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Instagram SEO: 5 Tips to Boost Your Reach and Visibility

by | Mar 10, 2021

In October of 2010, Instagram officially launched as a simple photo social platform. For a time, it was limited to only image uploads, captions, and hashtags—which seemed like a novelty back then. Nearly a decade later, Instagram is now part of the Facebook app platform and has exploded into a multi-dimensional behemoth of content, complete with live-streaming, branded IGTV episodes, and opportunities to shop directly within the platform. 

Boasting approximately 140 million users in the United States alone, this global social media powerhouse has become the go-to channel for marketers across the board. Now industries from healthcare to horticulture are grappling for coveted Instagram followers and sales. With such an enormous audience on the platform, you can expect Instagram competition to be high. 

Fortunately, there are several SEO techniques in play to help increase your reach and visibility on Instagram. That’s right: Instagram SEO is very much an established strategy, and it’s time to discover the impact it can have on your organic reach, customer base, and overall conversions. Today, we’re sharing exactly what Instagram SEO is, how it works, and five tips to boost your Instagram reach and visibility. 

Does Instagram Have SEO?

Before we dive into improving your Instagram account’s reach and visibility, it’s essential to define Instagram SEO. In a traditional sense, SEO or “search engine optimization” is the process of fine-tuning the quality and quantity of your website traffic from search engines. First, search engines like Google or Bing use crawler bots to collect information from all your website pages, such as your location and what type of content you provide. 

Then, your website pages are placed into an index, where various algorithms test multiple ranking factors to determine where your page should rank in search results for specific queries. In SEO, we call these queries “keywords.” Some of the ranking factors search engines use to sort web pages include page speed, domain authority, and a specific keyword’s density. 

From here, a user enters their desired search query, such as “chiropractor near me” or “best chiropractor in Fort Lauderdale,” into the search engine. The search engine result page (SERP) will then display the results based on how each website ranks for the desired keyword, both in relevancy and quality.

In a sense, Instagram is just another search engine, only for pictures and profiles. In the same way SEO techniques improve your ranking for web pages, they can also improve your rank (or visibility) for Instagram accounts. Here are the factors that impact Instagram SEO and why they’re essential. 

The 5 Key Elements of Instagram SEO

Instagram SEO techniques vary slightly from traditional SEO techniques in that the critical elements for social media do differ from the essential elements of a website. However, in the same way, that search engines can potentially funnel users to your website, Instagram search results and the Instagram Explore page can both funnel users to your profile. Just like how ranking higher in SERPs improves your website visibility, appearing in search results and the Explore page on Instagram improves your overall reach. 

The five critical elements of Instagram SEO that can boost your profile’s reach and visibility are:

  1. An optimized profile name and bio
  2. Image alt text for each post
  3. Detailed captions complete with target keywords
  4. Relevant hashtags 
  5. An eye on the analytics 

Enhancing these elements helps boost discoverability in search results and the chance that a user will find you on their Explore page. More visibility equals more likes and followers, translating into a loyal community and a flourishing customer base. 

Tips to Boost the Reach and Visibility of Your Instagram Profile

There are many Instagram tips available online, from upping the frequency of your Instagram story schedule to paying for Instagram ads. Unfortunately, you can do all of these steps and still not see a rise in Instagram engagement. Like traditional SEO, Instagram SEO is a long-game—but when done correctly, it has a large payoff. 

You can boost both the reach and visibility of your Instagram profile when you implement these five steps. 

Tip 1: Optimize Your Instagram Handle and Bio 

Think of your Instagram handle and Instagram username as the domain and name of your website. Both should reflect who you are and what you do. The reasoning here is simple: Just as a web user will discover your brand through keywords in your web domain and meta title, an Instagram user will find your profile through keywords in your handle and username. When users complete an Instagram keyword search for your industry, you want to make sure you’ll appear in those search results.

Depending on the type of service or product you offer, users will use the Instagram keyword search to either directly locate your page by brand name or to see the broad selection of results for that query. The first step in your Instagram SEO strategy should be to create a list of a few target keywords and secondary keywords related to your business. With relevant keywords in hand, optimize your Instagram profile for these terms.

On your Instagram profile, toggle to Edit Profile underneath the area for your bio. From here, work your most important target keywords into your handle and username. Then use your secondary keywords to bulk out your Instagram bio. For example, if your brand sells skincare products, keywords surrounding skincare should be in your handle, username, and bio. If your brand name does not correlate with the product you sell or the service you offer, be sure to elaborate on your keywords within your bio and username. 

Consider the brands Renée Rouleau Skin Care and Eminence Organics for a real-world example of Instagram SEO at work. Both sell skincare products, but just one has the term “skin care” in their brand name. Both brands will appear in search results for the query “skincare” because they both have optimized their profile for that term. Renée Rouleau uses the term “skincare” in their handle, username, and bio. While Eminence doesn’t have “skincare” in their handle, the term is present in their username and bio. Hence, both will appear in search results for the same relevant keywords. 

