The Ultimate Guide To Instagram Hashtags in 2018 - Algorithm Updates

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In case you couldn't make it to the free training I held on this topic a few weeks ago, here's what you missed!

Over the last few weeks i’ve been getting tons of DMs, messages and emails that say one of the following… 

“My Instagram engagement has dropped - WTF!”

“Did the algorithm change again? It’s like no one is seeing my posts anymore!”

“How many hashtags should I be using, and where should I put them?”

Sound familiar?

I hear you, and I was right there with you at the beginning of 2018. If you’ve suspected that the Instagram algorithm has changed again, you’re totally right. And the thing about the algorithm is that it WILL continue to change…so things that may have worked to grow your account only 6 months ago may no longer be working for you. Even some of my past recommendations are now outdated. So today i’m going to be covering all of the new algorithm changes and hashtag rules for 2018 - yay!

Here's what you can expect to learn in this post:

  • What the algorithm actually IS and how it's changed recently
  • How many hashtags to use in 2018, where to put them, and which ones to avoid
  • Why your engagement may have dropped recently, and what you can do about it 
  • What the dreaded 'shadowban' is and how to avoid it
  • A brand new strategy for increasing your exposure on Instagram and how to get in front of more of the RIGHT PEOPLE to build your brand and business (without paying for ads)

Want to know how I built a six figure business using Instagram? Join my free Instagram training!

But first, why are we even talking about hashtags in the first place? And why do they matter so much in the growth of your Instagram account?

Why hashtags?

Hashtags are the main way that you can increase your chance of being discovered by new accounts that don’t already follow you. So obviously, if your goal is to grow your account for any reason (maybe you want more clients or customers, you want to build an online community, or you want to work with brands for paid posts or sponsorships)…

Your hashtag strategy is ESSENTIAL to the growth of your Instagram account (and thus, your business). 

So not only does this mean we need to be strategic in our use of hashtags, we also need to stay up to date with the algorithm to know which hashtag actions are actually frowned upon by Instagram and will prevent your content from being seen altogether. 

The Algorithm

In case you are new to the term “algorithm” - the Instagram algorithm is basically a set of rules that the Instagram app abides by, in order to show you the content IT believes you will enjoy the most - based on your actions.  (So your previous liking, commenting and following of other accounts)

Ok now that's out of the way...
 

How many hashtags should you use?

Speculation has been all over the place lately. Should you use 5? 30? or 60? hashtags?

Well, based of the most recent algorthim changes, my recommendation is to limit your hashtag use to 25-28 hashtags. This is for a few reasons: number one, if you use the maximum amount of hashtags either in the caption or first comment, when someone in your audience tries to comment on your post WITH a hashtag, their comment will fail to post because you’ve already reached the limit. 

 

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Above is a photo of what will happen. 

And this matters because the amount of engagement you get within the first hour of posting is VITAL to moving your content higher up into the feeds of your audience to be seen by more people. 

This concept is basically "the algorithm 101": The more comments and likes you get on your photo within an hour of posting, the more people within your audience will actually see your new post. So we definitely don’t want to be preventing anyones comments from getting through. 

The second reason you want to use only 25-28 hashtags instead of the previous recommendation of 60 is that it keeps you in the safe zone, away from being ‘shadowbanned’. 

Now I know what you’re probably wondering...

 WTF is a shadowban?!

A shadowban is basically Instagram’s way of cracking down on potentially spammy or “bot”-like behavior, which is great - because it means hopefully we’ll be seeing less fake and automated comments like “nice pic” on our photos. But it also means that we have to be super careful to make sure that none of our actions (as legitimate accounts) APPEAR to be spammy or "bot"-like, otherwise Instagram will temporarily suspend our accounts from being seen by new traffic

So if you’ve noticed that once and awhile your engagement drops drastically and the only people that are liking or commenting on your photos are people that ALREADY follow you (no new accounts) there is a good chance you’ve been shadowbanned. (I teach a way to check if you've been shadowbanned for sure inside my InstaPreneur course)

Now obviously there are a ton of different ways that your account can potentially be flagged as spam on Instagram, but since the topic of todays training is hashtags, i’m going to be focusing less on avoiding the shadowban and more on how to create a hashtag strategy that is in alignment with Instagram's new algorithm.

Where should you put your hashtags?

Now that we know how many hashtags to use, you’re probably wondering WHERE to put them. In the first comment or in the caption?

And the answer is, according to help.Instagram.com, that either one actually still works. However, I am part of the camp that believes that Instagram *may* not always be telling us as the public the complete truth - because if they were to tell everyone exactly how the algorithm works, there would be no need to pay for Instagram ads (<<< smart business people!) So just because both the caption and first comment will still work, doesn’t mean that both are optimal

According to my experimentation and testing, i’ve found that photos posted with the hashtags in the caption get higher reach and better engagement - due to the fact that hashtags posted in the first comment don’t always show up in the hashtag search.  

