How to Improve Your Instagram SEO

Person Using Laptop and Phone

What Is SEO on Instagram?

SEO on Instagram is all about tailoring your content so that it appears in as many places as possible — from search results to suggested content feeds.

It’s an essential tactic for improving your discoverability.

The more people who discover your content, the greater chance you have of growing your following and building a strong Instagram community.

But how does Instagram SEO actually work?

Instagram’s algorithm processes every piece of content on the app, gathering information it can use to determine what the post is about — and by proxy, who might find it interesting.

And while the algorithm does all of this work automatically, there are a few ways you can help steer it in a more optimized direction.

We’re sharing five tactics to increase your discoverability later in this post, so keep reading to find out how.

Why Is Instagram SEO Important?

With over one billion monthly active users on Instagram, SEO plays a significant role in both reach and discovery on the platform.

As part of the Explore page, Instagram search is the directory of every Instagram account on the app.

Much like you would search a term in Google, you can use the search bar on the top of the Explore page to find and discover accounts, hashtags, and locations.

Instagram Search Bar Image

By tailoring your Instagram content, you can tap into what your target audience is searching for.

But that’s not all.

SEO also plays a major role in what populates users’ suggested posts— a space dedicated to displaying a collection of posts from accounts you don’t follow.

And according to Instagram, these suggestions are, “based on posts from accounts like the ones you follow and posts similar to the ones you like or save.”


Instagram Suggested Post Notification Image


With a strong Instagram SEO strategy, you can ensure your posts are surfaced in relevant search results on the Explore page and in suggested content feeds.

It’s the ultimate tactic for reaching relevant audiences and giving your content the visibility it deserves.

Instagram SEO Ranking: Key Factors

Optimizing your Instagram posts for SEO is just one part of the equation — Instagram’s algorithm takes a whole bunch of extra information into account to determine the ranking of a keyword search result on the Explore page.

According to Instagram, the most important factors are:

  1. Relevance to the search query: The algorithm will try to match what you’ve searched with top posts, accounts, audio, tags, and places (each split into separate tabs). This is the most important factor.
  2. User activity: If Instagram thinks someone will be more interested in one post over another, it will prioritize that in the search results. It determines this based on the searcher’s previous activity on the app.
  3. Information about the search results: When there is a high volume of relevant results for a search term, it can become a bit of a popularity contest. The number of likes, shares, and follows for an account or post can also influence where the search result is ranked.

When it comes to your Instagram SEO strategy, the main thing you can do to improve your ranking is to help the algorithm to identify your content correctly — so the next time someone performs a search, Instagram will know to include your post in the results.

5 Instagram SEO Tactics to Increase Your Discoverability

Knowing how to use SEO to your advantage can skyrocket your visibility on Instagram.

Here are five ways to boost discoverability:

Tactic #1: Write Descriptive Captions With Keywords

Until recently you could only search in Instagram Explore via hashtags, location tags, usernames, and profile names.

However, things have changed. You can now search using keywords.


Searching Descriptive Captions With Keywords on Instagram Image


That means 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 mainly come from the captions you write.

Take the keywords “best time to post,” for example. When searched on the Explore page, a relevant post from Later’s Instagram account populates:


Instagram Explore Page Image


The takeaway? By using relevant, descriptive keywords in your Instagram captions, you’re more likely to appear on the Explore page and get more eyes on your content.

Tactic #2: Add Keywords to Your Instagram Profile Name

If you want to grow your following and use Instagram search to your advantage, you need to optimize your Instagram profile.

If you’re hoping to rank for a specific keyword, it’s a good idea to incorporate that keyword into your name or username — since both are searchable on Instagram.

Take, for example, the brand Paper Magazine. Both their name and username contain the keyword “magazine.”


Paper Magazine Instagram Account Image


If you can’t fit a keyword into your username, adding keywords to your name field can be just as valuable.

Here at Later, our username (@latermedia) doesn’t contain the keyword “social media scheduler,” but our name does:

Later Media Instagram Account Image

This is a great way to improve your chances of appearing in the top results if anyone searches for your target keywords.

Tactic #3: Include up to 30 Relevant  Hashtags

Using relevant, targeted hashtags on posts and stories is still one of the best ways to get discovered by new audiences on Instagram.

If you have a public Instagram account and add a hashtag to a post, that post will be visible on the corresponding hashtag’s results page.

And since hashtags are used with the intent to discover new content, using the “right” hashtags can put you in front of your target audience, even if they haven’t connected with you before.

That’s why it’s important to have a clear and well-crafted hashtag strategy — without one, you could be missing out on opportunities to optimize your account drive more engagement, and gain followers.

Tactic #4: Add Descriptive Alt Text to Your Instagram Posts

Instagram alt text is a feature that allows you to write custom alternative text for a richer description of your photos.

While the feature was mainly designed to improve accessibility on the platform, it can also be used for SEO purposes.

At the moment, Instagram automatically generates alt text so people can hear descriptions of content through a screen reader.

It uses object recognition technology to generate an automated description of photos — with a varied level of success.

However, you can also manually input alt text when you create a post, adding valuable extra detail and keywords.

How to Add Alt Text to an Instagram Post:

To add alt text to a post, tap Advanced Settings at the bottom of the screen before posting.


Adding Alt Text to an Instagram Post Image


Next, tap Write Alt Text.


Adding Alt Text to an Instagram Post Image


Write your alt text in the box and tap Done.

​​To change or add alt text to a post you’ve already published, go to the photo, tap the three dots on the right corner, and tap Edit.


Editing Instagram Post to Add an Alt Text Image


It’s that easy to create a more inclusive Instagram experience, all while improving your SEO efforts!

Tactic #5: Be Consistent With Your Niche

Finally, a major (yet simple) visibility tactic is to be consistent with your Instagram SEO practices.

The more you follow the aforementioned best practices, the more the algorithm will learn what your account is all about.

This type of consistency teaches Instagram who you are and what you offer — which means your profile and content will be served to relevant users as they browse Instagram.

See how posts from Elf Cosmetics populate the Explore page when “lipgloss” is searched:


An Image of Elf Cosmetics Post on the Explore Page When Lipgloss is Searched


By maintaining a consistent SEO message about your brand, you’ll be reaping the rewards of increased discovery and reach in no time!

With just a few tweaks and improvements, you can easily take advantage of Instagram searches and suggested posts.

Equipped with the above Instagram SEO tips, you can grow a strong, relevant audience that’s highly engaged with your content.

So what are you waiting for? Start sharing your optimized posts today!