UPDATE March 2021: Hashtags are no longer functional on Pinterest:
The article and all recommendations below this point were originally published in October 2020.
Hashtags have been functional on Pinterest for just over 3 years now. There’s a lot of confusion about how to use hashtags, why to use hashtags, and if they even work to get results on Pinterest.
I’ve been using hashtags on pins since the day Pinterest announced the feature. The way hashtags function on Pinterest and the results you can expect have changed significantly since Pinterest activated hashtags on the platform.
You might be wondering why I’m bringing up how hashtags worked in the past if that’s not relevant today for Pinterest.
You’ve landed here because you are looking for information about how to use hashtags on Pinterest today.
I bet you’ve encountered a lot of information about hashtags that’s:
I wrote about hashtags from the very beginning … read this to see how Pinterest hashtags worked in the past.
First, let’s talk about the data behind whether or not hashtags work to generate traffic from Pinterest:
Beginning in Fall in 2018 I launched an experiment to track pin performance comparing pins with hashtags versus pins without hashtags.
I found that pins with hashtags ranked in search faster than pins without hashtags, generating traffic to the site quickly.
After 1-3 months, the pins with hashtags had diminished returns and performance continued to decline over time.
Pins without hashtags performed better over the long term, with improved traffic after 4-6 months from publication of the initial pin.
I observed that pins without hashtags generated 10x the traffic of pins with hashtags 6 months after publication.
As a result, I gave this advice regarding hashtags:
Keep reading to see what advice I give regarding hashtag use on Pinterest today.
I’m going to review the most popular hashtag tactics that I get asked about for Pinterest and that I’ve seen shared so that you can be clear on which tactics to avoid and why they are no longer relevant.
Here’s a list of hashtag tactics that are no longer effective on Pinterest:
A branded hashtag is your brand name all together as one phrase with the pound sign (#) front for example, #SmartFunDIY.
I was an early proponent of using branded hashtags to get more attention on your content from the search feed.
Branded hashtags have little value as a tactic on Pinterest today.
Hashtags appeared as blue text and were clickable within the pin description and sometimes were clickable in the search feed directly below the pin image until 2019.
Clicking the hashtag would generate search results of all pins with that hashtag, in reverse chronological order showing the newest pins at the top of the feed.
Usually the first three to five hashtags were visible and the rest were hidden behind ellipses.
The advice was to put the branded hashtag at the beginning of your block of hashtags. If a user was going to click any of the hashtags it was believed most likely they would click the first one. Placing the branded hashtag first ensured that it would be shown and not hidden behind the ellipses.
Hashtags no longer show up blue in the search feed and are no longer clickable. Since the hashtags are not clickable they won’t generate a search results feed for that hashtag.
Searching the hashtag will not generate a hashtag search results feed either; rather it generates a search result for the keyword contained within the hashtag.
Branded hashtags can still be useful to help identify content stolen from your account. Spammers are scraping your pin images and the pin description, which would include your hashtags if you’ve been using them. The branded hashtag acts as a label in this case to help you easily identify your content.
Pursuing stolen pins is a heavy investment for little ROI in my opinion, so we no longer use branded hashtags in our own practice.
Marketers turned popular keywords into hashtags in an effort to get more attention on their pins.
Pinning from Instagram resulting in trending Instagram-based hashtags indexing on Pinterest, which some marketers tried to incorporate in their pins.
Hashtags were clickable and displayed in the search feed just under the image, resulting in clicks of the hashtags direct from the search feed.
As I started adding hashtags to my pins and client pins, I observed that traffic began to increase dramatically and quickly.
Other marketers observed similar behavior and concluded that pinning pins with hashtags frequently would generate a more drastic increase in traffic in the short-term.
In the past, editing the pin description to add hashtags would push that pin up to the top of the search results for that hashtag
There’s no longer a hashtag search results or feed for these pins to be displayed in after edits are completed.
Editing pins no longer pushes that pin up to the top of a chronological feed, which does not exist in any place on Pinterest today. In fact, editing pins does little to change a pin’s performance and gives very little ROI when compared to creating a new pin.
There are tons of hashtag hacks and tactics that you’ve probably found during your search for how to use hashtags on Pinterest. The large majority of them can be avoided.
Here are some examples of more hashtag tactics to avoid:
Pinterest treats hashtags as keywords.
Head to Pinterest right now and type a hashtag in the search bar and press enter to generate search results. Notice that the Pinterest search results for this hashtag are the same as the search results for the keyword alone without the “#” in front.
Users search with keywords and not hashtags. Pinterest generates search results with keywords and not hashtags to reflect this user behavior.
How do you find keywords on Pinterest? Start here.
Knowing that Pinterest treats hashtags the same as keywords, we can use hashtags as an additional indicator to communicate the content of our pin to Pinterest.
Pinterest uses the following indicators to understand the content of a pin:
If you pin is well-optimized, Pinterest likely has enough information to determine the content of the pin whether hashtags are used or not.
I am no longer advising that hashtags be used on pins.
I’ve seen diminishing returns in our own tests when comparing performance of pins with hashtags to pins without hashtags.
You’re not alone in your choice to continue to use hashtags on Pinterest.
Before you embark using hashtags on Pinterest as a tactic, get clear on what result you’ll expect as an indicator of success.
I recommend testing both pins with hashtags and pins without hashtags, using UTM codes to track and compare the performance of each type of pin.
Not sure how to use UTM codes on your pins? We teach this in my program, SMART Pin Pro™ (click here for details).
Please share in the comments below.
Start with my free Pinterest Traffic Roadmap. Click here to get started.
A craft industry professional for over 14 years, Jennifer Priest has been featured in major publications and online by the likes of Apartment Therapy and MSNBC. Jennifer's digital marketing consulting firm, Smart Creative Social, has a prestigious client list in the craft and hobby industry, connecting influencers with brands, developing digital marketing strategy, and guiding clients in creating a solid social media strategy for their brand.
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