Once upon a time, SEO was associated only with websites and blogs. These days, however, Instagram SEO is a must as well.
Optimizing your social media accounts is a great way to gain more visibility. Higher visibility naturally translates to more followers and better engagement.
Related Read: 15 Tips to Grow Your Instagram Engagement Rate
Not to mention, with Gen Z preferring to search on Instagram and TikTok over Google, it’s high time you make sure your content ranks near the top in the photo-sharing app’s search results.
But how does Instagram optimization even work? Let’s dive into this and more in today’s post. We’ll walk you through what Instagram SEO is, why it’s important, what Instagram looks at to rank your content, and how you can increase your chances of ranking in the Instagram search engine.
What is Instagram SEO?
Instagram SEO involves optimizing your Instagram profile and its content to improve its performance on the platform.
It’s similar to optimizing content for a search engine like Google. You just need to work with the Instagram algorithm to make sure your content has a chance of ranking higher in the app.
To optimize your Instagram, use the right keywords and hashtags. This way, when a user searches for a term in Instagram’s search bar to find content or accounts, your profile or posts can appear at the top of the search results.
Remember: competition on Instagram is tough, so whether you’re an influencer or a business, following Instagram SEO techniques is a good idea for standing out of the crowd.
Related Read: How To Ace Instagram Aesthetics For Businesses
Why is Instagram SEO Important?
There are many reasons why Instagram SEO is important.
Firstly, optimizing your Instagram helps your chances of showing up among the top search results on the platform when someone enters a relevant keyword or hashtag. This is also important for those who want to make money on Instagram.
Secondly, an optimized Instagram profile is also going to show up in Google’s search results when someone searches for you on the web.
Related Read: The Ultimate Guide to Instagram Automation
For instance, when you google Creatopy, an ad design automation platform, you’ll see search results bring up its Instagram account on the first page:
Lastly, you need to tap into Instagram SEO to be easily findable to millennials and Gen Z users, who make up most of Instagram’s audience and have the most buying power — a whopping $165 billion combined. So, to ensure your brand gets the attention of the dominant purchasing demographics, you must focus on Instagram SEO.
Not only can SEO for Instagram make you more easily findable, but it can also attract more customers (or clients if you’re an influencer).
How does SEO work for Instagram?
SEO for Instagram doesn’t only rely on the correct use of keywords. Instead, hashtags play a significant role on Instagram too.
Related Read: A Must-Read Hashtag Guide For Instagram Influencers
Not only can users search for hashtags to discover content, but hashtags are also clickable. This means: when you click on a hashtag, it takes you to more posts that have used it.
So, using relevant hashtags in your username, profile bio, and captions can help make your content more discoverable on the platform.
For instance, when you search for #Italianfood on the app, it shows you the accounts, tags, places, and more content that has used this hashtag:
A solid Instagram SEO strategy works with the Instagram algorithm — using the right keywords and hashtags to signal the search engine to rank your profile and/or posts higher in Instagram’s search results.
Hence, the main idea here is to use niche-specific hashtags where they fit to make your content more search-friendly.
Instagram SEO Ranking Factors
To better understand how to optimize your content for the Instagram search engine, you need to have a solid grip on what the app looks at when ranking search results.
Fortunately, Instagram has been open about the signals it reads when ranking accounts and content.
So, let’s take a look at the photo-first app’s SEO ranking factors to see how you can work with them:
- Search query
The first thing Instagram looks at is the text entered in the search bar.
When your profile’s bio or your posts’ caption matches the search query, your content has a chance of showing up in the search results. This explains why your profile comes up when someone enters your unique username.
To become more discoverable as a public account, though, the text in your profile should include niche-specific keywords and hashtags.
- User interaction
When someone has interacted with a profile in the recent past, Instagram shows that profile near the top of search results.
So, for example, if X has interacted with a handful of food pages, those accounts will have a higher chance of appearing in search results when the same person enters relevant text in the search bar.
- Account popularity
Another factor that Instagram considers is the popularity of an account. When your account has higher engagement — more likes, followers, and saves, Instagram is more likely to show it among the top search results.
- Content freshness
Finally, Instagram positions fresh content higher when someone searches for a hashtag. Older posts tend to get lost in the sea of content that is posted daily.
This means that along with working toward increasing your follower count and Instagram engagement (likes and comments on your posts), post regularly.
Consistent posting, that too at the best Instagram posting time for your business, helps you get more engagement as well. This shouldn’t be difficult to do, as you can always schedule your Instagram posts for publishing at a later time with ContentStudio.
