Experiment: Instagram search engine marketing vs Hashtags


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

TBH, I’m nonetheless reeling over right here. First, he says that you just actually solely want 3 to five hashtags as a substitute 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 inserting extra emphasis on figuring out related key phrases in captions than up to now.

However why speculate wildly when you possibly can put a rumor to the take a look at?

In a traditional Experiments weblog transfer, we determined I ought to put my private Instagram account by the wringer and resolve issues as soon as and for all. And I’m nice with that!

So: Is search engine marketing the way in which to go? Or are Instagram hashtags nonetheless essentially the most highly effective software for discovery? Let’s get into it!


Utilizing related key phrases in Instagram captions will get my posts extra attain than utilizing hashtags

Instagram hashtags have been an necessary a part of discoverability and attain for the reason that platform launched again in 2010. The truth is, we’ve written hundreds of phrases about methods to use Instagram hashtags to develop your viewers, construct group and generate engagement. (Are we… #obsessed?)

For years, choosing the precise Instagram tags was a vital a part of your social media technique — as necessary as having nice Instagram imagery or crafting the proper Instagram caption.

As a result of, to be frank, Instagram’s search engine marketing simply wasn’t that nice within the early days. Hashtags had been the easiest way to make clear what your Put up, Story or Reel was about, and to who it’d enchantment.

However then individuals 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 person expertise. While you seek for #penguins, you’re gonna wanna see some penguins, you recognize?

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

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

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

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


To check out this idea, I fired up my trusty Hootsuite dashboard and ready 10 completely different Instagram posts.

Hootsuite Publisher planner overview

I tried to cowl trending subjects like journey, brunch, disco balls, florals, and Vancouver. I used generic-but-beautiful pictures from Unsplash (one of many really useful free inventory picture websites listed on this — ahem — very useful weblog publish).

Unsplash free stock photo disco balls

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

With great-looking pictures 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 a substitute of one thing descriptive.

new post on Hootsuite Composer with hashtags

Then, I scheduled them to exit at Hootsuite’s really useful posting instances, 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 lovely my feed is when it’s skilled pictures of French toast, and never hormone-fueled paparazzi photographs of a new child? Gorge.

Sorry! Okay! Okay! I do know we shouldn’t linger too lengthy 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 marketing key phrase captions, or with traditional Instagram hashtags.

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

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

Hootsuite Analytics all reports Instagram publishing

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

Instagram posts analytics in-app

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

Vancouver 200 258
Disco Balls 160 163
Peonies 170 316
French Toast 226 276
Seashores 216 379

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

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

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

Instagram posts table engagement likes and comments

Vancouver 14 21
Disco Balls 4 4
Peonies 10 24
French Toast 6 16
Seashores 17 36

Until 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 every week on my private account, however the potential for companies on Instagram is verrrry intriguing.

What do the outcomes imply?

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

A profitable publish wants greater than only a fairly image

Sure, nice graphic design and exquisite imagery are necessary 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 that means, too.

Your caption is a chance to offer simply that.

Be descriptive and correct along with your captions

In the event you’re searching for discoverability and attain, being obtuse or artsy along with your caption isn’t going to assist. It might delight your current followers to share a hilariously mismatched caption and picture, however the algorithm gained’t have any concept what’s going on.

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

In the event you’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 a bit of spammy. It’s doable Instagram’s algorithm thought so, too, and delivered the content material to fewer feeds.

So should you’re going to proceed to make use of Instagram hashtags to your posts, strive placing them on the finish of a extra sturdy caption. Simply in case there’s nonetheless a bit of juice left for looking out 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 discover out what occurs if you purchase followers? (Trace: nothing good to your credit score rating.)

Use Hootsuite to schedule Instagram posts at one of the best time, reply to feedback, monitor opponents, and measure efficiency—all from the identical dashboard you employ to handle your different social networks. Begin your free trial at this time.

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Simply create, analyze, and schedule Instagram posts and Tales with Hootsuite. Save time and get outcomes.


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