Tip 2: Don’t Forget About Instagram Alt Text!

Alternative text or “alt text” is a short, written description of an image. It’s used when a user cannot view the image for some reason, whether due to visual impairment or a glitch loading the image file. Alt text also provides better image context to the previously mentioned search engine crawlers, helping them index the image properly. 

In recent years, alt text has taken on more significance, both in the realm of SEO and to better accommodate those with disabilities. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), updated law mandates that websites and social media platforms be readily accessible to all. Now, content that isn’t easily accessible to those with visual or hearing impairments can be penalized by search engines. So, not only will alt text tell search engines (including Instagram) what your content is about, but it can also help your content rank.

When it comes to alt text for Instagram, a visual-based platform, alt text is paramount. Like websites, Instagram has alt text capabilities that allow users to hear descriptors of the content located on their main feed and Explore page. Currently, recognition technology automatically generates general descriptions for Instagram content. Users are encouraged to write their own personalized descriptions that include keywords that will help their content appear on relevant user’s Explore pages.

When uploading a new post, toggle to Advanced Settings at the very bottom of the page, underneath the form fields to enter your caption, location, and other details. Underneath Accessibility,  you’ll find an option to Write Alt Text. Add Instagram alt text to an existing post, toggle to Edit, then tap Edit Alt Text on the bottom right.

Pro Tip: Keep your alt text to 125 characters or less. Screen readers for the visually impaired will break up text after this limit, making it difficult to determine your post’s accurate description.

Tip 3: Create Descriptive Instagram Captions Using Keywords

Just as search indexes use crawlers to judge relevant content for a web user, the Instagram algorithm has a “word embedding” feature that analyzes the keywords used on various accounts to determine how relevant they are to one another. While optimizing your Instagram handle and username are steps in the right direction for keywords, captions are genuinely your chance to let your keyword research shine. 

Instagram’s Explore page algorithm always works on learning a user’s behavior and continually presenting content they would prefer. By writing descriptive Instagram captions that include keywords relating to your business or industry, your page can be grouped with similar accounts and appear on the Explore page of users who have expressed previous interest in your content type. Remember, the Explore page is your chance to reach hundreds or even thousands of new accounts. To upgrade your Instagram content’s visibility and reach, you must develop descriptive, keyword-rich Instagram captions.

Tip 4: Experiment with Hashtags to Improve Instagram SEO

When it comes to Instagram, hashtags reign supreme. An easy way to think of hashtags for social media is the same way you would keywords for SEO. If you’re trying to rank for a keyword on Google, like “best tacos” or “Miami ballet class,” you must create content that’s optimized for that keyword on your website—otherwise, how else would users find you? The same holds true for Instagram, with hashtag usage. If you want to be found for certain terms, use hashtags.

Unlike Instagram profiles themselves, posts are only searchable by the use of hashtags and geolocation. To upgrade your content’s discoverability, using relevant or branded hashtags can help you connect with your target audience members who haven’t engaged with you before. Remember, hashtags are frequently used with the intent for an Instagram user to discover new content—meaning your business can land directly in front of new audiences, especially on the Explore page, when you use keywords as your hashtags.

Organize and sort your hashtags by keywords for various posts and purposes. For instance, you can use hashtags in posts and stories and directly in your bio. Clickable hashtags in your bio boost your chances of appearing in both search results for your specific account, as well as searches for the particular hashtag. Together, these factors can translate into broader reach, more engagement, and more customers for your business. 

Tip 5: Timing is Key, Use Instagram Insights 

The last tip for Instagram SEO is to monitor your analytics to inform the best times to post and engage with followers. Chances are your target audience or existing Instagram followers have designated time frames during which they interact with your content or are on their devices interacting with others’ content. Your Instagram Insights can inform you of periods of high engagement or which types of posts perform well, so you can ramp up what’s working and ditch whatever isn’t.

Instagram Insights can be found directly beneath the Edit Profile button underneath your bio. Here, you can find a general overview of how many accounts you’ve reached, as well as your top posts and top stories. Another way to gauge what’s working and what’s not is to scroll your Instagram feed. Locate your top-performing posts and take note of the time you posted, what hashtags you used, and the type of content. Refer back to these guidelines as best practices for your posting cadence, and be sure to monitor and update whatever is routinely performing best.

Receive Instagram SEO Tips Straight from the Pros

Though Instagram might seem like a collection of fun filters and trending hashtags on the surface, it can be an excellent marketing tool when used correctly. Learn how to optimize your Instagram SEO with help from seasoned pros. Bullseye Strategy is a Fort Lauderdale-based marketing agency with world-wide clientele specializing in social media, digital media, and SEO services. Contact us today to learn how we can help you boost your reach and visibility on Instagram.

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