We all know about SEO for search engines, but did you know that social media platforms have widely used search functions too? In November 2020 Instagram made an important update to its functionality: previously, users were only able to search profiles, hashtags, and locations, whereas now you can search for keywords and Instagram will show all posts that include those words.
Notice how now when you type a keyword such as ‘cosmetics’, you are now shown a ‘Top’ tab for results, in addition to Accounts, Tags, and Places.
It’s no accident that these specific profiles are at the top of the list of suggestions, instead this is Instagram SEO in action: these accounts have been optimised for the search term “cosmetics”.
You can also optimise for longer-tailed search terms. For example, a search for the broad keyword ‘cosmetics’ brings up the following:
The top 3 categories are longer-tailed keywords, and by clicking on one of them (lets take ‘vegan cosmetics’), you will be met with posts from accounts who have optimised for the term ‘vegan cosmetics’:
You can then click one of these posts, for example –
Which then of course can link you directly back to the business’s profile page:
And just like that, you discover a new business.
This path shows how a simple keyword search for the phrase ‘cosmetics’ could end up in a user finding a business they didn’t previously know about or follow (and potentially going on to become a customer). That’s the power of Instagram SEO!
This is big news for marketers, as it means we should definitely be looking to incorporate Instagram SEO into our marketing strategy.
What are the benefits of Instagram SEO?
Of course, SEO is always a slow-burn compared to paid advertising, whatever the platform you’re using. But if you put in the work, SEO can pay dividends. The stats around Instagram buying behaviours certainly back this up: 81% of users say that they use the platform to research products and services. Furthermore, according to AdEspresso, more than 200 million Instagram users visit a business profile on a daily basis, and 66% of those visits come from users who do not yet follow the profiles they’re visiting. Plus, 60% of all Instagram users say they’ve learned about new products through the platform.
So, the million-dollar question is- how do you optimise your Instagram profile for search?
In a nutshell, Instagram SEO is about the strategic placement of keywords in your captions, handle, name, and bio to get your posts to rank higher in Instagram’s search engine. Like any search algorithm, the purpose is to show content that reflects what your audience is searching for.
Approach your Instagram SEO strategy just as you would your regular SEO strategy: start with your keyword research. You need to understand what your audience is searching for – what keywords do they use? What kind of information are they looking for? It’s about deciding which keywords you want to rank for.
You can use your regular keyword tools to help, but it’s also worth remembering that what your followers search for on Instagram may not be the same as what they search for on Google. You can learn about your customers by using the “tagged” section of your profile to see the posts they’ve tagged you in. This might give you a steer on related keywords that you can try to optimise for as you can look at the hashtags that have been used in that post. For example, users tagging a cosmetics brand in a post might use the hashtags #vegancosmetics #crueltyfree which gives you a strong indication that your audience likes your brand because of it’s vegan credentials, so you know that these are keywords you need to optimise for.
Your competitors can also be a great source of keyword inspiration. Take a look at what they’re talking about and the words they’ve used in their profile name and bio.
As we touched on above, the keywords you focus on will likely be a mixture of both broad and long-tailed keywords (as in any SEO strategy). Your broad search terms will be things like ‘cosmetics’ or ‘skin care’, and your longer-tailed keywords will be phrases such as ‘vegan cosmetics’ ‘cruelty free cosmetics’. When and where you use these keyword groups can have a big impact on the success of your SEO strategy, which we’ll discuss next…
Optimising your profile (username & bio)
You can optimise both your profile as a whole, and your individual posts (we’ll come onto this next).
To optimise your profile, the focus is on your username/handle and your bio. In terms of optimising for Instagram SEO, this is the most important part of your strategy: the keywords used in your profile will carry the most weight and can make a real impact so you need to incorporate the keyword/s you consider most valuable.
Your username/handle tends to be your business name. Luckily for some businesses, they already have a keyword within their company name or can easily add one without it sounding too jarring, such as Elf Cosmetics:
However, if you don’t have a keyword in your company name and want to stay true to your brand in your username, there is a second opportunity to introduce some keywords to your profile: Instagram also offer a ‘name’ option where you can add some more words. In the example above, Elf have put their ‘name’ to work in terms of SEO by also adding the keyword ‘Skincare’: clearly this is a keyword they’re aiming to rank for.
Your username and name will tend to contain your ‘broad’ keywords. You can then introduce some of your longer-tailed phrases into your bio where you have more characters to work with. For example, notice how Elf use their bio to incorporate their longer-tailed key phrases ‘vegan’ and ‘cruelty free’.
And now to optimise your posts…
As we mentioned above, optimising your individual posts is another important part of your Instagram SEO strategy. You should aim to use at least one of your core keywords in your post caption, and ideally within the first line if you can (this means that your keyword stays above the “see more” button – Instagram’s version of ‘the fold’- so users see the post is actually related to what they’re searching for straight away.
You can pop your less-important or longer-tailed keywords towards the end of your caption, or add them as hashtags.
While optimising your individual posts probably isn’t as important as getting your profile optimised correctly, it still has an important part to play in your strategy, especially when it comes to longer-tailed search terms. As an example, think back to the post from Balybodycl, who posted about vegan cosmetics:
Would we have found their business page if that particular post hadn’t been optimised for ‘vegan cosmetics’? It’s highly unlikely.
The more descriptive you are in your caption, the better optimised your post is for Instagram SEO. Use the main body of the caption to target your core keywords, and add hashtags to support that keyword, as well as targeting any related keywords.
So in summary, don’t neglect Instagram SEO
It’s free to do (no ad costs), it will help to grow your reach, increase traffic to your profile (and probably your website), and will hopefully result in more conversions! Harnessing the power of Instagram SEO is an opportunity that businesses and marketers can’t afford to miss.