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Using SEO Techniques for Your Instagram Marketing Strategy

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The rules of successful business marketing are constantly changing. This means that, day by day, you need to make sure that you’re keeping up with the times in regards to the newest marketing trends. Whether you’re a brick and mortar business, an e-commerce store, or a one-person business, you need to work to make sure you’re up to date with the current trends.

The latest marketing trends have all gone viral, so to speak. What I mean is this: if you’re not marketing online, you might as well not be marketing at all.

One of these digital marketing trends is using social media to marketing your business. Today, we’re going to discuss in depth how one particular social media network, Instagram, can be a huge boost for your business, and how SEO techniques play a role in your success here.

What is Instagram, and Why Should You Care?

Instagram is a social media network where users post pictures and videos. Instagram itself boasted back in June of 2016 to having over 500 million users. But the most amazing part of that is that 300 million of those users are on Instagram every day!

The reason you as a business need to care about Instagram is the fact that it uses storytelling marketing to create engagement. The phrase is extremely cliché, but it’s true: a picture (or video!) speaks a thousand words. With Instagram, you’re able to define your brand, speak your message, and connect visually to your audience.

The results speak for themselves. One study from Forrester (a market research company) calculated the per-follower engagement rate on different social media networks for brands. It found that, while Facebook and Twitter’s per-follower engagement rate was lower than .01%, Instagram had skyrocketed up to 4%!

This means that brands receive much more engagement from their followers on Instagram. Statistics like these show that Instagram can be a powerful tool for your business.

So let’s discuss some of the basic principles of using SEO for Instagram, as well as other business marketing tips for Instagram.

Using SEO Techniques on Instagram

While Instagram in and of itself is not a search engine, many principles of SEO do apply to the social media network.

Instagram has a search function within the network, and most of the searches that are conducted are done with what are now known as hashtags. So what are hashtags, and how can you use them as SEO for Instagram?

What Are Hashtags?

Those who are not a part of the techno-generation will remember this symbol (#) as the pound sign. You can use a hashtag on Instagram by putting the ‘#’ symbol before keywords. Just remember, the keywords can have no spaces in between. #Thisisanexample.

Basically, hashtags work in a similar way to keywords on a search engine. They lump your posts together with other posts of similar content, linking them by that all-important hashtag.

In much the same way that SEO keywords get your website seen by fresh eyes, using well-chosen hashtags will get your brand’s profile seen by new users. In a similar vein, these users have searched for that hashtag to find pictures related to it. That means that, if you choose well, you’re not just getting in front of more people, but people in your target audience.

Doing Keyword Research on Hashtags

So how do you choose the best keywords for your hashtags? Let’s discuss some steps that you can take:

  • Check the Competition: See what hashtags similar brands in your field of expertise are using and whether they’re getting engagement. Also, other influencers in your field will be a good source of successful hashtags
  • See Similar Hashtags: If you see one or two hashtags that are successful, try searching them in the Tags tab. Instagram will then suggest similar hashtags that are commonly used.
  • Check How Many Tags: Also under the search function mentioned above, you can see how many photos have a certain tag. Remember that a high number means more visibility, but also a huge amount of content that you could get buried in.
  • Use Keyword Research Tools: Data analyzation is a must for your business’ social media, and within tools such as Websta, Hootsuite, or Inconosquare, you’ll be able to search popular and relevant hashtags. Many of these allow you to sort by location, which is great for local businesses trying to get seen on social media.

Creating New Hashtags

Brand hashtagging means creating a hashtag that is unique to you and your company, thus setting your posts apart in some way. You could do this for regular brand photos, or during a special campaign that you’re running. Also, many brands will use brand hashtags in contests, thus grouping all the entries into one page of hashtags.

When creating a brand hashtag, make sure to keep it short and sweet. Any hashtag that is too long will be harder to remember for your audience, and thus they won’t use it. Also, don’t forget to check beforehand and make sure no one else is using that hashtag!

This is a good way to increase brand awareness, but it’s usually only recommended for brands that already have a bit of a following.

Hashtag Best Practices

  • Don’t Overdo It: Instagram allows 30 hashtags per post, but that doesn’t mean you need to use all the space you have. Between 4 and 5 hashtags is a good amount, and makes sure you don’t seem too spammy.
  • Use Niche Hashtags: Just like long-tail keywords attract a more specific audience with SEO, using hashtags that are niche-specific will attract the right kind of audience to your posts. For example, using #chocolatefondue instead of a broad hashtag like #chocolate. You can mix both niche and broad hashtags for a well-rounded effort.
  • Hide Your Hashtags: Instead of cluttering the blurb underneath your Instagram photo, hide your hashtags by adding them afterward. You can do this by adding them in a comment after you’ve posted your picture, thus giving your audience a clear view of the picture itself.
  • Be Careful of Malicious Content: When you’re combining a few different words in a hashtag, it’s possible that you could be spelling other words without realizing. Always check the hashtag before using it to make sure that the content being posted with that tag is not raunchy or malicious. You don’t want your brand to be associated with those types of posts!

