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Optimize Your Instagram For Search in 2021

This year, Instagram is making it easier than ever for users to find exactly what they’re looking for. The recently launched ‘keyword search’ allows users to search for content by interest – but more importantly, gives creators new opportunities to categorize their content.

So how can creators use the new search tool to their advantage? Here’s everything you need to know about the recent update and how you can ace Instagram SEO in 2021:

Instagram Gets An Upgrade: Introducing New Keyword Search

The launch of keyword search brings a big upgrade to the platform. Since Instagram’s launch, this is the first time users can search for posts and profiles beyond hashtags and account names. Previously, in order to tag content by category, the original post would need to include a hashtag. For example, if a user was looking for a new #fitnessroutine, the hashtag would have needed to be included on the original post in order to come up on the search.

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Now, Instagram will let users search using specific keywords, meaning posts that include the latest workouts will surface, even if the specific hashtag is missing.

While the search functionality isn’t perfect, there are qualifiers into how the content is being displayed.

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According to Instagram, keyword searches will be "limited to general interest topics and keywords that are within Instagram’s community guidelines”.

Similar to the Instagram algorithm, the platform will also rank its keyword search results based on a number of factors, "including the “type of content, captions, when it was posted, and more". The algorithm will also consider the user performing the search, highlighting relevant matches to each individual.

According to The Verge, a company spokesperson says the team also uses machine learning to “find the highest quality content that’s relevant to you.”Instagram’s new keyword search is a great way to get more eyes on your content and reach new followers. Rather than investing in content that will live on your feed for one day, you can now extend the life of your post and continue driving new audiences to your profile.

How To Optimize Your IG Search Strategy in 2021

Creators are constantly looking (and asking Instagram) for new ways to grow their reach and get their posts in front of new audiences. Here are a few easy ways you can make your account more discoverable:

#1: Write Long-Form, Descriptive Instagram Captions

Long-form captions have been trending on Instagram over the past few years, and in 2021 they’ll be more important than ever.

While research shows long-form captions are a great way to build a loyal Instagram community and grow your engagement, with the recent update, it now increases your chances of showing up in search too.

According to research by Fohr, the average caption length has more than doubled since 2016! And by 2021, our feeds will be filled with an average caption length of 405 characters or around 65-70 words. Instagram has also shared longer, more descriptive captions will help creators posts show up on the Explore page. Instagram categorizes accounts by “word embedding” using machine-learning, meaning the algorithm scans through your post to better categorize your content.

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While the Explore algorithm doesn’t look at individual posts, using words that have a common theme across your captions will help Instagram categorize your content and get your posts in front of audiences who engage with similar accounts.

For example, if you continually include descriptive keywords such as “wellness” or “skincare” within your caption text, Instagram will start sharing your content on users’ Explore page with similar interests.

This year, Instagram is pushing users even further to be more descriptive in their captions with the recent update.

For example, when running a search for “Barcelona Spain”, Instagram will now show you all of the posts that include those exact words:While it is not pure keyword search, searching by interest could have a serious impact on your posts’ reach and how potential followers may find your account.

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TIP: As with standard SEO best practices, it’s never a good idea to “keyword stuff” your posts to try ranking for multiple keywords in search. However, the Instagram update is a great opportunity to be more intentional about the exact words used in posts this year.

Instagram’s new keyword search update makes it easier than ever for audiences to find a wider range of content, and will now be a consideration for brands and creators looking to optimize their Instagram performance. By running experiments on new posts and tracking their analytics, creators can determine how to incorporate the new update into their content strategy.

#2: Include Search Terms In Your Profile Name & Bio

Did you know your profile name and bio are searchable too?

To make your profile more discoverable, try to think about keywords that your followers are searching for on Instagram — this may include your niche, location, or the services you offer. Once you’ve found the right keywords, put them into your name field.

For instance, creator Em McNamara wouldn’t show up when a user searches for west coast travel tips based on her content alone — that’s why she included “California Travel” in the name field on her profile:

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By doing a quick search for “California travel” I was able to discover a new creator and quickly learn what I could expect from the account scanning her bio.

While trying to decide how to brand yourself on Instagram, it’s important to consider what your visitors are looking for and how you can present them with the most information in the least amount of time.

Just like the name field, your bio should be optimized with searchable keywords too. See how graphic designer Jasmine Dowling (@jasminedowling) has included keywords like “graphic designer,” “product styling,” and “photography” in the first line of her bio:While including keywords in your bio is a great way to let new visitors know what your account is all about, it will also signal to the algorithm as it “scans” your profile and will increase your chance of showing up in search and the Explore page.

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#3: Add Alt-Text To Your Images

Alt text is all over the internet – and while you may not see it yourself, it’s a great way to categorize your visual content. And thanks to a fairly recent update, it’s now on Instagram too!

Alt text, also known as "alt attributes'' or “alt descriptions'', is used to describe images that can’t be seen. While its main purpose is accessibility, it also provides better context to search engines.

To add alt text to your image, add your photo to Instagram as you normally would getting ready to post. Next, click “Advanced Settings” and scroll down to “Write Alt text”.While the Instagram AI uses image recognition to “see” your photo, adding alt-text to your image is an extra way to tell the platform exactly what you’re posting.

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Including alt-text on your photo will signal to the algorithm and help it better categorize your image, while also making your photo more accessible wherever it’s shared.

#4: Continue Testing & Tracking Your Hashtag Strategy

Did you know a post with at least one Instagram hashtag averages 12.6% more engagement than posts without?

With more competition on Instagram than ever, Instagram hashtags are still one of the best ways to get more eyes on your content in 2021.

While the hashtag search results page is prioritized by engagement, hashtags are a great way to add an extra categorization and increase your chances of showing up on the Explore page.

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As with search terms, it’s important to be intentional about the hashtags you choose. Using niche community hashtags that are especially relevant to your content will increase your chances of showing up in front of the right audience, even if you haven’t connected before.

Instagram continues to make improvements to the platform to deliver its users to the most relevant content. But with new search and discovery opportunities, comes new competition.

While Instagram continues to roll out new features and updates, there’s no better time to shift focus back to your content strategy. By continually sharing great content with descriptive captions and niche hashtags, creators take back control of their content this year.