Instagram SEO: the Ultimate Guide for 2021

instagram seo beginners guide for 2021

Instagram SEO: the Beginner’s Guide for 2021 – In this article I will show you how you can optimise your profile for Instagram SEO.

You will learn why Instagram SEO is important, what the key elements are and how you can increase your profile reach and engagement by optimising them for keyword search.

If you need help with your social media, please feel free to check our social media services.

Instagram SEO: General Questions

What is Instagram SEO?

Instagram SEO is the strategy and practice of optimising your Instagram profile for selected keywords with the goal of increasing your reach and profile visits.

How Does Instagram SEO Work?

The Instagram posts you are seeing are based on a number of factors, including:

  • Accounts you follow
  • Accounts you tag in your posts
  • Posts you like
  • Posts you comment on

Recently Instagram has also introduced the function of keyword search.

Is Instagram Indexed by Google?

Google and other search engines index Instagram profiles only. They don’t index Instagram photos or videos.

Instagram SEO: Keyword Search

What is Instagram Keyword Search?

Instagram keyword search refers to the ability of Instagram users to search posts by using keywords.

Multiple sources referenced an article on The Verge claiming Instagram is going to improve the ability for its users to search by keywords.

So far if you entered a keyword in the search bar of the Explore page, you would get four different categories of results: Top, Accounts, Tags and Places.

For example, a search for ‘digital marketing’ would get you posts using #digitalmarketing or accounts using ‘digital marketing’ in their name.

According to an Instagram spokesperson, from now on users will be able to find posts on ‘digital marketing’ based on the content of the post, even if the specific hashtag is not being used.

How Instagram Keyword Search Works

It’s not confirmed how Instagram is going to determine the content of a post. A spokesperson from the company confirmed that among other things they will look at:

type of content, captions, when it was posted

When Will Instagram Keyword Search Be Available?

The keyword search feature should be currently available in six English-speaking countries: United States, United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, Australia and South Africa.

Instagram SEO: Ranking Factors

These are the main ranking factors of Instagram SEO:

  • Username
  • Display name
  • Bio
  • Hashtags
  • Caption
  • Alt text
  • Mentions
  • Comments

Instagram Username

What is Your Instagram Username?

Your Instagram username is the handle you chose when you create your Instagram account, which is used to identify your profile on Instagram.

Your Instagram username is primarily used as:

  • Instagram URL eg
  • Tag eg @username
  • Login

Instagram SEO and Username

Your Instagram username is the equivalent of your web domain or URL.

It’s widely accepted that including your focus keyword, the keyword you are interested the most in, in your username will result in increased visibility.

This should not change with the introduction of keyword search on Instagram.

I believe this aspect is going to be even more important. It’s likely that the algorithm will try to use different factors to determine the content of a post.

In theory, a post on digital marketing published by an account whose username is ‘digitalmarketingireland’ will have more chances to rank for the keyword ‘digital marketing’ rather than an account called ‘increasily’.

design by roberta instagram username
In this example, we see the keyword ‘design’ as part of the username

How to Optimise Your Instagram Username

Make sure you include your focus keyword in your Instagram username. This will help the algorithm showing your profile each time somebody uses the focus keyword that you chose in a search.

Instagram Display Name

What is Your Instagram Display Name?

The Display Name is the name you choose for your profile on Instagram, which is visible for users who visit your page.

While it’s common for your display name to reflect your username, and vice versa, this is not always the case.

Instagram SEO and Display Name

Your Instagram display name is the equivalent of the name of your website.

It’s widely accepted that including your focus keyword in your display name will result in increased visibility and reach.

As for the username, and for the same reasons, I believe this aspect will become even more important now that keyword search will be available on Instagram.

increasily instagram display name
In this example, we see the keyword ‘digital marketing’ used in the display name

How to Optimise Your Instagram Display Name

Make sure you include your focus keyword in your Instagram display name. This will help the algorithm showing your profile each time somebody uses the focus keyword that you chose in a search.

Instagram Bio

What is Your Instagram Bio?

Your Instagram Bio is the short description, max 150 characters, on your main page where you give more details about your profile.

The Instagram Bio can include both hashtags and tags.

Instagram SEO and Bio

The bio is the equivalent of the meta description on your homepage.

On Instagram you can use hashtags and tag accounts in your bio.

Up until know the general consensus was that you would use your secondary focus keyword, an additional keyword phrase that is relevant to your business, in your bio.

While I believe this is still true, I feel it’s no harm including your primary focus keyword, the same focus keyword that you have already included in both username and display name.

Until this is proven wrong, I believe this will be an additional ranking factor that Instagram keyword search algorithm will take into account.

nails by denisa bio
In this example, we see the focus keyword ‘acrylic nails’ used in the bio

How to Optimise Your Instagram Bio

Make sure you include your focus keywords, primary and secondary, in your Instagram bio. This will help the algorithm understand what your profile is about and establish topical connections between your profile and posts.

Instagram Hashtags

What Are Instagram Hashtags?

Instagram Hashtags are relatively short words used to categorise posts and profiles on Instagram.

