Instagram SEO: The Ultimate Checklist for Optimizing Your Instagram for Search

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Phil Grossman

15 Nov, 2019

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These days, SEO, or search engine optimization, has become synonymous with optimizing your web pages to rank highly on the big Kahuna of search engines: Google. However, restricting the scope of your SEO efforts solely to Google is severely limiting and you run the risk of missing out on websites that have their own internal search engines.

Instagram is one of those sites. Because the social media network is primarily used on mobile, users tend to search for content using Instagram’s built in search feature, and that means that if you want to get found on the ‘gram, you need to play by its own set of SEO rules. 

However, Instagram SEO doesn’t start and end on the app. While it’s hard to figure out how to get Instagram to show up on a Google search, it’s not impossible, and putting in the elbow grease to get your Insta ranked can provide your business with several welcome benefits.

In this guide, we’re going to go over the benefits of Instagram SEO and its best practices – if you want to learn how to get your Insta SEO on point, read on!

What are the benefits of Instagram SEO? 

There are three primary benefits you’ll see when boosting your Instagram SEO:

Increased traffic

This is perhaps the most obvious benefit from spending some time on SEO for Instagram. In fact, the whole point of SEO is to increase organic traffic, and Instagram is no exception to this rule. 

As we mentioned, there are two types of search engines you’ll need to account for when working on your SEO: Instagram’s internal search and external engines like Google. The strategy for each is slightly different — internal optimization focuses more on Instagram-specific features like hashtags and usernames, while external SEO is primarily based on optimizing the text on your posts and profile (which can include hidden Instagram hashtags as well). 

In both cases, solid SEO practices will get your Instagram page in front of more people, and that means more chances to gain followers and build relationships with new followers. And don’t forget: if your Instagram is set up to direct people to your website, store, or mailing list, you’ll be setting up a passive lead generation system on a social media platform with over one billion users. 

Better brand recognition

Brand recognition is all about how easily people can identify your brand when presented with relevant visuals. For example: when you see the Golden Arches or a McDonald’s cheeseburger, you recognize the brand. Think about this: 94% of the world recognizes the Coca-Cola logo. That instantaneous recognition is crucial to the success of their business.

Since Instagram is a primarily visual platform, it’s one of the most useful tools to increase your brand recognition. According to social media marketing guru Pam Moore, it takes an average of five to seven impressions for someone to recognize your brand. By generating more traffic with SEO, you’ll get more visual impressions, and that means your brand will be more firmly etched in your target demographic’s minds.

The end result? When your target demo sees something related to your brand, they’ll be more likely to seek you out and engage with you. 

Grow brand awareness

Brand awareness is closely related to brand recognition, but there’s a subtle difference. While brand recognition is based on how easily one can recognize your brand based on purely visual stimuli, brand awareness is concerned with how your audience associates any kind of stimulus with your brand. 

For example: if you’re a luggage company, you’d want your target demo to think of you whenever they think of traveling, not just when they see your logo. That’s a much more powerful connection, as the stimulus can become more and more abstract, cementing your brand further in your audience’s minds and identities. 

Indeed, the most successful brands have ingrained themselves in our culture and make themselves ever present because of this. When you want a tissue, you might ask for a Kleenex. When you want to look something up online, you might say you’ll google it, even if you’re using a different search engine. 

In some ways, you can consider brand recognition the first step on your way to brand awareness. By generating more traffic, you’ll increase your brand recognition, and eventually your brand awareness. 

Instagram SEO techniques for your profile

So, the benefits of optimizing your Instagram for web search are pretty clear, but how do you actually get started? Let’s begin by taking a look at some ways to optimize your profile page. 

Optimize your Instagram username

This one’s a biggie, especially for Instagram’s internal search function. You should always try to include your priority keyword in your username. When someone searches for something on Instagram, the first accounts that will show up are those with the search term in their username. As an example, let’s run a search for travel:

As you can see, the first result has our search term as the first word in their username. While not every result has the term in their username, it’s a good idea to add your target keywords to your username if possible. 

Optimize your Instagram name

Don’t forget about to optimize your Instagram name as well. Just like your username, your Instagram name serves as a keyword for searches. However, whereas username optimization is particularly important for searches on Instagram itself, your Instagram name will have a greater effect on your web search ranking. 

Why is that? Well, Instagram usernames typically contain a few words scrunched together, but Instagram names are generally spaced out and more similar to what someone would search for on Google. This is easy to see if we scroll further down the search results from our last example:

If you take a look at the second result, plantbased_food_and_travel, you’ll notice that this user’s username isn’t something someone is likely to remember and type into Google. The underscores are perfect for Instagram’s internal search function because they let her snag a username with three popular search terms, but Google users will probably type something more similar to this user’s name when conducting a search. 

