Wondering why your Instagram hashtags aren‘t getting your posts seen? You‘re not alone – over 52% of users have trouble with hashtags not working according to HubSpot. But don‘t delete your account just yet! In this post, I‘ll explain the top reasons your Instagram hashtags aren‘t working and how to fix them.
1. You’ve Been Shadowbanned
Ever posted on Instagram and noticed your engagement suddenly plummet overnight? There‘s a good chance you‘ve been shadowbanned.
A shadowban is when Instagram restricts a user‘s posts without them knowing. Your content won‘t show up in hashtags or feeds so that only existing followers see it.
It‘s Instagram‘s way of penalizing accounts who violate their rules. But getting shadowbanned can be detrimental. According to Later, 60% of users said a shadowban drastically sank their impressions and reach.
So how do you know if you‘ve been shadowbanned? Here are three signs:
How to Tell if You‘re Shadowbanned
Engagement drops: If your likes and comments suddenly decrease, it likely means you‘ve been shadowbanned. Use Instagram Insights to compare your usual engagement rate versus recent posts.
Hashtags not working: Try searching for your posts in hashtags you usually perform well in. If they don‘t show up, you may be shadowbanned.
Limited profile views: Switch your account to "business" and check Instagram Insights. If your profile visits have substantially dropped, it’s a red flag for a shadowban.
But how do shadowbans happen in the first place? Here are the main causes:
Violating Instagram policies: Posting offensive, dangerous or spam content can trigger a shadowban. Even minor infractions like using banned hashtags or posting clickbait captions can do it.
Inorganic growth: Buying fake followers or inauthentic engagement like bot likes/comments is easily detected. Services promising overnight growth will get your account restricted.
Repetitive hashtags: Copy-pasting the exact same hashtags on every post looks suspicious to Instagram. Limiting yourself to only a few hashtags repeatedly can also cause issues.
The good news? Shadowbans are usually temporary. Here are 5 tips to get back in Instagram‘s good graces:
Delete policy-breaking posts: Remove any content that violates Instagram‘s rules.
Vary your hashtags: Use new, relevant hashtags with each post. Track them in a spreadsheet to avoid repetition.
Engage genuinely: Take time to like, comment and build connections with real accounts in your niche.
Post consistently: Maintain regular posting instead of rapid-fire batch uploads.
Request a review: You can appeal your shadowban directly in the Instagram app under account settings.
By cleaning up your account‘s practices, your shadowban should lift within a few weeks according to Socialinsider. Then you can get back to building your community!
2. You’re Using Irrelevant Hashtags
Here‘s an eye-opening stat: posts with relevant hashtags get 12.6% more engagement, according to HubSpot. But it can be tempting to throw in random trending hashtags like #FoodPorn. This is only effective if you‘re a food blogger though.
As a general rule, the hashtags you use should directly relate to your content and niche. For example, if you run a makeup account, stick to beauty-focused hashtags.
But in a poll by Later, 78% of users admit to sometimes adding irrelevant hashtags just to try and increase reach. While this used to work years ago, it can now sink your engagement.
Instagram‘s algorithm detects when hashtags match your content. So using #Cooking on a selfie will signal to Instagram that you‘re using hashtags the wrong way.
Over time, this can train the algorithm to show your posts to fewer users in hashtags who actually care about your niche.
Choosing The Right Hashtags
The key is researching hashtags specific to your industry and brand. Here are 5 tips:
Study top posts: Look at popular hashtags in your niche and see which ones influencers use most. These are likely effective.
Check relevance: Search any potential hashtags and make sure the content matches yours.
Use niche tools: RiteTag and Display Purposes suggest smart, personalized hashtags based on your posts‘ text and images.
Build lists: Track hashtags in a spreadsheet or notes to compile an arsenal of options.
Test and analyze: Try new hashtags and see if they boost engagement using Instagram Insights.
Taking the time to find quality hashtags ensures your posts get seen by the right people. And targeted hashtags can improve your reach up to 300% according to HubSpot!
3. You’re Using Hashtags that Have Been Banned
Here’s a surprising fact: over 114,000 hashtags are currently banned by Instagram according to Influencer Marketing Hub.
Instagram prohibits hashtags tied to illegal activities, hate speech, pornography, and spam. While some banned hashtags are obvious (#drugs), others are more subtle (#followme).
