Optimizing your Instagram account for search

One of the most under utilized features of Instagram, is their search function. It’s similar to searching for something on Google. On the explore page you get the option to search for accounts, hashtags, keywords, etc. This is where you conduct your Instagram search. 

But how important is it really?

Picture this: your hairdresser goes on Mat leave and leaves you stranded. You’re panicking because you’re about to start a new job, and your hair could use some serious TLC. (I know… I’m sure all of you can relate to this… right? ) What do you do? You’re no longer at an office with a bunch of people you can ask for a referral, so where do you go? 

When I was stuck in this recent situation, I thought to myself, “I’ll start my search on Instagram! There’s a LOT of amazing Edmonton hairdressers on there!” So I went to my trusty Instagram account, and typed in #yeghair,” to see what came up. Confused and lost in a feed of hair inspiration, I quickly realized that starting with a hashtag wasn’t the right way to start my search. 

So I changed my search term to “Edmonton Hair,” and through this search, I found a few salons that had amazing photos and great customer reviews, and made a few calls. 

Being able to search for your business on Instagram is very important — regardless of your industry or product. Your customers are looking for a quick answer to their questions, and are turning to social media platforms to answer it. 
But how do you rank in these searches? Here’s everything you need to know! 
Step 1: Edit your username

Include your most important keyword in your username. The name field on Instagram is a SEARCHABLE and customizable field. When adding or updating a name in this field, be sure to use keywords or descriptors that relate to your business. It can be your business name or what you do. You have a total of 30 characters to play around with, so be conscious of what you’re renaming your business to.
For example, our Instagram name is ZGM Modern Marketing Partners. This means that anyone searching for “Marketing” will see ZGM in the list of Marketing Agencies at the top of my screen, depending on how relevant Instagram thinks we are to them, but I will talk more about this a little farther down
*If you want to test your business name, be sure to clear your search history.
Step 2: Update Your bio

Don’t forget to add secondary keywords to your bio. Keep it short and simple as the platform only allows you to be creative with 150 characters, and describe what it is you do. A great example of a bio is @honestdumplings.


Last year, Instagram started including clickable hashtags into your bio, as well as tag accounts. Be sure to include relevant accounts and hashtags in your bio. 


Step 3: Use #Hashtags

As previously mentioned, Instagram allows you to add hashtags to your bio. This may seem obvious to some of you experienced ‘grammers, but hashtags on Instagram are really important. Hashtags are a way to categorize your posts and increase reach and engagement. There are so many resources teaching people how to use hashtags and I’ve linked a few of my favourites below. 

How to use hashtags: 

Be sure to only add RELEVANT hashtags to your description. It’s also important to remember to #not #hashtag #every #word. In your bio, be sure to use 1 to 2 hashtags max. This can be your location (#YEG or #YYC), your industry (#marketing), or if you want to hit a niche audience, you can include something you post about a lot (#YEGDogs). This is also a great opportunity to include your branded hashtag, like Over has. 


When using hashtags in your posts, add them to in either the caption or the comment section. Instagram allows you to up to 30 hashtags per post, so be sure to include hashtags that relate to your business, your city, your blog post, etc. 



Step 4: Be creative with your captions

Make sure to mention your secondary keywords in your captions. While keeping your post concise, understand what you are trying to communicate or sell? Are you a clothing retailer that sells socks? Talk about the socks in the caption, and. Are you a bakery? Talk about your mouth-watering chocolate chip cookies that people order from across the country! 
Step 5: Tag Your Location

When you add a location to your profile, post or story, you automatically appear in those search results. If you’re trying to stand out in your city i.e. Edmonton, you should probably make sure you add Edmonton to your bio, posts and all stories. 




Step 6: Appear in “Because You Follow” or “Suggested” results

To appear in either of these results, engage with brands that compliment your brand. Complimentary brands could be something in your industry, customers, influencers your brand has worked with before, etc. 
Engage authentically. Don’t just comment “Cute!,” or a line of hearts. Make sure that your comment provides value. Try to develop a two-way relationship with these accounts.
Step 7: Mix it up

Are you finding that you haven’t been increasing in engagement by following any of these tips? Or maybe you used the wrong keywords. Change it! 
Instagram is a free platform. Unlike other platforms, you won’t be losing money for bad keywords! 
Don’t Forget About The Algorithm

But of course, with all of this, you also have to keep the Instagram algorithm in mind. You need to also be aware that even though you’re following these steps, you may not be able to get in front of your ideal customer right away. Instagram’s algorithm will base the users 


As users become more "search savvy" and find different ways to search for business outside of Google, it's important to think about how your Instagram appears in search and should be a crucial piece to any social strategy and should be a part of your content strategy as a whole.

PS: If my hair stylist is reading this - she was great but when you're back on mat leave I'll be sure to come back to you.

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