Instagram is undoubtedly one of the biggest, if not the biggest social media and marketing platform, especially in the B2C environment. Instagram now has more than 1 billion monthly active users(opens in a new tab), bigger than Twitter, and this simply means there’s a lot of potential audiences you can reach out to on Instagram.
However, we all know that the bigger Instagram gets, the more competition we are going to face as marketers. You’ve invested time and effort to create the best content possible(opens in a new tab). But the reality is, no matter how great it is, it’s difficult for content (both organic and paid ads) to get noticed by our target audience amidst billions of other posts and ads out there.
So, how can you actually increase your reach on Instagram? The answer might appear to be a little bit unorthodox: Instagram SEO.
If you are familiar with the concept of traditional SEO, then you might be wondering whether the same SEO strategies and tactics(opens in a new tab) can be applied to Instagram. The good news is, the principles will apply, so we can use the same knowledge to drive organic growth to your Instagram.
Without further ado, here are 6 Instagram SEO techniques you can use for increasing reach.
1.Optimize Your Instagram Profile for Search Visibility
Instagram Search behaves similarly to Google or Bing search, which most of us should be familiar with. It is a directory where you can search for every Instagram account on the platform: you can simply type a search term on this Search box and you can select accounts, hashtags, and locations from the results.
Instagram SEO is mostly about optimizing your Instagram profile to appear on Search for your target phrases, hashtags, and location(s). As with traditional SEO, to do this properly you need to know the “ranking factor” of Instagram Search.
According to Instagram’s official statement(opens in a new tab), results for Instagram Search are based on various different factors such as the people or accounts followed by the searcher, connections, and what photos/videos are liked by the searcher on Instagram. However, keywords are still a relevant factor in Instagram Search. Instagram curates the most useful, relevant accounts and contents that contain specific keywords.
So, you can implement keyword optimization on our Instagram Profile in these following areas:
Name and @Username
The basic idea here is to create an easily searchable business name and @username. As with traditional SEO, it’s a good idea to incorporate your target keyword into your business name and @username if it’s appropriate.
For example, if your target keyword is “football”, then you can include “football” in your name and @username, like “@xyzfootball”. However, obviously it’s not always possible, so don’t force it. Brands like Lululemon, for example, don’t include “yoga pants” or “sports apparel” in its name and @username, but it’s still searchable for those keywords.
Including your primary target keyword in your business name and @username will significantly help your performance in Instagram Search.
Your bio should be optimized with your target keywords and should fit in the intended context for the target keywords according to the search intent. You can add clickable hashtags into your bio, as well as link your tour or activity website and other social media profiles (like your Facebook profile or your YouTube channel). You can also use trackable links(opens in a new tab) here.
This is also a great way to let your followers know what your account is about. Optimize your bio, but focus on providing comprehensive information for your audience. Use your keywords naturally, and as with traditional SEO, avoid keyword stuffing.
Instagram Profile Best Practices
- Make your profile public (fairly obvious) so that your business should is accessible and open to the Instagram community
- Choose a profile image that represents your brand. Your logo is the most common approach here, but you can also use other images that fit your brand
- Register for an Instagram Business(opens in a new tab) account to unlock extra marketing features and improve your account’s visibility
2. Optimize Your Photos With Instagram Alt Text
Instagram alt text(opens in a new tab) (alternative text) is a relatively new feature that allows us to provide identity/attribute to posted photos so Instagram’s algorithm will better understand its context.
Originally, this feature was implemented to help visually impaired Instagram users to enjoy the Instagram experience, but you can also use it in Instagram SEO. Instagram is actively experimenting with AI solutions to better understand what content is included in the image, and alt text will significantly help in this context.
You can add alt text to your Instagram post on the screen where you usually write your caption and add hashtags. Tap on the Advanced Settings option here. You will then find a Write Alt Text section under Accessibility, click on this, and on the next screen, you can write your alt text description and click Save when you’re done.
