We are living in a world dominated by search engines.
With 95% of the search traffic going through Google, Alphabet is constantly updating and changing its algorithms to ensure the best user experience.
Google’s vision is for one to be able to find the information they seek the fastest way possible. And that’s why search engine optimization (SEO) is a great thing for business.
But with Instagram being its own search engine, does it mean there’s such a thing as Instagram SEO?
SEO as a Quality Measurement
At its core, search engine optimization is both the backbone and the result of a quality website. For you to be able to rank higher, your website should be fast, efficient, engaging, on-topic and deliver unique information.
When you ask an SEO specialist how to improve your rankings, you’ll often get a complicated answer with a bunch of phrases you are probably not familiar with. Yet, things are simple.
When a page is built to load extremely fast on both desktop and mobile. Speed of loading translates to a seamless end-user experience. Usually this is done through image optimization, file reworking and a stable hosting service. Broken links also show a lack of quality.
This might seem as a complicated thing, but is closely related to the idea of unique information. If there are a lot of high ranking websites linking back to you, it means that what you have to say is rather unique and informative.
Your pages should be easy to navigate around. If you have a sitemap and link your posts with each other whenever necessary, instead of repeating yourself, you will ease both the crawlers and the users.
Your images should be small to optimize the speed, but they should also be related to the content you provide. What’s further adding explanatory (alt) text to each image is considered a good practice towards the end-user experience.
Bounce Back Rate
If people are clicking links to your website, but quickly closing the tab or exiting your website, it means that you don’t deliver the information they seek. That’s why engaging the reader is key.
Pages within your website should be related to the content and the industry you are targeting. You can’t have a page about dogs and talk about unrelated topics. You also can’t have a page about dogs and just spam the word dog multiple times. Instead, you should add value to the topic of dogs.
Social Media Shares
This returns to the reader engagement. If your post is being shared on social media, it means that it is engaging. While not the most important factor of an SEO strategy, it certainly helps.
This is all nice and good. Basically, as long as you know what you are talking about and you deliver quality content on a working website, you are good to go.
But with such a high competition where each and every word counts towards how high you are going to climb on the search ladder, what’s the role of Instagram?
In addition, as Instagram is a search engine on its own, can you do something to improve how quickly people find your photos and drive new and free traffic to your profile? Let’s discuss!
Instagram and SEO Within the Platform
When discussing how to achieve Insta-success on the photo sharing platform, we often stress on the fact that on Instagram the quality of visual content is of utmost importance.
And for the most part, that’s completely true. Unique photos that fit your brand character are a great way to humanize your brand and engage your audience.
But how does this translate to free search traffic? At its core, the organic reach of the platform comes down to the search function and the timeline algorithm.
The Search Algorithm and Trending Hashtags
The search algorithm within Instagram is more of a function within the platform. When people type a word, phrase or a hashtag in the search bar, the results are people/profiles that are closest to the entry and the most recent posts related to the entry.
Much like with Google’s algorithm, this is also a direct response to how people use the search function.
Having this in mind, the best strategy to boost your reach is to follow the latest hashtags and post often. Granted, this might harm your overall brand presence on the platform, thus you should rather focus on trending hashtags that are related to your specific industry and still keep the quality of your post as a top priority.
The domain name of your website helps Google learn what your brand name is and present your page when people search for your company. It’s the same with Instagram. To be SEO efficient, you’d have to have your username as your brand name.
The Instagram Feed Algorithm and Organic Brand Reach
But the Timeline Algorithm of Instagram is where things get far more interesting. Much like Google is primarily used for direct searches, Instagram is used for checking out photos on a feed.
With scrolling and engaging with photos being the most popular way people use the platform, it’s a given that Instagram wants them to have the best user experience. The problem with algorithm optimization is that it’s far more personal.
One of the factors that goes into the algorithmic choice behind the photos that appear in one’s feed is the engagement of said photo. If the engagement is great, it means that it’s probably something worth seeing. This is one of the most important factors and the reason why engagement rate (ER) is a statistic you should closely follow.
People don’t want to see the same photos over and over again. They want to see something new, different and recent. That’s why recency is also taken into account. While this depends on the industry and your competition, among other factors, posting at least once per day on Instagram is a must if you want to boost you reach.
Machine Learning Relevancy
This is not something coming out of fiction. Photo-recognition technology boosted by machine learning helps Instagram categorize your content. The more relevant your photos are to a certain industry, the better the chances that you’ll appear in one’s feed that is interested in said industry.
Of course, much like with Google’s SEO, the Instagram algorithm works in mysterious ways and the aforementioned tips are not a certainty.
Plus, there are more than a few factors outside of your control. These include if a person is searching for your brand or if a person engages with your brand often. Nevertheless, as long as you post quality content related to your industry that fits your brand character, you should be all well and good.
Instagram as a way to Boost Your SEO Score
Unlike other social media, Instagram doesn’t let you share links. On the photo sharing platform, the only place you can put a link to your website is your profile info.
And while this might simply provide a slight boost for a brand with established online presence, it is a must for a business that’s just setting their web persona.
Instagram is also a website that ranks on Google. If you have an established brand and you register an Instagram account, chances are your profile on the social media will appear higher than your newly built website.
With that in mind, the best way to ensure that you will receive a slight SEO score boost by having an Instagram profile is to have a short but on-point description with a link to your website.
The Social Media Reasoning Behind an Instagram Profile
As we learned from our meta study on how social media brands are using social platforms, Instagram is one of the most neglected networks.
Despite having better engagement rates than most of its competitors, the photo sharing platform is often at the bottom of the pole for most brand executives. This is primarily due to the lack of making direct sales via links.
But what the platform lacks in link sharing it more than makes up for in reach and online brand presence opportunities. With an Instagram profile, you won’t need to perform heavy-duty SEO.
Going further, most often you don’t even have to consider what you write on your posts. Yet, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t optimize for the algorithms at work on your Instagram feed.
When is your audience most active? What posts grant the most engagement? What are the latest trending hashtags within your industry? These are all questions you have to answer, before posting on Instagram.