Your Guide to Mastering Instagram SEO

Get seen on the ‘gram with our complete guide to Instagram SEO.

Lucinda Starr
6 minutes read

When was the last time you discovered a brand or creator you love on Instagram? Chances are you stumbled across this content through the Discover feed or maybe even from a specific query you entered into the Instagram search bar. 

This is the power of Instagram SEO (a.k.a. search engine optimization). When done right, Instagram SEO helps serve your content to high-intent users, ensuring you’re growing an engaged audience of highly relevant potential customers. 

Daunted by the whole SEO thing? You’re not alone. Luckily, we’re here to empower you with everything you need to know about Instagram SEO, the ranking factors that matter and five best-practice tips to optimize your content for organic visibility on Instagram. 

What is Instagram SEO?

In its simplest form, Instagram SEO is about boosting the discoverability of your content. Using a range of tactics, you can teach the Instagram algorithm to accurately categorize your content and serve it to users who are searching for exactly what you’re offering. 

In fact, the principles of Instagram SEO apply to everything from your bio to your post captions and even the hashtags you use. 

There are two key elements to Instagram SEO: what is your post about, and who is its intended audience? 

By learning how to leverage Instagram SEO, you can enable the Instagram algorithm to quickly digest your content and display it to your ideal target audience at scale.

Instagram SEO ranking factors: explained

So, what factors does the Instagram algorithm use when determining how to display search results? It boils down to these three key factors:

• Relevance to search query: how closely does your content (or profile) match a user’s search query? With the right caption, hashtags and location tags, you can position your content as the most relevant result for potential followers.

• User activity: who is following your account, and what accounts have interacted with your content in the past? The more mutual connections a user has with your account, the more likely the algorithm is to display your content first. 

• Popularity signals: As you’d expect, content with a high engagement rate is more likely to rank highly in Instagram’s search results. The key engagement metrics to focus on include clicks, likes, shares and follows. 


Why does Instagram SEO matter?

If you’re pouring hours into creating organic content for Instagram, you want to do everything you can to ensure it’s seen by the right people. With over 50 billion photos already shared to the app (and millions of Reels being created every day), it’s never been tougher to cut through the clutter. 

But with Instagram SEO, you can help the algorithm serve your content to highly relevant users.

In fact, the principles of SEO are used daily on Instagram to rank and categorize content on users’ Explore page as well as the suggested posts users receive in their main feed. 

This is a golden opportunity for you to expand your reach and get in front of potential customers who aren’t already following your brand. 

Ultimately, tapping into Instagram SEO is one of the best cost-effective ways to grow your brand, expand your reach and broaden the visibility of your content on Instagram. 

Five actionable ways to improve your Instagram SEO

Ready to put this new knowledge into practice? Here are five practical tactics you can implement to tap into the power of Instagram SEO today. 

Tip 1. Be strategic with hashtag placement

Rethink your hashtag strategy

Here’s the thing about hashtags: they’re actually searchable keywords that categorize your content on Instagram. That means you need to be thinking about your hashtags as SEO keywords and weaving in a mix of popular and niche hashtags into your Instagram captions.

When curating hashtags to add to your Instagram posts, make sure to consider:

• The topic of your post: what searchable phrases or SEO keywords are relevant to this particular Reel, carousel or static graphic?

• Your niche or area of expertise: what is your business or brand known for? Find popular hashtags that align with your industry or niche.

• Your target audience: what searchable terms or phrases are your ideal customers using on Instagram? Find a handful of relevant terms that you can add to your post as hashtags. 

But that’s not all you need to consider. To really level up your Instagram SEO strategy, make sure to carefully consider the placement of hashtags and searchable keywords on Instagram.

That means using hashtags strategically in your post captions, the first comment of your posts and even in your Instagram bio. 

Hot tip: looking for support with finding curated, high-performing hashtags? Plann’s Hashtag Manager is here to help you with hundreds of industry-based hashtag sets, ready for you to mix, match and make your own. 

Tip 2. Harness SEO keywords in your Instagram captions

Next up, you need to consider how you’re using keywords across your Instagram captions. 

Injecting searchable phrases into your Instagram captions helps the algorithm quickly digest your content and serve it to the most relevant users on the platform. By harnessing keyword research tools like Google Analytics and Google Trends, you can identify what phrases and keywords are most relevant to your posts.

Plus, the Instagram search bar is a fantastic free resource to help you pinpoint the best SEO phrases to use in your upcoming posts. 

Tip 3. Make your alt text count

Make your alt text count

Are you maximizing your Instagram alt text? If not, you need to read this. 

When publishing content to Instagram, you have the ability to add copy that describes what’s in your Reel, graphic or photo. Its main purpose is to help vision-impaired users get the most out of Instagram when using a screen reader. 

But it also offers huge benefits for Instagram SEO. By adding custom alt text to your posts that harnesses relevant SEO keywords, you can boost the chances of your content ranking highly in Instagram’s organic search results. 

Tip 4. Leverage searchable keywords in your Instagram bio

Leverage searchable keywords in your Instagram bio

Did you know that your Instagram bio can help you boost your organic search visibility on the platform?

While you’ve only got 150 characters to play with, injecting your Instagram bio with high-performing keywords and even niche hashtags can help the algorithm prioritize your content in user’s search results. 

Rather than keyword stuffing your bio, consider ways to add value and harness the searchable keywords, such as:

• Add a searchable SEO phrase to your Instagram account name

• Describing what you do and who you serve using searchable SEO phrases

• Wrapping up your Instagram bio with one high-performing hashtag

Tip 5. Double down on your niche 

Last but not least is our final tip for boosting your organic visibility on Instagram. Did you know that showing up consistently and sharing content about a specific topic can help boost your Instagram SEO performance?

Carving out a unique niche for your brand can help the Instagram algorithm understand what you do best and who you serve. 

So, rather than sharing vague, generic content about a broad range of topics (e.g. fashion), shift towards a targeted approach that hones in a specific area of expertise (e.g. budget-friendly styling tips for college students). 

Ready to supercharge your success on Instagram?

Looking for an all-in-one content creation suite that simplifies managing your social media channels? Inside Plann, you’ll discover everything you need to effortlessly map out your strategy, repurpose your content, and take your Reels content to new heights.

Go on, and redeem your 7-day free trial of Plann Plus. If you don’t like it, keep using Plann for free!


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