45 In Digital Marketing

The New Pinterest Strategy: Outsmarting the Pinterest Algorithm Update

getting around the pinterest algorithm update 2016

 Image via Monika Hibbs.


If you use Pinterest as a key social media channel to drive ongoing referral traffic to your website, then you must have felt the recent Pinterest algorithm change.

If you missed it, here is a great rundown courtesy of Elena from Living With Batman.

In my job as a Brisbane based Digital Marketer and Social Media Specialist, my clients rely on me to get on top of algorithm changes quickly. I need to work out how the algorithm works, what impact it will have and how to get around it.

Well like always, I started using, testing and learning and I believe I now have a good understanding of how the algorithm is working, and what little tricks we can employ to try to “get around it” so we can continue to leverage Pinterest as the incredible traffic driving platform it used to be.

Let’s get into it.

An Open Letter to Pinterest: What have you done?

I am pretty disappointed in this algorithm change for a number of reasons. I’m sitting on the consultant “I care about my clients” side of the fence as well as my blogger “I care about my referral traffic” side of the fence AND my personal “I care about my Pinterest user experience” side of the fence.. (OK it’s an extra special 3 sided fence).

So you can tell that this open letter is not going to be hugely positive already..

Usually as a digital marketing & social media consultant, when an algorithm changes, I know that it’s often for the better and I can usually see through to the bigger strategy and why a channel is choosing to implement the algorithm. In this case, I’m afraid you just got it all wrong Pinterest!

I mean it would be one thing if I was just hating on it because I have to find a new way to outsmart a social media algorithm. Quite frankly, I’m a social media specialist and it’s rare for such a massive algorithm shift to come about these days (little ones yes, but not so many big ones) so I relish the opportunity to dive in and find out “what works” in a new landscape.

Unfortunately, it’s not just that. I just really hate this algorithm change from an avid Pinterest user’s perspective AND as a marketer.

Let me tell you why. Soapbox ready?

I really loved the “real time” nature of the platform. I loved knowing that I would see updates from my friends in my home feed. I loved that I saw updates from like minded people from the boards I followed.

This is how Pinterest has been used since it launched. Pinterest users have been carefully been curating feeds of content they enjoy by following “individuals” and “boards” that pin content they enjoy.

I have had my Pinterest account for years. I mean, since 2012 when it first launched in Australia. I was an advocate for the platform almost immediately. You can even watch this crazy embarrassing interview of me talking about Pinterest when I’m still a baby consultant working in my first agency (no judgement please).

That’s part of the problem right there.

I’m just not the same person I was back then. I don’t want the same things.

And it appears Pinterest didn’t take this into account when developing their 2016 algorithm update.

They didn’t take the time to intimately understand their own platform and the psychology of how people use it.

People use Pinterest to “save” aspirational, inspirational and motivational content to review later.

But the things that I found inspirational and motivational two years ago, simply are no longer relevant to me.

As far as I can tell, the new algorithm is based off of past engagements with particular topics and the new content you are showing in the feed is based off of the affinity and influence of pins made around those topics.

So this means, even if 2 years ago I was interested in planning a kitchen renovation, you’re going to show me kitchen renovation ideas.

Do I have to delete my old “Kitchen Reno” board to stop you from promoting that content in my feed? My renovation is now done and dusted but I wanted to keep the board there for nostalgia’s sake. I also am not very keen on sifting through the 1000s of pins on my boards to delete anything that I no longer find interesting.

From what I can see in my feed I am also being shown the “most popular” pins from users I follow, which is great, but I want to see all of their pins.

Over the last year, I started to carefully curate a list of Pinfluencers whose content I truly loved. I came to love their pins. All of their pins. I conducted my due diligence and thoroughly stalked them before choosing to hit that precious “follow” button and now, it was practically all for nothing.

Now in my feed I constantly see pins that I’m not interested in (Kate circa 2014 probably was, but today Kate not so much).

In addition I am also seeing pins that I have seen time and time again.

