Instagram has a new update in Searches. So far users were limited to do searches by names, usernames, hashtags and locations. This made it hard to reach a lot of content that is found for example, on the captions and descriptions of posts.

But after this new update, users are also able to search for keywords to find content relevant to their interests.
Together with the recently released Guides, the company looks to retain Instagram users and prevent them from leaving the app.

As it’s been announced in many well known blogs like TechCrunch, users can start searching for a post using keywords that may appear in captions of photos & videos, even  if the specific tag is missing.


The information about the new search function is still limited but let’s jump on what we know:

How Instagram Keyword Search Works:

The new Instagram keyword search allows users to find content by typing any keyword related to the topic that they are looking for. For example, let’s say that you are looking for “healthy recipes”. Instead of looking for a hashtag, you type in the phrase “healthy recipes” directly as if you were on Google. For now, only grid posts will show up in searches. Then, search results will show you posts about healthy recipes even if they don’t have a specific “healthy recipe” tag.

Anyway, the mechanism that Instagram uses to determine what a post is about without considering hashtags, is still not 100% known. What it has been revealed is that Instagram is using captions to surface the posts in keyword searches. 

Some questions that arise are:

  • If it’s exact-match only or also considers related terms?
  • Whether Instagram Algorithm recognizes synonyms
  • Does the algorithm have AI to read content in an image

Instagram considers “a number of factors” when delivering search results, including type of content, captions and time of posting. This was revealed by the recognized blog The Verge in a conversation they had with an Instagram’s spokesperson.

This Instagram representative confirms that the platform employs machine learning to “find the highest quality content that’s relevant to you.” But it’s not confirmed whether image recognition is implemented. The spokesperson added that Instagram keyword search results are limited to certain terms only:

“The search is limited to general interest topics and keywords that are within Instagram’s community guidelines.”

Can Instagram Keyword Search improve your Instagram’s SEO?

Something really interesting about the new keyword search feature is the opportunity to improve your Instagram account’s SEO. Up to now, to optimize a post you should include the right hashtags and if possible, tag a location.

But this new algorithm is something for Marketing experts to explore and implement in their strategies. It brings in new ranking factors to consider when optimizing your posts.  Maybe the best thing to do now, is wait and observe how this new update works. We still don’t know how it will work out for users and the performance of the posts. 

A good indicator of the update’s success would be an engagement increase on posts after the launch of Instagram keyword search. Posts with no hashtags or location but with detailed captions and description should be able to appear in searches. There’s also the reception of users as previous Instagram updates didn’t receive much acceptance. Shop tabs and reels for example; search for it on Google and you’ll see it for yourself! 

Conclusions on the new Keyword search:

It’s probable that not many users are aware of the update, as there hasn’t been much discussion about it yet.

According to Instagram, for the moment the search update is available in English to users in the US, UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Ireland. The expansion to Guides is rolling out now to all users.

We’ll surely have a new factor to implement in our strategies to get Instagram algorithm working in your favor.

Most of all, how will this update develop? Will users prefer to keep the hashtag ranking or will they adopt keyword search like happened with Pinterest?