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Ultimate Instagram Hashtag Guide

Hashtags are broken? We crunched Instagram data to understand how hashtags work. Read on to find out how to boost reach on yours posts from hashtags.

If you’d like to grow your Instagram account, relying on a sound hashtag strategy is paramount and on average brings 40% more eyes to account content.

Inssist Tag Assistant module lets you search for and build an effective hashtag library. Follow these rules and tips to pick the best hashtags for your posts:


  • Always use hashtags that are relevant to your post.
  • Check for banned and flagged hashtags and avoid them.
  • Build a Hashtag Ladder: 8-10 of the hashtags on your post should have an engagement lower than you profile, 8-10 similar to yours, and 8-10 higher.
  • Rotate your hashtags often.

You can use to find and filter hashtags and build a ladder.

How Instagram hashtags work

Every time you post anything with a hashtag, Instagram starts showing that post under recent posts and top posts on a hashtag page as well as hashtag page followers. This way your content becomes searchable and discoverable.

You can put hashtags either into caption or the first comment under your post.

Putting hashtags to the first comment result in 10-15% lower reach from hashtag. To maximise exposure, put hashtags to the post caption.

Instagram measures engagement (saves, shares, comments, likes and views in this order) on your post in the first 15 to 60 minutes to understand how engaging and viral your post is.

If your post gets a high engagement relative to the other posts in your niche, Instagram ranks your post among the top ones for every hashtag on your post in that niche.

The higher engagement on your post the easier it is to rank high, the more exposure you get from explore and hashtag search pages.

Using high-engagement hashtags is counter-productive.

For example, for a medium-sized Instagram account, it is very unlikely to rank among the #bestvacations posts as on average the top 9 posts in that hashtag receive ~8k likes and ~100 comments in the first 24 hours.

This way to boost reach from hashtags it is important to select hashtags that have engagement similar to your account, improving your chances to rank high.

Instagram takes a few extra steps when it comes to ranking your posts. For example it relies on Computer Vision to find out what your post is about. If hashtags mismatch the post content, the post will not rank high.

It also tries to put your account into a niche (e.g. photography, dogs, travel destinations, winter sports etc.) and show it to people interested in that niche.

Rule 1. Use relevant hashtags

Hashtag is a tool for your content to be discovered. If the tags you use are not relevant to your post or account audience, people will engage on it less and your post exposure will suffer.

Always use hashtags that are relevant to your target audience, niche and the content you post. Search for hashtag candidates with Inssist. The app can suggest you hashtags that are found on the top posts:

Make sure to know your target audience, their interests and / or pain points and how your content addresses them.

You can also research the tags your Competitors or similar accounts use with Inssist Insights module.

Rule 2. Avoid banned and flagged hashtags

Instagram is known to ban hashtags if they get spammy.

Using banned hashtags has a negative effect on your performance: your account may get flagged and less discoverable.

Inssist can detect if a hashtag is banned and assist with avoiding them.

Rule 3. Build Hashtag Ladders

A ladder is a tag list assembled from hashtags of multiple engagement levels: lower, similar and higher than your account’s average.

Having low competitive hashtags gives your post a chance to get ranked high among them. That in turn boosts post engagement and gives it a chance to get ranked among the more competitive tags. And so on and so forth, boosting your reach as if your posts climbs a ladder.

A sample 3-level hashtag ladder would be:

  • 8-10 hashtags with engagement that is 30% lower than your account’s average,
  • 8-10 hashtags with engagement that is similar to yours,
  • 8 hashtags that are 30% above your average account engagement.

Inssist can help you with finding such hashtags and building an efficient ladder. Hashtag ladder is one of the most efficient Instagram hashtag strategies. Use it!

Hashtag Metrics

Inssist calculates the following metrics per hashtag:

  • Average Likes - average amount of likes a top post with that hashtag makes in a single day.
  • Average Comments - average amount of comments a top post with that hashtag makes in a single day.
  • Engagement - a derivative metric, calculated as: Average Likes + Average Comments * 10.
  • Average Posts - also known as DAPC, an average number of posts made a single day for that hashtag. This metric is rarely relevant to picking hashtags for your post, because the number of posts made per hashtag is proportional to the number of viewers for that hashtag.

Metric Value Interpolation

Inssist interpolates metric values to the end of a full 24 hours period.

For example, if a post with #hashtag got 100 likes in 40 minutes since it was posted, Inssist will approximate the likes count the post will get at the end of a day to be around 250.

This approach improves the data quality and allows comparing hashtags with your account engagement to build an efficient hashtag ladder.

Extra Tips

  • It might be hard to find niche hashtags especially if your account engagement is low. A solution could be using Longtail hashtags. For example if your goal is to rank among #britishshorthair, consider adding #britishshorthaircat, #britishshorthairblue, #britishshorthairlove, #britishshortcute and similar tags.
  • Do not use the same hashtags over and over again. Instagram can reduce your post reach for that. Try to have a variation in your tags to reach wider audience.
  • You cannot go above 30 per post on Instagram.
  • Do not use overly competitive hashtags. The chances of getting featured or discovered on a #travel page (500+ million posts) are very slim unless you are a NatGeo. However despite having around 5k posts, #stockholmtravel gives you content much better chances of being discovered.
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Legal: InstagramTM is a trademark of Instagram LLC, registered in the U.S. and other countries. Inssist is an independent project and is not affiliated with Instagram or Facebook in any way.