To learn more about hashtag strategy, check out this post on Hello Social.

Using Instagram’s Business Tools

In the summer of 2016, Instagram announced that it would be introducing new business tools to help brands on Instagram. There are three basic advantages that Instagram promoted: to stand out, to get insights, and to find new customers. Let’s discuss the tools they introduced to accomplish this:

Business Profiles

When you sign up for Instagram with a business profile, you are automatically separated from other personal accounts. You are given the ability to add in additional contact details that are handy for your customers. Instead of asking questions through comments on Instagram, customers can contact you directly by phone, email, or by going to your physical address.

Once you’ve signed up for a business profile, you have the ability to access insights and promotion.


Instead of having to pay for a third-party to analyze your business’ effectiveness on Instagram, you can now see analytics of your posts and engagements straight from Instagram. This gives you the ability to see insights for each post, and for your account in general.

On each post, you’ll see metrics of impressions, reach, and engagement. With these statistics, you’ll be able to see which posts are performing better for your brand. What’s the impression to engagement ratio? How many people saw your post and didn’t engage? Which posts produce lots of engagement?

On your account dashboard, you’ll be able to see more general metrics regarding your business profile. For example, you’ll see how many people have seen your profile, and how many have clicked through to your website. Also, you’ll see metrics of your followers, detailing the gender, age range, and location. In addition, you’ll be able to see when those followers are typically online during the day.

All of these insights give you a fantastic idea of what marketing methods are working for your company, and help you to understand your audience better.


If you see that a certain post has had great success, it may be time to start promoting across Instagram. To engage promotion, you just select a photo that you’ve already posted and add a call to action button. You then select the link for your landing page, and set your budget for the ad. Instagram will suggest an audience for you, or you can select your audience manually.

Once you’ve completed this, your Instagram post will be promoted as an ad to the selected audience for the time that you choose. The ad will appear in people’s feeds like the rest of the pictures on the home feed. Thus, you’re able to even further promote your brand!

How to Optimize Your Business Profile

Just like the homepage of your website, your Instagram profile is what will introduce potential customers to your brand and your message. If you want to get them interested in you and your company, here is the place to start.

Let’s discuss the different aspects of your profile and see how you can optimize them for the best ROI.

Profile Picture

With a personal Instagram profile, you would normally put a picture of your face here. Why? Because you want people to know that this account is yours. This makes it easier for your friends to find you. Your profile picture also gives your friends a glimpse at your personality.

For businesses, the Instagram profile picture acts in much the same way. This picture identifies your brand, letting people know that this is your company’s account. That makes it easier for ‘friends’ (customers) to find you again. They’ll identify that picture with your brand, and it will usually give them some sort of insight into your brand’s personality.

So what picture should you use? A good place to start would be your company logo. This will unify your brand across multiple channels, which is good for brand awareness. You could also use a mascot as your profile picture.

Normally, it’s not a good idea to put a picture of yourself as a business profile picture, even if you’re just a one-person business. Using a logo or mascot identifies this profile as a business, not a personal profile.

The Bio

Your biography is the personalized description that you place at the top of your Instagram profile. This limited space will define your brand to visitors, letting them know who you are and what you do.

What you include in your bio is completely up to you. However, don’t let it be vague. You have only a few words, so get to the point immediately. Tell people the field of your company, and what your company does within that field. You could also mention a particular slogan that you have, or promote your brand hashtag.

One important point to remember: nothing is clickable in your bio. So don’t include industry hashtags just to promote yourself: it’s not worth anything. Also, links should not be included in the bio section. There is a specific place to put a URL, as we’ll discuss next.

The Link

This is one point that sets Instagram apart from other social media networks. It’s also why many businesses choose to stay away from Instagram, thinking that the link limit will lower their ROI.

However, that is not necessarily the case.

The link in your profile is the only link that you will ever be able to use on Instagram. That means any links that you put in your comments or photo descriptions are not clickable. Only that one in your profile is.

So how can you use this to your advantage? It makes sense to use that link to bring visitors to your home page, and this is definitely worthwhile.

However, when using the link in your profile, don’t limit yourself to just one link. Instead, you can continuously change this link.

For example, let’s say that you’re promoting a certain line of products, and you’re using Instagram photos as part of the marketing strategy. You can change the link in your profile to go directly to this line of products. Then, when you post a promotional picture, just add a comment at the end along the lines of, “Find the link in our profile!”

By changing the link in your profile and actively promoting it with your photo descriptions, you’ll have a much higher click-through rate.

Top Tips for Higher Engagement and ROI with Instagram

Now that we’ve discussed the different aspects of optimizing Instagram for business usage, let’s discuss some of the best practices involved in a truly successful Instagram marketing strategy.

Avoid Hard Selling

Instagram is not the place for spam-like promotional material. Instead, it’s a place for people to connect with your brand and get to know you. (We’ll talk more about how to do that below.)

If you’re constantly hard selling your products or services, it’s not going to go over well with your viewers. You’re likely to lose followers and not have as good an engagement rate.

