click each guide of a query. The more interest the user shows in a guide, the higher that guide is ranked. Quality of results of composed queries refers to how confident Pinterest is with the search results after the user clicks a guide. Confidence is calculated based on how users click the result pins and how often they add them to their boards. It also takes into account the quality of third-party web pages that the result pins link to. The more users like the results of a particular guide, the higher the guide ranks.

Location is pretty self-explanatory, but it’s effective. Pinterest started using it as a ranking signal last month, and says it has seen a 5% to 10% increase in guide clicks in some countries as a result. Guide location scores factor in how much interest users from various countries show in each guide.

Here’s a look at the same query in both the U.S. and U.K.

“In general, male Pinners have different interests in guides than females, and so we rank guides differently based on what’s trending for each group. Gender scores are orthogonal to location scores in ranking. For example, male users in Mexico see guides ranked specifically for their demographic,” says Pinterest software engineer Kevin Ma. “We built a time sensitive scoring function to detect the current trend of users’ interests in guides. This function applies a recency boost to guides that have a momentum in ranking. If a large number of Pinners are interested in a guide in a short amount of time, this guide becomes a popular guide. Popular guides can be boosted to a higher rank for days. Once they lose their momentum, meaning less people are engaged to this guide, the function quickly ranks the guide to a later position.”

The spam detection signal just means Pinterest removes any spammy Pins it finds from guide ranking.

How People Are Using Guided Search

On average, Pinners click 3.6 guides daily when using Guided Search, Pinterest says. Interestingly, men are more likely than women to click guides, and often do so on topics related to Art, Cars, Fitness, Health, Men’s Fashion, Outdoors and Shopping. This is good news for Pinterest, which recently shared some other stats about how it’s growing its male user base, which grew 73% year-over-year in the U.S.

Pinterest also recently announced additional search improvements aimed at better targeting of search results based on gender.

“We’ve already seen these improvements result in a double digit lift in engagement, similar to recent updates to the new user experience which show trending interests for each gender to choose from as they get started,” Pinterest told us.

Women Pinners apparently use guides most when they’re searching in categories like Food and Drink, Home Decor and Technology.

Pinterest says users outside of the U.S. use guides more often than U.S. users, with the highest click rate occurring in Mexico. Pinners in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Philippines and the U.K. are also more likely to click a search guide than those in the U.S., according to the company.

The company says fitness-related searches also get some of the highest click-throughs of guides.

“Guided Search launched on mobile first and was designed with a small screen in mind and optimized for tapping instead of typing, so it’s no surprise guides are clicked more often on mobile than web,” the spokesperson says. “Pinners on iPhone are 50% more likely to click a guide than those on web.”

Pinterest finds that users are more likely to click guides during weekend rather than weekdays.

Guided Search Helps Pinterest Understand Intent

PInterest revealed earlier this month that since adding Guided Search, the average number of searches per person grew by 25%. At the time, the company explained that it’s getting better at understanding search queries. For example, with guides in action, it learns more about intent, and can better deliver on something like turkey recipes vs. Turkey the country.

“The more people search, the better we can suggest results,” wrote Pinterest software engineer Dong Wang. “From the previous example, we can guess that the next person who issues the query ‘turkey’ may also be interested in the ‘turkey recipes.’ The information extracted from previous query log has shown to be effective in understanding the user’s search intent. Search context such as adjacent queries in the same search session and clicked Pins after submitting a search query can help us improve the discovery experience for future searches. To capture the information about a search query and make it available for other applications to process, derive signals and build features on top of it, we designed a data collection called QueryJoin.”

QueryJoin contains the search query (which is its identifier), demographic stats (gender, country, language), adjacent queries, and pins. Each pin comes with aggregated data from “PinJoin,” which is a data collection of a cluster of pins with the same image signature and info). It also looks at engagement stats like number of clicks, repins, and likes. More on QueryJoin here and PinJoin here.

“Guides change based on engagement, so the more people search and pin, the better the experience gets,” says Ma. Check out his blog post on the Pinterest engineering blog for a deeper dive into how guides are created on the back end.

What Does Guided Search Mean for You?

Pinterest obviously offers websites some traffic opportunities. According to Shareaholic, it’s the second biggest driver of social media traffic referrals behind Facebook.

In a recent article, we looked at some ways you can optimize your own content and pins for better performance in PInterest search. This includes tips directly from Pinterest, as well as some insight from an ebook written by Pinterest marketer Vincent Ng. In short, you need to optimize your pins as well as your website for Pinterest sharing.

We also interviewed Ng about how businesses can get more out of their PInterest marketing efforts. Among other things, he talked about Guided Search.

