Outsmart the Smart Feed: How to Optimize Your Pins for the Pinterest Algorithm

Have you ever wondered how Pinterest decides how to organize its users’ feeds? The seemingly random assortment of images is actually determined by a highly sophisticated algorithm. By understanding how Pinterest’s algorithm ranks content, you’ll be able to better improve your pins to reach a greater number of users.

You don’t need to be a brain surgeon to outwit Pinterest's Smart Feed. You just need a solid understanding of how it works and how to tailor your content to improve its performance. #MichaelsWilder #socialmediamarketing Click To Tweet

The “Smart Feed” is Pinterest’s algorithm for arranging pins in the “Home Feed.” It determines what content people see and how each pin ranks in the feed. Prior to introducing the Smart Feed in 2014, the home feed was organized chronologically, meaning that you didn’t need to pin the best content to top users’ feeds. You just needed your pin to be the newest. While Pinterest still rewards users who are frequent pinners, their algorithm now gathers a greater amount of data from each pin to filter out low quality content. (Talk about smart!)

The good news is that you don’t need to be a brain surgeon to outwit Pinterest’s algorithm. You just need a solid understanding of how it works and how to tailor your content to improve its performance.

So, without further ado, let’s dive into the 4 factors that influence your pin’s ranking: Domain Quality, Pin Quality, Pinner Quality, and Relevance.

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1. Domain Quality

Domain quality refers to the quality of the website to which the pin is linked. That doesn’t, however, mean that just because you have a well-designed website, that it’s going to be recognized by Pinterest as high-quality. Instead, it judges domain quality by seeing how well pins originating from your site perform on Pinterest. Over time, as more content from your website gets pinned, and more users engage with it, your domain quality will increase.

How Do I Improve My Domain Quality in the Short-Term?

The most important steps to improving your domain quality are to convert to a business account and claim your website. This will show that your content is coming from a reputable source.

Enabling rich pins on your account will also give your domain quality a boost. Rich pins are linked to your site and pull information from that site into your pin’s description. There are 4 types of rich pins: product, app, recipe, and article. The Pinterest algorithm rewards the use of rich pins because it helps show that your website is legitimate.

Sticky note pinned to board

2. Pin Quality

Pinterest primarily determines pin quality based on level of engagement. The more likes, saves, comments, and interactions with your content, the better. Pinterest first distributes your pins to your followers to find out if it resonates with your audience. If it does well, they push it out to others who share similar interests and preferences.

How Can I Get Better Engagement on My Pins?

Making your pins stand apart from the crowd is all about using attention-grabbing, high-quality images. The ideal pin is longer than it is wide, with a recommended size of 600 x 900px. Pins in this size tend to look better on Pinterest’s vertical feed, and they’re more widely distributed.

Then, once you’ve grabbed their attention with beautiful imagery, use your description space to tell a story that invites your reader to get involved. A clear call-to-action (whether it’s asking users to read your blog, visit your online store, or just follow you for more awesome content) is the key to getting people to do more than just scroll on by.

How Do I Decide What to Pin?

It may take some trial and error before you hit your stride on Pinterest, but that experimentation phase can be an invaluable step toward making your boards the best they can be.

As with any good marketing strategy, careful monitoring and analysis is essential. Keep a close eye on what content performs well, and which content simply fizzles out. And, while you figure out your own pinning style, take some inspiration from the pros. Keep your eye on Pinterest’s “Trending Ideas,” and take note of which pins perform well. And, while you’re there, don’t forget to repin any outstanding content related to your niche. Saving and repinning high-quality content also contributes to your own ranking as a pinner.

Woman with Polaroid camera

3. Pinner Quality

The Pinterest algorithm grades a pin partially on the reputation of its pinner (that’s you!). And that makes sense. Just like an established journalist is a better source for news than an anonymous blogger, a reputable pinner is more likely to deliver quality content.

How Can I Become a Higher-Quality Pinner?

Pinterest rates you as a pinner based primarily on your content’s engagement rate. More saves and comments on your pins translate to a better rating for you as a content creator. If you’ve followed the instructions in part 2, you’ll already be well on your way to becoming a better pinner. However, to kick things up another notch, you’ll need to stay involved. Pinterest is one of those platforms that rewards users for producing a constant flow of fresh content.

How Frequently Should I Pin New Content?

