Long Tail Hashtags Get Better Results on Instagram

swirling colourful lights on a highway at night

While hashtags might seem annoying, confusing, and often overused, they are still a powerful tool on Instagram. But throwing 40 of them in your post and hoping something works isn’t the way to get results.

Hashtags can help you get discovered. On Instagram, where there is no share function like on Facebook, getting new eyeballs on your content can be a real challenge. So users rely on hashtags, location tags, and user tags.

However, before you start hammering out every hashtag you can think of, think about the long tail of hashtags.

Borrowing a Page from SEO

You might have heard the term “long tail” related to keywords. Indeed, it’s an idea I’m borrowing from the SEO world. Long tail hashtags work just like long tail keywords because hashtags are actually the tool that turn social media into a search engine. So the same principles apply.

long tail graph of hashtags for instagram
The long tail of hashtags for Instagram.

The x-axis of the graph tracks the most general hashtags on the left to the most specific hashtags on the right. The y-axis measures how many searches the hashtag receives.

Don’t Be Too General

In the SEO world, that means that a keyword like “travel” is highly searched for, but is also so generic that there is an enormous amount of content targeting the keyword, making it extremely competitive.

But we’re talking about hashtags. The most popular hashtag in the world is #love with currently over 1.5 billion tagged posts. Imagine how long it takes for your post to get drowned in other posts that use the same hashtag. Maybe three seconds?

screenshot of search for hashtag love on instagram
#love is the most popular hashtag in the world.

There are also industry-specific tags that would still be too general, like #realtor or #pizza. It isn’t just the top 1% of hashtags in the world that aren’t narrowed enough, it’s the top 1% in your industry too.

One difference between the hashtag long tail and the keyword long tail is that there is also an issue of going too specific with hashtags. Going too far down the keyword tail isn’t usually cautioned against too much because you’ll still receive some SEO benefit. But there is no such benefit with hashtags too far down the tail.

It’s like the story of the three bears; If the porridge is too hot or too cold, it’s no good. You need that sweet spot in the middle that’s just right. You want baby bear’s porridge.

Don’t Be Too Specific Either

If your hashtag is too specific, very few people search for it. Sure, the competition is extremely low and you’re certain to be discovered when someone does, but you’ll be waiting around to be seen by a handful of people.

Something like #yqlbeautytips is not likely to get you any attention because it’s simply not searched. Why would anyone need beauty tips specifically from their city? Think of how your audience searches.

Find the Sweet Spot

Looking at the centre of the graph, we see the area that’s just right. These hashtags are popular enough that a highly relevant audience is searching them, but not so general that they’re highly competitive.

Be very intentional with your hashtags on Instagram, carefully choosing which ones will benefit you best. Pick three, four, or five great ones for each post and leave it at that. Avoid the fat head and the tip of the long tail if you want your keywords to work for you.

Lane Anderson

Lane Anderson

Lane has worked in marketing since 2013, and is the owner of London Road Media. He lives in the beautiful city of Lethbridge with his young family and serves clients locally and around the world.

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