For example: if you type “Conny vegan food” into Google, Conny’s Instagram is the second result, right after her website. 

Don’t forget your bio

The next thing on your Instagram SEO checklist should be your bio. After your username and name, search engines will crawl your bio to check for relevant keywords. Overall, your bio will act like a meta-description — it even has almost the same character limit as meta-descriptions on Google. 

Luckily, it’s not really a problem to stuff tons of keywords into your bio. In fact, doing so has become something of a stylistic choice for bios given the spartan character limits Instagram imposes. However, it’s best to put in a bit of natural language in addition to your keywords. 

Here’s an example of an Instagrammer with a great, SEO bio:

If you need help thinking of keywords, try using tools like Google Keyword Planner or TagBlender. 

Use schemas

Ever Googled something and seen one of these pop up?

Having your brand show up in one of these Google knowledge panels is incredibly helpful for improving your organic traffic due to the fact that it links to all your social media pages. 

If you want to get a knowledge panel of your own, you can use to link all your social profiles together and increase your chances of getting your own panel. 

How does it work? In short, schema lets you add specific meta-tags to your website’s HTML that make it easier for Google to crawl through your site and make a knowledge panel for you.

However, doing so requires a little bit of technical know-how. If you’re comfortable working with HTML, you can simply go into your website’s code and add in meta-tags that link to your social media pages. You can see some examples here.

If you feel a bit uneasy editing raw code, see if you can hire someone to do so. It’s not a particularly difficult task, so you should be able to find someone who will do it for you for a very reasonable price. 

Instagram SEO techniques for your photos

While your bio is definitely the most important part of your Insta as far as SEO is concerned, you shouldn’t forget about optimizing your content. Here are a few tips to get your posts ranked on Google.

Use alt text

Alt text (short for alternative text) is written text that stands in for images when they either fail to load or a user is visually impaired and has their computer or phone configured to accommodate their disability. Although its original purpose was to help those with poor internet connections and disabilities browse the internet, they’ve become popular among SEO professionals because they allow you to add more keywords to your site without keyword stuffing the content and copy. 

Recently, Instagram implemented an alt text feature to the app that lets users add their own alt text to all their images. That means that you can use the same techniques that have become so popular for regular SEO even on Instagram. 

To add alt text to your posts, navigate to one of your posts, and select edit from the drop down menu:

Then, tap the “Edit Alt Text” icon in the bottom right hand corner of your post:

You’ll be presented with this screen, which allows you to enter your alt text:

From here, you’ll need to use your SEO knowledge to craft some Google-friendly copy.

Add an image title

When Instagram creates a page for your post, it uses your caption as part of the title. Take a look at this caption:

Now, let’s copy and paste the caption into Google: 

See that? Google takes the caption and puts it in the title. The formula for Instagram page titles is: 

[Instagram name] on Instagram: “”

Understanding how Instagram creates pages for your posts can be a major advantage when it comes to getting your profile found through organic searches. If you want to boost your reach, try titling your image in your caption before continuing on with the rest.

Post high-quality images

Hopefully, you’re doing this regardless of any of your SEO ambitions, but posting clear and high-quality images can actually help with your SEO as well. Instagram now uses image recognition to detect what’s in your photos and recommend it to other users. As long as you’re posting clear photos, Instagram shouldn’t have any trouble finding out what’s in your photos and sending them in the right direction. 

Instagram SEO for your posts

So, we’ve gone over how to optimize your profile and your photos — how about the rest of your posts? Optimizing your descriptions, hashtags, and setting up backlinks from your other sites are the last few items on our Instagram SEO checklist, so let’s jump right in.

Pick the right hashtags

Hashtags are an integral part of Instagram, and without using them properly it’s going to be hard to get found. A good rule of thumb when picking hashtags are to include some very high volume hashtags with millions of followers and a few more niche ones with modest followings — sort of like how you’d use long-tail keywords to snag more concentrated traffic. That way, you get a good mix of broad reach and niche focus.

Include keywords in your captions

As we already mentioned, Instagram treats your caption like a title, so make sure to include some keywords in there. Luckily, hashtags are basically the keywords of Instagram, so if you’ve included some, you’re already on your way. That said, it’s not a bad idea to naturally include some regular keywords in your caption as well for good measure.

Link to your posts from external sites

This is basically backlinking for Instagram. If you run a blog or a website outside of Instagram, make sure to link to your posts in one way or another. Since Google doesn’t index Instagram’s automatically generated links, if you want your individual posts to show up on Google, you need to link to them from an external site.

That wraps it up! If you follow all these tips you’ll be well on your way to SEO success. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at We’re always happy to answer any questions you have. 

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