Expert pinners suggest pinning 20-30 new pieces of content per day. They also suggest spacing out your pins throughout the day so that you aren’t dropping all of your new content at once. Now, keep in mind, this doesn’t need to be (nor should it be) all your own content, and there are ways to automate the process so you can do much of the legwork upfront.

If you don’t mind investing some dough to make your life a bit easier, you can sign up for a scheduling software like Tailwind or Buffer to automate your pinning schedule. This option is best if you want to set it and forget it.

You can, however, streamline the pinning process without spending a dime. Start by creating a secret board. No one (besides yourself, of course) will be able to see the content you pin here. Then, set aside a block of time to find new content from other users, organize your own content, and optimize everything (more on that later). Then, simply log in throughout the day, and move your pins to your public boards. While it’s not completely automatic, following this process will allow you to plan ahead and stay up-to-date with your pinning schedule.

Pinterest Smart Feed

4. Relevance

The last factor that determines where your pin ranks in the Smart Feed is relevance. This has less to do with quality and more to do with current search trends and individual preferences. It doesn’t matter if your pin is perfectly optimized if it isn’t relevant to what people are searching for.

How Does Pinterest Decide What’s Relevant?

Pinterest decides which pins are relevant to each user by synthesizing information on their latest searches and interests and compiling this information into their “Taste Graph.” This is where it gets a bit complicated, but all you need to know is that the Taste Graph is a tool that collects data on user behavior and utilizes that data to make more accurate content recommendations. The Taste Graph assigns interests/“tastes” to its users based on their evolving preferences.

Pinterest then uses information from a pin’s title, description, board, link text, caption, and so on to assign that pin to a specific interest, which may then appear on the feeds of users who share that interest.

How Can I Optimize My Pins to Reach a Relevant Audience?

Basically, to make sure that you’re reaching the right people with your content, you’re going to want to optimize your pins with relevant keywords that will help the algorithm pair your content to the right users.

While you’ll want to avoid obvious keyword stuffing, it’s always a good idea to add simple keywords that relate to your target audience. Pay attention to the keywords that other popular pinners in your niche are using, and follow suit. You should include those keywords in your image’s alt text on your website, the pin’s description, your profile name, bio, board titles, and board descriptions.

What About Hashtags?

Although Pinterest was previously in the anti-hashtag camp, it has since reversed its stance and now embraces hashtags as an easy way to help users find the content they’re looking for. Hashtags are also a great way to optimize your pins’ descriptions and increase their search visibility.

Pinterest recommends no more than 20 hashtags per pin, and you’ll want to make sure each hashtag you use is accurate and precise to your content and your niche. Casting a too-large net means that you’re less likely to stand out or attract the right audience. Also, make sure that your hashtags are actually relevant to your pin. It sounds like common-sense advice, but you’d be surprised at just how much unrelated content pops up in hashtag searches. And, let me tell you, that is not how you win someone over. Relevant hashtags, however, can help your pins get discovered by people who are genuinely interested in following your content.


And that’s it! Hopefully we’ve given you some valuable and actionable advice on just how to win the game of wits against Pinterest’s Smart Feed! Now that you know the theory behind it, it’s time to take the next steps in improving your Pinterest marketing strategy.

Or you could let us do it for you! Michaels Wilder handles everything from profile management to content creation. We develop smart social media strategies and follow through with effective execution. So, give the brainiacs at Michaels Wilder a call to see just what a Wilder approach can do for you.

Mike Speer Administrator
Chief Marketing Officer Michaels WIlder

Opinions are my own and not the views of my employer.

Chief Marketing Officer at Michaels Wilder and an entrepreneur since before the average person knew what that even meant, Mike has helped countless businesses build effective sales and marketing strategies. His philosophy is, “If you’re not thinking 10 years ahead, you’re already behind.” Mike’s content has appeared in Forbes Magazine, Inc. and Apple News. He has also been featured numerous times as a “Top 10 Writer” worldwide on the Q&A content site, Quora.

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Mike Speer Administrator
Chief Marketing Officer Michaels WIlder

Opinions are my own and not the views of my employer.

Chief Marketing Officer at Michaels Wilder and an entrepreneur since before the average person knew what that even meant, Mike has helped countless businesses build effective sales and marketing strategies. His philosophy is, “If you’re not thinking 10 years ahead, you’re already behind.” Mike’s content has appeared in Forbes Magazine, Inc. and Apple News. He has also been featured numerous times as a “Top 10 Writer” worldwide on the Q&A content site, Quora.

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