This means that if you aren’t showing up in the hashtag search, that means less new eyes on your photos and part of the reason why your engagement could be down.

But: Don't edit your caption after posting

This does come with a caveat though: if you’re posting your hashtags in your CAPTION: you’re going to want to make sure and proof read your caption and MAKE sure the hashtags you use are correct BEFORE posting - because the more times you go in and edit your caption or photo after it has been posted, the less people you’ll reach. I have no idea why this is, but Instagram seems to penalize you if you do things like edit your caption, or even delete your post and repost it. 

So even if you make a mistake, just leave it for at least 24 hours before editing. I know this is cringe worthy for those of you who are Type A, but just trust me :)

Which hashtags should you avoid?

Now when it comes to which hashtags to use and which ones to avoid, i’m going to be talking specifically about which ones to avoid in today's post, but if you want to learn more about which ones TO use, be sure to grab my list of copy and paste hashtags below! (But remember, only use 25-38 not all 30. And PS this list should be used as a general guide, make sure to do your own research!)

For the most part, you’re going to want to avoid hashtags that look spammy (for example #likeforlike) or have been used more than 1 million times, because unless you already have a massive account, your posts are going to get lost quickly among the hundreds of thousands of other posts using that same hashtag and you are very unlikely to ever show up in the top posts for that hashtag.

To check if a hashtag is spammy, simply just do a quick search and make sure that the posts that come up are actually descriptive of whatever that hashtag is.

 

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Above is the #likeforlike hashtag, and it doesn’t explain whatsoever what that hashtag is its just a bunch of random photos.  Not ideal. 

Avoid Banned/Broken/Spammy hashtags

Also be sure not to use broken or banned hashtags, because thats another thing that Instagram can "shadowban" you or even disable your account because of.

For example: #kansas was banned last year because too many people were using it on posts that violated Instagram guidelines. Definitely double check your hashtags to make sure they aren’t banned. To do this, simply search for the hashtag on Instagram. 

 

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If the top posts section appears but nothing else, it’s likely that the hashtag was banned by Instagram. Sometimes Instagram will even leave a short message on a hashtag page explaining that posts have been hidden for not meeting the community guidelines, like you can see in the photo above.

Double check your hashtags

Now although this seems like a long and tedious process, just be sure to quickly check all of the hashtags you plan to use before using them because you definitely don’t want to be unknowingly using a banned or broken hashtag. 

Following Hashtags

Now that you know which hashtags to avoid, how many to use in 2018, and where to put your hashtags: a cool new feature that Instagram has rolled out is the ability to “follow” hashtags. This is an incredible feature that is similar to following another account. 

To follow a specific hashtag, just search for it by clicking on the microscope icon, then clicking "tags". That will pull up the top posts for that hashtag and the recent posts, and by hitting the blue "follow" button, your feed will then start showing you select posts using that hashtag within your feed (just like if you followed an account). 

 

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Click on the microscope icon

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put in the hashtag you want to search for

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rom here Instagram will also show you a list of suggested tags to follow based on your interests.

Why Follow hashtags?

So why is it a good idea to start following hashtags? By following hashtags related to your industry, you’ll be able to gather new hashtag suggestions (deemed by Instagram as highly relevant) and add them to your arsenal of hashtags that you switch between (I like to save mine in the notes app on my iphone) and then just copy and paste them into your posts!

PLUS by taking advantage of this new feature, your profile is *rumored* to be favored by Instagram's new algorithm, which I totally believe - Instagram totally favors those who are early adopters.

Lastly, encouraging your audience to follow your branded hashtag (so for example, #rebellenutrition) is a great way to build brand awareness among those who already follow you, and hopefully become a suggested hashtag to new audiences as well.

Are we friends on Instagram yet?! Follow me here!

How often should you be switching up your hashtags?

Now, since I know this is a question that will come up, how often should you switch up your hashtags in 2018? The answer is you should be switching up your hashtags VERY frequently. All the freaking time, in fact.

The reason for this is that if you continue to use the same set of hashtags all the time, this, again, could set off Instagram's “spam” filters. Repeating the same hashtags over and over again is something that a fake account would likely do, and like I mentioned earlier, Instagram is trying to crack down on this.  But don’t worry, if you’re  switching up your hashtags frequently and making sure all of your hashtags are relevant to the photo that you’re posting, you wont have an issue.

I hope this guide to Instagram hashtags in 2018 was super helpful for you! Let me know if you have any questions in the comment section below, and as always, be sure to come connect with me on Instagram :)

XO,

Amie

Want to know how I built a six-figure business in 9 months with the help of Instagram?