Hashtags are vehicles that drive new traffic to your Instagram Posts. Without Hashtags or selecting a Location in your posts, the only people that will see your posts will be a small percentage of your existing audience. You need to use hashtags for your posts to be seen by non followers.
There are all sorts of blog posts and theories out there on how to properly use hashtags. Most of what I have found is out-dated or not properly and thoroughly tested. I currently have 31 Instagram accounts under management, 1,464 that I consult on and/or have direct access to, then another 2,500+ that I have access to the data and analytics. This is what I know to be true Instagram Hashtags best uses.
Number of Hashtags:
6-10 Hashtags per post.
This provides you with the opportunity to select enough hashtags for a diverse discover-ability but not too many that you can run into issues with spam, reduced reach, or generally a diminishing value.
Type of Hashtags:
2-4 SUBJECT: Hashtags that describe your post or are the subject of the post.
2-4 TARGET AUDIENCE: Hashtags that your target audience is most likely to search
2-3 LOCATION: Location based hashtags (if you’re a local business or have a personal account you’re trying to grow). For example, if you’re in Columbus, OH, you might use: “#Cbus #LifeInCbus #Ohio.”
Optional: 1 Humorous hashtag. This is highly unlikely to help discover-ability, but it is okay to use one hashtag for the purposes of adding humor.
*Pro Tip: If you’re trying to grow your account and have a relatively small audience (under 10k followers) try to use a few hashtags that are in the 25k-250k range of use and avoid those used over 1 million times. You won’t compete in search for hashtags that have been used over a million times, but you can for those used less frequently. This is because the default for search is “Top” results, which is often larger accounts with a high volume of engagement on the post.
Hashtag Frequency Of Use:
Create 25-30 hashtags and vary the 6-10 hashtags you use in each post. Never use the same hashtag in consecutive posts.
We’ve found that just under 25% of accounts that used the same hashtag in all of their posts experiences multiple duration in which their hashtags were removed from discover-ability. Their are a few reasons why this happens, but if you avoid using the same hashtag in multiple posts, you won’t run into this problem.
Place your hashtags directly within the post (not as a comment) and directly after your text. Do not put line breaks or use special characters between the text and your hashtags. While doing this will not always reduce reach and discover-ability, we have found that 94.6% of accounts have more reach and search discover-ability when hashtags are included, without line breaks, directly after text.
*Note: The average reach difference between an account that follows the above guideline and one that posts hashtags with line breaks was 10.2%. The average difference between someone that follows the above guidelines and an account that posts the hashtags as a comment was 18.3% and that figure is higher because there is a greater likelihood of an account having their hashtags temporarily withheld from discover-ability when this practice is utilized.
Hashtaging Words Within The Copy
This is acceptable to do. We have not noticed any statistical difference between posts that hashtag a word within the copy and those that only add hashtags at the end of the copy. However, keep in mind that those first 5-10 words are all that most people will see or read when scrolling through Instagram, so you want to make the first sentence count and adding a hashtag may distract the reader. We always suggest holding hashtags until the conclusion of the copy.
*DISCLAIMER* This blog post is true and relevant as of 8/16/19. Instagram is ever-changing. If you’re viewing this more than 6 months after it has been published, this pay not still be fully relevant.