Major Instagram Changes You Need To Know About

PUBLISHED October 19, 2021
UPDATED October 19, 2021

In the past couple of weeks Instagram announced major changes as to how we should be using search and hashtags on the platform.

Instagram are constantly rolling out updates and new features, but these two recent features will affect greatly how we visible our posts are and how we should be using hashtags going forward.

instagram insights example

What is a hashtag?

Hashtags is a tool that Instagram uses to categorise content on the platform so that people can more easily find what they are looking for and the Instagram algorithm knows better what a piece of content is about and display to the right people searching for those terms.

From now on, Instagram search is not just based on hashtags, its based on a general search term that users type in.

How does Instagram Search work?

The way it used to work would be you would type in a username or a hashtag and it would give you a long feed of hashtags to choose from, when you chose a term, it would show you posts that used that hashtag.

The way Instagram search works now is quite different. It's not just based on hashtags. It's based on a general search terms you type in.

To use search, go to the magnifying glass, at the top there is a search bar. Underneath there is a few suggested searches based on your previous activity and interests. There are now tabs at the top where you can choose between accounts, audio, tags or places for posts using hashtags for that search term.

What is the algorithm looking for other than hashtags?

How does it decide what it shows us? Instagram has released information about this. It also looks at your previous activity, accounts you follow, posts you’ve like or viewed recently.

Instagram wants to show you posts you might really like so will take into account how popular a post is.

When Instagram also looks at the exact search term, it no longer just looks at hashtags. It also looks at captions too. It might also look at your bio or username. Make sure to use keywords in your bio and captions too.

ig algorithm searches 1

So what is the point in using hashtags at all?

Hashtags still give the algorithm context about your post.

Look at post insights on one of your recent posts to see how many impressions your post got from hashtags. Its a good idea to review this to see how different terms rank, adjusting your terms for future posts accordingly.

instagram insights example

Why 3 - 5 hashtags per post?

Previous advice has been to use up to 30 relevant hashtags. However at end of Sept 2021, Instagram announced it recommends that we use 3 to 5 hashtags making sure they are highly relevant to the content being shared.

Instagram wants to make sure all the content seen is high quality and relevant. That's their ultimate goal.

Rather than use 30 for the sake of it, now we should use fewer, super relevant terms so they pack more of punch for those search terms increasing our chances of getting ranked for that term.

How to decide what hashtags to use

I can’t recommend enough to do your research first before deciding what terms to use.

You can do it easily on Instagram itself. e.g. search ‘kitchen design’ and it shows you suggested hashtags and number of posts that have used this hashtag term.

instagram hashtags example

More tips for choosing hashtags

Here are some useful tips to maximise your hashtag strategy:

Where should you write your hashtags (caption or comment)?

Previously users would either add hashtags to the caption or in the first comment. From now on, its important to include in the post caption itself.

Using third party tools for hashtag research

flick screenshot

There are some third party tools like Flick you can use to do your research. These paid services offer many useful things. On Flick, when you type in your search term, it comes up with suggested searches and hashtags that are relevant. It shows them based on low competition, medium or high. Then you can add to a collection. You can keep a variety of collections on your account.

The analytics they share are very interesting too. You can see on your recent posts you can see what terms you got ranked for.

You can also use a scheduling tool like Later that can save your hashtag groupings.

I hope you found this article useful and helpful when developing your Instagram strategy going forward.

If you would like some help, please reach out on email.


Amanda Lucas

Since 2014 I have been helping businesses like yours increase their online presence through effective custom websites that help you easily, affordably, and effectively grow your business.

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