Sorry, BuzzFeed: Pinterest Isn’t A Better Search Engine Than Google

I went on a BuzzFeed diet about a month ago, where I stopped following the site and reading the content there. I should have stuck to it, because I wouldn’t be wasting my time now dissecting one of its stupid, pageview-baiting stories. In this one, Pinterest is positioned as a better search engine than Google.

The story runs through 10 examples illustrating how Pinterest “beats” Google “nine out of ten times.” But despite the headline, these aren’t examples of Pinterest being a better search engine than Google. They’re examples of Pinterest supposedly being a better image search engine than Google, which is a huge difference.

Pinterest As Best Search Engine?

For example, say I’m trying to find a site like BuzzFeed itself. I’d probably go to a search engine and enter “BuzzFeed.” On Pinterest, I get this:


Which link takes me to BuzzFeed? None of them, because they aren’t links to sites, they’re links to pictures. The biggest picture with the BuzzFeed logo isn’t even from the BuzzFeed Pinterest account. The one of the right of that is, through a repin. With some clicking, I’d eventually get to the BuzzFeed site.

Over on Google (where I can search without being required to have an account and logging in, as with Pinterest), it lists BuzzFeed at the top, with a direct link:

buzzfeed - Google Search

I could do this all day and slaughter the idea that Pinterest is a better search engine than Google, for the things search engines are typically used for, which is to locate websites with information. Heck, I could do it with Bing.

Pinterest As Best Image Search Engine?

How about I back up and just look at the idea that Pinterest is a better image search engine than Google Images? Here’s one example from the BuzzFeed article to supposedly prove this, a “ruffles” search:

Pinterest Accidentally Built A Better Search Engine Than Google

Pinterest shows ruffles on dresses and cakes. Google shows Ruffles potato chips. Which is right? Both. And neither. Because the “right” answer is entirely subjective. If you wanted to find pictures of Ruffles potato chips, and some might, then despite BuzzFeed’s belief, Google would win.

Most importantly, Ruffles chips aren’t the only thing Google shows. It shows a variety of pictures, including some ruffles on dresses. It even suggests a way to drill down into those types of pictures above the results.

Here’s another example where Pinterest supposedly wins, an “iphone” search:

Pinterest Accidentally Built A Better Search Engine Than Google-1

One important thing to note is that the Pinterest example doesn’t start at the top, so we don’t really know what BuzzFeed saw listed first, in order to fairly compare that with Google.

Based on what’s been presented, it’s hard to see how Google is a failure for showing actual images of iPhones while Pinterest shows everything but that. iPhone cases, sure — but that’s not what the search was for. And, if you do search for “iphone cases” at Google, it does show you examples.

Different Tools For Different Needs

There’s no question in my mind that Pinterest has emerged as an excellent image search engine. It’s even one that can, indeed, give you different and sometimes better results than Google Images, because of the unique “search voice” that it has.

But, Pinterest isn’t always the best tool, any more than Google Images is. The good news is that consumers have a variety of image search tools they can turn to.

If you want a unique collection of photos, Flickr is always on my short-list of choices. I’ve also appreciated how easy it is to find Creative Commons material that can be used there.

Bing Images is a another great image search engine to try, and it recently gained the ability to let you pin images you find there to Pinterest.

Topsy can be outstanding for finding pictures of breaking news events, as Twitter can also be.

As for Google Images, there’s plenty to love there, including the new ability to find animated GIFs or the existing feature allowing you to use one image to search for similar ones. That’s pretty cool, when it works. TinEye has that feature as well, and had it much longer than Google.

Related Articles

Related Topics: Channel: Consumer | Google: Images | Pinterest | Search Engines: Photo & Image Search | Top News


About The Author: is a Founding Editor of Search Engine Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search engines and search marketing issues who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

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  • Takeshi Young

    Pinterest’s search SUCKS. It basically does keyword matching with the description, coupled with recency and engagement metrics. Google’s image search is a lot more sophisticated and takes a lot more factors into account.

