Experiment: Instagram search engine optimisation vs hashtags

Again in March 2022, Adam Moserri made a stunning announcement by way of Instagram Tales. The Instagram CEO introduced that hashtags don’t really matter on the platform anymore.

TBH, I’m nonetheless reeling over right here. First, he says that you just actually only need 3 to 5 hashtags as an alternative of 30, and now this? Is nothing on this world sacred?!

Phrase across the social-media-manager water cooler is that he was implying that the algorithm is likely to be putting extra emphasis on figuring out related key phrases in captions than up to now.

However why speculate wildly when you may put a rumor to the check?

In a traditional Experiments blog transfer, we determined I ought to put my private Instagram account by means of the wringer and unravel issues as soon as and for all. And I’m high quality with that!

So: Is search engine optimisation the way in which to go? Or are Instagram hashtags still the most powerful tool for discovery? Let’s get into it!


Using relevant keywords in Instagram captions will get my posts more reach than using hashtags

Instagram hashtags have been an important part of discoverability and reach since the platform launched back in 2010. In fact, we’ve written thousands of words about how to use Instagram hashtags to grow your audience, construct group and generate engagement. (Are we… #obsessed?)

For years, selecting the right Instagram tags was a important a part of your social media strategy — as essential as having nice Instagram imagery or crafting the proper Instagram caption.

As a result of, to be frank, Instagram’s search engine optimisation simply wasn’t that nice within the early days. Hashtags had been one of the best ways to make clear what your Submit, Story or Reel was about, and to who it’d attraction.

However then folks began abusing the hashtags, cramming within the most quantity (30) to each caption, whether or not or not the tag itself was related. (Because of this we will’t have good issues.)

The overload of inaccurate tagging made for a irritating consumer expertise. While you seek for #penguins, you’re gonna wanna see some penguins, you already know?

So Instagram started working bettering the platform’s algorithm and AI capabilities.

They began encouraging folks to make use of fewer hashtags, rewarding high quality hashtags over amount.

Now, as Adam Moserri’s feedback suggest, we could also be coming into a post-hashtag period of Instagram . Because of this the phrases you embrace in your caption will carry much more weight within the search perform.

That’s proper: Key phrases, not hashtags, is likely to be the brand new secret to succeed in on Instagram.


To check out this concept, I fired up my trusty Hootsuite dashboard and prepared 10 different Instagram posts.

I tried to cowl trending matters like journey, brunch, disco balls, florals, and Vancouver. I used generic-but-beautiful images from Unsplash (one of many beneficial free stock photo sites listed on this — ahem — very useful weblog publish).

Unsplash free stock photo disco balls

(The content material I’m normally posting as of late is simply child pictures. As cute as my daughter is, I didn’t assume she was search-worthy sufficient for this experiment. Coco, please be at liberty to bookmark this publish to indicate your future therapist.)

With great-looking photography lined up, I drafted up keyword-laden captions for half of the posts.

new post on Hootsuite with lengthy caption

For the opposite half, I used 3 to five related hashtags for the caption as an alternative of one thing descriptive.

new post on Hootsuite Composer with hashtags

Then, I scheduled them to exit at Hootsuite’s recommended posting times, and waited not-so-patiently for the outcomes.


TLDR: Key phrase-focused captions get extra attain and extra engagement than hashtags on Instagram in 2022. Seems, Adam wasn’t foolin’!

instagram account page Stacey McLachlan

Earlier than we get into extra element, can we simply take a second to understand simply how stunning my feed is when it’s skilled pictures of French toast, and never hormone-fueled paparazzi pictures of a new child? Gorge.

Sorry! Okay! Okay! I do know we shouldn’t linger too long on the grid: in any case, this experiment is about whether or not or not these particular person posts had extra attain with search engine optimisation key phrase captions, or with traditional Instagram hashtags.

So let’s head over to Hootsuite Analytics to assist make sense of all of it.

General, within the week I ran my experiment, I reached 2.3K Instagram customers.

Hootsuite Analytics all reports Instagram publishing

However not all posts obtained equal consideration, because it seems.

Instagram posts analytics in-app

Right here’s just a little chart of simply how that attain broke down:

TOPIC HASHTAG POST REACH search engine optimisation POST REACH
Vancouver 200 258
Disco Balls 160 163
Peonies 170 316
French Toast 226 276
Seashores 216 379

The margins on some posts had been larger than others, however general, each single publish with an search engine optimisation caption had increased attain than these with hashtags.

General, I had 30% extra attain with my search engine optimisation posts than my hashtag posts. Yowza, as we are saying right here within the social-media-science biz!

Importantly, these posts didn’t simply appeal to extra eyeballs. My posts with key phrase captions obtained increased engagement, too, incomes extra likes constantly.

Instagram posts table engagement likes and comments

TOPIC HASHTAG POST LIKES search engine optimisation POST LIKES
Vancouver 14 21
Disco Balls 4 4
Peonies 10 24
French Toast 6 16
Seashores 17 36

Except you, too, are posting about disco balls, these outcomes predict that you just’re going to get much more engagement from captions than from hashtags.

Positive, this was only a short-and-sweet experiment over the course of per week on my private account, however the potential for businesses on Instagram is verrrry intriguing.

What do the outcomes imply?

In a nutshell: Hashtags are out! search engine optimisation is in! However let’s break down some deeper takeaways from this little check.

A profitable publish wants greater than only a fairly image

Sure, nice graphic design and beautiful imagery are essential on Instagram — it’s a visible platform in any case. However your viewers craves greater than only a fairly image. They need context, authenticity, and which means, too.

Your caption is a chance to offer simply that.

Be descriptive and correct together with your captions

If you happen to’re searching for discoverability and attain, being obtuse or artsy together with your caption isn’t going to assist. It could delight your present followers to share a hilariously mismatched caption and photograph, however the algorithm gained’t have any concept what’s going on.

For optimum attain, use descriptive key phrases that may assist new audiences discover your content material.

If you happen to’re going to make use of hashtags, pair them with a correct caption

For this experiment, half of the posts used simply hashtags because the caption. No additional context, no full sentences, simply tags, tags, tags.

To be trustworthy, it seemed just a little spammy. It’s potential Instagram’s algorithm thought so, too, and delivered the content material to fewer feeds.

So in case you’re going to proceed to make use of Instagram hashtags in your posts, attempt placing them on the finish of a extra strong caption. Simply in case there’s nonetheless just a little juice left for looking by hashtags, you’ll get the #bestofbothworlds.

In conclusion: sorry we doubted you, Adam Moserri. However due course of is what the Hootsuite Experiments weblog is all about! For extra high-stakes Instagram trials and tribulations, why not find out what happens when you buy followers? (Trace: nothing good in your credit score rating.)

Use Hootsuite to schedule Instagram posts at the very best time, reply to feedback, observe rivals, and measure efficiency—all from the identical dashboard you employ to handle your different social networks. Begin your free trial immediately.

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