How to use hashtags on Instagram: A quick guide + free hashtag list

Everyone used to use hashtags on their Instagram posts. Even excessively. Captions were filled with hashtags, which made reading them almost impossible. Well, ‘that’s not how it’s today (Hurray!). You definitely see hashtags being used less.

Some even say that hashtags are useless these days. Well, that’s not true either. Hashtags are still extremely powerful and help with growing your Instagram following. The goal of using hashtags is to get more impressions and reach on Instagram.

But you need to use them correctly. You just can’t write random and popular hashtags to your post and expect a huge audience. The question many ask is:

How to Use Hashtags on Instagram?

You’ll find contradicting information online on the topic, but the truth is that it is no rocket science. Instead, it’s rather simple actually. In this article, I’ll show precisely why and how you should use hashtags on Instagram in 2019. I have also created an extensive list of hashtags for multiple niches. You can download that for free here.

Why you should use hashtags?

When you have your post ready and the caption written down, it is time to find and use relevant hashtags. It’s the final part you should consider before hitting publish. But before thinking about which hashtags to use, let’s focus first on why hashtags are so important.

Hashtags are an extension to your photo/video and caption. With hashtags, you basically can categorize your post so that people can discover it. And who wouldn’t like that?

Like the caption and photo or video itself, hashtags also helps the Instagram algorithm to determine what your post is about.

Although the algorithm is comprehensive and probably can determine the topic of your post, giving some help to it won’t hurt. Relevant hashtags help you hit the explore page because Instagram recommends posts to people who potentially would be interested in them.

How many hashtags to use?

You probably have seen contradicting advice about how to and how many hashtags you should use. The maximum allowed number of hashtags on Instagram is 30. If you use more, the extra hashtags don’t count. So ‘there’s no point in exceeding that.

There are many opinions about how many hashtags you should use. Some say don’t use them at all, some recommend 5, while another tells 20 is best. Or even all 30 is suggested by some.

I don’t think there’s just one correct answer. But if you want to grow your account and reach as many people as possible, you should definitely use them. If you don’t use any, you are limiting your reach. Hashtags are still today a great way to reach new people on Instagram.

Whether the optimal number is 5 or 20, is up to you and I suggest you try what works best for you. I sometimes use about 5 hashtags and sometimes 20, but I rarely use all 30.

I suggest you always use hashtags. Simply because they help your post to be seen to a broader audience.

But should I use all 30 hashtags for my post?

That’s a question you probably wonder.

The answer is, maybe. Although you can use 30 hashtags, it doesn’t mean you necessarily should.

As said, each hashtag needs to be relevant and directly connected with your post. Coming up with 30 relevant hashtags for each of your posts won’t be easy. In fact, it will be nearly impossible.

But if you find enough relevant hashtags, you definitely can use all the 30 hashtags.

Where to place the hashtags: in caption or comment?

You can use hashtags either in the caption or place them in a separate comment (the first comment, before anyone has commented anything).

So which is better? In the caption or comments?

I have done both, and honestly, I don’t think there’s any difference between these methods.

The advantage of adding the hashtags as a comment is that they are not visible at first sight. So it sort of makes a cleaner look, especially if you use many hashtags.

If you use only a few hashtags, adding them at the end of your caption could look fine too. A few hashtags don’t look as distracting as having many, e.g., 20-30 hashtags.

I still, however, suggest you put hashtags at the end of the caption instead of the beginning. Your post becomes quickly messy and spammy looking if you have hashtags in your caption, in the middle of your text.

If your caption is longer, the hashtags won’t be visible at first sight anyway. But the hashtags are away from the maximum allowed characters (2,200), so if you write a lot, you can move hashtags to comments.

Having hashtags in the comments has the advantage that your post initially always looks better. Some claim hashtags don’t work when placed in the comments, but this is simply not true! They work just like in the captions.

Extra tip: to hide the hashtags in the comments, add 5 dots (each dot on a separate line) before the hashtags.

What hashtags should I use?

Relevant hashtags

The most important thing about hashtags is that they are relevant. Try to find hashtags that are directly connected and relevant to your post.

In other words, never use hashtags that have nothing to do with your post. If your post is about blogging, #blogging #wordpressblog or #freelancewriter could be relevant to your post. If you wear a suit in a photo, you could use #suitandtie or #suited. But never use something that has nothing to do with your post: e.g., #healthyrecipe should not be used if you post about cars or motorbikes.

What this also means is that you should use a different set of hashtags for each of your posts. Because none of your posts are identical, you should tag them accordingly. Sure you can include some same hashtags, but don’t be lazy and use the exact same hashtags each time.

Also, don’t come up with your own random hashtags that nobody else knows about.

And avoid those spammy (but very popular) hashtags like #like4like #follow4follow. Those won’t do any good for your growth in the long run. Spammers and bots can find you, but then again you won’t have any use of them.

The popularity of hashtags

You should aim to use fairly popular hashtags, and even the most popular ones can work depending on the size of your account. But you should always use hashtags that you could potentially rank in the top posts.

If you don’t have many followers yet, popular hashtags (over 1 million posts) is probably out of your reach. Because no matter what, you are unable to get enough engagement to compete against the bigger accounts.

Therefore start by finding hashtags that give you a better chance of ranking in the top posts. You can do this by comparing how many likes is required with your usual engagement rate. If you usually get around 300 likes, look for hashtags where top posts have around that same range.

Then again, hitting the top post of a hashtag is not the only way to benefit from hashtags. Using relevant hashtags could also help you hit the explore page and be recommended to a potential audience. And for this reason, it makes sense to use even more popular hashtags that are relevant to your post and niche.

Make sure you have hashtags of mixed popularity. Some that are totally achievable for you, some that you could hit and some that are relevant but you would probably won’t rank in the top posts. You could, e.g., use 5 or 10 of each to achieve the maximum variation and benefit.

For instance, if you have 50k followers, you could follow the following pattern:

  • 5-10 hashtags with over 10 million posts
  • 5-10 hashtags with over 1 million posts
  • 5-10 hashtags 100k – 500k posts

There is no definite rule on how popular hashtags are best. There are, though, a lot of myths around hashtags. One of which is the famous shadow ban. Instagram has denied it existed a long time ago, but many seem to believe it still.

If you use hashtags that are in no way relevant to your post, the Instagram algorithm restricts the visibility for that part. But it has nothing to do with a mythical shadow ban. It’s just an indication that you should never use irrelevant tags.

Download my free hashtag list

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