It would be best if you think about hashtags as keywords – indeed, hashtags on Instagram have a lot in common with Google’s SEO; in some ways, a hashtag is a keyword with a # in front of it.
In the SEO world, we have three types of keywords:
- most general keywords (generic keywords)
- broad match keywords
- long-tail keywords
General keywords are the most generic ones, most often consisting of one or two words, such as “smartphones,” “laptops,” and “bags.”
They generate HUGE traffic; however, it’s really hard to position your content high in these search engine results because of high competitiveness. Most often, using general keywords is extremely expensive (in paid campaigns) and non-effective.
Moreover, people looking for those keywords frequently don’t know what exactly they want to find. They’re just conducting very broad research, and they may turn out to be entirely out of your potential clients group. Will they buy your products or services? The chances are relatively slender.
Broad match keywords
Unsurprisingly, broad match keywords are a little bit more extended phrases, as they contain at least one specific information – and it narrows down the searcher’s intent.
They typically use two or three words – good examples are “samsung smartphone,” “gaming laptop,” or “leather bag”.
The competitiveness of those keywords is much lower, so it’s significantly easier to position your content higher.
Those keywords are signally specific – searchers who type them in know what they’re looking for. Benefits? They consist of more than three words, and they’re highly likely to match the searcher’s intent.
Long-tail keywords can even be whole sentences or questions! They particularize the searcher’s thought: they’re the most detailed ones.Good examples of this keyword type? “Smartphone Samsung up to 800$” or “the best gaming laptop, stationary shop Ohio. Also, instead of targeting “cat care,” your blog or website could use the keyword “how to take care of Persian cat?”
Those keywords often don’t bring spectacular traffic to a website – however, they have prominent advantages, and one of the most crucial ones is getting the right type of visitor. The ideal visitor who is most likely to be genuinely interested in the particular topic. The engaged one, who will read your articles to the last word.
What does it all mean for you and your Instagram? As you have probably already assumed: those rules apply to hashtags as well:
- The more broad the keyword (hashtag), the more search engine results we will get (the higher number of posts under a particular hashtag). Those results will be baffling random, and by using those most general keywords (hashtags), you will attract accidental, arbitrary visitors who aren’t exactly looking for what you have to offer. It’s the tactic we should rather avoid.
- The more specific the keyword (hashtag) is, the lower number of search engine results we get. Who is scrolling throughout the content described with these more detailed keywords (hashtags)? Mostly users who are genuinely interested in a particular domain. Good keywords and good hashtags don’t have to be vast and popular; reversely, they rarely are.
To exemplify, we can look at the search engine results given for the keyword “car”. The number of them is enormously high, as these keywords fall into the category of most general ones.
What exactly do users want to find when they type in the word “car”?
We can’t precisely prefigure. They may think about taking care of their own car, finding new cars to consider buying one of them, they may look for an electric toy car for their kid.
Imagine that you’d like to find something that is bothering you about cars or maybe you’d like to find a good deal from the aftermarket: will you use the generic keyword “car” to do research? Most likely not.
We tend to know what we’re looking for: more or less. We have our standards, our requirements, our needs.
The keyword “car” is too broad, and we won’t find any results matching our thoughts, or it will take ages to dig them all up.
We aren’t looking for random facts, random articles, or random cars for sale.
We want the search engine results to match our primary intent.
Searching for “car” will return thousands of articles about different cars. About electronic toys as well. To narrow the search, we need to think of a specific thing we want to know/find.
The same story with Instagram. Can you see it now why popular hashtags aren’t helpful and won’t bring you meaningful traffic? They’re too generic, and most valuable Instagram users won’t use them, because users you should value the most, KNOW what they want to find.
As the keywords (hashtags) they use are limited by the criteria, and they use more specific hashtags, the posts and photos they see are narrowed down to meet their specific requirements. And the competition there is much lower.
If the hashtags you use are too broad in scope, they’re being used by a considerable number of other content creators, your content can get lost in the ocean of thousands of posts, and it won’t make it to the top.
Don’t use hashtags that are too popular. They won’t bring you the traffic you’re hoping for.