6 Instagram SEO Tactics to Rank Higher in 2021
We’re all familiar with SEO for Google, but we must remember that social media platforms have widely used search functions, too! And with this expanded search function on Instagram, optimizing your profile and posts for Insta search is a great way to grow your reach get a leg up on your competition.
In this guide, we’re going to cover exactly what Instagram SEO is, why it’s important, and then provide five steps to optimize your account for search. They include:understand:
- Identify your keywords
- Identify your KPIs
- Optimize your bio
- Optimize your post descriptions (captions, hashtags)
- Add alt text
What is Instagram SEO?
Instagram SEO is the process of optimizing your content in order to rank your profile higher in the Instagram search results. And though it may not have the same appeal as live streams or carousel ads, it’s as worthy of your time as anything else. By following Instagram SEO best practices — which we’ll discuss shortly — you improve your chances of being discovered by users who are searching keywords related to your business. That means more views, more likes, and more followers!
Rather than buying an ad, this business made us aware of their merchandise simply by optimizing their content for a relevant keyword: “gardening ideas.” They did this, of course, because they know that users who search for this keyword are likely to be interested in their gardening-related products.
As a user, rather than expanding the list of suggested searches, you could simply go straight to one of these gardening-related profiles. And it’s no accident that these specific profiles are at the top of the list of suggestions. Once again, this is Instagram SEO in action!
6 tips to help you succeed with Instagram SEO
As we walk through these tips, keep in mind the ultimate goal: Getting your profile and individual posts to rank as high as possible for the keywords you care about.
1, Identify and prioritize your keywords
Which keywords do you want to rank for? An answer to this question is absolutely necessary before you make a single change to your Instagram profile/content.
Use keyword research tools
You can use regular keyword research tools to come up with Instagram keywords, such as:
- WordStream’s Free keyword tool
Just keep in mind that what your followers search for on Instagram may not be the same as what they search for on Google.
In that regard, it may be best to use hashtag research tools, like
- Keyword.io’s Instagram hashtag tool
- Ingram’s Hashtag Generator Tool
2, Distinguish between broad and specific keywords
As you’re brainstorming, make sure to distinguish between relatively broad keywords — a.k.a. head terms — and relatively specific keywords — a.k.a. long-tail keywords.
- Head terms (e.g., gardening) are searched frequently, and they typically indicate low commercial intent in the mind of the user.
- Long-tail keywords (e.g., gardening ideas) are searched infrequently, and they typically indicate high commercial intent in the mind of the user.
Which is more important to you: increasing traffic to your profile, or driving more conversions? If it’s the former, you’re probably going to prioritize head terms over long-tail keywords. If it’s the latter, you’ll likely do the reverse.
You could argue that these two objectives go hand-in-hand— i.e., you want to increase traffic to your profile in order to drive more conversions. It’s a fair point, and most of you will end up optimizing your profile/content for both head terms and long-tail keywords. As we’ll discuss shortly, however, not all optimizations carry the same weight — and that’s why it’s important to establish your priorities from the jump.
3 , Establish KPIs to measure the impact
There’s one more question you need to answer before you start optimizing: How are you going to measure the impact of your Instagram SEO efforts? Measuring impact is an essential part of the process, as it enables you to determine which optimizations are (un)successful.
To set yourself up for success, make sure to establish a few key performance indicators (KPIs). With Instagram Insights — the native analytics tool that comes with your business profile — you can track KPIs such as these (both at the profile level and the individual post level):
- Profile visits
- Website clicks
Once you know which KPIs you’re going to track, you’ll be able to measure the impact yielded by your optimizations.
4,Optimize your profile (username & bio)
Now that you know (1) which keywords you’re going to target and (2) how you’re going to track your ROI, it’s time to optimize both your profile as a whole and your individual posts.
Let’s begin with your profile as a whole — we’re going to optimize your username and your bio. (Remember when we said not all optimizations carry the same weight? Well, your username and your bio are the heavy hitters; optimizing these two assets can make a huge impact). Your username is straightforward: You need to incorporate the keyword you consider most valuable. Clearly, the person who owns this profile wants to rank for “gardening ideas.”
For some of you, this may cause concern: What if you already have a well-established business name — one that doesn’t include your primary target keyword? Fortunately, Instagram allows you to differentiate between your business name and your username:
If possible, try to incorporate both your brand name and your primary target keyword into your username. For example, if you were the owner of an ecommerce business called Nellie’s and you were trying to rank for “winter hats,” your Instagram username could be “winterhatsbynellie” or “nellieswinterhats.”
Optimizing your Instagram bio is equally straightforward: This is your opportunity to target any high-value keywords that didn’t quite make the cut for your username. The owner of this profile, for example, wants to rank for “gardening tips.”
With your username and bio optimized, your Instagram profile as a whole should be in good shape. Now, let’s wrap up by discussing the optimization of your individual posts.
5, Optimize your individual posts (captions, hashtags)
Is optimizing each individual post as important as optimizing your username and bio? No, probably not. But let’s recall the original example we used to illustrate Instagram SEO in action.
Had the person who posted this picture not used the caption to target “gardening ideas,” we may have never come across their profile, their website, or their products. That’s a big deal! And considering the minuscule effort required to optimize your captions, there’s no reason not to do it.
As you can see, hashtagging played a role in getting this post to rank for “gardening ideas.” However, this clearly wasn’t the only keyword being targeted by the person behind the post.
In general, when you’re optimizing an individual post, you should:
- Use the main body of the caption to target a specific high-value keyword
- Use hashtags to reinforce that keyword and target ancillary keywords
As an example, if you wanted to further optimize the post that ranks for “gardening ideas,” you could add a second sentence to the main body of the caption: “Gorgeous rooftop garden in New York. Check out our profile for more #gardeningideas!”
The more descriptive you are in your caption, the better optimized your post is for Instagram SEO. While the algorithm really only supports general terms right now, there’s no doubt in our minds that it will become more and more advanced over time.
6, Add alt text to images
You know about alt text for website and blog image optimization, but you may not know that you can add it for your Insta images too. Once you’ve added an image and are brought to the caption screen, head to the bottom and select “Advanced Settings”.
Scroll down to the “Accessibility” section and add your alt text from there.
Not only does this make your posts accessible, but it also enhances your Instagram SEO.
Don’t neglect Instagram SEO!
Instagram SEO is a no-cost, high-impact tactic for anyone who wants to grow their reach, increase traffic to their profile/website, and drive more conversions. It may not yield the same volume of results as paid advertising, but the potential ROI is staggering. If you’re committed to using social media as an engine of growth for your business, Instagram SEO is a no-brainer.
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