How Instagram Search Works — Cheat the Algorithms
Being visible in search results is one of the top ways to build your visibility on Instagram, but that’s easier said than done. In the same way that Google and other search engines have their algorithms to decide what to show when a user conducts a search, Instagram has its own search algorithms.
So how do you get your account to the top of search results in Instagram user search results? Let’s dig into the Instagram search algorithm and how you can coax it to send users in your direction.
Table of Contents:
● How Instagram Search Works
○ User Activity
● Why Try to Understand the Instagram Search Algorithms?
● Top Ways to Hack the Algorithms
○ Get a Glimpse of Your Target Audience’s Instagram Activity
○ Boost Your Keyword Game
○ Find Out the Top Hashtags for Your Target Audience
○ Explore Related Top Hashtags
○ Look for Ways to Encourage Post Interaction
● Improving Your Instagram Search Performance
How Instagram Search Works
Before you can strategize for getting to the top of Instagram search results, you need to understand how Instagram’s algorithm works so you know what it’s looking for. Just like Google and other search engines, Instagram uses its own search criteria to prioritize accounts and posts that best suit a user’s search.
Fortunately, Instagram has been somewhat transparent about its search algorithm. According to the company, there are three key factors its algorithm uses:
● Keyword text
● User activity
Let’s look at each of those in a bit more detail.
This is the most straightforward and expected part of Instagram’s search algorithm. When a user types a keyword or search term into the search box, Instagram prioritizes posts and accounts that fit that topic or query best.
When a user conducts a search on Instagram, Instagram’s goal is to show that user the results they’re most likely to enjoy. After all, Instagram’s performance as a business depends on its users’ satisfaction. For that reason, Instagram shows search results that are catered to the individual user.
Instagram knows what accounts the user follows and what types of content they tend to view and engage with most often. It uses that activity history to determine which posts and accounts are most likely to appeal to this user’s interests.
As we mentioned, in every search, Instagram wants to prioritize the results that the user is most likely to enjoy. Part of the criteria it uses is the popularity of your posts or your account. Instagram assumes that if an account has ten million followers, it’s more likely to have high-quality content than an account that has ten followers.
Why Try to Understand the Instagram Search Algorithms?
Think back to your school days. If you wanted to get a good grade on a project, remember what a relief it was when the teacher gave you their grading rubric. It’s so much easier to perform better when you know exactly what the evaluator is looking for and what is expected of you.
Think of the Instagram algorithm as the grading rubric as you try to make your posts or your account more visible in search algorithms. Understanding the algorithm tells you exactly what factors you need to appeal to in order to land those coveted top spots in the search results. For influencers and marketers, or anyone else who wants to boost their Instagram views, understanding the algorithm is immensely helpful.
Top Ways to Hack the Algorithms
Unlike those old-school days, there’s really no way to “cheat” the Instagram algorithm. It’s all about working with the algorithm to make your content fit its criteria so your content appears higher in search results.
Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to do this. Follow these top tips and strategies for better search performance.
Get a Glimpse of Your Target Audience’s Instagram Activity
Much of Instagram’s algorithm relies on how well your content appeal to the searcher. You can’t appeal to every user, but one of the best tools you can give yourself is the insight into the activity of your target audience. By seeing what your target audience members are liking, viewing, and interacting with, you can craft content that appeals to their tastes.
Bad news: that data isn’t publicly presented. Good news: there’s still a way to gather great intel. Snoopreport is a tool that was designed specifically for this purpose.
Here’s how to put it to use:
- Define your target audience. Maybe you want to appeal to users of a particular gender, age range, location, marital status, or other qualities. Determine who you’re trying to attract or determine segments and prioritize them. For instance, maybe you primarily want to appeal to women between ages 20 and 34, then men ages 20 to 34, then women ages 35–50, and so on.
- Find some Instagram users who fit into those target groups. For Snoopreport’s purposes, you can identify up to 100 users you want to study. If you’re wanting to target a few different segments, make sure to focus most of those users in your top-priority segment. For example, you could identify 50 accounts of women ages 20–34, 30 accounts of men ages 20–34, and 20 accounts of women ages 35–50. You can do this with a simple Instagram profile search, by checking out the users who follow your competitors, or through other strategies.
- Sign up for a Snoopreport account.
- Purchase a Snoopreport plan depending on the number of Instagram users you want to study — up to 100 users.
- Enter each of the profiles you want to study into your Snoopreport account.
- That’s it! Each week, you’ll get a report for each of those users. It will tell you what posts they’ve liked, what accounts’ posts they’ve likely most often, what topics seem to interest them most, and more. Keep in mind that you don’t have to have an Instagram account to use Snoopreport, so once you have these reports, you can review these Instagram search users by name without an account on Instagram.
It can take time to identify the users you want to follow, but once you do, the rest is easy and time-effective, allowing you to gather informative data without scouring Instagram for hours.
Boost Your Keyword Game
Keywords are a major part of the Instagram search algorithm. The goal is for your content to include keywords that relate to a high number of searches so your account appears more often in search results.
Of course, you don’t have a crystal ball to predict what anyone will search for, but you can make educated guesses. Instagram often sees a high number of searches for posts related to popular topics that are being talked about at the time. This can include holidays, news stories, major events like the Olympics or the Super Bowl, and so on. As you craft your content, try to incorporate current hot topics.
Find Out the Top Hashtags for Your Target Audience
Hashtags are a critical part of Instagram’s platform, and that includes its search algorithm. As we mentioned, Instagram prioritizes search results that are similar to the content the user seems to like, and that includes hashtags. As often as possible, you want your content to include hashtags that are popular among your target audience.
Snoopreport comes to the rescue here again. When you get a weekly Snoopreport on a user you’re studying, one of the pieces of data you’ll see is the list of most common hashtags in the posts they like. Look for patterns among the users you’re studying to see which hashtags you should have in your posts more often. You can collect even more intel on hashtags when you do an Instagram search for users by name for your top competitors because you can see what hashtags they use often.
Keep in mind that hashtags have to be relevant in posts but they don’t have to be on the nose. For example, if you’re a fashion influencer, you can include #fashioninfluencer even in posts that aren’t about fashion because they were still posted by a fashion influencer.
Explore Related Top Hashtags
Another way to find great hashtags to include in your posts is to do an Instagram hashtag search for the top hashtags for a given topic. For example, let’s say you’re posting about an upcoming charity event. On the Instagram app, search for “charity event” and then go to the “Tags” tab of your results. This shows you some of the most used hashtags related to charity events.
Keep in mind that Instagram lets you include up to 30 hashtags in a regular post and up to 10 hashtags in a story. If you don’t hit those numbers, you’re leaving opportunities on the table.
Look for Ways to Encourage Post Interaction
The more popular your posts are, the more likely they are to appear at the top of Instagram finder or Instagram search results. One way to make your posts look highly popular is to get more engagement on them with more likes and comments.
Sure, you can’t make likes appear out of thin air, but there are ways to increase them. Look for ways to incentivize or otherwise encourage people to engage with your posts. You could post a question in your caption, for example, which invites people to comment with their answers. You could also offer incentives like a prize drawing for everyone who likes a particular post.
Improving Your Instagram Search Performance
Whether you’re trying to boost your business as an influencer, spread visibility for your brand, establish yourself as a thought leader, or just grow your Instagram following for your own purposes, you can “hack” Instagram search results with the strategies above. If you’re eager to jump in and start reaping the rewards, sign up for a Snoopreport account today.