Here’s everything you need to know about SEO on Instagram. Recently, Instagram has been introducing some changes. You might have noticed them in your own feed. It’s always important to keep up with what updates social media platforms introduce because it should change and inform your strategy. In the last month or so, here’s what I’ve learned about the SEO on Instagram change.
Why are my Instagram hashtags not working?
You may have noticed that hashtags don’t seem to get the reach that they used to. It used to seem like you’d post something on Instagram with your block of hashtags and instantly get likes or comments on your post from accounts that aren’t following you.
Don’t get me wrong, this still happens. However, the reach from Instagram hashtags has gone down. I have certainly noticed that there isn’t that quick buzz after immediately publishing a post. The buzz does seem to come with Reels but that’s a whole different story.
The main reason hashtags aren’t working anymore is because Instagram is trying to move towards being more of an SEO-based platform. Pinterest and YouTube are well known for their SEO base but Instagram wants to also build that into how content is discovered.
I always like to remind people that Facebook (who owns Instagram) is in constant competition with YouTube. If YouTube does something that people seem to like, Facebook wants to do it too. That’s why there has been talk of monetizing IGTV videos and why you’re encouraged to upload videos directly to Facebook instead of providing a YouTube link.
What is SEO and how does it work on social media?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. You’ll hear it a lot when people talk about websites. The very basic explanation is that your website should include certain keywords in the right spots so that when someone types those keywords into Google, your website shows up.
So how does this work with a social media platform? Well, Google isn’t the only search function in town (and I’m not talking about Bing). When you’re on Instagram, there’s a search option that you can use to find specific accounts or hashtags. You may have noticed that when you start typing out a word, instead of defaulting to the hashtags, Instagram will now give you phrases.
For instance, I might have typed out “social” before and been shown accounts with that in the name or the hashtag #socialmedia. Now, I’ll see the actual words appear “social media.” This feature showed up and then disappeared again for me which means Instagram is starting to test the change going live.
That’s one way you can tell that Instagram is prioritizing the keywords and not the hashtags which is an SEO tactic.
What does SEO on Instagram mean for my business Instagram account?
The short answer: captions just became a lot more important. Where you might have been able to post a great photo, add a short caption, and comment 30 hashtags before, you’ll now need to focus on what you’re writing in that caption.
The caption is where you’ll be able to include keywords. However, you don’t just want to paste a bunch of random words like you would with hashtags. You want those words to be organically part of what you’re writing in the caption.
For instance, I am writing this blog with SEO in mind. I’m specifically focusing on the keyword or phrase “SEO on Instagram.” That phrase is in my title; it’s in the copy of my text; it’s in the subheadings.
There are plenty of other keywords that can be included too. I’ve talked about social media, business Instagram accounts, and why Instagram hashtags aren’t working.
Not only do these keywords or phrases just make sense for what I’m writing, but they also make sense for what people may be searching for. I want people to find my content if they’re interested in learning more about SEO on Instagram. You have to think of your Instagram captions in the same way.
Start identifying keywords that you think people might be searching for on Instagram. They could even be similar to what you’re already using as hashtags. Just make sure that instead of using them as hashtags, you incorporate them into the captions that you’re writing.
Will Instagram hashtags still work for businesses?
There’s no sign at this point that Instagram will get rid of hashtags completely. However, you don’t want to rely on them. Make your captions engaging enough and keyword-rich so that if there ever is a full switch to just SEO on Instagram, you’ll be prepared.
Bonus Tips: Alt-Text, Text on Graphics, Videos
Things are still new enough that I can’t tell you for sure if this tip will work but it’s something you’ll want to keep in mind.
Instagram allows you to edit your posts to add Alt-Text to images. Alt-Text is meant specifically for people who are visually impaired. It gives them a chance to understand what’s going on in the image because they have software that can read out the Alt-Text to them.
However, Alt-Text is also a place where many people put keywords on websites. It would make sense for Instagram to also be getting keywords from Alt-Text.
Unfortunately, you do need to go into each post and manually add Alt-Text. I haven’t found any scheduling software that lets you add the Alt-Text with the post when it goes out. Hopefully, as SEO on Instagram becomes more popular, you’ll have that capability eventually.
Text on Graphics
I also want to mention that the text you write on a graphic could matter. This one is even more in question than the Alt-Text but I wanted to bring it up. Pinterest does read the text that is on top of a graphic. Even though a text reader couldn’t, Pinterest has built software to understand what that text is and weigh it in with the other keywords.
It’s unclear if Instagram will do something similar but keep in mind that if you are sharing graphics, those are more opportunities for keywords.
You probably know that videos perform really well on social media. You can add captions to capture keywords but what you say in videos may also be important.
I read a lot of social media news so I’m not sure where this tidbit came from but I have heard that Instagram may be able to listen to the words you say in Reels, Stories, IGTV, or other video content that you upload. Those words can then be used as more keywords for your content.
That’s just something to keep in mind when you’re spending time on video content.
Can I improve hashtags reach in the meantime?
If you’re going to start implementing SEO but want to still see some reach from your hashtags, you might need to adjust your hashtag strategy.
I have a free guide on how to develop a hashtag strategy that you can download by clicking the graphic below.