There are more than 750 million boards on Pinterest with 30 billion pins curated by travelers, bloggers, foodies, brands and more. So how can you quickly find content that interests you? Thankfully, Pinterest recently introduced some great new features that are worth looking into. And while Pinterest may not be replacing Google anytime soon, it is advancing the platform towards becoming a true search alternative to the giant.

With the addition of Pinterest’s “Places Pins” comes a new form of location metadata for pins, giving them a physical location on a map powered by FourSquare. Pinterest also introduced Guided Search, which will aid browsers of the visual scrapbooking site with exploring and discovering content that is specific to them.

Search engines are meant for answering specific questions. Pinterest’s approach with Place Pins and Guided Search is to help answer those questions that may have more than one right answer. Questions such as where to go on your next vacation, or what to have for dinner tonight. Now when you search on Pinterest, descriptive visual guides will help you sort through the endless stream of content, and discover new, interesting ideas and places.

What makes Pinterest different than Google?

Of course Google has visual searching options, but what makes Pinterest unique is that it is a user-curated visual search. While Google remains the king of showing results related to the intent of a search, Pinterest is doing a much better job at offering results that assist us with the quality of our daily lives and providing actionable inspiration and content.

Pinterest co-founder Evan Sharp recently told ReadWrite, “People don’t think about searching ‘living room inspiration’ on Google. They literally don’t do that because the results don’t work, and they become accustomed to not searching that. But on Pinterest that can be a really fruitful and valuable thing to search.”

How does Guided Search work?

This powerful addition to Pinterest is surprisingly simple and straight-forward to use. Starting with a search query, for example “plants”, a row of buttons appear below the search with subcategories pulled from the millions of captions, comments and other descriptive data attached to individual pins. In this case, “garden”, “indoor”, “shade”, “decorating”, would all appear. You can then choose a subcategory to refine your search which is followed by additional subcategories to further narrow down the search results. This ends in a search experience where instead of being given an answer, you are guided towards one in a more flexible discovery process where you can refine or expand your options.

How does Pinterest search compare with Google?

Pinterest’s guided searching is great if you are starting with broad questions and finding your way towards a satisfying result by narrowing down the results visually, refining the search along the way. For example, if you are looking for activities to entertain children, you can simply search “children’s activities”, then filter through the results with the given subcategories, such as “indoor activities”, “outdoor activities”, “games”, “crafts”, and more. This is a great way of discovering not only new content, but also categories you may not have thought about searching in.

Guided search is also particularly useful for specific, subjective questions where your “right answer” may differ from the next searcher’s definition of the “right answer”. For example, if you are searching for a new hairstyle, you can narrow down the results visually based on your particular hair type, rather than have to filter through Google results, which are based on rankings, not your personal needs.

Finally, Pinterest is aiming to solve what some see as the biggest problem with search engines right now, which is helping people discover content, even if they aren’t sure of what exactly it is they are trying to find. The visually stunning design along with the endless scrolling feature of Pinterest has quickly made the social network a go-to for browsing images and ideas from all over the world.

Pinterest still has a long way to go to compete head-on with Google, however with additional tools like Places Pins and Guided Search, it is well on its way to establishing a fair share of the search engine market and capturing users who are eager for a new kind of search. Solving the issue of “discovery” is no easy challenge, but Pinterest is definitely up to it.

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