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What Pinterest Learned In Two Years Working On It’s Search Engine

About two years ago, Pinterest launched a different flavor of search engine called Guided Search. Instead of relying on deep data on the user, it would create a network of related topics that users can dive deep into. The idea being that a search like “iPhone” would net additional categories, like “design,” “hardware” and such.

Now Guided Search is about two years old, and the company says it serves around 2 billion searches per month. Guided Search engineer Naveen Gavini said that people also see on average around 55 ideas per search. The team — while small — still hasn’t been able to sit still after the launch, as more and more people begin using it. After all, each tool requires continued refinement if it’s going to continue to grow.

For Pinterest, that’s meant finding new ways to personalize its search tools to give users ways to figure out an endpoint for the ideas they are looking for. Localization, too, has been key — the way people search and what results they hope to find may be radically different based on where they live. The company has been focused on improving both of those in order to make Pinterest the go-to search engine for ideas, Gavini said.

“I think based on [what we’ve learned] we’ve really invested in making [discovery] more suited for that style of searching,” Gavini said. “We’ve improved guides, worked a lot on localization, and applied a lot on personalization of those guides. Initially when we launched, you could click one to three guides and be at the bottom of that. Now you can go six to seven levels deep, they’re personalized and localized based on you. That’s a lot of the behavior we’ve seen and adapted to.”

There’s an opportunity to learn from the way Pinterest’s search engine has evolved over time. While the service is what Gavini describes as “human powered” — pulling together results from the way other people search through ideas — a bit of personalization can go a long way in improving the experience. That, in the end, improves engagement, and gets users coming back to the service as a go-to place for figuring out the answers to their ideas (which is good for Pinterest’s business). In short, Pinterest search seems to be growing at a decent clip, but there’s a lot of work to be done.

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