Is Pinterest’s New Smart Feed Hurting Small Businesses?

pinterest smart feed

I’m a pretty active Pinterest user and last Fall I started to notice that my Pinterest feed looked different. And not a in a good way that made my pinning experience better.

I knew that Pinterest was making changes to allow them to start selling their version of promoted ads in the site. And I didn’t have an issue when I saw something called Related Pins showing up in my home feed as they were testing out their programs. But when I started to see pins from people I wasn’t following or one specific topic flooding my pins, I knew something was going on.

It all started when I did a little research about setting financial goals. I set up a Financial Goals board and followed a few other boards looking for content.

Within a week, my Pinterest feed was overrun with financial tips. It was a non-stop flow of stories about people paying off their $20,000 debt in one year, how to create a home budget binder and why I should be using coupons at the grocery store.

What Happened?

I admit I was interested in changing some of my spending habits to help me save more but there was no way that I requested to change my Pinterest feed into a Financial 101 e-class.

I spent more than a year crafting my Pinterest feed into following specific people and boards to deliver the best mix of content of social media marketing and blogging tips combined with a touch of my personal interests like cupcakes and looking at adorable pictures of Golden Retrievers.

What Really Happened? Pinterest Smart Feed was Launched.

Let’s start from the beginning – what is the Pinterest Smart Feed?

Pinterest Smart Feed is the new way that our pins are delivered to our home feeds based on our interests and how we use Pinterest. Basically, Pinterest now assigns a score or a ranking to each pin (image with a link) that gets uploaded to the site.

The score is based on these three factors:

  • The quality of your Pin’s image.
  • The quality of the source or website link that’s connected to the Pin.
  • Interests you’re following.

Then, Pinterest uses the Pin’s rankings, combines it with your interests (the type of information you pin) and pops them into your home feed.

The order of when the Pins were added to the site no longer makes a difference in what you see when you log on for your next pinning session. And don’t expect to see all the Pins of the people or boards you’re following.

The Pinterest content guides now show you the images that rank high in their smart feed criteria. Then they’ll add in something called Related Pins based on your interests and what they believe you want to see in your feed.

For small business owners who were getting most of their referral traffic from Pinterest, this new Smart Feed feature has serious side effects:

  • A drop in website traffic from Pinterest.
  • The number of re-pins is down from your top group boards.
  • Less Pins in your home feed from the people that you actually want to see.

Some of my fellow pinners have written about their frustrations and compared the Pinterest Smart Feed to the changes in our organic Facebook fan page reach.

Personally, I wouldn’t make that comparison because there are steps you can take to help get your traffic numbers back up. And these simple steps won’t cost you money (like Facebook ads) to get back into the Pinterest game.

How to Outsmart the Pinterest Smart Feed

What can you do to get your Pinterest referral traffic back on track?

  • Accept the fact that Pinterest is a search engine and if you’re not optimizing your Pins, Boards and profile, you’re not going to get found.
  • Make sure your Pin descriptions are more than just a few key words with #hashtags attached to them. You Pin description should tell the reader why they want to click on your link. Write your pin descriptions like you’re having a conversation with your Pinterest followers and not like you’re a spambot trying to sell them something.
  • Spend some time creating quality images to increase your Pins score so they’ll be shown in more people than just your follower’s home feeds.
  • Make sure your Pins are sized for Pinterest. Vertical images work best with the ideal size of 720 x 1200 pixels.

If you have a blog or sell your products and services online, consider applying for Rich Pins.

This Pinterest feature is more than just a different way to display your Pins in Pinterest. Rich Pins will help your Pins get a higher ranking thus making them show up in more pinner’s home feeds, whether they’re following you or not.

Working with the Pinterest Smart Feed

One of the biggest changes that came with the Pinterest Smart Feed is that our Pins are “weighted” by two different factors: how popular the Pin is (the number of repins) and how active is the pinner who is connected to the Pin.

Remember Pinterest is watching us to determine our interests – not in a creepy stalking way but how frequently we’re pinning and the quality of the Pins that we’re sharing.

