How to use Hashtags versus Keywords for Instagram
Instagram is in a constate state of evolution, and keeping up with all the algorithm’s new developments can be a challenge. Let’s admit it: deciphering all the different trending hashtags and searchable keywords can be a bit like solving a jigsaw puzzle as the pieces keep changing. Our clients have the same questions about the Instagram algorithm as you do, and the truth is we have to stay fluid and adjust as we learn more about its elusive algorithm.
But keywords and hashtags are something we can control, so we should be as strategic as we can to employ them effectively. You’re probably wondering when we use them for our clients? How do they even work? Do they actually make a difference? Well, fret not, because we’re here to detangle these mysteries so that you can navigate the evolving landscape of Instagram with confidence. Mastering hashtags and keywords is a critical part of digital marketing, helping you stay ahead.
Understanding The Algorithm
Instagram’s algorithm is a complex set of rules and calculations designed to determine the order in which posts appear in a user’s feed. It takes into account many different factors, including a user’s behavior, post engagement, and content relevance. In short, it’s the reason Instagram is so addictive.
The Instagram algorithm analyzes every piece of content posted to the platform, including metadata (captions and alt text applied to images), hashtags, and engagement metrics into account. Based on this information, it distributes content in a way designed to ensure the users have easy access to what they are most interested in seeing.
Remember, this is a basic understanding of the algorithm, and we know that it’s being tinkered with all the time. Utilizing your social media analytics tools can give you valuable insights into how these algorithmic shifts impact both your engagement levels and your overall reach.
The Power of Hashtags
Hashtags are an integral part of Instagram. But what exactly are they, and how can businesses use them effectively? In the simplest of terms, hashtags are keywords or phrases preceded by the “#” symbol. When used in an Instagram post, they serve as a way to categorize and create discoverable content.
For example, when you include a hashtag in your post, you’re telling Instagram what category your content belongs to. This is key for brand authenticity—the right hashtags ensure you’re reaching an audience that genuinely cares about your offerings. For example, Instagram will use #Travel, #Fashion, #Foodie, etc. as categorized labels to connect your content with individuals who share similar interests. By understanding the category of your content, Instagram ensures that your posts find their way into the feeds of users who are interested in those same topics.
Users can also search for specific Instagram hashtags and/or follow them. This means that when you use relevant hashtags, your content becomes discoverable to users interested in those topics, even if they don’t follow your account. Using the right hashtags can put you in front of your target audience, even if they haven’t connected with you before. This is a tactic often seen in successful influencer marketing. This can translate into more engagement, more followers, and more customers for your brand or business.
Hashtag Best Practices
It was once commonplace to see Instagram posts with 30 or more hashtags. Instagram now recommends a more refined approach—use between 3 to 5 hashtags per post. It’s also worth noting that the practice of placing hashtags as the first comment on posts was once a trend but is no longer considered best practice. To maximize your reach and engagement, it’s recommended to include your hashtags directly in the caption of your post.
How to Find Hashtags for Your Business
One of the best ways to find the right hashtags for your business is by using Instagram’s search function. You’ll start by searching for hashtags related to your content. If a hashtag has millions of posts using it, yours might get lost in the crowd. So choose hashtags that have a moderate post volume, usually between 10K and 200K.
Once you’ve researched your hashtags, start consistently using 3-5 of the same hashtags over the next 2-3 months. This provides a solid foundation for understanding what works and what doesn’t. You should then introduce a fresh set of hashtags into your strategy. This approach allows your Instagram presence to remain dynamic.
Keywords vs. Hashtags
In the beginning, Instagram’s SEO capabilities were limited, which is why hashtags played such an important role. However, as the platform grew, some users began abusing hashtags — hence why 30 of them are no longer best practice. The hashtags weren’t always relevant.
For example, when you search for #puppies, you rightfully expect to find cute puppies — not unrelated content cluttering your results. Recognizing this issue, Instagram needed to enhance its algorithm and AI capabilities. This is where the significance of keywords comes into play.
How to Use Keywords
With Instagram’s introduction of keyword-based search functionality, the words you use in your captions can directly impact your content’s visibility. This means that writing relevant, descriptive captions using choice keywords can seriously impact your content’s discoverability.
And while some of those keywords can come from an account’s name, username, and bio, they are mainly derived from the captions you write. Short, concise captions certainly have their merits, but it’s equally important to embrace longer captions when necessary. This allows you to seamlessly incorporate keywords within your captions, optimizing your content’s chances of being discovered by a wider audience.
Add Keywords to Your Instagram Profile Name
There are other ways you can optimize for Instagram keywords. If you want to grow your following and use Instagram search to your advantage, you need to optimize your profile. If you’re hoping to rank for a specific keyword, it’s a good idea to incorporate it into your name or username — since both are searchable on Instagram.
Add Descriptive Alt Text to Your Instagram Posts
Instagram alt text allows you to write custom alternative text for a richer description of your photos. And while the feature was mainly designed to improve accessibility on the platform, it can also be used for SEO purposes. You can manually input alt text when you create a post, adding valuable extra detail and keywords.
How to Find Relevant Keywords
It’s extremely helpful to understand what search terms people use to look for content like yours and incorporate them in your captions.
Free SEO tools for Instagram keyword discovery include Google Analytics to see which keywords are driving traffic to your website and Google Trends to uncover other related keywords to test in your posts
You can also use the Instagram search bar itself to discover relevant keyphrases. Start typing a keyword in the search bar and you’ll see suggested keyword phrases you may want to add to your existing keyword list.
While keeping up with Instagram’s changing algorithms seems like a massive chore, it’s important you keep yourself informed on all the best practices for this social media platform. From the strategic use of hashtags to the implementation of keywords, you can leverage Instagram’s capabilities to effectively promote your brand and connect with your target audience. By embracing these practices, you’re not just keeping pace with the changes but also using Instagram to work as an effective marketing tool.