They are used in conjunctions with the hash ‘#’ sign and include no spaces (eg #digitalmarketing).

Instagram SEO and Hashtags

Hashtags are to Instagram what keywords are to search engines…until now?

It’s unclear whether hashtags will still be used as keywords. The Instagram spokesperson quoted by The Verge about keyword search doesn’t mention hashtags in the list of ranking factors they will consider for determining the content of a post.

If I were to make a comparison, I would suggest that just like meta keywords for websites this ranking factor is going to be deprecated.

It’s probably the most abused ranking factor by spammers and it’s often not relevant to the content of the post.

Having said that, to date Instagram hashtags have three main functions (source:

  • They help organise posts and videos into hashtags
  • They help users find content easily
  • They help you expand the reach by tapping into an audience that doesn’t follow your profile but follows a specific hashtag
the wild atlantic lodge hashtags
In this example you can see the hashtags used including keywords related to name and location

How to Optimise Your Instagram Hashtags

Make sure you choose hashtags that are relevant to your business, product and content. Make sure also to include your focus keywords, primary and secondary, in your hashtags.

Instagram Captions

What Are Instagram Captions?

Instagram captions are the description you generally write for each of your Instagram posts.

They have a limit of 2,200 characters, although the majority of Instagram captions will only include a few sentences.

Instagram SEO and Captions

Captions are the equivalent of the meta description of your web pages.

According to the Instagram spokesperson quoted above, captions are going to be used, together with type of content and time of posting, to determine the content of a post and to rank it accordingly for specific keyword phrases.

The consensus so far has been about using secondary keywords in your captions.

I would say that based on the info we have it’s critical that you use both primary and secondary keywords in your captions (without overdoing it).

How to Optimise Your Instagram Captions

Make sure you include your focus keywords, primary and secondary, in your captions. Make also sure you use words that are relevant with the content you are posting. This will help the algorithm make connections between your posts.

The ultimate goal of this is to create a topic cluster.

Instagram Alt Text

What is the Instagram Alt Text?

The Instagram Alt Text is the text you can add to your image to help the algorithm understand what the image is about.

The Instagram Alt Text is only visible in the backend and not to users.

Instagram SEO and Alt Text

The function of the alt text on Instagram is the same as the function of the alt text on websites: to describe the content of an image.

While Instagram has already been using some AI software to understand the content of an image and to create its own alt text for images, it’s very likely that this will be another important ranking factor used to determine the content of a post.

How to Edit the Instagram Alt Text for Your Posts

To edit the alt text of your posts:

  1. On a post of your choice, click on the three dots at the top left of your app
  2. Click on Edit Alt Text and add your text to your image (for carousels, you’ll be able to edit multiple images)
  3. Click on the check icon on the top right again


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Marketing Agency | Increasily (@increasily) on

How to Optimise Your Instagram Alt Text

Make sure you add the alt text to your images and include your focus keyword.

Instagram Mentions

What Are Instagram Mentions?

Instagram mentions are usernames used in conjunction with the ‘@’ sign, which comes right before with no space eg @increasily.

They can be used to ‘tag’ other profiles in:

  • Comments
  • Bio
  • Caption
  • Photos
  • Videos
  • Stories

When an Instagram profile is ‘mentioned’, they receive a notification.

Instagram SEO and Mentions

Mentions are the equivalent of backlinks for websites. More precisely, they are the equivalent of main domain backlinks.

Each time somebody mentions you in a post or in their bio, or each time you tag a profile in your captions or bio, you establish a link with another profile.

It’s likely that this type of relationship between profiles will be considered by the algorithm to determine the type of content you normally publish and engage with.

How to Optimise Your Instagram Mentions

Make sure you mention profiles that are relevant to your niche. At the same time, encourage the tagging of your profile from Instagram users within your niche.

Instagram Comments

What Are Instagram Comments?

Instagram comments are relatively short text reply that you can add to both your and other profiles’ posts.

Instagram comments are limited to 300 characters.

Instagram SEO and Comments

The function of Instagram comments is to engage with other profiles in relation to their posts.

Similarly to mentions, comments represent the equivalent of backlinks for websites.

Some users recommend commenting on other profiles’ posts before and after you post your own to increase engagement.

While this is still unclear, you are likely to see more content from profiles whose posts you regularly like or comment on.

How to Optimise Your Comments

Make sure you add a descriptive and pertinent comment on posts from accounts that are relevant to your business, content or profile.

Instagram SEO: Conclusion

I hope you liked the article. Please let me know if you think there is something missing or if you have any questions that the article doesn’t cover.

If there is a topic related to Instagram SEO that you would like to see covered, please also feel free to let me know.

Finally, if you made it to the end of the article, fair play and thanks so much for your time!

Instagram SEO: Sources


Pasquale Mellone

Pasquale is Founder at, a H2H marketing agency based in Dublin, Ireland, and owner at print-on-demand ecommerce Pasquale has worked in Digital Marketing and Account Management since 2004. He currently lives in Dublin with his wife, stepdaughter and cat.