How Instagram Ranks Search Results

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A new article on Search Engine Journal shows how Instagram ranks search results and how you can optimize content to rank for target keywords.

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Head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, explains how the app ranks search results and shares a few Instagram SEO best practices. Mosseri has previously shared details about how Instagram’s recommendation algorithms surface content in the main feed, stories, reels, and explore sections. The way Instagram ranks search results is different because it relies on a user to input text in order to return results. Whereas the explore tab, for example, populates content automatically. Instagram aims to organize search results by what’s most relevant to the individual user:

“Let’s say you’re interested in finding pictures of space after seeing the blue moon. When you tap the search bar on the Explore page, the first thing you see is your recent searches. As you begin typing “space,” we show you accounts, audio, hashtags, and places that match the text of your search. In this case, results like @space and # space show up because “space” appears in their name.”

In addition to text entered by the user, Instagram’s search algorithm uses information from accounts, hashtags, and places to rank results. Instagram’s top ranking signals in order of importance are:

  • Your text: The text you enter in the search bar is Instagram’s most important ranking signal. It will first try to match the text with relevant usernames, bios, captions, hashtags, and places.
  • Your activity: This includes accounts you follow, posts you’ve viewed, and how you’ve interacted with accounts in the past. Instagram usually shows accounts and hashtags you follow or visit higher than those you don’t.
  • User engagement: When there are a lot of potential results, Instagram will look at engagement signals. These include the number of clicks, likes, shares, and follows for a particular account, hashtag, or place.
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