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Instagram SEO: What Is It and Why Is It Important?

June 1, 2022

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What is Instagram SEO? Why does using keywords on Instagram even matter?

If you’re someone like me, any time someone would say “SEO” my brain would freak out, close off, and immediately, I would become confused.

All they had to say was “SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization” and BOOM confusion.

So I’m going to explain it, the way I wish someone explained it to me when I first started to learn about SEO.

What is SEO?

SEO is basically a type of strategy you can use to get in front of even more people.

Well, how do you get in front of more people? By trying to appear in search results.

For example, if someone types “how to grow on Instagram” on YouTube, I’d want to pop up on that search because I teach Instagram! So what can I do? Make a video titled “How to grow on Instagram in 2022”

I’m using my knowledge of what I want to be known for, predicting what I think my audience is actively searching, and then creating around those topics.

This is why it’s called “search engine optimization”. You’re using the search engine to your advantage to hopefully rank the highest in search results.

But we’re not here to nail every aspect of SEO on every platform. We’re here specifically for Instagram SEO, and how you can utilize the Instagram search algorithm to get more traffic to your Instagram page.

What Are Keywords?

The first step to making sure your SEO strategy works is knowing what your niche‘s ‘keywords’ are.

What are keywords? I like the definition used from

“Keywords are ideas and topics that define what your content is about. In terms of SEO, they’re the words and phrases that searchers enter into search engines, also called ‘search queries.’”

I know my target audience pretty well. When I think about them going to YouTube, Pinterest, Google, or Instagram, they are probably typing words or phrases like:

  • “Instagram tips”
  • “Instagram Reels”
  • “Influencer tips”
  • “Reels tips”
  • “make money online”

So then I make my content around those things.

How to Find Your Target Keywords

Wanna know how I know this is what they’re looking up? I use real search engines to tell me.

Figuring out what keywords to focus on doesn’t have to be hard.

Go to Google, Pinterest or YouTube right now and type your niche into the search bar. All of those recommended results you see below are all top searches! Top keywords! Write those down!

For example, if you’re a dating coach, type “dating tips” on Google and before hitting “search”, look at what’s recommended.

Screenshot of Google search showing how to find keywords to help with Instagram SEO. "Dating tips" written in the search bar.

Make note of those and plan content around each of those searches.

Your Instagram SEO Strategy

Now that you know what keywords to focus on, you’re going to start to integrate them onto your Instagram page:

These are the 6 places you can utilize the power of keywords and SEO to your advantage:

  1. username
  2. nameplate
  3. bio
  4. hashtags
  5. captions
  6. alt text

Let’s first talk about your username.

Optimizing Your Username

One of the first things you do before growing on Instagram is pick a username that preferably matches your niche or brand.

For example, I see a lot of fashion Influencers with handles like “@styledby____”. Or travel accounts with the word “travel” in their handle.

It’s also important to make sure that the username you pick is available on other social media platforms so that as you grow, you can diversify your platforms all the while maintaining brand consistency.

For this, I recommend using BrandSnag. On their website, you can type your username idea and the results will show which social media platforms that username is or isn’t available on. That can be incredibly useful when finding your ideal, optimized username.

Of course, having keywords in your username will help your pop-up for search results, but so will having these keywords in your nameplate and your bio.

Optimize Your Nameplate

The bold part in your bio is what I like to call your “nameplate”. Some people call it a “tagline”, but I like “nameplate”.

Putting keywords here helps people find you more easily.

For a visual example, if you were to type “tattoo artist” on Instagram’s search, anyone who has “tattoo artist” in the nameplate of their profile will appear in the search results. (See picture on the right.)

So you need to ask yourself, “How do I want people to find me?”

In my nameplate, I have “Influencer Coach” because when people search “Influencer coach”, I want them to find me.

Optimize Your Bio

The same goes for your bio.

Instagram doesn’t make it as clear that they use keywords in your bio as a factor for their algorithm, but it’s still important for your success as an Influencer.

A lot of brands use tools, like Faviko, to help them find Influencers by searching keywords in their bios.

Optimizing just your username, nameplate and bio together can be powerful. How do I know this? Here’s proof:

Text on the top that says "YOUR BIO MATTERS". Two phone in the foreground, one shows a message from one of Millie's students with the words "All I did was change my bio with the tips you gave me and even tho I basically wasn't doing anything and this happened" circled and the other phone shows that her student got a lot of followers as a result from optimizing her bio.

In this picture, you see screenshots from one of my students who joined my Instagram Course, the Modern Influencer. Before doing anything else in the course, she started by updating her username, nameplate and bio.

From these adjustments, she immediately got traction on her account and started to see a lot of new followers.

Lesson? Don’t skip the basics.

The basics create the roots for you to grow.

Optimize Your Hashtags

It’s no surprise that using hashtags can increase your reach. That’s been a known fact since day one of hashtags existing.

All you have to do is combine your keywords into hashtags and you will appear when those hashtags are searched on Instagram.

As an example, since I’m targeting the keyword “Influencer tips”, I would just put those words together for the hashtag #influencertips. It’s as simple as that!

And please remember, don’t use hashtags on your stories. That won’t help you show up in search results.

If you want more information on hashtag strategies that work, I have a video on my YouTube channel you can watch (yes, the one I link to in this sentence). As for what hashtags to use, Hashtag Slayer is a great tool I use for finding optimized hashtags.

Optimize Your Captions

I think this one WILL be a surprise to some of you. Using keywords in your captions can increase reach alone.

If you were to search “Instagram SEO” on Instagram’s search bar (not as a hashtag, just as you see in the screenshot below on the left), you’ll see something in common with the top results.

The posts that come up use a combination of the hashtag “#instagramseo” and the keyword “Instagram SEO” in their caption.

As you see in the screenshot above on the right, the very first thing you see in the caption is “Instagram SEO” and that is how she’s able to rank on this page.

She’s using keywords to her advantage instead of using hashtags. She doesn’t even have any hashtags in her caption.

That’s proof you don’t need hashtags to rank in Instagram’s search results.

Optimize Your Alt-Text

Last, but not least, we have alt text.

What is that?

Business Insider describes Instagram alt text as “the description that identifies the content of an image and allows screen readers to describe your photos to blind or visually impaired users.”

Without you manually putting in alt text, Instagram uses object recognition technology to automatically describe your posts to visually impaired users. This object recognition technology is the same object recognition technology they use to categorize your content, so they know who to push content to.

For example, if a user spends all day on bookstagram, liking posts, reels and following accounts that have to do with books, any time Instagram recognizes a book in a photo, they know “Hey, Sally likes books, let’s show her this one”.

You can utilize alt text to describe the image using stronger keywords.

How to Add Alt Text to Your Instagram Posts

When you’re getting ready to post your image, go to advanced settings (you can find this at the bottom of the same section you write your caption).

From there, go to the bottom once again and click on “Write Alt Text”.

Tada! Now you can write your alt text with all your desired (and relevant!) keywords.

Remember, this is still used to describe posts to visually impaired users, so just cramming a bunch of keywords that don’t make sense is not helpful. Trying to get creative with how you’re implementing them.

Use them in a descriptive manner that will help people visualize what your picture looks like. With the right keywords, that shouldn’t be hard at all.

Is there any other way you use SEO to rank yourself on Instagram’s search results? Let me know in the comments!

I’d even love to hear if you implemented any of these tips and what the results were that you got from it!

Until then, follow your joy!

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