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What Does Instagram’s Keyword Search Mean for Hashtags?

Everything you need to know about Instagram’s new keyword search and how it is different to Instagram hashtags.

Posted 3 years ago
instagram keyword search

Written by

Julia Cohen
Posted 3 years ago
If you keep up with the latest Instagram news, you have probably heard (or even seen) that the platform announced they would be rolling out their new keyword search. This means, you no longer have to search using just hashtags (though you still can) you can now search for content using broader topic ranges like you might on a typical search engine such as Google. But, what does this mean for how hashtags work, and how you work them into your overall Instagram strategy in order to get discovered? We’ll answer this, and more in today’s article.
instagram keyword search

What Does the Instagram Keyword Search Mean for Hashtags?

We like to think of hashtags like SEO for Instagram, and with the new introduction of keyword search, they are more important than ever. This is because users can now discover your content in a broader way, rather than being limited to only searching for a specific hashtag you have included in your posts. Believe it or not, the keyword search should make things a lot easier. Before, users would find content by searching using tags – so the most popular search terms would often be the hardest to rank on. Now, search terms can be broader like ‘fashion ideas’ or ‘vegan recipes’, and whilst certain topics will be more popular than others, they will be easier to rank on if you use the right strategy.
The keyword search allows Instagram to categorize content within their platform in a more efficient way, so if you are descriptive in your caption and use of hashtags, you’re more likely to appear as suggested content in a relevant search. This makes a solid hashtag strategy even more important than ever because it can help impact how you rank in a search.
Instagram Keyword Search
Instagram uses hashtags (alongside other signals) to determine exactly what kind of content you have posted on your feed. Looking at Facebook’s published research papers they concluded that hashtags helped their image classification become more accurate compared to other methods.

“The main result of this paper is that without manual dataset curation or sophisticated data cleaning, models trained on billions of Instagram images using thousands of distinct hashtags as labels exhibit excellent transfer learning performance. For example, we observe improvements over the state-of-the-art for image classification and object detection, where we obtain a single-crop, top-1 accuracy of 85.4% on the ImageNet-1k image-classification dataset and 45.2% AP on the COCO object-detection dataset [18], compared to 79.8% and 43.7%, respectively, when training (or pretraining) the same models on ImageNet-1k”

Whilst it may be a little convoluted, what is being said above is this: Image classification on Instagram posts is more accurate when they have specific and well-matched hashtags used on them. Whilst it may be possible for you to rank on a keyword search without hashtags, your chances will improve greatly when you’re actively signaling the type of content you’re creating and giving Instagram’s algorithm as many cues as possible.

Everything you need to know about Instagram keyword search, and its limitations:

  • Currently, the keyword search is very broad with some terms not being searchable at all. Instagram has said, “the search is limited to general interest topics and keywords that are within Instagram’s community guidelines.” Therefore, more specific topics that might relate closely to your niche or topics that are deemed sensitive will not be searchable such as ‘vaccine’.
  • The keyword search is still in beta mode, as it has only just been launched, therefore it may not yet be optimized for maximum discoverability.
  • As with most new features, it is not yet incorporated into Instagram analytics, so it will be hard to understand which keywords you are ranking on.
  • Currently, it is only limited to six countries.

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Why use Hashtags Alongside Keywords?

Hashtags will help you avoid caption-stuffing

Firstly, it’s unlikely your caption is going to be over-the-top descriptive because then it would take away from the message you are trying to communicate with your followers. Often people even follow Instagrammers for the organic content they write in their captions, whether it be advice recipes or interesting tips and tricks. So, it’s important to use hashtags like you would use SEO keywords in order to incorporate a highly relevant set of words to use, which will up your chances of ranking on both hashtags and keywords.

Up your discoverability by ranking on both hashtags and keywords

We don’t know too much about keyword analytics on Instagram yet, as they are relatively new to the platform, but it’s likely they will work in a similar way that hashtags do. In other words, it’s likely certain accounts will rank on specific keywords. So, the best way to up your chances of ranking on both hashtags and keywords (and in turn double your chances of achieving increased reach and growth) is by using both. By using keywords as hashtags, you will achieve both goals allowing you a higher chance to reach interested followers on the platform in an authentic way. You should treat your keyword strategy like you treat your hashtag strategy – which you can read about here.

Keywords will also help you rank on hashtags

We’ve established that hashtags will help you rank on keywords. But, keywords will also help you rank on hashtags. There’s a limit to how many hashtags you can use on a given post (30) – so again, you’ll get a few extra chances to rank based on the keywords and caption you use. The more descriptive your content is, the more Instagram favors it, which will help let it know that you are a topical authority within your niche, and suggest you to interested, active users. So, if you are descriptive in both your hashtags and your keywords, the likelihood that your content will be shown to more audiences is increased.

Users can still follow hashtags

One of the best ways to appear on potential followers’ pages is by appearing in hashtags they follow. Users can still follow a hashtag on Instagram and be presented with ranking content from that hashtag on their feed. Almost like a sponsored ad, they are an efficient way to reach a larger audience in a more efficient way, so it’s important to still focus on the types of hashtags that people might follow within your niche.
We hope you enjoyed this guide on Instagram’s new keyword search feature. If you want to learn more about how to optimize hashtags on your account and reach more people, just click the banner below.


What Does the Instagram Keyword Search Mean for Hashtags?

Why use Hashtags Alongside Keywords?

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