Instagram improves its search functionality and lets users find content based on keywords for the first time.
Previously, users could only search for content by hashtags, location tags, usernames, and profile names.
That left a lot of unsearchable content in the subtitle area.
According to a report by TechCrunch, users can now search for posts using keywords that may appear in image and video titles.
There is still a lot to understand about Instagram’s new search functionality, but I’ll summarize the information that has been made available so far.
How does Instagram keyword search work?
Instagram Keyword Search allows users to enter a keyword like “home office inspiration” instead of limiting themselves to a hashtag like “#homeofficeinspiration”.
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Search results should then display posts for home office inspiration, even if they are not specifically labeled as such.
It is not known exactly how Instagram determines what a post is about without relying on hashtags.
Instagram is known to use closed captions to display posts for keyword search, but even so there are still many questions.
For example – does it just match exactly? Can the Instagram algorithm understand synonyms? Is AI or machine learning required for the algorithm to recognize what is represented in an image?
A company spokesperson told The Verge that Instagram takes “a number of factors” into account when returning search results. This includes the type of content, subtitles, when it was published, and much more.
The spokesman acknowledged that Instagram uses machine learning to “find the highest quality content that is relevant to you”. It is not mentioned whether this also includes image recognition.
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Instagram’s search results are only limited to certain terms, the spokesman says:
“Search is limited to topics and keywords of general interest that adhere to Instagram’s community guidelines.”
Potential for Instagram SEO?
Perhaps the most exciting aspect of this update, at least for marketers and search enthusiasts, is the potential for Instagram SEO.
So far, the only way to optimize Instagram posts has been to include relevant hashtags and possibly a location tag (if applicable).
Now there’s a whole new algorithm that marketers can understand and optimize. For the first time ever, we can actually discuss on Instagram Ranking factors.
But before you get into that, wait and see how this change will affect user behavior. We don’t yet know how users will adapt to this new way of finding posts on Instagram.
Will they use keywords to find visual content similar to using Pinterest? Or do Instagram users prefer tried and tested hashtags?
It would be a promising sign to see a significant increase in user interaction for posts after starting the keyword search. This could be an indication that keywords are being used to make it easier for users to find content they would otherwise not have found.
One thing that is certain is that Instagram users are opposed to changes, as evidenced by the turmoil over the recent UI update.
So far, this update is much less discussed. This is either an indication that users haven’t noticed or it hasn’t been made available to everyone yet.
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Instagram Keyword Search is slated to be available in English today to all users in Canada, the US, the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland.
Sources: TechCrunch, The Verge