How to boost your SEO on Instagram

Jina Marwood Jina Marwood
August 7, 2020

Everyone talks about Google optimization, but less frequently regarding social media networks. You might be thinking: is it really possible to apply the same SEO tactics that I use to optimize my website for Instagram? 

The simple answer is yes, and in this article we’ll explain a few of the many tactics that influencers, brands, and creators on Instagram use to boost their organic reach. 

Set your profile up for success

Ensure that your profile is public and registered as a business account; when doing this, you’ll need to pick the proper category that your business falls under. For example, an influencer might use “digital creator” or “blogger”, depending on what makes the most sense for them. We, as a creative agency, use the “advertising/marketing” category. 

Instagram has hundreds of categories to choose from. Ask yourself: what do I want my audience to search for? If you’re a clothing company, use the clothes category. If you sell baked goods, use the bakery category. If you’re a non-profit, use the non-profit organization category. You get the idea. 

Next, select an eye-catching display picture alongside a username that makes the most sense for your brand. The username you want might be taken already, but the golden rule is the simpler, the better.

Use keywords in your captions and bios

Ensure that you take advantage of primary and secondary keywords on Instagram. Your primary keyword will be the same or similar to what you listed your business profile as. Let’s take this plant-based restaurant as an example.

They used “restaurant” as their business category, which acts as their primary keyword. “Vegetarian”, “plant-based”, and “clean ingredients” act as their secondary keywords; which are either terms or topics that orbit the primary keyword.

Without following them or ever visiting their account, I searched “vegetarian restaurant” and it was the first suggestion that came up. So anyone looking for a plant-based, vegetarian restaurant in the Vancouver area will easily be able to locate this restaurant. 

Hashtag, hashtag, hashtag

For every hashtag you use, there is a set of 9 top posts for said specific hashtag. The posts that fall under one of the 9 spots regularly receive much greater engagement and impressions than those underneath them. To do this, your post must have the most engagement in comparison to other posts that are using the same hashtag as you. 

We suggest organizing your hashtags into categories for the different types of posts you publish. By including a variety of post-specific hashtags, you’ll increase your chances of attracting a wider and more diverse audience that are specifically looking for the type of content you’re posting.

Alternative text functionality

The alternative text functionality Instagram is a feature that allows users to write captions for their photos. Instagram uses an object recognition technology to generate a description of photos, so you can listen to a list of items that photos may contain as you browse the app.

Before publishing a post, click on “advanced settings” and select the “write your alternative text” option. From there, you’re able to write a description of your image outside of your visible caption. 

Not only does this feature help users who are visually-impaired, it also can help your content rank better in Instagram’s algorithm.

Track your analytics

You can use Instagram’s free insights accessible from your profile, or third-party tools such as Later or Sprout Social to monitor account-specific data and actively make changes to your content strategy. Tracking the success of your Instagram SEO strategy will help you refine your content as you go. 

If you’re unsure on how to use Instagram analytics, we created a guide to help you understand what you should look for when undergoing a performance check.

Avoid bots

Brands will often pay for these services as an easy way to gain likes, views, and followers. When purchasing bots to run your profile, they will automatically follow other accounts, leave templated comments, and like photos. Some brands turn to this method because it’s affordable, fast, and less time-consuming. 

While this strategy can see short-term growth, it can also pose a serious risk to your business. When using bots, you immediately expose yourself to the risk of looking inauthentic and spamming users — likely due to a bot’s inability to recognize what a user is actually posting, and the difference between generic comments versus real responses. 

Instagram also notices when any activity appears unnatural, which means the use of bots often lead to accounts getting shadowbanned or getting shut down completely. When shadowbanned, it means your content will be invisible to the public. Your content won’t appear in the feeds of others or on Instagram’s public explore page; decreasing your chances significantly of expanding your following.

Work with influencers for user-generated content 

In the same way reviews can boost SEO for web traffic, user-generated content sees the same effect on Instagram. When an influencer posts about your brand or product, they’ll often include phrases and links associated with the product that help naturally strengthen SEO.

More engagement generally means increased traffic from potential new customers looking for a similar experience. For example, topics that relate to users in a brand’s social footprint will likely rise to their attention. Learn more about how influencer marketing and user-generated content can boost organic reach and how we can help.

Not only do these SEO tips help expand your reach and increase your engagement, all of these standard practices will help your brand take a more organized approach in your content strategy. 

Follow us on Instagram for more social tips, tricks, and blog updates! 

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