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How to rank on Instagram hashtags

Want to learn about how to rank on Instagram hashtags? While their mechanics may seem a bit of a mystery for many, there are a few things that can help you maximize your chances of ranking for various hashtags on Instagram. Here’s a guide on how you can do just that!

What are Instagram hashtags?

Hashtags on Instagram are clickable and searchable tags that users can add to their post to describe what it is about, and which topics it fits in. Users can also follow hashtags and get shown relevant content. For instance, someone who likes igloo hotels may want to follow #igloohotel or even #igloo to see regular updates on the topic.

Hashtags can be an effective way to get updated on current happenings in a certain industry or niche or see what types of content are currently trending. On another level, through machine learning, Instagram may also assign certain posts to various hashtags that the algorithm deems as relevant to the topics that the hashtags belong to. 

Nowadays, users who want to grow their followers use hashtags as part of their marketing strategy to reach the right people who want to see their content. Even when users don’t follow certain hashtags, under the Explore tab, Instagram can also start showing posts with hashtags that delve into relevant hashtags.

Why are Instagram hashtags important?

Think of hashtags as a way to connect to your target audience at scale. Using a few optimization tricks, employing the right hashtags and understanding how the Instagram algorithm topically categorizes your posts, you can significantly grow your account through a repeatable process. 

Essentially, hashtags can also act as a growth multiplier in many different ways:

  • By continually utilizing different hashtags centered around similar topics, Instagram will come to see you as an authority in these topics over time, and show you more prominently to the accounts that follow these hashtags.
  • If you have viral/top-trending content in a certain niche, Instagram will see this engagement as a signal to show your content to hashtags relating to relevant topics.
  • If you use the right hashtags that the Instagram algorithm topically assigns you to, you’ll have greater chances of being shown in the feed of the hashtag followers.
  • Finally, people often browse through certain hashtags just for the fun of it. Under the right circumstances, your post may rank highly in the hashtag feed, and this can help bring in engagement and growth.

For businesses and accounts that want to monetize their Instagram presence, an effective Instagram growth strategy involves engaging with people who have discovered your post from various hashtags and turning them into paying customers. 

How to rank on Instagram hashtags

Define your niche, do competitive research, and pick your hashtags

Remember what we’ve mentioned about topical relevance? Employing hashtags in a haphazard way won’t allow you to use them to their full potential. In other words, searching #hotel on Google and copy-pasting the same hashtags that everyone else uses will just leave you with a post with a bunch of hashtags that won’t let you grow. Why? Because these hashtags are too competitive and popular for your account to be effectively discovered. 

By targeting less competitive hashtags with fewer posts from larger accounts that can garner a lot of engagement, you have more chances of getting shown in people’s feeds and their explore page. But how can you go about doing this? Through niche and competitive research:

  • Firstly, define your niche and the topic categories your account and content belong to. You can do this by going through competitors and other profiles posting similar content, analyzing what types of content they post and what hashtags they include.
  • Secondly, create a list of hashtags and place them in topic categories. For instance, under the main topic of travel, you can include hashtags like #hotel, #staycation, #vagabonding, #urbex, #trekking, and so on. Of course, you can even go more specific, if your content belongs in a subcategory. 
  • Thirdly, tally each hashtag by the number of posts that it has. This can be an easy way to understand how popular and competitive each one is. For instance, #igloo has more than 440k posts, while #igloohotel has only more than 5,000+. From this, you can surmise that the former is much harder to get featured in than the latter.
  • Thirdly, create a content calendar and assign around 30 hashtags for each post. These hashtags should have a combination of hashtags that are easy, medium and hard in terms of competition. You can evaluate this by comparing your most popular hashtag to the one that has the least posts.

 Note: Instagram also evaluates every post’s topical relevance by analyzing the image or video and comparing them to others posted with that hashtag. To maximize the chances of ranking for a hashtag, make sure that your post is actually relevant to the hashtag you want to rank for and to see what kinds of content gets featured for various hashtags. Checking every single hashtag can be a laborsome process, but there are tools like Flick available that provides hashtag suggestions for you.

Post your content

How do I post hashtags? This is a question that gets asked often a lot. Well, right after publishing a post, you can include the hashtags either:

  • In your caption. In this case, place it below your text to make sure that it does not look too messy.
  • As a first comment. Some accounts prefer posting the hashtag here to leave the caption look uncluttered. If you want to ‘hide’ the hashtags and not make them visible to commenters, you can pin one comment to put the comment with the hashtags down.

Either will do just fine.

How many hashtags? 30 hashtags. According to Instagram, this is the maximum number of hashtags that you can use, and utilizing 30 hashtags simply means that you have 30 more chances of your post getting featured and shown to more people. What’s not to like?

Do not use the same hashtag combination across all your posts! Otherwise, Instagram might come to see your content as spammy and altogether rank you less. And, of course, if the hashtag combination hasn’t been working, then using the same hashtags won’t provide you with the results you need.

Analyze your results

Finally, you need to analyze the results of your hashtag efforts by going through your:

  • Instagram analytics. Tally each post’s various analytics over a certain time frame, including the engagement rate, follower growth, likes, video plays, and so on. While there are many different factors that lead to an increase in the following data points, effective hashtag use may also be a contributing factor to your growth. 
  • The results from every single hashtag utilized by going through the hashtags’ top posts and seeing whether you’re ranking in that feed or notInstagram hashtag analytics tools allow you to altogether bypass the very tedious and manual process of clicking in every single hashtag and figuring out whether you’ve ranked or not. Understanding how you rank for various hashtags allows you to create an effective hashtag strategy later on by creating content that resonates with those that follow the hashtag(s).

Once you’ve gathered your analytics, it’s time to apply your learnings to your future posts. Don’t forget to make sure your posts stay topically relevant to the hashtags they are targeting! Over time, Instagram will come to see you as a topical authority, which helps you rank even faster and effectively for the hashtags you want to target!

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By Julian Canlas

Julian is a content writer at Flick who loves helping creators with grow their online presence and build connections.

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