Instagram Hashtag Research: Strategies for Beginners


A hashtag, known as a symbol #, is a type of metadata tag used on social networks, that helps users find posts with a specific theme or content. It is used by placing # in front of the word or more words (without space).

So, when you search for something under some hashtag, you will access to an archive made of posts under that same hashtag. Sounds simple, right? For example, if you search #stayhome on Instagram, you will be able to see all the posts that have been tagged with the “stay home” hashtag.

Instagram and Hashtags

Instagram and Hashtags

Although hashtags are used on other social networks as well, in this post we will concentrate on Instagram, as this is a precious marketing tool. Often not very well used, though. It seems people don’t realize the importance of putting great hashtags into your posts, to boost your profiles.

First of all, we will assume your Instagram profile is not set on private mode, and you want to use hashtags to put your posts “out there”, so they can appear publicly on hashtag pages.

Instagram lets you use up to 30 tags on one post. If you exceed that, your comment will not be posted. You can put letters, numbers and emojis in a tag, but not special characters. And, you can only tag your own posts.

Top Posts & Recent Posts

recent posts instagram hashtags for location

When you try to search something on Instagram, it gives you options to do a general search, people, hashtags or locations. Under the hashtag section, you can see top posts and recent posts. So, anyone who types #stayhome, an example we will use again, will first se the most popular photos under that same tag.

And this is the place where we want our posts to be. (These sections are slightly different arranged in desktop version and mobile version of Instagram, but the principle is the same.) If your post is in the top post section, it will be seen by thousands, even millions of people, depending on popularity of a certain hashtag.

On the other hand, recent post section is constantly moving and your post will not stay at the top for a long time, especially if it’s tagged with a hashtag that is very popular and a lot of people use it.


There are many types of hashtags, and many ways to sort them out. You might have to do a research for your own brand, but hopefully we can help you to understand them better.

Product or service hashtags – like #lipstick or #restaurant. These are general hashtags and a millions of people use them.
Niche hashtags – like #socialmediablogger or #traditionalfoodrestaurant. They are indicating your speciality in industry, and those hashtags are little less popular than general ones.
Branded hashtags – which are unique to your company. It can be connected to your company name, tagline, product, campaign, or even something that shows your identity.
Community hashtags – like #bikersofinstagram or #itgirls. You can be a part of a community on Instagram, not just by putting a hashtag, but also liking and commenting other posts.
Location hashtags – like #madeinchina or #croatiafulloflife. These hashtags are very specific and usually low competition.
Special events hashtags – like #blackfriday or #nationalfootballchampionship. If there are any special events connected to your brand, check which hashtags are popular.
Holidays hashtags – like #victoryday2020 or #newyear. These hashtags are usually high competition, but a great way to show that you care and engage with people.
Daily hashtags – like #sundayfunday or #fridaymotivation.

You can also use acronyms (#lol) and emojis in your hashtags.

As you can see, we have high and low density hashtags. High density hashtags (+500K) are used in a lot of posts and harder to rank. Low density hashtags are much lower competition and recognized in small communities. In your posts, you will want to mix both, and we are about to explain why, and how.

Mixing Hashtags

Mixing Hashtags

It seems it is really difficult to decide if you should put high or low density hashtags in your post, but the answer is actually – both. With the low density hashtags you have better chances of getting into top posts section, and that is a good start. Not just to gain some new followers, but also by acquiring popularity there, your post might find its way into popular hashtags top posts. Long story short, the more engagement you get with low density hashtags, the better chances you will get to push your way through high density hashtags top posts.

Also, with low popularity hashtags you will find people who love the same things as you do, and it will be easier for you to be seen. But it is not easy to find those, huh? You can try some of the online generators, like #MetaHashtags, it may take you somewhere. Or, you can search for something else, and if you find a good one, let us know.

Among your 30 hashtags (and yes, put them all) you should have approximately 1 or 2 product/service hashtags, more than 2 niche hashtags, more than 2 branded hashtags, more than 5 community hashtags, a relevant location hashtag, and a special event or holiday hashtag, if it is possible.

Banned Hashtags

Banned Hashtags

There is also something called banned hashtags. You can find the latest lists online. Or, if you used the #MetaHashtags generator we mentioned earlier, it will give you a warning when some of the hashtags you searched is banned. Be careful, using them might result in making other hashtags ineffective, or even worse – banning your Instagram account.

How can this happen? By sharing media you don’t own the rights to share, by promoting nudity, spreading hate, participating in organized crime and terrorism, selling sexual services and drugs, showing disrespect to other members (hate speech, threats and shaming), and similar. We all seem to know what is wrong and what is right, but double-check your hashtags, because the list can surprise you with words like “alone”, “dating” or even “valentinesday”.

Using Instagram hashtags can be a powerful tool if used properly. Try to keep in mind 3 things: when to use them, how much and what exactly. Regarding “when”, the answer is often, especially if your goal is to be seen as much as it is possible. You don’t need to use hashtags if you want to share a personal story, though, or if you want to share something only with your followers.

Most of the Instagram experts recommend using maximum number (30) of hashtags, even some don’t agree. If you are worried your post will look overcrowded, you can put them in a comment section. That will delay your engagement a little, until you write and post your comment. Instead, you can just add a line break between your main text and hashtags.

The most important thing is to decide which hashtags you will use to stay relevant, but achieve your goal. This is something you will need to research by yourself, because it’s tightly connected to your brand, and we sincerely hope our guidelines helped you with that.


Written by Alexis Kestler

A female web designer and programmer - Now is a 36-year IT professional with over 15 years of experience living in NorCal. I enjoy keeping my feet wet in the world of technology through reading, working, and researching topics that pique my interest.