The ultimate goal with hashtags, in 2018, is to reach the Explore page. The Explore page mean massive reach and potential growth. Additionally, Instagram has made it so that smaller accounts can target larger hashtags, in order to reach top posts, although it seems that there are some conditions:
• While it’s easier for smaller accounts (fewer followers) to reach Top posts now, having more followers than then next account is still an advantage.
• Engagement is still key for ranking in Top posts.
• Comments are the most important type of engagement, followed by likes. After that, in no particular order; shares saves, direct shares likes on comments, time spends viewing the content are all forms of engagement that the algorithm considers when ranking you.
• More important than the amount of engagement you get is how fast you get it. Once you post, Instagram will share your content with a segment of your followers (those that engaged previously and a segment of those that haven’t). If the reaction is positive i.e. people like/ comment, Instagram will show it to a larger segment, and so on. It means that the first minutes
and hours after you post are the most important. If you generate enough engagement quickly during this time, even if you don’t have a huge following, you now have a very good chance of reaching top posts and possibly the explore page.
This is a strategy you can try considering the recent changes:
However many hashtags you decide to use, divide them into three groups by volume:
1. Small: (e.g. 10K - 50K posts) These are the least popular hashtags but there is the best chance to rank for them.
2. Medium: (e.g. 50K - 200K posts) These should be the hashtags that are just perfect for the size of your account. Competition is bigger than with small terms but there are more people using these hashtags. It’s still a good idea to mainly focus on these.
3. Large: (e.g. 200,000 - 2M posts) These hashtags were previously too ambitions to go for if your account isn’t large. But it’s now worth giving them a go, just don’t rely on them too much and use them sparingly.
Please note that the volumes mentioned above are just examples and depend on your account size and engagement. So if your account has more than 50K followers, you might want to move up a level. So instead of 10K - 50K for the small group, you would use 50K - 200K.
Why this works:
You will get engagement from reaching the Top Posts with the smaller hashtags > shows the algorithm that your post is worthwhile to push higher > rank for some medium volume hashtags, hopefully getting engagement out of it > algorithm decides to put you into top posts for the larger hashtags > hit explore page (possibly).
Finding the Right Hashtags
• Think of a few keywords in your niche. What would your target audience search for and be interested in? What words would you use to describe what you post to someone who can’t see it?
• When you search the keywords, see what suggestions IG gives you and go through them, taking note of the number of posts for each one. Focus on the ones that are realistic for the size of your account and include a few larger ones.
• Instagram also suggests similar terms to what you (or other users) are searching for, and those that are in the same niche in the “Related” section on the hashtags results page. So smaller, more unique terms can be found as well.
• Have a look at what other accounts are using by searching relevant to you hashtags and seeing what content is reaching Top Posts. Don’t only look at the biggest accounts in the niche, they will
mainly be using hashtags bigger than you can regularly rank for.
• Once you find a hashtag, check the posts targeting it. Are they going for the same audience as you, is any of it spam, can you produce similar content? Point is to understand if it’s the right hashtag for you.
Hashtag Tips and Best Practices
• Rotating hashtags ensures that you’re not looking like spam to Instagram but you’re also spreading your content around as much as possible. Even more important in 2018 as Instagram is fighting spam and automation.
• Avoid posting the maximum 30, may also be considered spammy by Instagram.
• Don’t only go for the very broad/general terms as competition is too high and they tend to attract random accounts i.e. nothing to do with the niche. Instead, focus on the lower volume hashtags that are more narrow/specific, it will be easier for your audience to find you.
• Follow your key hashtags. A good way to monitor what other accounts in the niche are using and engage with others. There are also some rumors that following your niche specific hashtags helps you with ranking since Instagram sees that you’re involved in this niche. Whether this is true or not, it does make some sense and it doesn’t hurt to follow a few hashtags.
• Make sure to post hashtag relevant content. With the choice to follow hashtags, there is now also an option for users to ignore certain accounts using that hashtag. If your account is ignored by multiple people, it may send a signal to Instagram that you’re not posting relevant content and it
will not rank you as well. For example, if you post a specific fitness-related image, don’t use travel hashtags just because those are popular, for example.
• Don’t use generic hashtags like #f4f, it looks spammy and/or attracts users who aren’t interested in your content and won’t really contribute to your engagement, which is more important.
• You can put hashtags in comments for a cleaner look. Include 5 dots, one per each line break before the hashtags and Instagram will collapse the comment. Make sure to put in the hashtags immediately after posting the content.
• Consider using something like Icon square which monitors hashtags you use and reports which are the most effective, as well as giving you a lot of other useful analytics.
• You can also check yourself how well you’re doing with hashtags. Once you post something, using hashtags, log into another Instagram account that doesn’t follow your main account, then search the hashtags you just used. The point is to check where your content is landing, the higher the better obviously. Do this 1 hour, 12 hours and 24 hours after posting, it sometimes takes this long for content to rank in Top Posts. And you won’t always rank for everything, it’s
normal, this is more to give you an idea of what hashtag volume your account can easily go for.
• Keep in mind that hashtags themselves can’t guarantee followers or engagement. Their role is to define your content and present it to people that would potentially be interested. Whether they interact with your posts depends entirely on the quality of the content.