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Pinterest's Guided Search Finds Needles in Haystacks

Pinterest's Guided Search Finds Needles in Haystacks

"Pinterest has carved its niche as a social discovery platform," said Tom Edwards, SVP at The Marketing Arm. "Guided search is the next evolution of the platform that will create more opportunities for users to discover content that is relevant to them, especially via mobile, while building a foundation to refine Pinterest's promoted pin ad product."

By Erika Morphy E-Commerce Times ECT News Network
04/29/14 5:00 AM PT

Pinterest last week announced Guided Search, a new search engine for navigating its particular type of content -- user-provided pins, which now number around 30 billion, and an array of around 750 million boards. Guided Search is designed to help users discover pins they were not necessarily looking for, but that might interest them.

For now, the feature is available only on mobile, for both iOS and Android platforms, but it eventually will roll out on the Web, Pinterest said, and then in other languages besides English.

Guided Search provides "descriptive guides" for searchers. A search for "running" could pull up thousands, if not tens of thousands, of pins.

The guide helps users sift through the various pins to home in on what they want, such as training for a marathon, or tips on the best running shoes. It does this by offering up relevant subcategories after the initial search term is typed in. Searchers drill down to find what they want. They can back up to try a new term or a different subcategory.

Other elements of the feature include a list of trending items associated with the tag across the network. Searchers also can add keywords to queries to better hone a search.

A More Filtered Experience

Assuming it catches on, Guided Search could change the way users discover content and inspiration on Pinterest, said Wei Tsay, managing director of Laundry Service.

Currently, users find most content based on whom they follow, Tsay told the E-Commerce Times. "Now, Guided Search provides the opportunity for open-ended discovery by providing informed search recommendations."

It is a more typical search methodology, Tsay continued, as "sometimes we don't know what we want to search for -- you may search for 'coat' but you were really hoping to find a 'shearling coat.'"

Guided Search's recommendations will provide a more filtered experience, he said.

The shift is a natural one for Pinterest, Tom Edwards, senior vice president for digital strategy and innovation at themarketingarm, told the E-Commerce Times.

"Pinterest has carved its niche as a social discovery platform. Guided search is the next evolution of the platform that will create more opportunities for users to discover content that is relevant to them, especially via mobile, while building a foundation to refine Pinterest's promoted pin ad product."

Another change Pinterest introduced is that users also can track custom categories of interests versus just preselected categories, Edwards noted.

From a user perspective, this is key, he said, as it allows more control to personalize the experience.

What It Means for Brands

Brands on Pinterest have a vested interest in the changes as well, said Edwards. In general, the focus on personalization will allow Pinterest to gather additional data that will enhance its targeting capabilities.

"The new guided search offering is also building towards a more refined discovery engine positioning offering for promoted pins via keywords and new categories where brands can further create new points of discovery with users," Edwards said.

As for Pinterest, it will benefit by users spending more time on its site trolling through new content and making new discoveries, said Tsay, but there is a possible catch.

If users start to rely more on search for discovery, he warned, they may not follow other users, brands or boards as closely -- or at all. "Ultimately, Pinterest may see a decline in users' time spent in their home feed."


Erika Morphy has been writing about technology, finance and business issues for more than 20 years. She lives in Silver Spring, Md.


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