How Does Instagram Search Work?


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Instagram is prominent in the search and discovery of content. It's one of the few social media platforms with a Search and Explore tab in its app. Plus, around 200 million accounts view the Instagram Search and Explore page daily. That means your brand has a chance to get in front of hundreds of millions of users each day. But how does Instagram Search work?

Understanding how Instagram Search works can help you boost your success on the network. As you learn how to get featured in the Search results or Instagram's Explore section, you'll be able to gain more exposure and have a higher chance of reaching new users.

In this post, we'll discuss how Instagram Search works. Then, we'll show you how you can use it to boost your Instagram marketing.

How Instagram Search Works with Ranking & Results

To better understand what Instagram Search is and how it works, think of it as a directory of every Instagram account on the app. It's basically like Google because you can type a keyword and get results based on your search. The only difference is you'll be using Instagram's Explore page — not Google — to discover accounts and hashtags and not websites over the web.

When you tap the magnifying glass icon, it'll take you to the Search and Explore tab. Then, you can tap on the search bar to start searching, and You'll be able to search top posts, people, tags, and places.

When you tap on a username, the app will take you to a user's profile. When you tap on a location tag or hashtag, Instagram will show you photos with that location tag or hashtag,

Instagram Search is different from Feed, Stories, Reels, and Explore. It requires a user's input to help the app show them the most relevant results. Instagram uses signals to rank search results. The 3 most important signals include:

●     Text in Search: The actual text you search. This is the most critical signal for search. Instagram tries to match it with relevant usernames, bios, captions, hashtags, and places.

●     Activity: Who you follow, posts you look at, and how you interact with accounts. Instagram also shows accounts and hashtags you follow.

●     Information: If your search returns lots of results, Instagram will look at popularity signals next. This includes the number of clicks, likes, shares, and follows. 

How Instagram Keeps Search Safe for Users

Instagram doesn't want searchers to come across harmful content that may disturb the user. That's why they set up the Community Guidelines. Any posts that violate the guidelines don't show up in search results. They're also striving to make it safer by having information pop-ups for sensitive searches. 

Accounts that post spam and violate the app's guidelines often rank lower in search results. Usually, you'll have to search their full username to find these accounts.

In the future, Instagram plans to improve search. They plan to make it a whole search results page experience, which means it will be even easier for users to find what they're looking for. Instagram wants its users to discover new things and feel inspired. That's why they're expanding their keyword search. When you search for a specific keyword, it will search for photos and videos of that text. 

Businesswoman's hands holding a mobile phone while using Instagram Search to promote and grow her business.

5 Ways to Improve Your Instagram Search Visibility

Now that you know how Instagram search works, it's time to put that knowledge to use. Follow these 5 tips to get discovered in Instagram's search results.

1) Use Relevant Keywords in Your Name Field

Optimize your Name Field with relevant keywords. People can find your profile by searching keywords you use in your Instagram Name Field. So, you can change your Instagram Name Field to relevant keywords that describe your brand.

Let's look at an example of a brand with an optimized Name Field to boost Search visibility. Social media management brand, Later, has a Name Field that contains the keyword “social media scheduler.” This increases the chances of their profile appearing in the top results when someone searches for a social media scheduler or related terms.

Screenshot of Viral Solutions Bio on Instagram.

2) Optimize Your Bio

The same way you optimize your Name Field, optimize your Instagram bio with keywords relevant to your business and specific services you offer. Consider adding a clickable hashtag. This will boost your chances of appearing in search and if someone searches for the hashtag. For example, health and wellness brand ALOHA uses keywords like “organic” and “plant-based” in its bio. It also uses a clickable hashtag, #alohamoment, to boost chances of getting discovered in search and encourage engagement with its audience.

3) Use Relevant Keywords in Hashtags and Captions

Put relevant keywords in hashtags and captions under your posts. Don't go overboard with keywords. Sprinkle them evenly throughout your captions so that they read naturally. 

Screenshot of Viral Solutions tagging their location on posts.

4) Add Location Tags to Your Posts

To show your posts to users who are in your area, add location tags to your posts. When you're creating a post on Instagram, tap on any of the suggested locations. And if the location you want to tag isn't recommended, tap Add Location to search for your preferred location. Adding relevant location tags can be especially helpful to local businesses like stores, restaurants, coffee shops, etc.

5) Time Your Posts Just Right

When you use Instagram Search, the most recent post will appear first. One of the best ways to increase search visibility on Instagram is to post when your target audience is most active. You'll have a greater chance of your post appearing near the top of the search results. Having a business Instagram will come in handy for this because you'll be able to see when your followers are most active.

In Summary

Still, wondering how Instagram Search works? Here's the answer in a nutshell: Instagram aims to deliver the best relevant posts to its users. That's why Instagram has a specific formula to how they rank search results. So, if your profile doesn't contain relevant content that people are looking for, it will be challenging to show up in the top results.

Do you need more ideas about leveraging your business? Visit our website today and find out how Viral Solutions can help you.


At Viral Solutions we are committed to seeing YOU succeed. It is our goal to grow your business with proven digital marketing strategies that will help your business for the long haul.

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Filed Under: Social Media

About Lauren Zylyk

During her time working for Walt Disney World, Lauren quickly grew a social media presence on platforms, mainly through Instagram. With a Bachelor of Business Administration in Marketing paired with her passion for marketing, Lauren grew her audience even more by creating a blog and through use of other social media platforms. She loves the impact that social media has and how quickly it can get information around worldwide.
When she is not busy keeping up with the latest trends online, she can be found baking cookies in the kitchen, watching hockey, or at the gym. She loves hot yoga and trying out any new dessert recipe. She can’t cook, but she can sure bake!