Mastering Instagram SEO: 5 Tips To Improve Your Reach

Written By Otilia Crizbasan | 22 August, 2023

Social media becomes Gen Z’s new go-to search engine

Instagram is not just a social media platform anymore – it’s the new frontier of search engines. 

At the moment, over a billion active users are scrolling, liking, and most importantly, searching for content that sparks their interests. But how can you get your slice of this attention pie? The answer lies in Instagram SEO.

If you’re still wondering how to level-up your search game, we’re about deep dive into the exciting world of Instagram SEO. 

Let’s get started!

What is Instagram SEO?

Instagram SEO is a process of fine-tuning your content on the platform to ensure it stands out in Instagram search results. 

When users input terms connected to your industry or brand in the Instagram search bar, the goal is to have your content or profile emerge among the top picks — an outcome achievable with an effective Instagram SEO strategy. 

Instagram’s search results encompass a wide array of categories: relevant posts for you, accounts, audio, tags, and places. For example, if you searched for ‘travel’, this is how the result page would look.

results categories of instagram when you search 'travel'

What makes Instagram SEO so important?

We’ve moved past the time when discovering new Instagram content was mainly through hashtags or the Explore page. Users now turn to the search function to discover specific types of content on Instagram and other social media platforms.

But why is Instagram so important that you should dedicate your time to getting found on the platform? Here are some stats to answer this question:

Key factors for Instagram SEO ranking

If you’re looking for an exact formula to rocket your account to the top of the search rankings, you won’t find one. 

But there are three specific Instagram SEO factors that determine the ranking of a keyword search result that you need to know. Check them out here:

  1. Query input

The text entered into the search bar is the most important factor for a search. Instagram uses these search terms to find relevant usernames, bios, captions, hashtags, and locations.

  1. User engagement

You guessed it right – we’re talking about the hashtags and accounts a user has followed and engaged with, and the posts they’ve viewed previously. Even from accounts they don’t follow. 

So, accounts and hashtags that a user interacts with rank higher than those they don’t. And shared connections also influence the search results. For instance, if you searched for ‘travel’ the majority of top results would likely have mutual connections. 

So keep in mind: the search results for the same term can differ, depending on the accounts you’re already connected with.

  1. Indicators of popularity

Content that has already gained popularity is more likely to secure a higher rank in search results. Instagram measures popularity through indicators such as count of clicks, likes, shares, and follows.

5 Instagram SEO tips for better reach

  1. Optimise your Instagram profile for search

Did you know that Instagram’s search function operates similarly to Google’s, delivering the most relevant profiles based on your search term? And, as we mentioned above, Instagram’s search results are influenced by the accounts you follow, the posts you like, and the use of keywords.

So it helps if you optimise your profile with keywords for:

  • Name and username – include a primary keyword in your name and username to improve your chances of appearing in relevant searches. If you can’t alter your username, try to play around with the profile name in your bio.
results page from instagram when you search 'travel' in 'accounts' tab
  • Bio – Use your bio to add keywords relevant to your business. Include your target keyword as well as secondary keywords to describe your services or products.
example of instagram profile optimised for keywords
  1. Write keyword-optimised captions

Using keyword-optimised captions on Instagram can improve your content’s visibility. 

The Instagram Explore page algorithm recommends personalised content based on users’ interests and interactions. And keywords in your captions help the algorithm align your posts with the right audience.

Descriptive captions containing relevant keywords increase your chances of appearing on the Explore page of users interested in your content’s theme.

  1. Consider hashtags as keywords

On Instagram, hashtags serve as keywords, helping users discover relevant content. When you tag a post with a specific hashtag, it appears when that hashtag is searched.

It’s vital to use trendy, relevant hashtags to attract the right audience, but don’t overcrowd your post with them. While up to 30 hashtags can be used, it’s important to find the optimal number that doesn’t overwhelm your post. See below an example of a post ranking high for the keyword ‘travel’.

example of instagram post optimised for hashtags
  1. Lean into your niche

To increase the visibility of your entire Instagram account, consistency and niche focus are key elements. 

Instagram’s search function prioritises relevance. Maintaining a consistent theme with content related to a specific set of keywords determines your relevance to the search algorithm

This consistent content, besides appealing to your niche audience and fostering engagement, also tells Instagram’s search engine that your account offers more than one specific post.

  1. Engage with accounts that rank for your target keywords

Interacting with accounts that rank for your target keywords helps Instagram categorise your account’s niche and boosts your user activity ranking. Plus, when you engage with others, it often triggers them to interact with you, meaning you’ll increase your popularity ranking.

This tactic not only improves your search visibility but is also a best practice for overall Instagram use.

Ruth O’Brien, Paid Social Strategist at Found. advises: “While optimising for search is important, it is also vital to consider best practice for engagement and reach. So that your social media performance is not negatively impacted. Aim to make descriptions keyword as rich as possible in a natural way, with key information in the first line to ensure it is visible on mobile. You can use up to 30 hashtags, but try to stick to 3 – 5 per post for best engagement.

Use story highlights to showcase hero products/services and anything new. If your brand is in food/beverage or ecommerce, regularly review your tagged images to remove anything not brand-safe and ensure the best customer-driven content is available – tagged photos should be reviewed and maintained like a visual trustpilot as audiences will often check there first to find social proof before purchase.”

Final thoughts

Google is only one piece of the search puzzle. There are other players in the market to be keeping an eye on. Instagram, TikTok, TripAdvisor, and Amazon are just a few of them that have gained traction among users for specific types of searches.

We hope that you discovered the importance of Instagram SEO in promoting your content and increasing its visibility. Especially since with the right mix of keywords, strategic engagement, and a focused niche, your Instagram account can skyrocket from a hidden gem to a shining star.

Get in touch with our team to discover how we can help you own search.