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Instagram is taking a page from Google’s playbook. This past week they announced the introduction of keyword search within the app. Prior to this, users could only search hashtags and account profiles (and location tags to a lesser extent) which absolutely limited the ability of businesses to get their content in front of the eyes of the most people possible. Logically, this is good news for those businesses that understand how to harness this new-found power. Here’s what you need to know.

Everything Businesses Need to Know About the Instagram Keyword Search Update, So Far

How It Works

Instagram Keyword Search Update 2020

Source: Instagram

The search function is no different than it was prior to the update, only users no longer have to type a word or series of words as hashtags.

As a theoretical example, instead of a user typing “vancouverrealestate” as a hashtag, they can now type it naturally, as “Vancouver real estate”.¬†Better yet, instead of only getting content results for the specific hashtag, users will get broader results. Before this, users could miss out on great content if it was not hashtagged they way they were searching for it. Conversely, content creators who forgot to add a specific hashtag would be out of luck if they wanted their post to get found for certain keywords.

SEO for Instagram?

Absolutely. While Instagram won’t be known as an outright search engine after this update, businesses now have the opportunity to incorporate certain SEO best practices into their Instagram strategy. Keyword targeting is the key, and this needs to be done by writing more thoughtful captions when creating a post.

Prior to this you could get away with a very limited caption or even a singular emoji, along with some targeted hashtags. But now you could be missing out on an opportunity to get your content found by prospective customers by not creating a more robust and keyword-rich caption. It’s also important to note that then when users are delivered images/videos as results for their keyword searches, they also receive semantically associated keywords that they can tap on to explore more. For example, when searching “Vancouver attractions” users receive additional keyword tabs to click on, such as “hotel”, “cuisine” and much more. For these reasons it’s a great idea to use semantically associated keywords when creating your captions.

So, moving forward, integrate a variety of keywords into your post captions¬†but be sure to do so naturally for editorial flow. Otherwise you’ll be guilty of keyword stuffing which Instagram’s AI and machine learning driven algorithm will likely pick up on. The latter could get your post relegated to the spam pile.

It’s Still a Work In Progress

At press, search options for keyword strings (two words or more) are limited. For example, hotel businesses in BC will be happy to learn that the app recognizes search terms like “Vancouver vacation”. However, deeper searches such as “Tofino vacation” are not yet recognized.

There is a correlation between how popular a hashtag is and the availability of a natural keyword search string. Staying with the same example, we see that #VancouverVacation has 2.2K results, whereas #TofinoVacation has just 144 results, which is why there is a known search query for “Vancouver Vacation” and not one for “Tofino Vacation”. This goes back to our point above about SEO for Instagram – it essentially follows the same keyword volume validation requirements as if you were targeting expressions on Google Search. Over time you can expect the number of available search queries to grow as use of the search function continues to grow.

Are Hashtags Dead?

No. Hashtag use and search still exists within the app, and users will continue to use them when they want very specific results to their queries instead of getting broad and less relevant results. Your business must still take advantage of hashtags and append them to all posts.

Look at this update as an opportunity to double your chances of getting content found on the app instead of swapping one tactic for another.


Don’t quite get how to capitalize on this update for your own Instagram marketing (and now SEO??) strategy? Contact Strategis Consulting Group today for a FREE audit of your current program.