Instagram SEO: The Ultimate Guide to Gaining More Visibility

How do you earn more visibility on Instagram with organic content? The same way you do on any other search engine: SEO. In this article, I'll cover the four most important steps for building your Instagram SEO strategy.

Instagram SEO: The Ultimate Guide to Gaining More Visibility

Instagram is an excellent tool to get your brand in front of your target audience. As a creator, it's also a good place to grow your following so your can monetize your reach. But you can't just post content and hope someone finds you. If you want to reach a wider audience, you need to make yourself more discoverable.

That's why including Instagram SEO in your channel strategy is so important.

What Is Instagram SEO?

Great question.

SEO stands for "Search Engine Optimization." Traditionally, SEO involves optimizing the content and backend features of a website to boost rankings and visibility on search engines, like Google. But Google isn't the only search engine out there.

Social platforms like YouTube, TikTok, Pinterest, and yes, Instagram, all include search functions and are used as search engines every day. When people search using specific keywords on Instagram, the app displays relevant profiles and posts as the search results.

Instagram SEO, therefore, is the process of optimizing your Instagram content and profile to rank higher in those results. After all, people can't engage with your account or buy from your business if they can't find you.

And by people, I mean a lot of people.

Instagram is one of the most popular social media platforms with almost 1.5 million people using it monthly. Of those users, 200 million visit an Instagram business page every day.

That's a lot of potential eyes that you want on your account.

Related Article: How to Use Instagram Carousels to Increase Engagement

4 Instagram SEO Tactics to Boost Discoverability

So, how exactly do you spruce up your account to boost your Instagram SEO? Here are four steps that you can take:

1) Optimize Your Instagram Account

Optimizing your account for search is the first step.

You'll want to incorporate your target keywords strategically within your profile, ideally including your username and name. This increases the chances of your account appearing every time someone enters that keyword in the search bar. For example, if you're a skin care brand, "skin care" and related keywords would be your target keywords because that's what someone might type while looking for products like the ones you sell.

It's not always possible to add keywords to your username, of course. If you need to use your brand name for the username, it might not include any target keyword. In such cases, you can maintain your brand name for the username and include the target keyword in the name, which are separate on Instagram.

Here's an example:

Screenshot of skin care brand Bolden's Instagram profile. The username of the account is @BoldenUSA. The name of the account is "Bolden Skin Care." The Instagram bio reads as follows: Beauty, cosmetic, and personal care. Black-owned. Skincare backed by science for melanin-rich skin. Featured in @ElleUSA, @OprahDaily, @Essence and more. Shop us @Walmart."
Brand Bolden uses "Skin Care" in their Instagram name to boost visibility.

This brand used "BoldenUSA" as their username but added "Skin Care" to their account name to boost visibility in searches related to that keyword. There are a couple of other things Bolden does well here:

1) They include keywords in the bio. This is one of the places that the Instagram algorithm scans before serving relevant results to searchers. Bolden added "skincare" and "melanin-rich skin" to their Instagram bio to let Instagram know to show their account in searches for skincare and, specifically black skincare. If you have a custom URL generator, you can also add keywords to your link in bio.

2) They set their account type. This is a business setting on your Instagram profile that lets users (and the algorithm) know what kind of account you're running and what content to expect from you. There's a host of options to choose from, so make sure to choose the one that aligns best with what your brand is and does.

You can change this when editing your profile under the public business information "Category" setting.

Coffee shop Maple.Bar added their location, Bellingham, WA, to their IG bio.

Another great place include keywords is with a branded or campaign specific hashtag in your bio. This is also great for encouraging user-generated content.

Finally, if you've got a local, brick and mortar location, make sure to include your location on your Instagram account. This will help your account show up when users near your business search for the services or products you sell.  

2) Include Relevant Keywords in Post Captions

After optimizing your profile, you can start thinking about how to approach specific posts. This is where you can get into more niche, specific keywords to improve your chances of appearing in search results.

