Pinterest introduces Search Ads

10 February 2017

Pinterest introduces Search Ads

Pinterest has long since moved on from being “the other” social media platform (behind Facebook and Twitter) and is now a well established site with a loyal and active following. Like other social media platforms, it needs to turn user enthusiasm into money and advertising is one obvious way to do this. It is therefore hardly a surprise that Pinterest has moved to introduce search advertising. What is interesting is how they have done it, what makes them different to other sites, which also have search advertising (e.g. Google) and what this means for small businesses.

The site has been testing search ads with a small, hand-picked group of partners for a few months. Now, it is ready to open up the search ads to a wider range of marketers. Advertisers could ensure that their ads were viewed when certain keywords (such as fashion) were searched for, putting them at the forefront of potential fans and customers.

What has Pinterest done and how is it different from the competition?

The basic mechanics of what Pinterest has done is similar to how search advertising works in general; users type in their search and receive targeted adverts, in Pinterest’s case these are now presented before other content (in the early stages of the roll-out the adverts were more integrated with the content).

The big difference between Pinterest and its competition is that it is built on the premise of translating text-based searches into purely visual content. This is possibly easiest to illustrate with an example: if you head to Google and search for “red shoes” then the likely return will be a top row of images, a sidebar from Wikipedia and a whole list of text-based hyperlinks. Go to Instagram and type in the same search and you will get a hashtag and a list of accounts, from which you then have to choose what you think is the best match. Repeat the exercise on Pinterest and all you will see are pictures, with captions beneath them, rather like Instagram in miniature, but more immediate.

Why does this matter?

Images allow users to make initial decisions quickly before using written descriptions for extra detail / information (if required). In other words, Pinterest has just turned itself into the digital equivalent of being able to scan the shelves of a shop to look for likely purchases before taking them down off the shelf for closer inspection.

Given the size of its user base and the fact that people use the site for inspiration of all kinds from cake recipes to home renovation projects, the site could offer huge potential to companies of all sizes and, in particular to smaller companies.

Pinterest is a brand-free search zone

This is possibly the single, most exciting feature of Pinterest from the perspective of smaller companies. According to Pinterest, in the year 2016, 97% of the searches on their site were without any form of brand reference. In other words, it’s harder for the “big boys” to grab eyeballs purely by benefiting from people remembering their name and searching for it.