  • Mark Pilatowski

    BuzzFeed is still pissed at Google because their unoriginal content got smacked down by Panda. They will do anything to convince the world that Google doesn’t matter because they can’t get out of purgatory

  • Rachel Keslensky – Last Res0rt

    Pinterest is good if you’re looking for something Pinterest already specializes in — wedding decor, craft ideas for certain items, home decor solutions, recipes…

    For my purposes, Pinterest is good for INSPIRATION, Google is good for INFORMATION. You don’t expect Pinterest to contain reviews on a good pho restaurant, and you don’t scan Google Images for cute iPhone cases and creative uses of Ikea furniture. Why expect them to be what they’re not?

  • Media3

    Pinterest is just a photo sharing social networking site, i can get the results just based on it limits and google is just a god for internet and wish something to google, it can get it you in fraction of seconds…..!

  • M Chaaban

    I tried Pinterest and didn’t like it even, on the other hand I use google or one of googles other products every time I am on the net. there is nothing to compare. Agree with you totally.

  • Jon

    What a pointless thing to debunk?! This is SEL.

  •!/kmadhav Sourabh Rana

    After Facebook vs Google.Now Pinterest vs Google really funny . Pinterest is best image search engine but not search engine .. Sorry pinterest you need some serious work & requires few decades to beat Google


    The two shouldn’t even be compared in the same sentence. We’re talking apples and oranges here. When BF got love from G they applauded them. Now they give us this.

  • Gurjit Singh Khehra

    Hi Danny Sullivan, I don’t know what you are talking about. Looks like Article was written by some employee of Pinterest. When you Search for iPhone, it is actually the iPhone what you searching for an Google Images shows Matched Results while Pinterst Shows Covers etc which comes under Search Keyword: iPhone Covers…Try to do it on Google Images and you’ll get best matched results. Can’t understand that site like SEL throwing this shit on their Users. We are not so mad and dumb who’ll treat your sayings as Universal Truths. So at least think about something when you posting an article and if you don’t have anything coming up in your mind then relax and do some rest instead of writing posts with random words and images.
    With Regards.

  • Gurjit Singh Khehra

    Yes, You are right…Now i am thinking of writing articles such as: Why Maxthon Browser is better than Chrome, Why Nokia 1100 or Asha is Better than Nexus 4. Why Maruti 800 is better than Audi A6…and then Submit them to SEL, In return i don’t even want any backlink and if SEL wants then they can remove my Name from author. I think they’ll publish them soon. :)
    Can’t understand who is moderating these posts before publishing.

  • Barbara Doppes

    “quotation marks – you suck – buzzfeed – your main source of information – ruffles potatoes chips you are eating as you type this – and that nasty apple iphone you use – do not like ‘pinterest because it is geared for women – lots of smart good looking males entertain themselves on pinterest – you – of which – obviously – are not

  • Ecion

    Sorry, SearchEngineLand: That Article Was A Bigger Fail Than The XBox One Announcement.

  • Bishal Hunter

    yes Pintrest search is not good as google because google is google and it is the oldest search engine and i optimize my blog and other site easily from this quick responding site

  • Nathaniel Bailey

    lol, I’m sorry but if I was searching for iPhone do you really think I would be looking for an actual iPhone or cookies that look like an iPhone?! The cookies do look really tasty but I think most people searching for iPhone would indeed be looking for an actual iPhone!

    I will give pinterest praise when due though, it does come up with some good image searches, but I would never ever compare it to what real search engines do and give us as they are not the same and are not intended to be used the same!

  • Sandeep Bali

    You are wrong, you want cookies.

  • Nathaniel Bailey

    You’re right, I don’t like Apple so I personally probably would be looking for the cookies :p

  • ratebee

    Im not saying it’s impossible for Google to be outdone, but Google has dominated the search engine market because they keep reinventing themselves. Their competitors have a long way to go to surpass them.

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