“Guided Search allows for businesses and marketers to see what other topics or products people may be interested in,” he said. “For example, you may be in the business of selling wedding dresses, but you’re not too sure what dresses are popular. When you use Guided Search, it tells us that people are looking for princess wedding dresses, vintage wedding dresses, and lace wedding dresses and so much more. Now you can create boards and pins around those specific topics and keywords. You don’t have to guess what people want. Guided Search will tell you what people want.”

Pinterest says it will continue to work on making Guided Search more personal and localized with additional updates planned for throughout the year.

Image via Pinterest, Shareaholic

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Title: Data Confirms Google Is Wiping Out A Whole Category Of Websites

Search Engine News, Search Engine Optimization

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Last month, we reported that Google may have just killed a whole category of websites – lyrics sites. New data shows that search visibility for some of these sites has indeed drastically declined. While it’s interesting enough for this particular niche, it also highlights how Google is capable of basically wiping out an entire niche by adding one type of direct answer to its search results. That, of course, is something it’s doing more and more of as time goes on, and it’s bound to hurt third-party websites as it does.

Are you worried that Google is squeezing out too many third-party websites in favor of its own content? Let us know in the comments.

While Google doesn’t display lyrics in search results for every song, or even for every type of lyric query, it does so for many basic queries. Last month, we used “goodbye horses lyrics” as an example. Search for that, and Google displays the following:

As we also noted at the time, Google displays a link to Google Play at the bottom of the box, which would seem to give those complaining about any “anti-competitive” practices Google may engage in something new to complain about. Clicking the link takes you to a Google Play page that hosts the lyrics, and lets you purchase the song from Google. Some queries will even cut off the lyrics and send you to the Google Play page before you can even read them all:

There’s no way this wasn’t going to hurt lyrics sites. Now SearchMetrics has put out lists of the top winners and losers of 2014 in terms of search visibility (hat tip to Search Engine Land). The “falling stars” list is littered with lyrics sites.

eLyrics.net saw a 92% drop. LyricsMode and Sing365 each fell 60%. LyricsFreak dropped 59%. MetroLyrics dropped 12%. Last.fm, which links to MetroLyrics for song lyrics saw a decline of 18%.

Take a look at the full list:

Domain Loss in % Category
guardian.co.uk -100 *Redirected
mayoclinic.com -97 *Redirected
elyrics.net -92 Enc/Dict/Lyrics
patch.com -72 Web Portal
lyricsmode.com -60 Enc/Dict/Lyrics
sing365.com -60 Enc/Dict/Lyrics
lyricsfreak.com -59 Enc/Dict/Lyrics
tvtropes.org -59 News/Video
discovery.com -59 News/Video
starpulse.com -57 News/Video
thefreedictionary.com -54 Enc/Dict/Lyrics
topix.com -49 Social/Portal
thesaurus.com -48 Enc/Dict/Lyrics
nndb.com -45 Info
netflix.com -45 News/Video
myspace.com -40 Social/Portal
aol.com -39 Internet/Computer/Tech
flickr.com -39 Social/Portal
chicagotribune.com -37 News/Video
nbcnews.com -36 News/Video
funnyordie.com -35 Social/Portal
answers.com -35 Q&A/Expert
examiner.com -35 News/Video
alexa.com -34 Info
simplyrecipes.com -32 Social/Portal
tumblr.com -31 Social/Portal
ask.com -30 Internet/Computer/Tech
askmen.com -28 Blog
indeed.com -27 Classif
zap2it.com -27 News/Video
zazzle.com -27 Retail
expedia.com -27 Travel
moviefone.com -26 News/Video
blogspot.com -26 Blog
foxnews.com -24 News/Video
dailymotion.com -23 News/Video
photobucket.com -23 Social/Portal
toptenreviews.com -22 Price/Classif
wikitravel.org -22 Travel
food.com -21 Cooking
msn.com -21 News/Video
howstuffworks.com -21 Q&A/Expert
mashable.com -21 Blog
enchantedlearning.com -21 Q&A/Expert
cbsnews.com -21 News/Video
usatoday.com -20 News/Video
latimes.com -20 News/Video
nba.com -18 Info
last.fm -18 Social/Portal
rapgenius.com -17 *Redirected
gethuman.com -16 Info
crunchbase.com -16 Info
nydailynews.com -15 News/Video
nytimes.com -15 News/Video
city-data.com -14 Adress
cnn.com -13 News/Video
huffingtonpost.com -13 News/Video
nationalgeographic.com -12 News/Video
whitepages.com -12 Adress
metrolyrics.com -12 Enc/Dict/Lyrics
medicalnewstoday.com -11 Med
retailmenot.com -11 Price/Classif
perezhilton.com -10 Blog

RapGenius saw a decline of negative 17%, though there’s a little more to that story. As SearchMetrics notes, it now redirects to Genius, so that can account for a drop in visibility on that domain.