Unlike the Facebook algorithm that takes notice of “impressions” and can identify when you have seen content and not engaged with that content (therefore deeming that content “not so relevant” to you and adding it further down the list of content items you will see in your feed), Pinterest doesn’t appear to be doing this.

I know this because I am seeing pins in my feed that I have seen A LOT. Sure, they are popular. Some of them have thousands of pins.

But if I’ve seen it in my feed before (with a frequency of > 3) and I didn’t “like” or “pin” it – I’m not interested.

What it all boils down to.

  1. The algorithm doesn’t appear to take “time” into consideration. Due to the nature of the Pinterest channel and how people use it, it absolutely should take recency into the equation for best results.
  2. Not only am I not seeing the content I opted in to see from the people I chose to “follow” but Pinterest is showing me more of what I don’t want to see.

User experience dwindling.

A call for action:

Pinterest, I beg of you; Give me back my old feed where I can view a very carefully curated list of pins posted by people whose opinions I care about, brands who post content I adore, and the odd promoted pin I genuinely am interested in because your advertising team is getting it much more “right” than your product performance team is…

Then again, I’m sure the reason this is all happening is because you want to monetise and introduce promoted pins, and your collaboration boards (and their huge success) were too difficult to compete with your own advertising profits..

Maybe you should have thought of that earlier..

Sincerely, one of your biggest “old” fans,




OK so it’s happened. What are we going to do about it?

OK rant over. I just wanted to really explain how detrimental I think this algorithm shift has been from all sides of the equation. Now that it’s out of the way, I can stop dwelling on the past and focus on what to do next.

What I do best: find out how the algorithm does work and find a way to cheat work with the system.

So what’s the answer? I have five little “hacks” for you to consider which will help you to get your content in front of influential Pinners.

1) Outreach:

Like most of my answers to the tough digital marketing questions these days, it is simply: outreach (if you have no idea what I’m talking about, I recommend reading this post first).

You’ve just got to pick up the metaphorical phone.

Is it more time consuming? You betcha. Is it effective? Absolutely.

In such a world where quality content is our currency, I believe we are going to get to a point where the only way to “cut through” is to build meaningful relationships online through sharing high quality content that adds value to others lives.

The best way to do that (effectively at scale) is outreach.

Send off an email to people who have some influence and who pin on the topic you are promoting.

I actually got this idea from a gentleman who recently sent me this email:

outsmarting the pinterest algorithm with outreach

Of course I pinned his content! I love to reward people who are thinking outside of the box and doing digital right.

You can check out Jacob’s blog over here.

Thanks for giving me the idea Jacob!


2. Notification Emails:

It sort of pains me to tell you about this hack because it again, just proves how wrong Pinterest got this algorithm.

If you have turned on your email notifications for Pinterest and someone follows you, Pinterest may send you a little email like this one:

Small Paper Things followed you


So as much as I refuse to promote “follow spamming” (seriously, not ever) if you start to make more of an effort to reach out to and connect with Pinterest users who are like minded, you’re much more likely to get your content in front of them- and I don’t even have to tell you that this (like all other digital marketing) really just boils down to crafting high quality, valuable content in the first place.


3.  Build up your own follower base

Have you noticed in your Pinterest notifications you can see group updates from Pinners you follow in the “news” section?

Building up your own followers (as opposed to relying solely on the influencer/followers of others and the “Group Boards” you tried so hard to become part of) will really help you to reach more of your engaged audience.


4. Work on your Pinterest SEO 

Yep. SEOing your Pinterest “pins” is just as important as the SEO you implement for your blog (if not more so because the referral traffic impact of a viral pin is second to no other digital tactic I’ve seen in my time).

To “SEO” your Pins be sure to:

  • Incorporate keywords users are likely to search in Pinterest into your pin descriptions
  • Be sure to always “repin” a pin that has already been pinned (repins are the equivalent of “links” in SEO land – the more repins the more Pinterest will promote that content)
  • Delete unpopular pins from your boards (to lift the overall influence of content you post, delete pins that have a low number of likes or repins)

total pins


5. Add strong calls to actions on your blog

Why not capitalise on your traffic when it’s active and engaged with you? In this case, you’re reading this post and if you’re still reading, I’m hoping that you enjoyed it somewhat.