So why does Instagram ban certain hashtags? There are two main reasons:
1. Inappropriate content
Any hashtags associated with nudity, pornography, drugs, or graphic violence will get banned. Posting prohibited content is grounds for account deletion, so steer clear of edgy hashtags.
2. Inauthentic behavior
Hashtags that encourage engagement baiting like #followforfollowback or #likeforlikes get banned for misuse. Massively popular hashtags like #love often get banned because of spam and bots.
Trying to intentionally circumvent bans can also backfire. As social media consultant Mae Karwowski says, “Once [Instagram] bans one of your hashtags, avoiding that ban by changing one character could trigger a shadowban.”
How to Avoid Banned Hashtags
Check if a hashtag is banned by searching for it in Instagram’s “Recent” tab. If no posts show up, don’t use it.
Refer to Instagram‘s Community Guidelines to understand what content is prohibited. Avoid fringe hashtags around nudity, drugs, or violence.
Finally, search any hashtag before posting to double check it‘s allowed and relevant. Sticking to niche hashtags is always safest.
Following these tips will ensure you steer clear of Instagram‘s blacklist!
4. You Always Use the Same Hashtags
We all have our tried-and-true hashtag staples we add to every post. But repeatedly using the exact same hashtags is a bad idea for your reach.
In a study of over 5 million Instagram posts, researcher Ghost Data found:
Accounts reusing the same hashtags had 35% lower engagement.
Recycling just 2 hashtags repeatedly sank engagement 14%.
This is because Instagram‘s algorithm detects repetition and may throttle your posts as a result. If Instagram suspects you‘re using hashtags artificially to gain views, your content reach can suffer.
For example, say you always use #Foodie and #HomeChef in your captions. Instagram may serve these posts less thinking you‘re spamming hashtags.
How to Switch Up Your Hashtags
Luckily, avoiding hashtag repetition is simple:
Track hashtags in a spreadsheet: Catalogue ones you use each post. Sort them into categories like "Breakfast Food", "Vegetarian Cooking".
Set a limit per category: For each group, only re-use hashtags from that list every 5-10 posts.
Rotate different categories: Use breakfast hashtags for one post, then switch to vegetarian for the next.
Find fresh additions: Search for new related hashtags routinely and integrate them.
Analyze and remove low performers: If some reused hashtags consistently underperform, replace them with better options.
With a robust organizational system, you can achieve hashtag variety while still optimizing the ones that resonate most with your followers.
5. Your Hashtags Are Too Vague
When it comes to hashtags, specificity is key. But broad hashtags like #marketing or #blogger are tempting to add for a wider reach. However, they rarely pay off.
In an analysis of 120,000 Instagram posts, TrackMaven found:
Brands using 2-5 niche hashtags saw 30% higher engagement over generic ones.
Ultra-specific hashtags like #instantnoodlerecipes beat broader food hashtags by 75% engagement.
This makes sense – social media consultant Mae Karwowski says, “Niche hashtags allow you to target users who are genuinely interested in your content.”
For example, a beauty blogger would be better off using #naturalhaircommunity rather than just #beauty. The first targets users passionate about the niche topic that want those posts on their feed.
Vague hashtags have so much volume, your content just gets buried immediately after posting. But niche hashtags of 500K posts or less will be visible longer for relevant users to engage.
Getting Specific with Hashtags
To find ideal niche hashtags, use these tips:
Get keyword researching: Use tools like RiteTag and DisplayPurposes to find hidden, relevant long-tail hashtags.
Check competitor posts: See which niche tags people in your industry use successfully.
Look at your analytics: If any specific hashtags drive lots of profile clicks or follows, keep using them.
Make hashtags match captions: Include keywords from your actual caption text in the hashtags to reinforce relevance.
Hyper-targeted hashtags may take more work, but they‘ll connect you with excited new followers.
6. Your Hashtags Are Too Competitive
It‘s tempting to use massive hashtags like #Food, #Travel and #Fashion to cast a wide net. But just because a hashtag is popular doesn‘t mean you need to use it.
In fact, hashtags with over 1 million associated posts are considered oversaturated. SocialInsider found using them tanks engagement by 25% compared to medium-sized hashtags.