You can also add alt text to an old Instagram post by tapping on the three-dot vertical button on the top-right corner of the post select Edit, and then Edit Alt Text on the bottom-right corner of the post. A text box will then appear on the next screen where you can type in your alt text, and click Save.
In general, your alt text should describe the content and context of the image while including your target keyword when possible.
3. Hashtags as Keywords
In Instagram SEO, think of hashtags as secondary keywords.
Hashtag strategy can generally be divided into two types: long-term strategy where the aim is to include target keywords in hashtags, and short-term strategy where the aim is to target trending hashtags to attract more people.
You can include your primary target keyword and your brand name in your hashtags, but you can also include post-specific and trending hashtags to reach a wider audience.
Unlike Twitter, however, Instagram doesn’t tell us what’s trending at the moment, but it is possible to manually search for hashtags and see how many posts are using the hashtag to gauge its popularity. Of course, targeting trending hashtags can be very competitive and a post might get buried if there are millions of other posts on the hashtag.
It’s important to find the right opportunity where the competition is still manageable, and also to target hashtags that are really relevant for your business and/or the specific post.
4. Optimize Your Captions
Instagram posts, at the moment, are only searchable via hashtags, usernames, and location. However, there is another aspect of visibility on Instagram and the subject of Instagram SEO: the Explore page. The good news is, you can improve your content’s discoverability in Explore by optimizing your caption.
According to Instagram themselves(opens in a new tab), they now use AI machine learning to determine what content to display on the Explore page via a machine learning technique known as word embedding(opens in a new tab).
In layman’s terms, word embedding looks on keywords used on the post (especially caption) to determine the context of the post and how relevant the content is to other similar content. Keywords you’ve put on your business name, @username, and bio—as we’ve discussed above—also matter in this case.
Aim to write captions that are descriptive of what your business is about, and include your target keywords when they are appropriate.
5. Using Location Tags and Encourage Shares
Remember that you can search for location tags besides hashtags and usernames in Instagram Search. However, unlike hashtags, you can only use one location tag in each Instagram Post.
Be smart when using geolocation tags. You can tag popular locations where your target audience frequently searches for but make sure they are relevant for your business/post. For example, a stop along your tour is a great place to tag whether it be a particular restaurant on your food tour, a beach during your day cruise, or a park during your walking tour.
The idea here is that whether your tours take place in a single location or across multiple locations or even multiple countries, people are always searching for new spots to visit. So, tagging your photos to these locations may make your posts show in more search results and ultimately amplify your reach.
Another factor that can improve your discoverability is engagements, especially tags, mentions, and likes. If you get more of these, then Instagram’s algorithm will assume that your content is good and valuable, and might promote your content via the Explore page.
While you don’t have total control over outside engagements you can do your part to encourage it. Ask your guests to tag you or mention you in their posts, and ask them if they’d like to be tagged in your posts. You can also try asking visitors to tag a friend in the comments suggestion, or asking them to answer a question. If your post is good, valuable, and relevant for your audience, then you can generate more engagements.
6. Avoid Bad SEO Practices
Just like how Google is actively fighting black hat SEO tactics and regularly penalizing websites, Instagram now is also active in fighting accounts that try to cheat(opens in a new tab) the system.
So, to succeed in Instagram SEO, make sure you avoid trying to cheat Instagram’s algorithms and don’t:
- Steal and then repost content, a big no even if you edit or modify the image/video
- Use Instagram bots(opens in a new tab). Instagram is getting better in detecting bots and automated scripts.
- Attempt keyword stuffing (rapidly using multiple keywords without considering the context)
- Buy followers. Never buy followers. Ever.
- Follow too many accounts too fast
Instagram SEO, just like traditional SEO, is a long-term strategy and you might not see any results right away. It’s important to maintain consistency and always monitor your progress as you implement the Instagram SEO strategy, so you can adjust your strategy when needed.
Instagram SEO can be an effective, sustainable way to increase your reach and build your organic following. So, if you are looking to build your Instagram account, get started on implementing these 6 tips we’ve shared right away.
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