To continue to use Bolden as an example, take a look at how they use target keywords in these two posts, both in the captions and in the hashtags:

In this first example, they pair a clear image of someone using their eye patch product with the keywords "under eye patches" and "brighten" in their caption. Under eye patches is both the name of the product and a common phrase someone might type while looking for this skincare item. That's the obvious keyword choice.

They also do some good semantic work, though, by using the word "brighten" in a punny way here. This product includes brightening ingredients, so searchers that might be specifically looking for a "brightening eye patch" are more likely to find this post because it includes that keyword.

For this Reel promoting the same product, they used a slightly different tactic.

You can see that the caption does not include any keywords, however their selected hashtags for the post include three product specific keywords (eye mask, under eye bags, and under eye circles) as well as more general, brand targeted keywords.

Whether you're using hashtags or just the caption copy, it's important not to stuff your posts with too many keywords. That'll make your content difficult to read and could come across as spammy, reducing engagement. Traditional SEO on Google works the same way. That's why experts use SEO software and tools to help them identify the most important keywords and avoid over-optimizing.

So, use keywords naturally and intentionally. You want your captions to be easy and enjoyable to read, not look as though they were written by a robot.

In addition to boosting your content in search results, adding target keywords can help you appear in the Instagram Explore pages of your target audience. Smart, intentional keyword usage helps the Instagram algorithm know which accounts and what content are similar to yours. If users interact with such accounts and content, your profile and content will also start showing up on their Explore page.

3) Use Alt Text on Your Instagram Posts

Instagram has a feature that lets you add detailed descriptions to your photos using alt text. Users with visual impairment can use a screen reader to read aloud these descriptions and understand the visual content contained within your post.

Instagram alt text was designed to make the Instagram experience more accessible to all users, but it also plays a role in Instagram SEO. By including relevant keywords in your alt text, you can help the Instagram algorithm understand the content of your images and how they may be relevant to certain users.

Instagram actually generates this alt text for your images automatically, but it's not optimized for SEO purposes. You'll want to edit the text to make it more descriptive and include target keywords.

To do that, navigate to "Advanced settings" at the bottom of the page when creating a new post. Tap "Write Alt Text" and fill out the box with the description and keywords you want to include. Remember, don't just stuff the alt text with a string of keywords. It's primary function is an accessibility tool. Try to fit your target keywords naturally into a description that will be helpful for screen reader users.

When you're finished, simply click done and return to editing and publishing your post as normal.

You can also edit the alt text of published Instagram posts. Click the three dots at the top right corner of the post to which you'd like to make changes. Then click on "Edit" and you'll see the option to write the alt text.

4) Consistently Post within Your Niche

Constantly changing up the content you post about on your Instagram profile isn't the best discovery strategy. Search engines reward accounts that stay consistent and build authority around a specific topic. It makes it easier for the algorithm to categorize your content and it helps returning visitors to your page know what they're going to get.

Think of it as optimizing for both robots and humans.

If the Instagram algorithm knows what niche you're in, they'll suggest you to people interested in that niche more frequently. And if users know that you post quality skincare content every day, they'll view your stories, watch your Reels, and check your page more often (which all signals to the algorithm to boost your content more on search and Explore).

Plant company Bloomscape keeps it consistent on their Instagram page.

Bloomscape does a great job of this. They publish content that falls into three typical categories, all about plants of course. Because of this, the algorithm knows to push their content to users who want to become better house plant owners and are looking for the tools and knowledge to do so.

Instagram SEO is a powerful way to boost your brand's visibility while also making it a better experience for new followers and potential customers. Follow the tips from this article and you'll be well on your way to an optimized Instagram account and faster growth.

For more tips and resources like this, check out our Resources Library or head over to our YouTube channel.

Tomasz Niezgoda is the Head of Marketing at Surfer, a platform that merges content strategy, creation, and optimization in one smooth process. With almost a decade of industry experience, he's responsible for incorporating and executing marketing strategies and managing a team of four wonderful experts.

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