Pinterest opens up search advertising in its Ads Manager

Pinterest began rolling out targeted ads based on searches for its partners earlier this year, giving it another moment in time to catch potential customers as they try to sniff out new things they might buy — and now everyone else will get a piece of that.

The company said it is adding search ads to its Ads manager today, letting businesses target customers searching for potential products, which basically gives them the opportunity to put an ad in front of them at a moment when they’ve signaled some intent or interest in an idea or product. Pinterest also said it will give businesses the ability to auto-target relevant searches based on its extensive “Taste Graph,” which includes more than 5,000 interests and opened up to marketers in September.

This is pretty typical Pinterest protocol: pick off a niche of the advertising market, run it through its paces with marketing partners, and then if it’s successful open it up to the rest of the universe. The company has tried to close the so-called “funnel” by offering different kinds of advertising tools, hoping to offer marketers a product that sweeps the whole span of a customer’s lifetime that’s divvied up across Facebook, Google and other advertising platforms.

Businesses can now target search ads against exact match keywords, or phrases and broader match targeting. They can also make sure they exclude terms that the ads might show up against. For smaller businesses that might not have a lot of experience running search ads, Pinterest’s autotargeting can kick in and help launch search campaigns.

Starting from the top, Pinterest gives advertisers the ability to generate awareness for their brands or products — a sweet spot for Facebook. Search ads, now open to the rest of the businesses running ads on Pinterest, helps them slot into that spot that Google owns when people search for a product and basically tell a Google “hey, I’m probably interested in buying a shoe.” Pinterest’s pitch is that it can handle the awareness, the intent, and then finally getting someone to save or buy a product, all in one swoop.

That’s going to be important if Pinterest can prove itself out as a viable option alongside Facebook and Google. Snap, which will report its earnings in a few weeks, hasn’t seemed to make that leap that forces advertisers to take it seriously and divert parts of their budget to it yet. And while Pinterest is growing and recently hit 200 million monthly active users, but it also has to make that same argument for advertisers or it will end up just sitting in the curiosity budgets of larger firms.