Social Signals in Search
Instagram is great for uploading and filtering pictures of about your life (that amazing sunset while hiking) and work (a new jewelry design). But does it help your business? Let’s look at how to use Instagram for SEO and grow your social reach.
SEO and Social Media
Instagram itself has a built in search function. It works from hashtags but it also uses location and names of people/ brands/ companies. If someone types your company name or often-used hashtag, you want to control what comes up just as you would in Google or Bing search. Social and SEO interconnect. but does social engagement affect SERP rankings? According to Hootsuite and Search Engine Journal , Google has officially said it does not use social media for ranking. That said, social engagement is a byproduct of quality content which in turn generates inbound links, brand mentions (basically a link without the hyperlink), lower bounce and repeat readers… which are all SEO signals that search engines care about.
Instagram Is A Search Engine
If you type Rihanna into Google, her official website ranks first but directly below are Twitter, YouTube and Instagram. Of the top five links on the SERP four are controlled by Rihanna herself (the odd one out being Wikipedia) Search engines drive traffic to social media sites like Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter all the time. So take advantage and make sure your brand’s account has a fully fleshed-out profile with the information most relevant to that social audience.
Think about native search within the Instagram interface. Users can search on:
- People (by name or username)
According to Instagram help, search results are based on various factors, including the people you follow, who you’re connected to, and what photos and videos you like (heart).
Isn’t ‘Gram for a Young Audience?
When you hear about Instagram on the news it’s typically about influencers like Jake Paul or Kylie Jenner. Unless your business is focused on teens, you could be forgiven for thinking “Instagram isn’t for your business”. But the demographics behind who uses Instagram could surprise you.
71% of 18 to 24 year olds say they use Instagram, so that isn’t much of a revelation. But it might surprise you to know that over 50% of 25-29 and 40% of 30 to 49 year olds also use the photo- sharing platform. So while it may sometimes seem Instagram is only for the ‘cool kids’, Instagram appeals to a wider audience.
Startup Pulse makes an interesting point about Instagram users. The Millennial generation, who grew up with the platform, are now entering their 30s which are prime spending years. It might not have been right for your business five years ago, but now those college students are young professionals.
The Personal Touch
If you’re thinking about getting on the ‘gram, then you should first take a look at the best accounts out there. The most popular Instagram accounts are generally entertainment figures rather than brands. The top ten accounts by number of followers are all celebrities, from Actors like Dwayne Johnson to sportspeople like Neymar. This confirms that on Instagram people expect a more “personal” experience than on Facebook. Facebook’s top ten most-liked pages include six companies. In comparison, Instagram’s list includes none. So when you’re creating Instagram for your business, take the need for a personal touch into consideration. Creating a personality-driven company account is more likely to gain followers than a traditional Company/ Customer profile.The Millennial generation, who grew up with Instagram, are now entering their 30s which are prime spending years. It might not have been right for your business five years ago, but now those college students are young professionals. Click To Tweet
Branding Not Buying
When setting up your business’ Instagram account, engagement with your posts may not directly translate into customers. From our experience, Instagram is a great branding tool especially for those businesses who have compelling visuals. Instagram stories help show who you are, what you do, and how you’re different. Don’t expect to immediately add this channel to your revenue stream. Rather than pushing sales, instead share your company culture so followers get to know you, your motivations and influences. In general, we see Instagram engagement related to brand awareness. There may be other channels that are more effective in reaching an audience who are in a buying mood (e.g., Pinterest).
If you want to see how many users are flowing through Instagram onto your site, use UTM tags and Google Analytics to get the hard data. You may find that Instagram feeds your sales funnel or simply helps with brand recognition.
Jumping on the #Bandwagon
If you want to get more likes on your photos, try using tools.Some tools available will help you research which hashtags are getting the most traffic. Much like the keyword planner tool in Google Ads or Google Trends, you can see what terms are trending. Then, you can tailor your posts and hashtags around them. There is no limit to the number of hashtags per Instagram post, so this social channel is very different than platforms like Twitter or Facebook, where you might want to only use one or two. While you can use as many as you want, we recommend you stick to around 10 as a maximum.
A trick of the trade is to publish your photo with a caption and one or two hashtags, then after the photo has gone live you can add a second comment containing more hashtags. This will keep your initial post looking clean, but will still bring users to your photo when your comment shows up in the instagram search engine.
Another way to help grow your Instagram account is by sharing other users photos. If another user has taken a photo of your product, ask them to add a certain hashtag when sharing it to instagram. For example #yourhashtag. Then, as part of your Instagram management you can search for #yourhashtag. And, after asking their permission, repost the images you find on your own feed. You can search for hashtags in the Instagram app, so you should make sure you’re monitoring hashtags that users could use to reference your company.A trick of the trade is to publish your photo with a caption and one or two hashtags, then after the photo has gone live you can add a second comment containing more hashtags. Click To Tweet
Avoid Black Hat Tricks
Just like SEO, Instagram has its share of Black Hat Techniques. From buying followers, to using bots to add users, or to post comments on your behalf, there are various ways you can try to artificially boost your Instagram following. But this can lead to your account being deleted, so we never recommend techniques designed to cheat. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Another punishment, that could potentially do more harm as it might remain unnoticed, is “shadowbanning”.
Shadowbanning means Instagram has “turned off” your reach outside of your followers. So your content won’t show up to anyone who isn’t already following your account. If your account is shadowbanned you will not necessarily notice, as there will be no official notification. So we advise you against doing anything that could go against Instagram’s terms of service. For example:
- Don’t use bots (or any other automated tool) to follow other users, post content, or post comments
- Don’t follow too many accounts too quickly. If you want to follow 100 users, don’t add them all in one go. Spread it out over a day. This could make Instagram think you’re a bot.
- Check your hashtags to make sure they mean what you think. Some hashtags might be used for inappropriate content. Make sure your innocent hashtags aren’t also being used as a slang term for something Instagram might deem inappropriate or offensive.
- Your account is often getting reported. If you publish content that is contentious and you find yourself getting reported often for violating Instagram’s rules (whether you have broken them or not) you’re likely to face a shadowban until Instagram have checked everything.
The good news about a shadowban is that it is often not permanent. A shadowban will typically go away if you take 48 hours off from the platform. So if you think this has happened to your account, we suggest you review the points above. Then take a two-day break before getting back to posting pictures of your morning bagel.
How To Go About It
We understand that having 5 or 6 different social media platforms isn’t always practical or manageable for a business. Each social ecosystem — including your own website’s content — requires careful tending. We suggest creating a simple profile that’s well set up. It should include links to all the relevant places, with a current logo, the right hashtags etc. Then set a reminder to review your social profiles at least semiannually.
If you work in HR Outsourcing, then maybe you don’t have as much to Instagram about compared to cupcake shop, jewelry designer or adventure tour guide. That’s fine. Update it as often as you feel comfortable, keeping in mind that active accounts get more Instagram love.
Lastly, if search engines like Google add social media for organic rankings in the future, then your business will be well positioned. With Google moving to a mobile-first world, apps like Instagram may have a bigger impact on what shows up organically on the small screen.
How are you using Instagram for SEO?
How can we help?
Do you know if Instagram is right for your business? Do you use Instagram for SEO?
We are Spectrum Group Online, and we offer strategic and tactical consulting so you can monetize your online presence. Call us for a complimentary 30-minute consultation to discuss your website’s user experience and translate that into sales.