While all digital marketers should be aware of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and know best practices for improving their website rankings on search engines, a lesser-known area of SEO takes place on social media platforms.
Your social network pages can also be found through search engines, and your profiles can be discovered using the search features within social apps.
However, if you don’t have your accounts optimized, you could miss out on traffic, followers, and revenue through social selling.
There’s one platform in particular that takes a little more effort to optimize than other social media sites, and that’s Instagram.
We’ll talk about what makes Instagram SEO function differently than other social platforms and give you 7 tips to improve your SEO and gain more followers today.
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What is Instagram SEO?
Instagram SEO refers to the steps needed to improve your rankings for search results both on search engines and within the Instagram platform.
By optimizing your Instagram posts, you can help increase your odds of being found for phrases, hashtags, and topics that feed into the Instagram algorithm.
If the algorithm understands your account and your posts, you can be found by users who are actively looking for the products and services your company offers.
While Instagram as a social media platform can’t function exactly the same way a website page would, the same basic tactics and best practices can be applied to optimize your company’s profile and help you be found and gain more followers.
Why Does Optimization for Instagram SEO Matter?
So why Instagram? Why not spend your optimization efforts on LinkedIn or Twitter?
There are a few different reasons.
First and foremost, Instagram is a much more popular platform. With over a billion users on Instagram, there is a much wider audience that brands can connect with and sell to.
The design of the platform is formatted for visual content, which allows companies to show the benefits of their products or services in more engaging ways than a text post.
Instagram is also a mobile-first social media platform, with a majority of its users only using their mobile app, rather than the more desktop-friendly sites like Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.
In fact, you can’t upload images on the desktop version of Instagram — you need to be on the mobile app.
Other social sites like LinkedIn require separate design work for any images or video uploads. Instagram has video and photo editing tools built-in and has partnerships and integrations with free platforms like Canva to help users and marketers create great content without a design degree.
All of these factors contribute to the growing popularity of Instagram for:
- Casual users wanting to share their images.
- Influencers who have large, devoted followings.
- Businesses who want to improve their brand awareness or get their products and services in front of an ever-growing audience.
Therefore, it makes sense to spend time and effort optimizing your Instagram account over other social media sites.
After all, with the right amount of dedication, your Instagram can easily become your most successful social tool.
Factors that Make Instagram SEO Different from Other Social Platforms
Just as Instagram is different from other social sites, Instagram SEO needs to function differently than your other social media platforms.
The biggest difference between Instagram and other social sites when it comes to SEO is the search function.
For as long as social search has been an option, hashtags have been the primary source of searching and sharing.
Hashtags worked similarly to links: clicking on a hashtag would take you to similar content that was also using that tag — like a keyword — to identify the created content.
While Instagram also functioned with a hashtag system for most of its lifespan, at the end of 2020, Instagram unrolled its newest function: search by interest.
This completely changed the game, as users no longer needed to search for a specific hashtag key phrase to find what they were looking for.
As people began to transform the way they searched, companies needed to adapt their Instagram SEO to be found not just for specific keywords, but for interests and industries as well.
While it may seem like a lot, there are plenty of benefits to this new feature if you can adapt your SEO correctly:
- More audiences are able to find your content without needing to know the specific hashtags your company uses.
- The products and services you promote can be found quicker.
- Your posts can be found by more than just your followers.
- You can spend more time on the content you create and less time researching the perfect hashtags to promote your content.
- Your competitive research can be much more extensive.
- You can start to build a community around your industry and brand name.
7 Instagram SEO Tactics
Now that you understand the value of investing in your Instagram SEO strategy, let’s dive into the tactics that are going to help you be found and become successful.
1. Optimize Your Profile
Your profile is like your directory listing in the Instagram database.
Making sure that you’ve optimized your profile will help your business be found by the right users.
Here are a few areas of your profile to improve:
Name and Username
Your name and username will help identify your brand to searchers. You can incorporate relevant keywords into your name and username to appear when searching.
Your bio is a short description of your company, and a great place to put secondary keywords. You can also put hashtags and trackable links in your bio.
People definitely judge books by their covers. As a visual social media site, your profile image on Instagram can either help you stand out or drag you down.
2. Use Keywords in Your Captions
As part of an SEO strategy, each piece of content you create should have relevant keywords attached.
And, as Instagram’s search feature will look at the copy for topics and interests, it becomes even more relevant to use primary and secondary keywords in your posts to be found for both hashtags and general searches.
3. Use Instagram Alt-Text
Alt-text is an important step of web page SEO to ensure images are indexed correctly and visually-impaired visitors can still get a description of the images to enjoy the content.
This feature has been added to Instagram and is just as important to fill in.
If you don’t fill it in yourself, Instagram will auto-fill your Alt-text, so you want to ensure that you’re filling out the right description with keywords, phrases, or interests that match the photo.
Now you can rank higher and be found on voice searches as well.
4. Use Geotags
Just like Google search, Instagram will pull search results from the nearest geographical location.
For example, if you search on Instagram for “hair stylists”, the results will load both accounts you or your friends follow and nearby hair stylists.
In order to be found for searches like this, make sure that your posts are using geotags to narrow down your location.
The more specific you can be, the better.
5. Use Video
Instagram isn’t just static image content — a huge portion of the social site is dedicated to video content.
Video formats like Instagram Stories, Reels, or IGTV are easily scrollable, meaning they can get more hits and views than static posts.
Videos, especially short videos, also have a higher chance of being shared and gaining you more followers. Instagram is really investing in them.
6. Account Linking
Linking all your active social accounts is a great way to promote the authority and authenticity of your page.
Not only does this increase the chances of followers adding you to all their social platforms, but you can promote your account and increase your click-through rate.
7. Avoid Techniques that Will Drag Your SEO Down
Just as there are techniques to improve your Instagram SEO performance, there are tactics that can damage your SEO rankings and negatively impact your account.
Here are a few things to avoid at all costs:
- Stolen Content
- Keyword Stuffing
- Complex Usernames
- Incorrect Location Tags
- Following Too Many Accounts at a Time
- Buying Followers
Wrap Up: Boosting Your Visibility with Instagram SEO
Instagram is a unique social platform that requires a little bit more time and effort than other social media sites to optimize for SEO.
There are, however, many ways in which you can start your optimization efforts.
Improving your Instagram SEO will help you be found by searchers and allow you to take your social profiles to the next level.
Once your social profiles are optimized, you can start to feel the benefits of a well-rounded and complete SEO strategy.
If you’re interested in finding out where your current SEO strategy stands, check out our interactive SEO Maturity Assessment and find ways to take your company’s SEO approach to the next level.