At the tail end of 2013, Rap Genius was penalized by Google, but the penalty was quickly lifted early last year. The company has since expanded its business model into annotations of content beyond lyrics. In fact, they’ve already been in the news this week with ambitions of annotating the web.

SearchMetrics shows the visibility picture for RapGenius.com and Genius.com with the re-direct occurring in mid-July.

Genius and Rap GeniusLyrics are still a substantial part of the site, and it’s worth noting that Genius.com’s visibility has been shaky with a noticeable downward trend at the end of the year. SearchMetrics compares this to MayoClinic, which re-directed from a .com to a .org, and had a lot better luck:

mayo clinic search visibilitySuffice it to say, the picture is a bit bleak for lyrics sites. Granted, we don’t know how much of the drop-off in visibility for these sites is a direct result of Google’s showing lyrics in its search results (though I’d guess a significant amount). Lyrics sites have often appeared on loser lists from SearchMetrics in connection with various iterations of the Panda update.

Another thing worth noting is that one lyrics site actually appears on the winners list this time. AZLyrics managed to post a gain of 24% Perhaps this is a result of declines from competitors.

Bing shows lyrics on its search results pages too, but doesn’t appear to do so for all the same songs Google does.

Are the search engines going too far with the amount of information they’re showing directly on results pages? Let us know what you think.

Images via Google, SearchMetrics

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Title: Pinterest SEO: Things To Consider

Search Engine News, Search Engine Optimization

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A lot of website owners and marketers are still trying to crack the Pinterest nut. If Facebook referrals start evaporating, that will no doubt be the case even more. Currently, Pinterest is second behind Facebook for driving website referrals as far as social networks are concerned.

Promoted Pins will be a big storyline this year, and search is a big part of that. But what about simple organic Pinterest SEO? What can you do to get more out of Pinterest, and its search feature in particular?

Pew just released some new Pinterest growth stats. Men in the U.S. using Pinterest jumped from 8% in 2013 to 13%. 42% of online women are Pinterest users. It’s more popular than Twitter, according to the firm. 21% said they use Pinterest, up from 15% last year., compared to 18% for Twitter.

Pew tells us, “In 2014, the number of men on the site doubled, and we see that growth continue today – ? of all signups are men (50/50 men/women in markets like India, Korea and Japan). In the past year, monthly active users outside the U.S. grew by 150%. Since launching Guided Search nine months ago, the number of searches per person has increased by 25%.

What Pinterest Says About SEO

First, let’s look at what Pinterest itself says about search visibility: “Search is an important way for Pinners to find content from your business. If you use Rich Pins and have a verified account, your Pins appear higher in search results. Another crucial way to improve your appearance in search results is to sharpen your Pin descriptions.” Emphasis added.

Pinterest gives some helpful tips right in its official business guide:

Note that they’re giving you a specific example of an account that’s doing it right – Tory Buch. You can peruse their pins and descriptions here to get a feel for how they do it.

Pinterest goes on to give some additional tips about descriptions. For recipes, you would describe the main ingredients and how to cook the dish. For fashion, you would include the type of clothing, the designer, and/or the season. For travel, you would include the location and the kinds of things you can do there. For DIY, you would describe the project, and how to make it, as well as the materials needed to get the job done. For photography, you would name the photographer, the year, the subject, and/or the publication. For design, you would mention the designer, medium, publication, etc.

Basically, regardless of the type of content you’re pinning, you want to be as descriptive as possible and include all of the relevant keywords. Pretty straightforward. Note in the image above, however, that they advise against just dropping in keywords or hashtags. It’s unclear if this is actually detrimental on an algorithmic level, but either way, you probably just don’t want to do it that way.

Another key to making your content more easily found in Pinterest searches is to make it easier for people to submit the content to PInterest in the first place. This means taking action on your own site by using high-quality images (ideally at least 600 pixels wide), including the Pin it button, and using rich pins (Product Pins, Article Pins, Place Pins to automatically include information like price, availability, ingredients, location, etc. This is done by adding some meta tags to your site. Pinterest points to Lowe’s as a good example of a a site well designed for Pinterest. They added a “Pinterest-friendly” section for creative ideas, with at least one project that has been pinned over 200,000 times.

“The more people Pin your content, the more discoverable it becomes,” Pinterest says. “To encourage more Pinning, make it easy to Pin from your website and emails. Promote your Pinterest account on social channels, packaging and advertising.”

You should use Pinterest Analytics to see which pins are popular, and which ones are driving the most traffic to your site. It will also show you which boards your content is appearing on and how others have described it, which could lead to some helpful revelations.

