Instagram Hashtags Not Working? Here’s How I Fixed Them

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Has this ever happened to you?

You spend time creating an amazing Instagram post. You carefully research and add relevant hashtags. You post it, excited to watch the engagement roll in.

But suddenly…crickets. Your hashtags seem broken. Hardly any likes or comments come in, even from hashtags that worked great last week.

If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone my friend! Lots of Instagram users have the frustrating experience of hashtags not working like they should.

Well, I’ve been there too, but I figured out how to get my hashtags working again. In this post, I’ll share everything I learned to diagnose and fix broken hashtags.

After tons of trial and error, I now have an effective hashtag strategy that boosts my Instagram reach and engagement every day. Read on to learn what I did, so you can get your hashtags performing at their best too!

Why Your Instagram Hashtags Might Be Broken

Before I could fix my hashtag issues, I first had to understand exactly why they weren’t working well. Through research and testing different things, I identified the main reasons my hashtags weren’t driving results:

Banned Hashtags

Did you know Instagram maintains a list of prohibited hashtags that are completely banned from the platform? I didn’t realize it at first.

I was innocently using #followforfollow, #likeforlike, and other hashtags I saw bigger accounts using. Turns out, these are very much banned by Instagram now due to past abuse by spammers and bots.

If you use a banned hashtag, your post simply won’t appear in that hashtag search. Here are some of the most commonly banned hashtags to avoid:

Banned Hashtag Banned Hashtag
#followforfollow #likeforlike
#influencer #giveaway

Too Many Irrelevant Hashtags

In my enthusiasm, I was putting a ton of hashtags on each post, hoping more was better.

But many of my hashtags weren’t closely related to my niche or content. Turns out irrelevant hashtags don’t help, and can actually hurt your reach and engagement.

Only use hashtags that directly relate to your post topic, brand, and target audience. Otherwise you’re just adding useless noise.

Using the Maximum Hashtags

I also fell into the trap of using the maximum 30 hashtags in every single post allowed. This looks super spammy to Instagram.

While you want to use hashtags, most experts recommend keeping it to 10-15 per post, max. Less is often more when it comes to hashtag best practices.

Posting Too Frequently

When I first started out, I was posting multiple times per day trying to grow my account faster. But this actually limits your reach, especially if you use maximum hashtags every time.

Posting too frequently can appear bot-like to Instagram, prompting them to throttle your reach. Keep posts to 1-2 times daily maximum.


The worst thing I learned was that aggressive hashtagging caused me to be “shadowbanned.”

Essentially Instagram secretly limits your visibility without any notice, if they detect suspicious activity. A shadowban tanks your reach and cripples growth.

By spamming hashtags and posting too often, I triggered Instagram’s algorithm and got temporarily shadowbanned. Not good!

How I Got My Instagram Hashtags Working Again

Once I understood why my hashtags were underperforming, it was time to start testing solutions. Here are the steps that helped me get my hashtags working properly again:

Checked My Internet Connection

An obvious first step, but I made sure the issue wasn’t on my end. Sometimes spotty internet or mobile data can cause hashtags to glitch out.

I toggled between wifi and cellular, and restarted the Instagram app, to rule out any temporary technical difficulties.

Audited My Hashtag Selection

I combed through all the hashtags I had been using, and asked myself:

  • Are these relevant for my niche and content?
  • Are any banned or blocked by Instagram?
  • Am I using way more than 10-15 hashtags per post?
  • Am I repeating the same hashtags over and over?

Based on this audit, I curated a list of my top 10-15 niche hashtags to use consistently.

Varied My Hashtag Usage

I stopped blasting every post with 30 hashtags. Instead I started mixing up hashtag combinations post-to-post.

This showed Instagram I wasn’t aggressively hashtag spamming and restored my posts’ visibility.

Checked for a Shadowban

I tested if I was shadowbanned by posting with my top hashtags, then searching them and seeing if my post appeared.

Unfortunately it did not…confirming I was shadowbanned. I stopped posting for a few days to see if the ban would lift.

Reached Out to Instagram Support

When my shadowban persisted longer than expected, I reached out to Instagram support for help. I explained the situation politely.

Within a few days my account restrictions were lifted and my hashtags began working normally again!

My Instagram Hashtag Best Practices

Learning from my mistakes, I now have an effective hashtag strategy that grows my reach every day. Here are the tactics I follow:

Research My Audience’s Top Hashtags

I spend time each week researching the best new hashtags in my niche. I use tools like Display Purposes to see which ones are trending.

Then I compile a master list of relevant hashtags to draw from when posting. This keeps my hashtag game strong.

Balance Broad and Niche Hashtags

In each post, I use a mix of broader hashtags like #foodpics or #healthyrecipes along with more niche tags like #glutenfreecooking and #dairyfree.

The broader tags help extend my reach, while the niche ones attract super targeted, engaged followers.

Put 1-2 Important Hashtags in the Caption

I put my most important hashtag or two right in the Instagram caption. This makes them prominent without having to expand the caption.

Add Other Relevant Hashtags in a Comment

For the 8-10 remaining hashtags, I put them in a comment right after posting. This keeps the caption clean while still indexing my post across multiple hashtags.

Be Consistent but also Mix it Up

While I’m consistent about hashtagging every post, I switch up the hashtag combinations based on the specific content of each post.

This avoids repetitive hashtags but keeps me visible across different tag searches.

Monitor Hashtag Performance

Inside Instagram Insights, I regularly check which hashtags are driving the most likes and comments. This tells me which ones resonate most with my audience.

Never Buy Fake Followers or Likes

I know it’s tempting to want to take shortcuts, but this will absolutely wreck your account. I grow 100% organically now and love the real community I’m building.

Key Takeaways for Hashtag Success

Fixing my broken hashtags took some trial and error, but was so worth it. When used strategically, hashtags are the best tool for discovering new engaged followers on Instagram.

Here are the key tips I’d emphasize as you work to get your own Instagram hashtags working their magic:

  • Research relevant niche hashtags to reach your ideal audience
  • Use a targeted mix of niche and broader hashtags
  • Don’t overdo it! Keep hashtags in caption or first comment
  • Be consistent but not repetitive with your hashtags
  • Check Insights to see which hashtags perform best
  • Never buy fake followers or likes that could get you shadowbanned

With the right hashtag strategy, you can turn these little # symbols into a powerhouse for growing your Instagram presence!

I hope my story helped explain how to get your Instagram hashtags back on track. Just remember, stay patient and keep posting great content. The growth and engagement will come.

Let me know if you have any other hashtag tips or questions! I’m always happy to help a fellow Instagrammer out.


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.