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. […]

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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:

Pinterest

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.

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About the author

Danny Sullivan
Contributor
Danny Sullivan was a journalist and analyst who covered the digital and search marketing space from 1996 through 2017. He was also a cofounder of Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and MarTech, and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo and MarTech events. He retired from journalism and Third Door Media in June 2017. You can learn more about him on his personal site & blog He can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

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