Not only do you want to make sure that you’re optimizing the content of the Pins that you’re uploading to Pinterest. You also need to focus on how you are using Pinterest.

Just a few tips to make sure that you’re not causing your pins to get a low-scoring ranking:

  • Don’t just add in the blog post title to your Pin description. Craft your Pin’s copy with key words and enough information to describe the content of your post to encourage more frequent click-throughs to your site.
  • Using a Pinterest scheduler can certainly help to make sure that your Pins are posted when you’re busy BUT don’t let that be the only way you’re using Pinterest. Try to log into the program at least 4 times a week to repin quality content.
  • Click on the links you’re repining. Just because the image is beautiful, it doesn’t mean that it’s connected to a legitimate website. Sharing content connected to spam sites is a sure way to lower your ranking.

The Pinterest Smart Feed doesn’t mean you should drop this visual content program from your marketing mix. I believe that most of these changes are connected to their new sponsored Pin feature and ad sales that they’ve been working on. And I get that.

I’m fine with them making shifts and changes to my Pinterest feed to make some money. They’re a business just like we are. At the end of the day, if we couldn’t make money, why be in business?

What do you think of the latest changes to Pinterest?

Image: Pinterest

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Penney Fox Penney Fox is the developer of the Social Media Images that Convert online program. If you’re struggling to create your social media images, this 4-week online course will teach you the quick and easy steps to develop branded images in 30 minutes or less. Visit Inner Social Media-ness to learn more about time management social media marketing tricks to help your small business fit social media marketing into your already crazy busy day.

12 Reactions
  1. Hi,

    Thanks for the article, it’s really helpful. I’ve noticed changes as well and in all honesty I find them frustrating.

    Are you able to provide some examples of good pins in terms of captions. Whenever I try to do ‘chatty conversational’, it comes across as forced. Just takes time I guess….

    • Hi Jess,
      It can be a bit frustrating when things get changed and shifted around. And yes, there are quite a few out there that can be used as good examples, too many for me to list here. I think the idea here is to learn how to find your own voice.

      Here’s something you can experiment with – try pulling some lines from your blog post or whatever other page you’re pinning as your pin description. Then read it out loud to yourself. Does it sound salesy or forced? Then ask yourself, if I had said this out loud to a customer, what words would I have used?

      Just keep practicing the out loud thing and you’ll find your Pinterest voice.

  2. It’s their way of controlling what Pins get more views. It lowers the chance of other people to have equal parts of the pie.

  3. It may be a bit of that but it seems more like Pinterest is trying to make sure that they’re giving us the content that we’re interested in. My guess is that they feel that the more we enjoy on our time pinning, the more often we’ll log into the program.

  4. I just found out about this today. I am on Pinterest at least once a day, for an long periods of time. I have been finding my feed frustrating and problematic for some time. I do not post because I have a business, blog, or website. I pin things because they’re things I love. I don’t like the fact that I am seeing things I have repinned show up on my feed for the next 1-2 days. I don’t like that I’m not getting pins that people I follow are posting. I post a lot of astronomy pins, and I need to put little paragraphs or explanations of what the objects are…lots of people following me are new to astronomy. They want a simple explanation, not to have to go to a science based website and try to reach scientific literature. I’m unhappy with this, as I’m not getting people’s pins on my feed. And I’m tired of the ‘ads’ like the banana one which says I shouldn’t eat it if I’m trying to diet!! It shows up 4-5 times per day at least.

    • I totally agree Rose. I have opted not to receive “picked for you” pins, as they’re usually old, irrelevant and just not to my taste. And it feels that as a result I’m being punished by Pinterest. I use Pinterest every day and follow several thousand pinners, yet when I look at my feed each morning now, there are only about 30-40 new pins to see before I am scrolling through the pins I saw yesterday. It’s really frustrating – I’m just not being shown most of the content I go on the site to see, which isn’t good for me, and can’t be good for Pinterest either. It seems that if I’m not willing to just accept whatever content Pinterest deems good for me to see, they are not going to show me anything at all.