Why do huge hashtags backfire? Your post gets buried instantly. Let‘s say you use #Food with 200 million posts. As social media strategist Jenn Herman explains:
"Throw your post onto that heap, and watch it disappear as quickly as it appeared. By the time searchers get through even a portion of those posts, yours will be long gone."
Larger hashtags aren‘t inherently bad. But they need balance. Many experts recommend the "70/30 Rule":
70% medium hashtags with 100K-500K Posts
30% larger hashtags with 500K-1M Posts
This ensures discoverability while still reaching a wider range. Try mixing one huge hashtag with several medium and niche ones.
Optimizing Your Hashtag Selection
Picking the hashtag sweet spot takes trial and error. Use these tips:
Check post volume: Search hashtags before using them to understand size and competition.
Use Instagram‘s recommenders: Type a hashtag in and scroll through their suggested related hashtags for new options.
Analyze your metrics: Instagram Insights shows your top performing hashtags – integrate more near that range.
Gradually level up: If a tag goes from medium to large volume, swap it out for a new up-and-comer.
Getting the balance right may take some work, but it‘s worth it for natural Instagram growth.
7. You’re Using the Wrong Number of Hashtags
New Instagrammers often ask: "What‘s the magical number of hashtags I should use?"
Theories vary widely:
Socialinsider recommends 5-10 per post.
Later suggests 20 hashtags on average.
Influencer Marketing Hub says max out the 30 hashtag Instagram limit.
So who‘s right? Honestly, there‘s no universally perfect amount. Testing different volumes on your account is the only way to know for sure.
However, studies can give us ballpark guidelines. TrackMaven analyzed millions of posts and found:
1-5 hashtags see a 3.56% boost in engagement over 0.
Using 10-15 hashtags increases engagement 93% compared to just 5.
But engagement drops again after hitting the 15-20 hashtag point as oversaturation kicks in.
So for most accounts, the 10-15 hashtag range seems optimal. But feel free to experiment!
Optimizing Your Hashtag Amount
Aim to use the most hashtags you can without looking spammy:
Gradually increase volume: Start low at 5-10 and work up to find your ideal amount.
Analyze new vs. recurring: Some hashtags may work better for discovery, others for existing fans. Use a mix.
Consider caption length: Make sure your caption doesn‘t get cut off on mobile when you add hashtags.
Study top profiles: Notice how many your favorite accounts use and see if that works for you.
Observe changes over time: An amount that worked a month ago may not still be ideal. Continually evaluate.
With consistent numbers testing, you‘ll unlock your perfect hashtag formula.
8. Technical Issues
Sometimes your Instagram hashtags can seem broken for purely technical reasons. Don‘t worry though – these are usually quick fixes!
Here are the most common technical issues that can affect hashtags:
Misspellings: Always double check hashtag spellings before posting. A single mistaken letter means the tag won‘t work.
Punctuation: Don‘t include commas, periods, etc in hashtags – only words and numbers work for clickability.
Banned words: Some words like "giveaway" in hashtags will automatically be blocked as spam prevention.
Blocked links: Adding a banned outside link can disable the rest of your hashtags. Avoid shortened services like bit.ly.
API issues: Very rarely, outages with Instagram‘s API can temporarily cause hashtag problems sitewide.
App glitches: On iOS or Android, bugs could affect hashtags either app-wide or on just your account. Updating the app usually resolves this.
Post deletions: If your post gets removed for policy violations, hashtags used may glitch for awhile after.
Double check your own posts for errors if your hashtags seem broken. And try not to stress too much if it appears to be a widespread site issue – those tend to resolve themselves within a few hours!
Troubleshooting hashtag issues may seem daunting. But now that you know the top reasons your Instagram hashtags might not be working, solving the problem feels much more manageable.
Start by analyzing your hashtag strategy against this advice. Are you using banned, irrelevant or repetitive hashtags? Too competitive or vague? Have you been shadowbanned?
Tackle the potential issues one by one. Clean up your practices. Research quality niche hashtags. Study your performance metrics and make data-driven improvements.
With a refined, optimized approach to hashtags, your Instagram posts will start reaching their full potential. You‘ll be well on your way to building an engaged audience and taking your account to the next level.
Now get posting and let those hashtags work their magic! Just remember – stay patient, stay consistent, and keep fine-tuning your strategy. Your hard work will pay off.