Instagram hashtags have been causing a lot of controversy as of late. Do Instagram hashtags still work? Are there really banned hashtags? How often should I switch up my hashtags? How do I identify the top Instagram hashtags for my brand? Do hashtags perform better in the captions or in the comments section?
I know… I know… the questions are all so overwhelming. I’m breaking down the new Instagram hashtag rules in this blog post:
First, the good news. Yes, Instagram hashtags still work! The stats don’t lie. Posts on Instagram that contain hashtags still receive higher views and engagement rates than photos without hashtags. Nevertheless, I’ve heard a slew of complaints about Instagram hashtags not working. Many people claim that despite using popular hashtags on each image, their posts don’t see a huge increase in engagement.
So what’s the deal exactly? Instagram hashtag best practices have changed due to increasing competition for popular hashtags.
Hashtag density is the total number of Instagram posts linked to a hashtag. Similar to SEO keyword rankings, hashtag density determines the level of competition for a specific hashtag. Hashtag density also determines your chances of being featured in Instagram’s Top Posts.
– High Density = over 1 Million posts (a lot of competition; hard to rank at Top Posts)
– Medium Density = less than 500,000 posts (lower competition; easier to rank at Top Posts)
– Low Density = less than 50,000 posts (too niche and specific; will get little visibility)
For best results, you should use a mix of medium and low density hashtags. Need help researching popular hashtags? I break it down in my Ultimate Instagram Hashtag Guide.
If you stick to Rule #1 you shouldn’t have a problem with banned hashtags. Medium density and low density typically don’t get banned. Unfortunately, there are some popular hashtags that have been abused and as a result, Instagram may flag posts that have these banned hashtags associated with them.
For example, innocuous hashtags like #TGIF and #humpday have been banned by Instagram. Plann recently compiled a list of banned hashtags however new hashtags are constantly being added to this list so please don’t treat this list as a definitive resource.
Prior to adding a specific hashtag to your hashtag strategy, we recommend conducting a search on Instagram to make sure the hashtag is not banned. You can do this by navigating to the “Explorer” page (the magnifying glass icon) and typing the hashtag in the search bar.
Once the results of the hashtag populate simply scroll down to view more posts. If the hashtag is banned you will see a message from Instagram stating the following “Recent posts from [insert hashtag] are currently hidden because the community has reported some content that may not meet Instagram’s community guidelines.”
Hashtags work best when they are relevant to the content being posted. Keep in mind, the whole point of hashtags is to help users discover specific posts. Since hashtags are an indexing system, it’s important to use hashtags that are specifically related to your content.
It’s okay to recycle some hashtags that directly relate to the theme of your blog or business however if you’re posting an image of a coffee cup, it would be wise to include some medium density and low-density hashtags that are related to coffee.
Since hashtags are being used by millions of Instagrammers on a daily basis it’s important to keep your hashtags fresh. Additionally, if you’re trying to get your post into Top Posts, you’ll want to broaden the number of hashtags you are using in order to rank across more hashtags.
In our Ultimate Guide to Instagram Hashtags we show you how to research the top trending hashtags for your niche.
Based on my research hashtags perform just as well when they are added in the comments as they do when included directly in the caption. It’s all a matter of preference here. If you’re using multiple hashtag groups and planning your content in advance, tools like Planoly’s Hashtag Manager will allow you to easily include your chosen hashtags in your Instagram post.
I’m a bit more on the OCD side, so even though I plan my content and hashtags in advance, I prefer to paste them in the comments section from the Notes app on my iPhone.
The most important thing when posting hashtags is to make sure you are adding them to your post immediately. Hashtags that aren’t added to a photo immediately will not allow your Instagram post to get the initial boost it needs to get more exposure on Instagram and make it to the Top Posts section.
The keyword here is relevance. Similar to SEO, posts that include relevant hashtags on the posts will be rewarded. Hashtags that are unrelated and don’t reflect the image or content included in your Instagram caption will likely be classified as spam.
I recommend adding 5-10 relevant hashtags rather than adding 30 hashtags that don’t make sense to include on your post.
Instagram loves to keep us busy – that’s why they continue to change their algorithm over and over again. It’s important to remember that what works today may not work tomorrow. Keep an eye on Instagran hashtags that are performing well for your brand but continue to research new hashtags and incorporate them into your hashtag strategy.