Social Media

Instagram SEO: Five quick ways to increase your discoverability

- June 16, 2022 5 MIN READ
Instagram post on phone

If you want more eyes on your content, robust Instagram Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is vital to your Instagram strategy, writes social media strategist and coach, Emily-Rose Hills.

There’s no point having great content if no one can find you. If you’ve been posting informative, educational content and getting crickets, you need to focus on ways to increase your discoverability.

I’m sharing the five top ways Instagram SEO can help make your business more searchable (i.e. discoverable).

I could waffle on the benefits of SEO for Instagram and why you need it, but you’re here for the meaty how-tos and want practical tips you can apply to your Insta-friendly strategy today, so let’s get going.


1. Use hashtags to increase your discoverability

First, let’s talk about the most debated form – and the most common (and the best) way to get discovered – the humble hashtag. To be honest, there’s nothing humble about these little beauties.

There is much debate about how many hashtags to use, when to use them and where to place them – within the caption, or in the first comment. Head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, came out and said to put them in the caption. After trialling it out, I haven’t really seen much difference.

Quite often, I hear people say their hashtags aren’t working or that hashtags don’t work like they used to. Hashtags haven’t stopped working, you’re simply not using the right ones.

woman using phone with hashtags surrounding her

Hashtags are the only way that Instagram can categorise images and videos. They tell the algorithm what the image/video is about, the type of community it will appeal to, and the location. Without hashtags, how will users who don’t know about your business know that what you’re offering could be relevant to them? Particularly if you’re not using relevant keywords in the captions – more on keywords below.


You can use up to 30 relevant hashtags in the caption or first comment. Why 30? Because it’s 30 opportunities for someone to discover your business. Forget what you’ve heard – that Instagram ‘penalises’ you for using all 30 hashtags. Think about it! Why would they allow you to use 30 hashtags and then punish you for it?

So if you’re not using hashtags because you think it looks spammy, or only using five or ten, then you are missing out on expanding your discoverability.

What hashtags should I use?

It’s important to be strategic in choosing your hashtags, and do some research. There are some great hashtag generator apps that can help you select the appropriate ones such as Hashtag Stack or Inflact.

Be careful of simply selecting all the popular hashtags that have been used millions of times. The popular hashtags might give your content an initial burst of activity for a few seconds, before being bumped down the page way past the point that anyone scrolling will end up with RSI. Instead, I recommend choosing one to three popular hashtags that fall between 1 million and 1.5 million uses. After you’ve selected your popular hashtags, choose five to six average use hashtags (500k-1 million). Rare hashtags (100k-500k) and niche hashtags (10k-100k) are your branded hashtags, or relevant to your industry. You’ll also need one or two community hashtags (e.g. #yogalovers #aussiemumtribe) and one or two geotags (e.g. #bondibeach #dubbo #sydneymums)

Is it okay to delete hashtags when the post is been online for a while?

No! Those of you who have an innate desire to delete hashtags because you think it looks messy or spammy, just don’t! Hashtags are to Instagram as the Dewey Decimal System is to your local library. Can you imagine going to the library, only to find all the books in some random order with no means of categorising them?

Obviously, I have a lot to say about hashtags – this one probably should have been its own mini-blog. However, there is more to Instagram SEO than hashtags. Now that you understand their importance, let’s keep moving.

2. Use alt text

Alt-text is short for alternative text and lets you write descriptions of what’s in the photo. For example, ‘sunflower in a field’, ‘a dog riding a surfboard’, or ‘social media manager pulling out hair because people won’t use 30 relevant hashtags’.

Try to avoid using terms like ‘an image of’ or ‘a picture of’. It’s important to use colours, textures, objects and if possible, your brand. It allows screen reader software to read the alt description aloud for those with low vision or blindness. Alt-text is also important for discoverability.

If you’re not sure where to add alt text, open the app on your phone. At the bottom of the screen, look for Advanced Settings and tap. Scroll down to Accessibility and click ‘Write alt text’. If you are using a scheduling platform like SkedSocial, you will find it at the bottom of the create post page.

Hand holding smartphone with Instagram on screen

3. Captions require keywords

Your captions need to be carefully constructed with keywords. Before you write your caption, ask yourself: What is your intention of posting and how are you clearly going to communicate what you want your followers to do? Does it contain keywords and a call to action?

When planning, be thoughtful and strategic with your captions. Do keyword research using a tool such as UberSuggest or SemRush to find keywords and search terms people are actually searching for. What people search for on Google may be slightly different to Instagram, but it gives you a good place to start.

You can also type keywords into the search bar on Instagram and see what comes up, if you are stuck for ideas.

4. Pimp your profile

You may not have seen MTV’s Pimp My Ride, where they take boring, run of the mill cars and transform them into something that turns heads – you can do the same thing to your Instagram bio.

Learn how to sparkle amongst the millions of others, by using relevant keywords from your niche in your username and profile. Make sure your contact details are listed and correct, and that it’s simple to understand what you do from a glance.

5. Consistency is important

There’s no point carrying out search engine optimised content for a week or two, and reverting back to your former #Mondayvibes and photos of coffee the week after. Instagram SEO is for life.

If you find yourself struggling to make yourself accountable and are simply posting content for the sake of ticking a box, then perhaps it’s time you booked in with The Social Media Coach for accountability. I can make sure you are staying on track and help you navigate the competitive world of Instagram SEO to increase your discoverability.


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