Pinterest is becoming a better search engine, and it's likely only getting started.
Have you ever used Pinterest specifically to search for something? Do you think it is capable of providing helpful results for certain types of queries? Share your thoughts in the comments.
This week, the company announced the launch of an improved recipe search experience. Recipes are one of the most popular verticals on the site, so this is a great place to start with the search improvements.
"Now when you search for ingredients, say whatever is in your fridge, you'll see a collection of relevant recipes as well as filters, such as vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and paleo," a spokesperson for the company tells WebProNews. "For example, if you search for 'avocados, black beans and bell peppers,' you'll see recipes for quinoa salad, pork tenderloin with red bell pepper chili rub, and black bean quesadillas."
"This is the latest update to more useful Pins, which uses structured data, such as ingredients, cook time and servings, to display more information right on the Pin," the spokesperson adds. "All recipe search results will show this rich information. Food is one of the most popular categories on Pinterest, and the new recipe search makes it easier than ever to find meal inspiration from some of the best recipes on the web, and plan great dishes tailored to your tastes."
"More Useful Pins" is an initiative the company launched last May. It added more info for product pins (pricing, availability and where to buy), recipe pins (cook times, ingredients, servings) and movie pins (content ratings, cast members, etc.).
You can see where this stuff would serve to make Pinterest more efficient as a search tool.
The new recipe improvements stem from the company's acquisition of Pinterest-like recipe site Punchfork a year ago. Punchfork CEO Jeff Miller has led the development of this new product.
It's easy to see Pinterest expanding the strategy into more verticals. Travel, Local and Articles come to mind, given some of the announcements the company made last year.
In November, it launched Place Pins, which show details like the address of a place, phone number, etc.
In March, Pinterest announced its acquisition of Livestar, an app that helped people find local recommendations from friends and others. The product was shut down, and the engineering talent became part of the Pinterest team.
In March, Pinterest launched redesigned article pins, providing more info like headlines, authors and story descriptions.
Search is a popular way to monetize a site, and the more Pinterest expands as a search tool, the better this tool could be for advertisers.
The Wall Street Journal has an interview out with Pinterest CEO Ben Silbermann. Asked about Pinterest's business model, he says, "It will be getting them to discover the things they want. And it may be a product that they buy; it may be a service that they use sometime down the line. But it's not purely transactional."
Earlier his month, Pinterest announced that it acquired VisualGraph, an image recognition and visual search company, consisting of two people who have joined Pinterest's engineering team. Both have experience at Google. Kevin Jing began working for the search giant in 2004, and helped build some of its first machine vision applications. David Liu interned at the company, as well as at Facebook.
“The acquisition of VisualGraph will help us build technology to better understand what people are Pinning," a spokesperson for Pinterest told us. "By doing so, we hope to make it easier for people to find the things they love."
“On Pinterest, millions of people are curating and sharing billions of Pins everyday," said Jing and Liu. "And these Pins are more than just images — they link to contents that can inspire and enrich people’s lives. We are excited for the opportunity to combine machine vision with human vision and curation, and to build a visual discovery experience that is both aesthetically appealing and immensely useful for people everywhere.”
This technology should only help Pinterest improve its search experience.
Danny Maloney is the CEO and co-founder of Pinterest analytics firm Tailwind. He tells WebProNews, "Pinterest is more of a discovery engine than a search engine, but I believe visual search could be a hidden gem of the Pinterest business model. Just as with Google or Bing, search on Pinterest tends to indicate users have a strong commercial intent. In many cases, search traffic over time leads revenue generated from pins to occur later in the pin's life, even if it sees a good deal of viral sharing soon after being pinned."
"The acquisition of VisualGraph brings a couple of very talented engineers to Pinterest's team," he says. "I suspect most of their work is yet to be done, but the principle of Pinterest being able to understand images the way a human brain might is very powerful. Such capabilities should unlock better search results, improved content recommendations for users and an ability to organize and understand content at a much deeper level. Businesses will use this technology just by participating in the platform, as it will help their content surface to an increasingly better targeted audience."
Maloney says he expects the next steps in the evolution of Pinterest's promoted pins ad product to come this year (which appears to indeed be the case based on what Silbermann told the Wall Street Journal). He thinks we'll see the Pinterest ecosystem become "much richer" as third parties continue to build value-added tools that help businesses adopt the platform.
"And of course, I expect deeper innovation on the consumer side, from continued localization bringing Pinterest to new countries to improved search and discovery capabilities and innovative new ways to organize content," he says.
Pinterest itself is only gaining momentum. It appears that it is not just a fad at this point. Content sharing to Pinterest increased by 58% last year, surpassing even email, according to a report from ShareThis (via MarketingCharts).
Do you see significant business opportunities with Pinterest? Specifically with Pinterest search? Let us now what you think.
Images via Pinterest