Writing separate alt text descriptions and Pin descriptions will help you win on all search and discovery platforms.
There’s something that’s bugged me for a long time now. Pinterest and the ALT text. We know that Pinterest will pull the ALT text for the default Pinterest description. So that’s where most of us have been putting our Pin descriptions. Here’s the thing though: Pin descriptions are different than what the ALT text should be.
What are alt attributes, according to Google: The “alt” attribute allows you to specify alternative text for the image if it cannot be displayed for some reason.If a user is viewing your site using assistive technologies, such as a screen reader, the contents of the alt attribute provide information about the picture. Another reason is that if you’re using an image as a link, the alt text for that image will be treated similarly to the anchor text of a text link. Lastly, optimizing your image filenames and alt text makes it easier for image search projects like Google Image Search to better understand your images.
What are Pin descriptions, according to Pinterest: When someone taps a Pin for a closeup, they’ll also see your description. A good description can make your idea more compelling and actionable. Every Pin should have a description that gives context. The best descriptions are positive, helping people imagine what they might do with the Pin while also providing extra information.
I did some digging and couldn’t find any documentation from Pinterest that says you should use the ALT text for your descriptions. None. Sip. Zilch. I’m not sure how it became common practice.
The way Pinterest works: the official Pinterest buttons use the Pinterest description first, if it’s not there it defaults to the title text, if it’s not there it defaults to the alt text. Most people write ALT texts, so I assume that’s how it became common practice among Pinners.
How Pinterest pulls comment descriptions:
- 1st priority = data-pin-description
- 2nd priority = image title text
- 3rd priority = alt attribute text
*New* Pinterest will use the og:description when someone saves using the Pinterest browser button. This is used over the other three if there is an og:description present. Only happens when the browser button is used.
The ALT text should be used for its intended purpose. I’m taking on a big task here. I know that I’m asking people to change their ways. There is a better way to add Pinterest descriptions. A way that makes you Google and Pinterest compliant.
Why you should care about SEO and not just Pinterest
On average, there are 3.5 billion searches per day on Google. Per day.
Pinterest is raking in 2 billion searches a month.
I love Pinterest. I love searching on Pinterest. I love getting traffic from Pinterest.
But, there is great potential from Google.
We don’t want to harm our SEO trying to plan for Pinterest. And let me tell you, the way bloggers are writing their Pinterest descriptions right now is not good SEO practice –
Pin descriptions I’ve seen lately:
Create Your First Online Course | 4 Steps for Getting Started | How to Make Money Blogging | Brand New Blogger | Blogging Tips | Blog Tips | How to Blog | Blogging 101 | Blogging for Beginners
or this one:
Morning is my favorite part of the day. I’m working full time, so my mornings are for me the time where I can accomplish the most things and work on my side hustle (this blog). In other words, I don’t have the time to waste my time. The way my morning goes usually sets my mood for the rest of the day; therefore I want to make sure that my mornings are exactly the way I want them to be: peaceful, cozy and most of all, productive. Over the months I have developed a morning routine that has helped
ACK! both are no good for SEO and accessibility. The first because it is keyword stuffed and the second because it is so long.
If done right, you can optimize for both Pinterest and Google at the same time. This means ditching the habit of using the ALT text for Pinterest descriptions.
How to add descriptions to your images for Pinterest
There are two different ways you can add a Pinterest official description to your images. The code way, and the plugin way. Do whichever way works best for you.
Switch to code to add in Pinterest descriptions for images.
First, insert your image into the post. Then, you will switch to text mode (where you can see the code) to add in the Pin description. Inside the image code, you are going to add
With your Pin description inside the quotation marks, of course.
Your image code will look something like this:
<img src="https://kristiehill.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/how-can-i-make-money-blogging.png" alt="Money made by blogging spilling out of a canning jar." data-pin-description="Looking to make money blogging? Know what you have to offer and you'll be able to make a plan to monetize your blog! Check out these suggestions on how bloggers make money." />
Here's the breakdown:
Alt= Money made by spilling out of a canning jar.
Pin Description= Looking to make money blogging? Know what you have to offer and then you'll be able to make a plan to monetize your blog! Check out these suggestions on how bloggers make money.
See, adding a separate Pin description is super easy. Yes, you switched to text mode, but it was a simple line of code. But, there's an even easier way.
Use a plugin to add in Pinterest descriptions for images.
Up until recently, manually adding in the code was the only way to add a specific Pin Description. Luckily for us, the folks at Tasty WP created a plugin to make it easier. It is called Tasty Pins (affiliate link). Basically, it adds in a new text box inside your image media page. That way you can add your image, your Alt attribute, and Pin description at the same time.
Once you've uploaded and activated the plugin, you can add your images as normal. Except, there will be a new text box for your Pin description. Yay!
It's a super simple, light weight plugin that will make your site optimization for Pinterest and Google easier. Learn more about Tasty Pins
Best tips for Pinterest Descriptions
Okay, we've established that Alt attributes and Pin descriptions should be different. For Alt best practices, head over to the Moz article Alt Text. In a new tab, of course. You and I are going to stay here and talk about Pin Descriptions. Note that a Pin description is different than the snippet that shows up in article Rich Pins. Both are beneficial. The Pin description can be changed by users, while your snippet stays uniform for all Pins leading to a specific post. More on Snippets for Rich Pins.
We know that the Pin description shows up after a Pinner clicks on the image in the feed, which gives them more information about the Pin. Pinterest has told us that the descriptions help them know which feeds and search results to show show your Pin to.
Which boils the Pin Description to these two main purposes:
- The Pin pescriptions tells Pinterest which search results and feeds to display your pin
- The Pin description gives Pinners more information and encourages them Pinners to engage with the pin (save or click).
As with search optimization, your Pin descriptions should be written for people and then optimized for the machine. Think of the people first when you are writing your descriptions. I know some bloggers are seeing success with they keyword stuffed style descriptions. I think it is safe to assume that Pinterest will eventually crack down on keyword stuffed descriptions. I like to play for the long term. I would hate to work hard at building a good reputation on Pinterest only to be penalized down the road when they work on weeding out the spam.
Formula for a solid Pin Description:
One - three sentences that connects to the intended audience + incorporated keywords+ maybe a hashtag or two.
I highly recommend checking out these guide, which will give you more in-depth details on how to write descriptions.
One tidbit I picked up by reading the success guide is this,
"It’s okay to have multiple Pins that lead to the same webpage. In fact, it can be beneficial to save a variety of images that might appeal to different types of Pinners. Just make sure to add unique descriptions that are specific to each Pin—it’ll improve your SEO."
I have been using the same Pin description for every image, but I am going to start experimenting with different descriptions for different images.
UPDATE: Pinterest has clarified this more and they do recommend changing up descriptions every time you pin! Its not a have to, but it can help. 🙂
Be Pinterest and Google Smart
Now go forward and optimize your images for Pinterest and Google. Don't worry too much about going through old posts, unless you need something to do while watching Netflix. (Unless you're a keyword stuffer offender, then maybe you might want to update yours when you have time.) Just make it a habit going forward: separate and distinct Alt attributes and Pin descriptions.