Instagram Strategy: How to Pick the Perfect set of Hashtags on Instagram (+action list)

When it comes to Instagram hashtag strategy the game is constantly changing so we have to be pretty flexible on our strategies. But knowing the best (and quickest) way to pick hashtags for our photos remains a key component of our strategy.

For me the strategy is simple: select 30 hashtags which will generate the most photo impressions and likes.

Simple right? Let's break it down.


Instagram Hashtag Selection Action List


1. Define your primary keywords / seed hashtags

Let's say you are a yoga studio. Your primary keyword is “yoga” or some variation. This also becomes your “seed” hashtag. It sets the relevancy for other hashtags.


2. Generate Primary hashtags

To start generating your primary hashtags just enter your seed hashtag into the Instagram Search bar.

Enter Instagram App, Go to Search. Type primary keyword. Go to Tags. Look for suggestions with 100K-1M public posts.


How to Select the Perfect Hashtags

What happens is that Instagram provides you with relevant hashtags being used in order of popularity. Scroll through this list and select hashtags that suit your business.

In this case my list started like this: #yoga #yogadaily #yogaaddict. Notice how I didn't choose the top ones because they are too popular (more later).


3. Add some related long tail hashtags

Three things to note in the below image showing the Instagram search area: the related hashtag section, there is 9 “top posts” then an unlimited scrolling area of “recent posts”.

Instagram Hashtag Strategy

You can add more long-tail hashtags by browsing through the “related” section – I would use 80% Primary / 20% Long-Tail.

Add long-tail for brand purposes also. Think witty hashtags rather than practical, but keep these to a minimum as they have less immediate value.


An interesting aspect of Instagram Search Optimization

Notice how there is a top-posts area above most recent when viewing hashtags…so in some sense there is an aspect of Search Ranking, but more so its about popularity here, pure analytics. How many likes, comments, engagement, velocity – those are the factors.

Unlike SEO, when you use a hashtag, you always get #1 ranking for some amount of time in the recent section. Can be milliseconds, can be days. Depends on the tag intensity (how fast a photo falls off front page of a hashtag.)

Thus, we don't have to avoid competitive hashtags since there is no ranking, it's sequential (at least on the most recent), however, we do consider tag intensity which does ultimately deter us from using highly active hashtags.

The popular ones aren't effective at driving traffic because they are used by too many people. Your hashtags will change on a monthly basis because of this.

You also have to consider the type of hashtag and whether its only being used by posters, or is it an actively looked at hashtag by browsers.

Ultimately this all means you have to post more! As you get bigger you get more likes and so your posts finally end up in “top posts” more often and then you just get way more visibility. This is a hockey-stick game, it starts pretty flat but then it skyrockets.



4. Build out hashtag list by choosing other relevant seed keywords

For this yoga studio I also considered the seed keyword = mindfulness. Repeat the above process for new seed keywords.

Build out a list of hashtags. Make it big if you want. But remember each post you can only use a maximum of 30 hashtags.

Here is a sample set of hashtags for a basic yoga image for this yoga company:

  1. #yoga
  2. #asana
  3. #yogalove
  4. #yogadaily
  5. #yogaaddict
  6. #yogalover
  7. #yogafam
  8. #yogalife
  9. #yogaeverywheere
  10. #yogainspiration

All of these tags have more than 100000 posts which means its an active tag. You can check the tag intensity by looking it up, then exiting that search and returning – check if there is a new post at the top of recent in the time you have done this. Yes that is like a 3 second process so it really speaks to the activity going on inside various hashtags.

I would then create another 10 with a different related seed keyword.

I would then supplement these hashtags with some general “popular” tags based on the city like #VancouverIGers #vancitylife #YVR

I would add some witty branded tags and maybe start using your company name as a hashtag as well if you haven't.


5. Store your hashtags in memo app for fast repeated use.

You need to be faster. Speed up your process. Use automation where possible.

Store your best hashtags for repeated use in a memo app. Have core hashtags in a group you can always use, then have separate groups for sub-topics that are often repeated in your content.


Instagram Hashtag Strategy


An alternative strategy to picking the best IG hashtags

If all of this sounds a bit much for you then just copy the hashtags other popular IGers are using and then make some adjustments to suit your brand. Just don't use their brand hashtags, that would be an epic fail.



It's not at all about likes….it's about impressions. Impressions build awareness of our brand.

Without impressions there is no likes, but if we do get a lot of likes, we will also get the follows and the comments as well. So impressions matter as they set the ceiling for likes.

Overall engagement will really be tied to the photo itself, but the hashtags are the key to generating more impressions.

If you don't use any hashtags, then the only real impressions you can count on are from your followers. Who else will see your photo? No one.

As your brand gets bigger you can rely less on hashtags being a source of new traffic, but if you are at the beginning stages this is a phenomenal way to generate new awareness for your business.