Therefore, I would absolutely love it if you would “pin” this post to your Pinterest board.

Here’s a handy little “pin it” button I prepared earlier:



Final thoughts:

I think when reflecting on this algorithm update or any updates made by our favourite social media channels (as infuriating as they may be) we have to remember that we are living in a world where high quality content is the new marketing currency.

As long as you are crafting high quality, bespoke content pieces that truly add value and meaning to the lives of others then you (and your blog) will be just fine.

If you are interested in working out how to develop a content strategy that is built to truly “cut through” then I recommend downloading my Free Content Marketing Workbook.


What do you think of the new Pinterest algorithm update? Do you like it or hate it like I do? Have you found any hacks that work? I would love to hear about them in the comments below!

You Might Also Like

  • Elena Peters
    April 6, 2016 at 12:51 pm

    Thank you so much for the mention Kate! Some great tips here and I will link back to you in my post as well.

    I have clients too and I usually can figure out a way to change and adapt my strategy but whoa I tell you, this change is brutal. I accept the fact that I always must be tweaking my approach but this new change is almost impossible to work with.

    And personally, the duplication is crazy.

    I hope our emails and requests will be heard by Pinterest and they will change their feed back to the user friendly experience we once enjoyed.

    • Kate
      April 6, 2016 at 1:01 pm

      You’re so welcome. Thank you! Your post is fantastic and you were right onto it as soon as it happened! I couldn’t agree more with your sentiment Elena. It’s really such a shame that they got it so wrong. I hope they hear our calls as well! Kate

    • Samantha Gould
      April 9, 2016 at 12:52 am

      Great Post Kate, really useful information which I will be sharing on my business FB page Gould Social Media, thanks for your post!

      • Kate
        April 9, 2016 at 8:28 am

        Thanks so much Samantha! That is so appreciated. Glad you got something out of this post :) x

  • Janet aka Middle Aged Mama
    April 6, 2016 at 4:20 pm

    I loathe the new Pinterest and hardly ever visit now. I wanted to see what certain people were pinning, not just any junk from people I don’t know.

    • Kate
      April 6, 2016 at 5:14 pm

      I completely understand your frustrations Janet! I feel the same way. Thanks for stopping by! x

  • Jacob Share
    April 6, 2016 at 5:54 pm

    Thanks for the mention, Kate

    I’ll just add: outreach is time-consuming, so you need to be extra careful WHO you reach out to and WHAT you reach out to them about. In this case, I contacted you because you have a super-relevant pinboard for my article, which has already proven itself to be popular with others.

    • Kate
      April 6, 2016 at 6:01 pm

      I couldn’t agree more Jacob! That being said, I really believe in the power of Outreach and use it for quite a number of tactics. I have a few hints and tricks up my sleeve for making it a much more simple process, some of which I highlight in my post about gaining access to beautiful images for blogs. Would love to chat to you further about how you manage your outreach marketing. Do you use BuzzStream or a similar tool? Or just use your normal email tool?

      • Jacob Share
        April 6, 2016 at 6:16 pm

        I’ve been using Yesware to track email outreach, although it looks like they’re about to kill off the free plan I’ve been using and growing as an affiliate. In any case, I would like to find a tool, free or paid, that could manage all my outreach, email and social media. BuzzStream looks cool but is mainly email-oriented.

        • Kate
          April 6, 2016 at 8:17 pm

          Oh great! I will look into it. BuzzStream is a paid tool however I will soon be launching a post on how to run email outreach using Gmail- so I’ll be sure to shoot you an email when that one goes up!

          • Jacob Share
            April 6, 2016 at 9:49 pm

            Sounds good! Thanks in advance

  • Courtney Bentley
    April 7, 2016 at 4:19 am

    WAH What is with EVERYONE changing the platforms! It drives me insane! I have been playing around with Tailwind which I enjoy but will be checking out some other tools as well. Thanks for all of these tips, they are SO helpful! xo C

    • Kate
      April 7, 2016 at 7:54 am

      I know right Courtney? Although the Instagram move hasn’t drastically changed the user experience of the platform at least (although it does change the psychology of how people use the platform – now no longer a “real time” channel focused on capturing authentic moments). What’s been your biggest pain point? Was it Pinterest that drove a lot of traffic to our website?

