The search function on Instagram is being updated to allow users to search for content by using keywords. Up to this point, the only way to search for content was to use usernames, hashtags, location tags, and profile names. The unfortunate side effect of this that written content in video and photo captions was not searchable.
Since this is still a new feature, there is not a lot that is understood about it so far other than what Instagram has said publicly. Here’s what’s understood so far:
It works by allowing people to search using a keyword rather than a hashtag. For example, you can search for “cute puppy” instead of using “#cutepuppy”.
The results will then show posts related to that keyword even though a related hashtag was not used. There is still some confusion, however, about how the Instagram platform knows what the subject matter of a post is without using hashtags.
We don’t yet know if these are going to be exact-match keywords, or if the algorithm on Instagram will be clever enough to use synonyms. Right now, nobody knows if Instagram’s technology is anywhere near that of Google when it comes to keyword searches.
An Instagram spokesperson did mention that machine learning would be used but did not elaborate on any details, such as if image recognition would be a factor.
Of course, this development opens up questions around the viability of Instagram SEO. While optimisation of Instagram posts has been occurring for a long time, it was limited to using relevant hashtags and location tags.
Now, the Instagram platform may attract a new wave of SEO marketing. Time will tell how all of this pans out, but it’s worth keeping an eye on.