A Pinterest description is a snippet of text that, ideally, comes from the data-pin-description attribute on an image (using the Tasty Pins plugin, of course). Pinterest descriptions should be crafted with search and exploration in mind, utilizing keywords and hashtags (respectively) to reach the maximum number of users on Pinterest.

Pinterest can be a huge traffic driver for bloggers, but gaining traction on the platform can be tough for others. Pinterest is all about two main elements – images and the text that describes those images. In this article, we’re going to talk about the latter and how optimizing it can help bring Pinterest traffic to your blog.

What is a Pinterest image description?

A Pinterest image description is shown below the image on Pinterest. When an image is saved to Pinterest, the image description can be auto-filled from content on your site, edited or created anew by the user, or left blank.

Pinterest image descriptions help Pinterest users understand what is in an image and gives them a reason to click through to the website.

In the following example, the person who saved the image to Pinterest kept the auto-filled description from pinchofyum.com, but they also added some of their own notes at the end.

Example of a Pinterest description for chocolate chip cookies

Where are Pinterest descriptions taken from the page?

Pinterest descriptions can be taken from a variety of places. Pinterest will always try to use the most specific description for the image, so it uses content from the page in a specific order. From most specific to least specific, Pinterest will auto-fill image descriptions from the following places on your page:

  • The image’s data-pin-description
  • The image’s alt attribute
  • The first few sentences from your page

A more specific description about the image gives Pinterest users more information about that image and gives them more reason to click through to your website. If all else fails, Pinterest will use the first few sentences from the web page in hopes that it will give some insight into what the image is about. If an image has an alt attribute that describes the image for search and screen readers, it will use that as the Pin description since the alt text likely describes what exists in that specific image.

But what’s with that data-pin-description thing?

That, my friends, is special Pinterest magic. It’s a special attribute that you can add to your images that contains a specific description that you’ve formatted just for Pinterest. This description differs from the alt text in that it not only describes what’s in the image, but also what the reader will find on the page (eg. a recipe, a tutorial, a story, etc).

Using the data-pin-description allows you to craft a description that has the best chance of…

  • getting shared by other Pinners,
  • being discovered in Pinterest search,
  • and getting users to click through to your website.

Pretty nifty, eh?

This special attribute can be hard-coded into your <img> tags in your website’s HTML. Or, if you want to make life easy on yourself, you can use the Tasty Pins plugin to add these Pinterest descriptions in the WordPress media adder, just like you add your alt tags.

Tasty Pins Pinterest Text field

So how do I write great Pinterest descriptions?

Crafting great Pinterest descriptions is part art, part science. A good description piques the Pinterest user’s interest, inspires him/her to do something out of the ordinary, and performs well in Pinterest search. With only 500 characters at your fingertips, this is quite a tall order. Fortunately, there are some tips and techniques we can use to boost our chances to Pinterest description success.

Think search first

Even though it may be odd to think of Pinterest in this way, Pinterest is a search engine. Over 2 billion searches are performed on Pinterest every month – that presents huge potential for getting your content discovered by Pinterest users. The image description on Pinterest acts kind of like the image alt tag for other search engines like Google – it helps Pinterest understand what an image is all about.

Here’s the catch – by thinking search first, we’re not actually thinking about what the Pinterest search engine will think about our pin. Nope. What we’re actually thinking about is how Pinterest searchers will come across our content on Pinterest. What searches do you want your Pin to show up for? How can we match the expected search queries with the content that describes our Pin?

A few facts:

  • 75% of searches on Pinterest come from 1-3 word queries
  • 97% don’t include a brand name
  • Pinners are looking for ideas, not necessarily specific entities

Let’s say we have a recipe for Asparagus & Roasted Red Pepper Pasta with Sausage (sounds good, right?). I think it’s pretty safe to say that people aren’t going to search for that entire recipe name. It’s too specific. Imagine you’re going to Pinterest to find a recipe for tonight’s dinner. You have some sausage left over in the fridge and a box of noodles in the cabinet.You might go to Pinterest and try one of these searches:

  • sausage pasta
  • pasta with sausage
  • pasta recipe
  • easy pasta
  • quick pasta recipe

☝️That’s the golden ticket. Those are the words you want to be including in your Pinterest description. The better your content matches the search query, the higher likelihood that your image will be shown for that search. But we don’t want to just stuff our Pinterest description with some unintelligible search terms…

Make a sentence next

Take the search terms you identified and find some way to turn them into a sentence so that the description makes sense. Keep in mind that only the first 75-100 characters show up in the search results, so those first characters are key. In addition (and images aside), the closer those 75-100 characters match the user’s original search query, the more likely they are to click on your pin. That’s Search 101, folks.

So, our Pinterest description starts to look like this: “Sausage pasta with asparagus – this quick & easy pasta recipe is perfect for a weeknight.”

Now, we’ve got a coherent sentence that matches a few of our expected search terms. Perfect. Onward!

Add some hashtags

Pinterest recently endorsed the use of hashtags in Pin descriptions. Not only that, they are giving the hashtags high visibility in search results. Take a look at the following image:

A Pin on Pinterest with hashtags shown before the whole pin description

In the actual Pin description, those hashtags are at the very end of the description. But Pinterest cuts off the rest of the description and shows the first few hashtags instead. Sneaky! Hashtags represent more of an “explore” than a “search” feature. When deciding what hashtags to use with your Pins, think about the hashtags that other similar images will be using.

Back to our sausage pasta example. People aren’t searching for our specific recipe. Instead, they are exploring other similar Pins for somewhat random ideas that inspire them. Again, think about your Pinner. What hashtags will lead them to your image on Pinterest? They might be interested in #weeknightdinners. Or maybe #easymeals. Or maybe #pastarecipes, #sausagerecipes, #sausagelove, or #gimmealldatpork.

The hashtags you use are a bit more freeform. Search queries generally follow a predictable pattern. But since hashtags are exploratory items that users click, it’s harder to predict what tags will become popular (with content creators and casual Pinterest users). Here are some rules of thumb:

  • Include hashtags that apply specifically to your image (eg. #weeknightpasta)
  • Include some hashtags that can encompass whatever is in your image (eg. #cleaneating)
  • Don’t include random hashtags that no one else will ever use (eg. #omgggimadethisanditwassogoodwow)
  • Don’t use random unrelated hashtags just because they are popular
  • Browse popular Pinterest accounts in your same niche to see what hashtags they are using
  • Search Pinterest for your expected search terms and see what hashtags other Pinners are using
  • Use up to 20 hashtags per image

Anything else?

It is popular to put the blog URL in the Pinterest description. You can do this if you like. The benefit is that if someone on Pinterest searches for your blog URL (pinchofyum.com) then your Pins will likely show up. My gut tells me that these types of searches are rare on Pinterest. If someone wants content from your site, they will likely just go to your actual site, not search for your site on Pinterest. You’re probably better off using those precious characters to include more hashtags or search keywords. I could be wrong here – let me know in the comments if you’ve had a different experience.

In conclusion…

A Pinterest description is a snippet of text that, ideally, comes from the data-pin-description attribute on an image (using the Tasty Pins plugin, of course). Pinterest descriptions should be crafted with search and exploration in mind, utilizing keywords and hashtags (respectively) to reach the maximum number of users on Pinterest.