Author: Mordy Oberstein
Pinterest is an organic powerhouse.
Each month, the millions of keywords it ranks for bring in over a billion site visits from Google. It’s no surprise that, for many, leveraging Pinterest to bring visitors to the images they're hosting on the social media platform is vital. This is why, more often than not, whenever a large Google algorithm update rolls out, some of the analysis that gets done will inevitably mention Pinterest and its organic market share.
But, how much of a force is Pinterest really? While the domain is clearly a juggernaut, what does that mean for individual users hosting content on the platform? More specifically, what I want to know is how consistent are the rankings (and by extension, the organic traffic) of a specific Pinterest asset?
The problem: Pinterest URL swapping on the SERP
Before diving into the data, let me explain the problem: As mentioned, Pinterest garners a lot of traffic from Google. The issue is that, unless you’re Pinterest, you don’t really care about that per se. What you, as a creator on Pinterest, care about is how much traffic can Google drive to your specific assets that you host on Pinterest.
At first glance, this doesn’t even seem to be a question. Pinterest pulls in an incredible amount of traffic from Google Search as, for many types of queries, the SERP is littered with Pinterest URLs.
The problem, however, is this:
What you’re looking at above is Google essentially swapping out different Pinterest URLs within the same ranking position vicinity.
When I saw this, it made me wonder, how stable is a ranking Pinterest URL? How often is Google swapping out one Pinterest URL for another? Because when I started to dive in, what you see above seemed to be a pattern. That is, Google seems to give Pinterest a ranking slot on the SERP and oscillates between showing various Pinterest URLs within that slot.
So, I’ll ask the question again: how potent is Pinterest in terms of bringing in traffic via search to your specific assets if it seems that Google is relatively quick to swap out various Pinterest URLs?
Pinterest URLs & Google ranking: Methodology and limitations
The Semrush data team analyzed 1,487 keywords on desktop and another 1,425 keywords on mobile in order to see how often Google is swapping out Pinterest URLs on the SERP. Only keywords that displayed a Pinterest URL with an average rank of 10 or better were considered.
The team then analyzed how many times one of these URLs for the given keywords was being swapped for another Pinterest URL. What, however, is the definition of a URL swap in this instance?
If a specific Pinterest URL was ranking #7 for a keyword and then moved to rank #10, while a new Pinterest URL began ranking at position #3, is that a swap? What if a Pinterest URL was ranking #8 and then no longer ranked top 10 at all, only to have another Pinterest URL begin to rank at position #10—is this a swap?
For the purposes of this study, anytime a Pinterest URL stopped ranking among the top 10 results on the SERP and another Pinterest URL started ranking top 10, it is considered to be a swap.
Now, based on the patterns I’ve seen and as shown in the images above, generally speaking, Google gives a certain slot—or in some instances, slots—to Pinterest. The URLs that Google then swaps fall within a certain range of ranking positions. Thus, it makes sense to consider one Pinterest URL as being swapped for another, even if they are not at the same exact ranking position. However, as noted above, this study includes any instance of swapping even if the swap represents a discrepancy in ranking positions “range.” This is simply a limitation to note.
Also, approximately 1,400 keywords per device is not a small number of URLs. At the same time, it is not as if a million URLs were analyzed. This, too, is something to consider. Similarly, the data collection period covered a period of 30 days. These days were chosen because, as a continuum, they reflected days of average volatility (so as to increase the accuracy of the data) but all-in-all a larger period could, in theory, yield different results.
With that, let’s get to the data itself.
How consistent are Pinterest URL rankings on the Google SERP?
Just 43% of the keywords studied presented the same Pinterest URL on the desktop SERP over the entire course of the 30-day data period.
Meaning, the other 57% of the time, Google is not using the same Pinterest URL on the SERP over the course of the month. On mobile, this number jumps up to a full 60%.
Pinterest URL diversity on the SERP is the norm, which means you should, as a rule, expect your ranking Pinterest URLs to be replaced on the SERP at some point.
In other words, volatility is the rule rather than the exception when it comes to specific Pinterest URLs ranking on the SERP (again, Pinterest as a domain is very consistent, but we’re concerned with specific creators here, not the platform).
The question is, how volatile are specific Pinterest URLs on the Google SERP?
To phrase it another way:
How many unique Pinterest URLs is Google utilizing over the course of a month?
Is your Pinterest pin or board and its URL sharing the SERP with just one other Pinterest URL?
What’s the organic market share like for specific Pinterest URLs on the SERP?
According to the data, Google swaps Pinterest URLs an average of six times per month and utilizes three unique Pinterest URLs when doing so.
In other words, you can expect to share the SERP with two other Pinterest URLs (other than your own) each month. What’s more, you can also expect your URL to be swapped an average of two times per month.
For creators relying on organic traffic from their Pinterest uploads, that’s not exactly a picture of stability and stands in sharp contradistinction to our a priori understanding of Pinterest from a domain perspective.
When Google swaps Pinterest URLs: Patterns and observations
Big data is great and the insight it affords can indeed be illuminating. Still, I typically find that there’s a level of nuance that can only be surfaced by looking at specific instances. With that in mind, let’s dive into some of the patterns I noticed while analyzing specific cases of Google swapping Pinterest URLs on the SERP.
