Oct 2021

Everything Your Company Needs to Know about Instagram's Search Algorithms

Find out how top marketing agencies use Instagram advertisements to broaden social reach for their clients

For some companies, social media marketing feels like a moving target. It seems like algorithms are always changing and strategies constantly evolve and need to be adjusted. Instagram seemingly has heard the confused cries from its users and issued a set of articles about how to get discovered on their platforms in August of 2021.

In the article, Instagram breaks down how their algorithm determines search rankings. Though the search algorithm is not the only important facet of Instagram, it is extremely helpful to understand how their search bar works. In this article, we’ll be breaking down the set of tips provided by Instagram — and what they mean for top marketing agencies around the world. 

Why is Instagram Search Important for My Business?

Understanding the Instagram search algorithm is especially important for top marketing agencies and other digitally focused brands

rendering of Instagram on phone colorful visual representation
Don’t discount Instagram search as a powerful marketing tool. Image courtesy of TechCrunch.

When users are trying to find a type of content or a specific user on Instagram, we usually consult the search bar. Top marketing agencies know that the discovery page is great for scrolling, but the real competition begins with the search results. For example, maybe a user saw an ad for your product or service elsewhere and are now trying to find your company page. By securing a top search result, more potential customers will be directed to your page. To get a better understanding of the user journey to your page via the search bar, let’s see what your brand can do to maximize your Instagram discoverability

What are Some of The Key Elements That Affect Instagram Search?

Top marketing agencies know that keywords are a factor in all online searches, but what are some of the other factors Instagram considers for search results

Instagram search discover page with orange background
Each user’s search results are curated by the algorithm. Image courtesy of The Verge.

Though it may seem obvious, the most important element of Instagram search are keywords.. According to Instagram, their search bar finds content, users, hashtags, places, and captions based on relevant keywords. However, there are a few more factors they discussed that are less widely known. Let’s get into it!

  • User Activity - Beyond keywords, Instagram also takes a user's previous activity into account when displaying search results. This means that the accounts users follow and profiles they searched for in the past will show up more readily. Instagram states that this makes the search process easier for users, as their results are based on established interests.
  • Topic Popularity - When users search for content on Instagram, the algorithm also factors in topic popularity. If a subject is trending or an account has amassed a large amount of followers in a short period of time, the algorithm will show the result to more users. In short, viral content is easier to find on IG.

Instagram Recommendations Guidelines

If your content or hashtags go against Instagram policies, it will be difficult to find in the search bar

smartphone with heart Instagram profile
Failing to play by Instagram’s rules leads to penalties.

A common issue that brands face when promoting content is adapting to Instagram's recommendations guidelines. In order to appear in the search results, a brand should follow these policies as closely as possible. Should your profile violate any of these guidelines, the algorithm will rank your account lower in the search results. For example, your brand page could be flagged for spam or sensitive content if you aren’t paying close attention to the guidelines.

Now more than ever, there is a large amount of misinformation circulating around social media. Because of this, posts related to breaking news or politics are more likely to be labeled sensitive content. Though most brands don’t engage with these subjects to begin with, it is not a major concern. However, if your brand is related to sensitive topics it's important to know what can cause alarm for the algorithm:

  • Content making health and wellness claims, like weight loss or skincare
  • Content promoting cosmetic surgery
  • Promotions including unethical business practices, like “get rich quick” schemes
  • Sexually suggestive content
  • Duplicate content repurposed from other accounts
  • Contests and giveaways

Instagram is not just telling brands what they need to avoid, they also provide some helpful tips to maximize your discovery value and find new customers. 

Tips For Reaching New Audiences Through Instagram Search

Find out a few easy fixes to elevate your search placement

man looking at smartphone in coffee shop
The higher your IG search result, the more likely users are to visit your page.

Now that we know what will make profiles more difficult for users to find, let’s explore what your brand can do to work with the algorithm.

    1. Choose a Relevant Handle and Name For Your Page

As we mentioned before, the most important part of Instagram search is the text itself. When users are searching for your brand, they will likely type in keywords that are related to your business. Therefore, it's important to choose a username that represents your brand or the pain points that your brand solves. That way, you’ll rank highly on Instagram for your target keywords and more consumers will be able to easily access your page via search.

    2. Optimize Your Bio

Much like with your handle, keywords are essential for your bio section too. When a user visits your page, they should be able to immediately tell where you’re located and what your product or service entails. While you are writing your bio, try to include a few keywords to boost your discovery value even more.

    3. Caption or Comment?

For a long time, digital marketers have debated whether your hashtags should be placed in the caption or the comments. Thankfully, Instagram has settled the debate once and for all. They clearly state in their article that hashtags placed in the captions are more likely to show up in user searches. 

Of course, using these tips will not immediately place your brand at the top of all related IG search results, but these small changes make sure your brand isn't missing out on valuable search result placement.


As one of the top marketing agencies, Responsival can help your brand tackle the complicated world of Facebook and Instagram marketing. No matter how big or small your business, Responsival has the tools you need to run a successful influencer marketing campaign. Beyond influencer marketing, Responsival provides ecommerce marketing services and development for our diverse set of clients. Let’s work together, schedule a discovery call with our sales team today!