“All of these insights will help you make smarter choices about your merchandising, product development and marketing strategy,” Pinterest says.

It’s probably a good idea to use your Pinterest account well, because it might help you gain some credence when it comes to search result ranking (I’ve not confirmed this, but it’s something to consider). The company does suggest pinning at least once a day so followers get fresh content, and not just pinning your own stuff.

“You can tell a richer story by adding Pins from others,” it says. “You could partner with bloggers and lifestyle websites to Pin their content. Your followers will appreciate the Pins, and bloggers will appreciate the referral traffic.”

Engagement with other users through follows, repins, likes, and comments, is also recommended, as is creating group boards and inviting people who “love your brand” to contribute.

Keep in mind, you can optimize your actual boards to some extent. Give them clear, relevant names. They should be kept to 20 characters or less. Otherwise they can get cut off. Also include descriptions of the boards, again, using relevant keywords. You can choose a cover pin, so you should choose one that’s relevant, enticing, and will make the user want to follow that board. You might consider using the one with the most repins.

Pinterest recommends putting your most relevant boards at the top of your boards page. You can easily drag and drop them.

The company also gives a helpful tip you might not have considered: “Try Pinning a handful of Pins at once that together tell a story and capture the imagination. For example, a Pin of a patterned dress next to the place that inspired it is more compelling than just a product photo.”

If you want to look at an account that gets boards right, check out The Container Store. Pinterest points out how they create boards with pins organized to appeal to different audiences.

On a side note, unlike the direction that Facebook may be going in, Pinterest actually encourages linking out. In its business guide, it says, “For example, a movie Pin should lead to the trailer or a review, and a product Pin should lead to where a Pinner can make the purchase.”

Pinterest, at least for now, wants to send you traffic.

People Search Pinterest With Intent To Buy

Vision Critical published a study that found that 28% of Pinterest purchasers say they were searching for the item they pinned and purchased or for an item like it. In the health and beauty vertical, the number is 47% (it goes down to 17% for food and drink purchasers). As Pinterest continues to grow, and attracts more people, it stands to reason that the number will grow for additional verticals. In fact, the survey used for the study is nearly two years old anyway, so it’s likely already grown, particularly as Pinterest has put more emphasis on search in the past year.

For comparison 47% of purchasers said they just happened upon the item they pinned without searching for it. Interestingly, that number goes down for technology purchases and up for food and drink purchases.

Other Factors To Consider

Vincent Ng, who was early on the Pinterest marketing train says in his eBook How to Search Optimize Your Pins and Boards For Pinterest and Search Engines, “You also want to make sure that your business pins show up as frequently at the top of search results as much possible. It’s better to have five pins for a specific term show up instead of just one, or worse yet, none. It’s just too easy for one pin to be lost in an ocean of millions of pins.”

Ng recently appeared on the Social Media Examiner podcast. He talked a little about how Pinterest is getting better at image recognition, and applying that to search.

“What’s really fascinating is that Pinterest is starting to have visual recognition engines, so they recognize certain colors and certain patterns refer to a coffee table [for example], so even though a picture in the pin description may not say ‘coffee table,’ if enough people in the past have referred to that image as a coffee table, you might see a pin that is a coffee table, but that doesn’t use that kind of description.”

Still, I see no reason not to include good descriptions.

Ng also noted that more people are starting searches on Pinterest rather than Google for certain types of searches – typically lifestyle. The biggest mistake people make when it comes to losing traffic, he says, is not making sure the pin goes to the right URL. You should always check the source of a pin, and edit accordingly.

In his book, Ng makes some good points about keywords on Pinterest. For one, you can find highly searched keywords by starting to type in the search box, and seeing what comes up:

He also suggests that putting keywords early in the description can help, though doing some random searches, I get the idea that this might not be as big of a factor now as maybe it was when the book was written. Exact keyword matches work best, according to the book, but again, the evolution of Pinterest search may have downplayed this.

The number of repins does appear to be a major factor, which makes perfect sense, though freshness shouldn’t be counted out. In the example below, the pin in the top right has less than 40 repins, yet it is among others that have thousands, but it is only two days old, while the others have been around for much longer.

As noted, a lot has happened with Pinterest’s search feature over the last year, so let’s circle back around to advice Pinterest itself is giving out. Search Engine Land shared some tips from Anna Majkowska, a software manager on Pinterest’s search team, back in October. These boil down to optimizing your profile, verifying your site, installing pin it buttons, writing strong descriptions, using rich pins, checking your links, getting more followers, and finding your niches. Maybe not all that much has changed after all, from an optimization standpoint.

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