  • Evelyn
    April 8, 2016 at 2:10 am

    Ugh, I so agree! As a blogger and as a user on pinterest….I’m SO sick of seeing the same stuff over and over! It’s usually high quality stuff, but I’ve seen it so much it degrades it in my eyes. I feel like there are “popular” pins that I’ll NEVER go to, because I’ve seen the image a dozen times, and I’m sick of it already, before ever actually looking at the actual content.

    Thank you for the ideas and solution. I’ll definitely do more research and start doing more outreach.

    • Kate
      April 8, 2016 at 7:18 am

      Hi Evelyn, I couldn’t agree more! It’s so frustrating to see the same pins in my feed all the time and the worst thing is, it’s not because they have been “pinned” by someone I follow. *sigh* so disappointing! Thank you for stopping by! :) x

  • Margarita Chi
    April 8, 2016 at 8:39 am

    So many amazing tips – totally saving this for the next time I’m executing a Pinterest strategy. And awww, that video! You were such a cutie, haha. xx

    • Kate
      April 8, 2016 at 9:10 am

      Haha oh goodness you actually watched it. Such a digital baby back then! Thanks for stopping by lovely xx

  • Ri
    April 8, 2016 at 11:22 am

    Love your post Kate. I feel like i am still an amateur in the world of digital marketing. Hoping to follow your tips and get better.

    • Kate
      April 8, 2016 at 11:24 am

      Thank you so much Ri! Welcome to the blog :) I’ll check out Blogger Smash too! x

  • Bella Mizzi
    April 13, 2016 at 11:09 am

    Yes! I’ve been waiting for soeone to speak up about these unnecessary changes on social media platforms! Thanks for the tips! xx

    • Kate
      April 13, 2016 at 11:12 am

      You’re so welcome! Thank you for stopping by xx

  • Sammy
    April 13, 2016 at 11:32 am

    Wow this is great I had heard it changed but didn’t realise how it affected me and my blog. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and tips – very helpful xx

    • Kate
      April 13, 2016 at 11:38 am

      You’re so welcome Sammy. Thank you for stopping by :) Glad you got something out of this x

  • Erin Bosanquet
    April 13, 2016 at 1:50 pm

    Thanks so much for this post, I’m slowly getting into Pinterest for my blog and it’s great to have this knowledge handy. xx

    • Kate
      April 13, 2016 at 1:58 pm

      You’re so welcome Erin! Thank you for your comment xx

  • Icy Sedgwick
    April 13, 2016 at 5:02 pm

    I wondered why my feed was all wrong! I hate it, I much prefer the old one. I’m an author so I probably don’t use Pinterest properly but I’ll be putting your advice into action to see if I see a difference!

    • Kate
      April 13, 2016 at 6:54 pm

      I’m so happy to hear you will be using some of my tips :) Thanks for stopping by! xx

  • Pesi
    April 13, 2016 at 6:54 pm

    WEALTH OF INFORMATIONS! I only started blogging and still trying to get my head around that but I am definitely saving this so that I can read it properly!! THANK YOU SO MUCH!!

    • Kate
      April 14, 2016 at 12:45 pm

      Thank you so much Pesi :) xx

  • Karen
    April 13, 2016 at 7:28 pm

    I’m so glad I found this post! I’ve never been a big user of Pinterest but I’ve been wanting to get into it more. At least now I’m armed with the info I need to make the most of it. And your other info is AMAZING too! Thanks for sharing your fab knowledge! :-D

    • Kate
      April 14, 2016 at 12:45 pm

      Thanks so much Karen! Appreciate this a lot :)

  • Emma
    April 14, 2016 at 4:39 pm

    Fantastic post and tips Kate! Stupid algorithms hey. I can’t keep up with all the changes these social media sites are implementing. Thanks so much for giving us the rundown and explaining how to make it work, I’ll definitely be putting your tips into action! Looking forward to checking out more of your fab articles! :) xx


    • Kate
      April 14, 2016 at 7:59 pm

      Thank you Emma! I know… the algorithms can be so frustrating! At the same time I sort of need them to keep everyone on their toes so that I will continue to have a job? hehe not really sure where my interests lie! :p xx

  • Diane @ Smart Money, Simple Life
    April 22, 2016 at 9:57 am

    Thank you for sharing your insights Kate.