Related Read: How To Use Instagram DM To Improve Conversion Rates
That said, here’s a quick summary of how you can use Instagram’s ranking factors to improve your SEO game on the visuals-first platform:
- Research what keywords and hashtags your target audience searches for and interacts with. Use those keywords and hashtags wherever possible in your Instagram profile.
- Spark engagement. If Instagram users interact with you, they’ll see your account at the top of search results — it doesn’t matter if they follow you or not.
- Work on organically increasing your likes and follows to gain popularity on Instagram. Remember, the more popular you are, the stronger your SEO.
- Post regularly. Don’t forget to make sure all your posts use relevant hashtags in their captions.
10 Instagram SEO Tactics to Increase Your Discoverability
With the basics covered, let’s get to the juicy bit. Below are 10 SEO tactics for Instagram optimization that can get your Instagram profile more attention:
1. Optimize your profile
First, for your Instagram to be easily findable, the foundational step is to have a search-friendly username.
Make sure your username is:
- Easy to spell
- Easy to remember
- In a language your target audience understands
If you already use other social media networks, your username should be the same. This way, your followers on other networks can easily find you on Instagram.
Other than this, make sure your profile picture is memorable. Something colorful that matches your niche will work. If you’re a business, your logo can also be your display picture.
Again, if you have an account on other networks, make sure you use the same profile picture on all platforms so that you’re easily discoverable on all social channels.
And before you move on to posting, fill in your bio. Don’t forget to include a link to your website as well. Lastly, make sure your bio describes what you do, your niche, and your business briefly yet clearly.
There’s a lot to learn from the Instagram account of Dubai’s Forever Rose Cafe. See how the account’s bio succinctly mentions what makes the cafe different and includes its location as well:
2. Use your main keyword in your name
Using your main keyword in your username and profile name can help show your profile near the top of search results.
I entered ‘copywriter’ in my Instagram search bar, for example, and found Taylor Marsden, who is nailing her Instagram SEO game. Her username is simple and yet contains her primary keyword. Her name further clarifies her profession, giving you an idea of what she does.
One thing to keep in mind here: it may not always be possible to include your main keyword in your username. This is because your desired username might already be taken, or it may get too long if you include your primary keyword. However, you can definitely use your primary keyword in your display name.
3. Use secondary keywords in your bio
If you go back to Taylor’s example above, you’ll be able to spot secondary keywords in her bio too. This is something you should aim to do as well.
By making your bio keyword rich, you increase your chances of ranking for keywords other than your primary keyword.
However, don’t stuff your bio with keywords. Doing so will only ruin your account’s quality and may make your bio less readable.
You may already have a rough idea of the keywords people use to search for accounts similar to yours. If you’re confused, though, you can always use Instagram SEO tools to identify exactly which terms people are searching for when looking up a business like yours on Instagram.
Once you have a list of relevant short and long-tail keywords people use, write down a bio that uses the most searched-for terms.
You can always change your bio to include a relevant keyword when promoting a new product or service you’re offering.
4. Use hashtags in your caption
Hashtags work for Instagram like keywords do for Google.
So always make sure to use hashtags if you want your posts to get more likes and views. You can add up to 30 hashtags to your posts, but it’s best to use only 3 to 5, as Instagram recommends.
Hang on, though: what hashtags should you use? Good question. Use hashtags that are relevant to your posts yet diverse. This will allow you to attract different audiences to your account.
Minimalist Baker on Instagram is good at using a different set of relevant yet diverse hashtags for each post. Here’s a glimpse:
To find hashtags, you can simply type # and the first letters of what is relevant to your picture. You’ll see a handful of suggestions listed that you can choose from. You can also use Hashtagify to find popular hashtags and dive into your Instagram analytics to find which hashtags are driving the most engagement for you.
Just keep these pointers in mind:
- Don’t use the same set of hashtags over and over again. This way, you risk getting shadowbanned on Instagram.
- Don’t use overcrowded, generic hashtags. Overpopulated hashtags have a lot of posts competing for attention which lowers your chances of driving engagement.
5. Use keywords in captions
There was a time when Instagram didn’t care much about keywords. Back then, search results revolved around hashtags only.
Things have changed as Instagram reads keywords in your captions to decide which posts to show when a keyword is searched for.
This is why, along with finding the best set of hashtags for your posts and Instagram reels, you should also look for keywords to add to their captions.
Here’s Emmett Sparling’s Instagram post as an example. Look at how the long caption includes all the essential keywords that describe the image:
Use keywords that people can search for when looking for an account like yours. To find such terms, use Google Analytics or another analytics tool.
You can also get an idea of what keywords are essential for your business by looking at your hashtags.
6. Change the alt text of your posts
When you publish a post on Instagram, it automatically generates an alt text for it. The alt text makes it easier for visually challenged individuals to understand your content.
