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Tips & Tricks

What is Instagram SEO and why is it important?

Highlander Cow Illustration
Daniel · Social Media Manager / Highlander
3 · November 1st, 2023

With social media platforms changing every day, channels such as Instagram have been shifting their tactics around how their search system functions. It means when we’re posting and building our bios, we need to think about how people find our content and what is going to make it easier for them.

We’ve tried to take the work out of the research so take a look down below and see what you need to know to get your Instagram posts and account ranking at the top of the search results.

What is Instagram SEO?

Simply put, Instagram SEO is how we optimise our posts, profile and captions to be found easier by the Instagram search algorithm or through the platform’s ‘For You’ page. This, in turn, makes our content easier to reach and therefore, engage with.

With millions of posts being added onto the platform throughout the day, it’s important that we know how to differentiate ours from the next #feelinggood tagged post.

What is the difference between traditional and Instagram SEO?

Traditional SEO primarily focuses on optimising web pages and websites for search engines like Google or Bing. It involves techniques such as keyword research, on-page optimisation (improving page titles, headings, meta tags, and content), technical optimisation (improving website speed, mobile-friendliness, and site structure), and building backlinks from other reputable websites. The goal of this is to improve the website’s visibility and ranking in search engine results pages for relevant search queries.

On the other hand, Instagram SEO is specific to optimising content on the Instagram platform. As such, its form of SEO involves optimising your Instagram profile, posts, and captions to make them more discoverable within the platform’s search function and ‘For You’ page.

What do I have to do to make my account rank higher?

While working alongside influencers or high-rated creatives is a clear way of making sure your account is seen, there are other more technical approaches you can take in your day-to-day posting that will drive reach and engagement.

Work On Accessibility:

Alternative Text (Alt Text): 

Instagram allows users to add descriptions called alt text to their images. Alt text is a brief description of the image content that can be read by screen readers. This feature helps people with visual impairments understand the context and content of the images shared on Instagram.

Instagram doesn’t make this easy, having to go through ‘Advanced Settings’ when you’re looking to post something, and then scrolling down to the bottom of the settings where you will find “Write alt text”. 

Alt text is a fundamental part of Instagram SEO, as in many cases Instagram’s AI will not be able to understand what is in the image. Alt text can give it this information. This will allow Instagram to display your posts to more people when they search for similar things to what is in your Alt text and allow sight-impaired individuals better access to your content. 

Closed Captions: 

Closed captions are text overlays that appear on videos to provide a written representation of the audio content. Instagram enables users to add closed captions to their video posts, making them more accessible to people with hearing impairments or those who prefer to read the captions instead of listening to the audio. Instagram’s AI also captures this information and much like Alt text can use this information to better match a searcher with your content.

Don’t rely on Automatic Alternative Text: 

Instagram also utilises automatic alternative text technology powered by object recognition. This feature tries to generate a description of the images using artificial intelligence. If you haven’t uploaded an Instagram post with Alt text before, it’s worth checking on, as in most cases you’ll see automatically generated Alt text like so, “A photo uploaded by Straight Out Digital on the 1.11.23”.

Find keywords that suit your content:

Research Relevant Keywords: 

Start by identifying keywords that are relevant to your content, target audience, and niche. Consider using tools like Instagram’s search function, keyword research tools, or even exploring popular hashtags to gather keyword ideas.

Optimise Your Profile: 

Placing keywords in your profile is integral to boosting the visibility of your account. Use relevant keywords in your username (if possible), bio, and name field. This helps Instagram’s search algorithm understand what your account is about and increases the likelihood of appearing in relevant results.

Use Keywords in Captions: 

Incorporate keywords naturally within your post captions. Focus on including them in the first few lines of your captions, as these are more likely to be displayed without users needing to click “more.” Aim for your captions to feel natural though without placing unnecessary keywords throughout.

Location Tags: 

If your content is location-specific or relevant to a particular place, consider adding location tags to your posts. This can help users searching for content in that specific location discover your posts more easily. Location tags are especially useful for businesses or content creators targeting a specific geographic area.

By incorporating relevant keywords in your profile, and captions, you can enhance your chances of being discovered by users interested in your content on Instagram.

Ditch the hashtag (or at least most of them):

Back in the heyday of Instagram, hashtags were all the rage and putting 30 of them on a post was not uncommon. Not only did they allow for the classification of your post’s theme, but they also made searching for relevant content easy. Fast forward 12 years and the hashtag system has had some big changes. 

Authenticity & Engagement:

The biggest change since the introduction of the hashtag has been the importance that Instagram places on genuine engagement and authenticity. In terms of Instagram’s Search Algorithm, authentic and engaging content equates to E-E-A-T in traditional SEO terms. 

Having content that encourages users to engage with your posts through their relevance and quality means you’ll be receiving genuine connections, rather than solely relying on hashtag reach. This in turn means your community is wholly engaged with what you a delivering to them, rather than accounts engaging on a whim due to a hashtag.

The Algorithm:

The way the Instagram Search Algorithm crawls your content has also changed. Previously the algorithm saw a large number of hashtags and pushed your content through those channels, increasing your visibility. 

These days, the algorithm has been taught to see a large number of hashtags as potentially spammy, which will negatively impact your reach. Using fewer, more targeted hashtags that are directly related to your content can help you reach a more engaged and relevant audience.

Highlander Cow Illustration
About Daniel
Social Media Manager / Highlander
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