    I noticed a definite drop in traffic and I’m *still* working my way through the issue.

    I also wondered if those of us in Aus have been impacted (for good or ill) by the shift to ‘au.pinterest’? What do you think?


    • Kate
      April 25, 2016 at 7:54 am

      Hi Diane,

      I’ve noticed this too and have wondered about its impact but I haven’t managed to pin point anything as of yet (excuse the pun). I haven’t noticed more AU content in my feed really so I wonder what impact it is having.. will do some research and will let you know if I find anything x

  • Marlene
    April 25, 2016 at 7:11 pm

    Thank you for this post very insightful. I have been using Pinterest on a personal level for years and just for fun and pinning stuff I am interested in. I started my blog this year and my business Pinterest account just before the algorythm changes, so for me I am learning it as if it has always worked like this. I don’t feel so affected by the changes because I just started using it as a business platform.

    • Kate
      April 26, 2016 at 9:06 am

      You’re so welcome. Thank you so much for your lovely comment. If you ever need some personal tips or advice for Pinterest feel free to pop back and let me know – I’d be happy to help :) x

  • Elizabeth
    April 28, 2016 at 1:00 am

    Hey I see me in your newsfeed! Proof I spend half the day pinning, haha! This is awesome, and I agree 100 percent with your view on the alg update.

    • Kate
      April 28, 2016 at 12:26 pm

      Hehe that’s because I’m a big fan Elizabeth! Thank you for your comment. I wish Pinterest would hear my plea to improve..

  • Elizabeth
    April 28, 2016 at 10:49 pm

    Ugh, me too. It’s my fav social media platform and gives the most ROI so if it suddenly pulls a Facebook and starts limiting pin views even more to prompt us to buy promoted pins, I’ll be really pissed off. I used to specialize in Fanpage engagement and you can guess my feelings on fanpages now.

    • Kate
      April 29, 2016 at 9:16 am

      The social media networks like to keep us on our toes, that’s for sure!

  • Vic
    April 29, 2016 at 12:28 pm

    Great article. There is an easy way to view the pins of those you follow, however. I actively visit their sites and take a peek. I don’t allow Pinterest to take full reign of what and who I see.

    • Kate
      April 29, 2016 at 1:37 pm

      That’s great to know Vic! I wish everyone was like you – then from the blogger side of things we wouldn’t have lost so much traffic :( Thanks for stopping by!

  • Carla Aston
    April 29, 2016 at 2:27 pm

    Thanks for the article. Hard to know what to do. 90% of my blog traffic has come from Pinterest and although I had a huge Jan and Feb (had a pin go viral), things started dropping rapidly in March. April will be almost half of what my Jan stats were. I’ve been manually posting like crazy and using Tailwind (love Tailwind), but it’s really hard to want to continue to spend time on a platform that is cutting you out. I realize the pay to play, but feel like it won’t bring me enough now to warrant it. I don’t like my feed, I’m served up my own pins by Pinterest in my feed. ???? I realize now I had too much depending on Pinterest and now will be looking elsewhere to gain traffic. It’s such a disappointment. When everyone was going to Instagram and Periscope I stayed with Pinterest primarily and sung their praises. Working more on Instagram now to attract people to my site, but I miss the old Pinterest. Sorry…..had to rant with a sympathetic audience!

    • Kate
      May 1, 2016 at 12:30 pm

      It is so disappointing I totally agree Carla. Sorry to hear it’s had such a huge impact on your website. If you like, more than happy to chat about some other strategies for you specifically xx