It also describes your photo so that when it doesn’t load, people can read the alt text to get an idea of what it’s about.
So, how can this alt text play a role in improving your Instagram SEO?
You can manually write your alt text, including keywords, to make the most of the SEO opportunity here.
This is helpful because when Instagram automatically generates alt text, it creates a vague, short description of your photos. Taking the manual route enables you to write better, keyword-rich, and detailed alt text.
Related Read: Marketing with Instagram Guides: Tips, Tricks & More
To change the alt text, simply click on Advanced Settings just before hitting publish.
There, you’ll find the option to write alt text.
7. Tag your location
While you can mention your location by tagging it using a hashtag, another way to do so is by adding your precise location to your post.
To do so, click on Add location right below your caption before hitting the post.
So how does this help? When someone searches for your exact location on Instagram, they may visit the ‘Places’ category in the search results. If you have tagged your location, there’s a high chance your post will be shown in the results under this category.
For instance, when you search for ‘Seven Hills Restaurant Istanbul’ and click on Places, these are the results you get:
All these posts have tagged the search term as their location, which is why they appear in the search results.
This is a great Instagram SEO tip for both influencers and local brick-and-mortar businesses that want to drive more engagement.
8. Post high-quality content regularly
Original, high-quality ranking content is your key to success on social media.
When you post authentic content that is either entertaining or educational, people interact with you. This, in turn, increases your Instagram engagement. Recall that the higher your engagement on the ‘gram, the higher your chances of showing up near the top of search results.
So, while it’s a good idea to make the most of SEO for Instagram, all these tactics can’t deliver as fruitful results if you don’t have a quality Instagram feed. Not sure about the Instagram video size guide?
To add, you need to post consistently. It’s only then that Instagram and your followers will consider you an active account to engage with.
To post regularly without skipping on the best days and times to post on Instagram, use ContentStudio.
Monitor content by keywords, topics or sources of your interest. Curate content that drives engagement on all of your channels.
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With ContentStudio, you can schedule your posts in one sitting for automatic posting at set times later.
Related Read: How to Schedule Instagram Posts, Reels & Stories in 2022
To do this, you’ll need to connect your Instagram account to your ContentStudio account.
Once done, simply open up the Composer in the ContentStudio web app. A box will open up with space for writing a caption. To add your post, click on the camera icon at the bottom left corner.
To schedule your post for publishing at a later time, click on the downward arrow beside the option to Post Now.
You’ll also need to download the ContentStudio mobile app to receive notifications regarding the content you’ve scheduled.
By scheduling your posts, you’ll be able to reduce your workload. This way, you can maintain a work-life balance and stay on top of your Instagram strategy.
9. Don’t follow black hat SEO techniques
When it comes to Instagram SEO, it’s important you play by the rules. If you don’t, you risk getting ‘shadowbanned.’
Put simply, Instagram bans accounts (or posts) that follow black hat SEO tactics such as:
- Using the same extensive set of hashtags for all your posts
- Burying your captions in keywords senselessly
- Buying fake followers or likes
- Stealing others’ content
While these tactics can give you a temporary (and fake) boost of engagement, they are useless over time. They also damage your Instagram strategy in the long run. This is why it’s best to avoid using bots or keyword stuffing.
10. Track analytics and fine-tune your SEO strategy
The final tip? Track your content’s performance on Instagram to see what’s working and what’s not.
For improving your Instagram SEO, in particular, focus on tracking which hashtags and keywords bring you the most engagement. Use those terms and tags more often to improve future posts’ performance on the platform.
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If you have a business account, you can check hashtag analytics by clicking View Insights at the bottom left of each post.
There, you can find how many impressions you’ve received owing to the hashtags used in the caption.
Tip: check the insights of your top posts to see if the hashtags you’ve used have reaped results.
Moreover, you can also use Content Studio for tracking Instagram analytics. You get detailed insights on your top-performing posts, the best days and times to post on Instagram, the most fruitful hashtags, and more.
Also Read: Instagram Notes: All You Need to Know
Ready to optimize your Instagram?
Wrapping up, Instagram optimization can help put your Instagram profile and content in front of your target audience and increase engagement.
While Instagram SEO mainly relies on hashtags, keywords also play a role. You must sensibly use both your profile bio and post captions.
Not to forget, post original, quality content regularly for your Instagram optimization to show results. Don’t forget to check your analytics to see which hashtags and keywords are working in your favor.
You can always use Instagram SEO tools such as ContentStudio for scheduling your posts, diving into Instagram analytics, and much more.
Alafiya Memon is a freelance content writer and an ardent lover of fries. She creates value-packed, conversational blog posts. When she's not working, you'll find her doodling or reading.