Professional Photos: a Must

Instagram says that over 95 million pictures are posted to their social media network every day. This is an incredible amount of content, and means that it’s very easy for non-professional photos to get pushed aside.

To really stand out in the crowd, the pictures you post need to be professional quality. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you must hire a professional photographer (although it probably would help). However, at the very least you cannot just be satisfied with average-quality pictures.

Again, look at the competition, and at successful influencers in your niche topic. That’s the quality you’re striving for.

Capture Your Brand, Not Just Your Product

Simple product pictures are good for your website, but not for your Instagram. With your Instagram posts, you want to do more than just sell: you want to introduce your brand and gain a following.

People don’t just follow things. People like to follow people.

Although your brand isn’t a person, you can give it a personality, and convey that personality in the pictures that you post. You can tell stories, or make people laugh. Above all, shoot for creativity and uniqueness in your content.

For example, show how your products can be used in daily life. If you sell rollerblades, post pictures of people rollerblading! Get stories from your happy customers and tell them in your descriptions. Post action shots. Let potential customers know what your products can do for them.

Another great way for people to get to know your business is by showing behind-the-scenes pictures of your brand. For example, how are your products made? What backstage insights can you include in your feed?  Could you introduce some of the people in your company, and tell their stories?

All of these points bring personality to your posts and will increase engagement.

Sales and Announcements

If you are putting a certain line of products on sale, or are promoting seasonal sales, Instagram is a great way to get the word out! Posting pictures to your Instagram feed will allow followers to see what’s on sale and take advantage of savings.

To promote a sale, try posting pictures with bold and eye-catching text that mention the savings people can get, and when the sale ends.

Business announcements can also be promoted through Instagram. For example, post about new partners or hires, new product lines, or any other kind of news that your customers would be interested in. This lets them feel like they have the inside scoop on what’s happening to a brand they like.

Speak of getting the inside scoop, you can use this strategy to build user engagement and follow through. How? Try promoting exclusive sales or private offers only available to those who have seen it on Instagram. This lets people feel privileged, a part of something unique. They’ll be more likely to follow through and buy something!

Contests and Prizes

Getting engagement through contests is a somewhat old-fashioned social media marketing technique, but this classic remains effective. With Instagram, photo contests are quite common. Here’s how you do it:

  • Tell your followers to post a photo using your products, or doing something that goes along with your brand’s message. You can do this through a specific post to Instagram.
  • When announcing your contest, add a special hashtag for your followers to use. This will group all of the contestant’s pictures together in one place.
  • Go through the hashtagged pictures and select a winner.
  • Repost the winner’s picture, and tag him!

Contests will be more likely to see engagement if you offer some sort of prize. Don’t forget to remind your followers of their potential winnings during the time of the contest!

Contests engage your audience and help them to engage with you as well. Let’s see more ways to engage directly with your audience.

Engage More and Get More Engagement

As a general rule, you must give a little to get a little. So, if you’re looking to get more engagement, try engaging with others!

For example, search hashtags that are related to your brand, and start liking or commenting on the photos you find. These people will then become aware of your brand, and will likely come to check out your profile.

Also, when your followers comment on your pictures, don’t forget to comment back, or at least like their comments. This gives them even more of a reason to engage. It also lets people see your company as a real, living person, not just a sales pitch.

Another way to get more engagement is to ask for it. For example, use the description in your photos to ask questions, thus getting more comments. See if people can guess where a certain picture was taken, or ask them which color they like best out of the products shown. Invitations to comment like these will engage more of your followers with your content.

Post Consistently

Consistency is key with Instagram. As we mentioned above, every day there is a flood of new posts to Instagram, and you have to stand out in that crowd.

However, this does not mean that you must post tens of photos every day. Actually, posting more than a few photos every day is likely to lower engagement and following instead of increasing it.

Instead, try to find a posting schedule that works for your brand but doesn’t overwhelm your followers. In the beginning, it’s important to post 2-3 photos every day. Once you’ve gained a bit of a following, you can allow yourself to slow down. However, even then try to post at least one picture every day.

Keep Track of Results

We talked about using Instagram Insights above. Other analytic systems can give you a broader understanding of your results as well. However, make sure that you keep track of these metrics to see how your Instagram marketing strategy is working.

Analyze factors involved in change between posts. Did one post receive more comments than another? Why so? Is it the time of day that the picture was posted, or does it have to do with the hashtags? Going through each of these factors will help you understand exactly what’s going on with your posts.

Once you understand which methods work best for your brand and audience, continuing using them. However, optimization is a constant process, so keep checking to get the best results.


Instagram can be a powerful tool for your business. Using SEO techniques and optimizing your business profile will give you a good head start into the world of Instagram marketing. When you post photos that speak your brand’s message, you’ll gain followers and an audience that appreciates your business. Then you’ll be able to engage with those followers, who will, in turn, engage with your content more.

Little by little, these steps will aid in promoting your brand and your products to the audience that you want to draw in, thus helping you get closer to your business goals.

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