Note: For those who prefer to read through uninterrupted, the previous articles mentioned and linked to within the text below are also available from the linked list at the end of this article.
This is the second article relative to using Pinterest to the best advantage. The first, Making the Most of Pinterest – Part 1 – Keywords dealt with, well keywords.
Pinterest’s relationship with hashtags has been ambivalent. For many years it refused to accommodated them because they were, and still are, widely used by spammers. However, in 2017 the decision was made to embrace and utilise hashtags. But in 2020/2021 the situation appears to have changed again. Hashtags are still permitted and utilised but it seems in a much diminished and limited manner. Opinions about whether to employ hashtags with pins (images) and boards vary. Some suggest adding a hashtag to a pin will reduce its visibility, though as far as the writer is able to determine, there is no substantial evidence for this conclusion. Most consider hashtags should continue to be used but not to the same extent as previously.
Purpose of Hashtags in Pinterest
Regular social media users will be familiar with the concept of hashtags e.g. with Twitter and Instagram. However, due to its different nature, some may question whether they have any purpose in Pinterest. Though not as far reaching as in other sites, it may be said they do. Primarily in three areas: Fresh content; Ranking; and Discovery.
Fresh Content – As already mentioned, though, despite changing attitudes, hashtags continue to be permitted and utilised in Pinterest, it is not to the same extent as previously. Whereas with other social media hashtags remain relevant and actionable throughout time, Pinterest has made the decision to principally utilise them for the purpose of homing in on new content i.e. the most recent pins. Does this mean adding hashtags is not really worth the effort? No, it does not. Even if it is but for a short period, the highlighting of an account’s content may introduce it to new people who may well return if they find the content relevant, interesting, and helpful. There is also another possible advantage that will be discussed below.
Ranking – Apparently hashtags are also used to rank content and accounts. Ranking relates to where content will be displayed when someone searches a topic. For example, in Google, the higher content is ranked the more likely it is to show on the first page of a search result consequently, resulting in a higher degree of traffic and interest. Most people will acknowledge if content does not show on the first page, they are unlikely to look further. Hashtags enable Pinterest’s algorithm to assess an account’s general content and thereby decide where to show it. Hopefully, at, or at least near, the top of search results.
Discovery – Many consider Pinterest to be, principally, a search engine even though some simply use it to enjoy the images for themselves, without further consideration. Along with keywords (as outlined in the previous article referred to above), hashtags have a part to play in this function. In fact it would appear a hashtag, for the purpose of searching, is treated as a keyword. The writer tested this possibility discovering the results of a keyword and similar hashtag term search were virtually the same. Whether this only applies to hashtags for fresh content or to longterm hashtags is not clear. Whatever the situation, it does no harm to add hashtags to a pin and they may in reality prove to have beneficial impact.
Important: Unlike in other sites, hashtags in Pinterest are NOT CLICKABLE. They are for the site’s own use though they may also help users confidence to see a pin has been identified as relevant to the topic they are interested in.
Where to Place Hashtags
In Pinterest there are four areas into which text may be entered: Profile; Board Name; Pin Title; and Pin Description. However, there is no point to including them in the first three, partly because, as mentioned above, they are not clickable and also because it may be considered spammy to add them everywhere. Recognised procedure, and best practice, is to only include hashtags with a pin’s description.
To provide the best experience for viewers, recommendation is to only add hashtags at the end of a description. To include them elsewhere may lead to a confusing, and distracting, read. It may also give the appearance of spam. Having them at the end usually means the description has been read and the viewer is more than likely satisfied the pin is relevant to their interest and is not spam. Due to Pinterest’s ongoing concern with spam it makes sense to do everything feasible to negate any possible accusation. If an account is identified as frequently incorporating spam it may be blocked or even deleted.
It should never be forgotten hashtags do not replace keywords which, as outlined in the first part of this series, should be consistently included. Though there may be some crossover, and though Pinterest may utilise them in similar ways, hashtags are not keywords.
Optimum Number of Hashtags
Up to twenty hashtags are permitted however, guidance recommends no more than ten are included and many suggest fewer, two to five. These recommendations are based upon the requirement that hashtags should, must, be highly relevant and specific to the pin. Trying to include too many may result in irrelevant and possibly spammy ones. As with all social media and general online activity, users must avoid the temptation to stuff descriptions with multiple hashtags simply in an attempt to gain attention. The truth is, such behaviour will more than likely be counterproductive and result in the user loosing followers and fans. There is also the fact hashtags within Pinterest are not clickable and therefore of no great use to a viewer. In addition Pinterest will note the overuse and may mark the account as spammy with consequent results.
Relevance is the primary consideration. Hashtags must be pertinent to the subject matter of the pin, and account. Again, if they are not, the algorithm may identify them as spam. Pinterest’s issues with spam can never be understated.
Bearing in mind the issue of relevancy and spam, recommendation is to utilise a mix of wide ranging and pinpointing hashtags. For example, if a pin and account relates to the making of or provision of cakes it should be quite appropriate to include a hashtag for #Birthday, #Wedding, etc., along with #chocolate indulgence, #victoria sponge, #lemon drizzle, etc.
To avoid a sense of stagnation, over familiarity, or even boredom, suggestion is twofold. One, not to continually use the same hashtags for every, or most, pins. Two, to switch the order of regularly used hashtags around. The aim is to attract viewers interest. If the content is consistently the same it is more likely to pall in people eyes. Though they want to ensure what they are looking at is relevant to them, they will also wish to see something new, something that enhances their knowledge and experience.
It is not always easy to come up with a list of hashtags beside the immediately obvious ones, sometimes just one or two. Despite the limitations and restraints mentioned, it still seems sensible to have at least a few hashtags available. If for no other reason than to have alternatives to mix and share. Brainstorming, preferably with others, is one way but a more practicable method is to see what options Pinterest itself comes up with. To do this:
- The user has to sign-in to their Pinterest account;
- Omitting the #, the hashtag term should be entered into the search bar e.g. memoir instead of #memoir. (If the # is included the system will simply display associated pins within that account rather than any alternatives.);
- The options displayed in the dropdown list should be perused;
- The variations displayed in coloured boxes across the top of the page should also be considered;
- Those which appear relevant and appropriate to the pin to be added should be noted;
- Any relevant term may be copied and added to the pin description, with # entered immediately before it i.e. no gap.
Though hashtags in Pinterest do not operate or have the same impact as they do in other social media they are still worth considering for pins.
The fact Pinterest utilises hashtags along with keywords in its search algorithm makes their use advisable.
Hashtags also provide an initial boost for fresh content. That can only be seen as beneficial for discovery even if it is only momentary. Having noted something of interest once viewers are more likely to return for more.
Relevance and the avoidance of spam are important issues, which must always be born in mind to avoid blocking or suspension of the account. Anyone who ignores this does so at their peril.
Disclaimer: Other than being a general user, neither T. R. Robinson Publications nor T. R. Robinson have any affiliation with Pinterest. Nor do either receive any renumeration for referring to the site.