Search and Discovery with Instagram

Search comes in the most varying forms and colours. From the wide-ranging Web search (Google) through topic-focused searches (Amazon and YouTube) to special cases like Instagram. It’s the latter that we’ll address in this article.

Instagram, the photocentric social-media network, has grown to over 1 billion active users. The Instagram search feature is, however, not the classic text search that we would normally expect to see.

The Instagram search feature uses just two fields to calculate the result. The account name, and the hashtags that are usually added to a post. If you start a search with the hash character (#) you’ll only see hashtags as results.

As a result, visibility and discover-ability on Instagram is largely via the hashtags which is why you’ll find a large number attached to most posts. To bring some transparency to these hashtags, we’ve collected and evaluated the hashtags on many, many posts.

In total we’ve analysed around 15 billion hashtag relationships. (15,407,047,050 to be exact.) The data-source of about 8 million hashtags (7,706,597) does not include hashtags that are very seldom used.

The most used hashtags, in decreasing order of popularity, are…

#love #fashion #instagood #style #photooftheday #beautiful #fitness #picoftheday #follow #beauty #like4like #art #ootd #model #cute #followme #repost #instadaily #happy #instagram #makeup #girl #amazing #photography #lifestyle

It’s not surprising that generic and Instagram-specific hashtags lead the pack.

What’s interesting is the frequency distribution of the 8 million hashtags. If you sort them against popularity of usage, the last hashtag within the Top 1% of all hashtags (#rigoftheday) is only used 0.02% as often as the top hashtag (#love).  There’s a more intensive fall-off curve between the thin ‘head’ and the long ‘tail’ when compared with Google search.

Free Instagram Hashtag Generator.

in order to create something practical from the analysis we’ve created the Instagram Hashtag Generator. Enter up to three hashtags and we’ll show you further hashtags that are both popular and commonly used together.

The tool is free to used, fast and fun! Take a look. (Old-timer SEOs will be reminded of the time when meta-keywords were used by search engines like Fireball!)