Simultaneous consistency and volatility among Pinterest URLs on the Google
While the data does show Google has a propensity to swap the Pinterest URLs it ranks on the SERP, this volatility does at times coincide with stability. Specifically, there is a pattern where Google will show one Pinterest URL consistently on the SERP within a position range for the entire course of a 30-day period (perhaps longer, but I only looked at a 30-day period).
At the same time, Google may also rank a secondary Pinterest URL at a slightly lower ranking position. This is exactly the pattern seen in the example below:
The URL represented by the purple line consistently ranked on the SERP over the entire 30-day period analyzed. Below it, represented by the yellow, pink, and orange lines, was a secondary Pinterest slot on the SERP where Google oscillated between three different Pinterest URLs (or no secondary Pinterest URL at all, depending on the day).
Practically speaking, it is entirely possible to experience significant volatility while tracking one of your Pinterest URLs, while another Pinterest URL sees relative stability for the same keyword on the SERP.
In terms of real numbers across the dataset we tracked, 50% of the time Google showed two Pinterest URLs on the SERP simultaneously.
There is overlap, and a good amount of it: While there are days when Google truly swaps one Pinterest URL with another, there are also days when Google might show both URLs only to remove one of them a day or two after that.
Search intent when Google ranks Pinterest pins and boards
It is possible that, even though your Pinterest URL for your particular pin is being swapped, the Pinterest URL that replaces yours also contains your pin. This is because Google doesn’t merely swap a Pinterest URL to a specific pin with another URL to a different pin.
Rather, Google sometimes replaces a URL to a specific pin with a collection of pins (a Pinterest board).
For example, take the keyword mens ring ruby which (as shown earlier on in this article) reflected multiple instances of Google swapping Pinterest URLs. In one case, Google swaps a link from this specific pin:
To a collection of pins, as seen here:
It is possible that the specific pin shown previously can appear in the collection above. However, even if that were to be the case, a link to your specific pin is obviously of greater value.
Take the instance below, for example: The dominant Pinterest URL is to a board (you can tell by the URL structure, just for the record). There’s a secondary URL it tests out (reflected in the orange line), which is considerably less consistent than the board shown in purple.
The same can be seen in the rankings for the keyword combat workout:
Yes, Google does experiment with an alternative Pinterest URL, but both reflect boards, not specific pins.
The same thing goes for the keyword wooden family tree but in the inverse, Google experiments with multiple Pinterest URLs on this SERP; all of them pins, none of them boards:
For whatever reason, it seems Google sees the intent of the keyword as either being relevant for a specific Pinterest pin or the opposite, that the user would be better served with a Pinterest board.
The types of keywords predisposed to more Pinterest URL swapping
Some keywords are subject to Google swapping two Pinterest URLs just once on the SERP each month, while some see Google swapping five or six URLs back and forth, perhaps ten times over the same period. Why?
Why do some keywords see so much “Pinterest URL swapping” while others don’t?
It’s hard to determine a definitive reason here. In fact, it’s impossible to say unless Google itself released a statement as to why. However, there are some patterns within the dataset that may possibly explain why some keywords lend themselves to more Pinterest URL swapping than others.
While I’m not privy to the exact thinking around what about each keyword lends itself to one intent over the other, it is interesting to see how specific Google is here. The most notable trend, although it does not account for all instances, is that the more obscure the “item” represented in the keyword, the fewer swaps.
For example, the following keywords saw either one or two Pinterest URL swaps:
Dollar tree decorations
Manor lake australian labradoodles
Laundry room storage
I would imagine that the more obscure the reference, the less content with which to conduct the URL swapping.
Conversely, the keywords below saw between 10-15 swaps:
World map watch
Silver bengal cat
Vintage windbreaker jacket
Brick paint colors
Old lady costume
Again, the more mainstream the item is, the more Pinterest content at Google’s disposal with which to execute the swaps (all other things being equal).
Is this 100% why certain keywords exhibit less stability with their ranking Pinterest URLs? No, there are many instances within the dataset that contradict my point above. However, again, there does seem (at least to me) to be a pattern where more obscure sorts of keywords tend to exhibit less Pinterest URL swapping.
Pinterest URL consistency inside SERP features
Pinterest URLs can be a real factor inside of Google’s various SERP features. Similar to the analysis above, the Semrush team pulled some data related to Pinterest URL consistency within two prominent SERP features: featured snippets and image packs.
Pinterest URL consistency: Featured snippets
Believe it or not, Pinterest URLs are used in featured snippets. In the US alone, the domain has earned featured snippets for 9,400 keywords.
Within the smaller dataset we analyzed for this study, there were no featured snippets that contained a Pinterest URL for the entire 30-day period. (Again, that is a number to take with a grain of salt as the dataset here is somewhat limited in that it reflects about 1,500 keywords and not all of them will generate a featured snippet).
Still, when Pinterest URLs were used within the featured snippet, the swapping continued.
When Google displayed a Pinterest URL within a featured snippet at least once over the 30-day period, the search engine utilized (on average) four other URLs over the same period (for a total of five different URLs seen within the featured snippet on average over the data period).
However, not every URL Google swapped in these instances was from Pinterest.