The Strategic Opportunities of Pinterest Paid Search

Over recent years, Pinterest has been intensely focused on developing a more intelligent, nuanced search platform – leaving marketers to wonder about the opportunities for turning top funnel, inspiration and discovery-driven users into loyal, purchasing customers. While advertisers have acknowledged the enhancements of its various ad product offerings, it’s been challenging to determine what best strategic role Pinterest ultimately plays in influencing the consumer journey, and whether the platform can really create ROI impact.

From an end user perspective, Pinterest has enriched the search and discovery experience through efforts like image recognition technology, gender-customized results and guided search; more recently, it launched Lens (in beta), a visual search tool which has been called a “Shazam for objects”. And it’s also streamlined the shopping process through formats like Rich and Buyable Pins. But the challenge, particularly for eCommerce retailers, has been capturing Pinterest’s high-intent audience with the appropriate blend of search and social tactics. This may now change, or at least improve significantly in terms of opportunity, with the latest expansion of Pinterest search ads. The company had opened the ad format to a select group of advertisers in 2016, but the ad placements weren’t tied directly to actual search queries. Now, with over 2 billion monthly searches on the platform, and 42% of Pinners going to the platform instead of a search engine, the full-scale release of search ads makes a lot of sense.

In a landscape heavily dominated by Google, it may seem that Pinterest has a large mountain to climb in order to gain any real, tangible market share for search; but the rollout has certainly piqued the interest of advertisers. Kenshoo will be the first partner to power Pinterest search ads, and the ads will be sold via a digital auction on a CPC basis. Here’s what else we know so far:

New Products Released

Keyword Campaigns: specifically target searches through relevant keywords, with each keyword campaign having an associated pin. This differs from the current Promoted Pin product in that this targets actual queries vs. ideas and topics.

Shopping Campaigns: uses a product feed (specifically, the Google product feed) to create product pins on Pinterest. The campaigns serve pins automatically based on data in the feed, rather than targeting specific keywords. At this time, Pinterest is only accepting Google feeds, but plans to build out specs for a Pinterest-unique feed down the line. Google Shopping campaign structure can be leveraged here, and negative keywords can be applied. Different from most PLAs, pins do not need to consist of standard product shots pulled from landing pages; rather, advertisers will be able to map pins to the feed or to campaigns to leverage more lifestyle imagery.

Understanding Pinterest User Behavior & Intent

While Pinterest users certainly have a purpose, that purpose is often different than one associated with a more traditional search platform like Google, where actual intent to purchase is stronger. When it comes to behavior, historically people have been on Pinterest because they want to be inspired, they want to gather relevant information, and in many cases, they do seek engagement with brands and brand influencers. But it’s important to acknowledge the difference in where Pinterest users are within the marketing funnel. Think of purchase intent on Pinterest to be more similar to that of non-brand search – even more so aligned with the intent of the most upper funnel non-brand terms, like “women’s shoes”. People have a general idea of what they want, but they don’t necessarily know exactly what they’re looking for. That’s the inspiration piece, and why marketers need to creatively consider the right strategies to capture users.

A New Keyword Universe

For advertisers, understanding the volume and behavior associated with their current search engine keyword campaigns within the Pinterest landscape is a great first step, but those keywords alone likely won’t produce strong Pinterest search performance (or at least, not the volume you’d hope for). Queries for branded terms on Pinterest are a low percent of all searches, with the exception of those for some bigger, more iconic brands. So considering what non-brand terms you might not traditionally use in Google, for example, will be more worthwhile to explore on Pinterest.

Tracking & Performance Metrics

Currently, Pinterest does not allow for third party redirects however there is the option to hardcode tracking parameters to the landing URL itself. Through applying a hardcoded append, advertisers can see click and conversion activity directly in site analytics platforms like GA or Adobe. Current metrics for the ads include conversions, clicks, views, saves and “close-ups” (taps on a pin that generate a closer view).


Like in most scenarios, the cost of Pinterest search ads varies by vertical. But, based on the testing thus far and what we’ve been told to be true for the retail vertical, search campaigns are averaging $0.40 – $0.50 with shopping campaign CPCs around $1.

We are still learning more about Pinterest search ads, but will be looking forward to testing it out, and gaining deeper insights on user behavior. And now more than ever, it will be important to integrate search and social strategies to leverage the platform’s opportunities to their fullest.

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