For many of us, Instagram has become a regular part of our everyday lives. But have you ever wondered about the secret behind Instagram ranking and why you see the posts you do when you scroll through your feed? Why do some posts get more visibility than others? It all comes back to the complex concept of Instagram’s algorithm. While navigating the algorithm isn’t an exact science, understanding how it works can help you better tailor your content to the platform and your audience.
Instagram Ranking Breakdown
The Instagram ranking algorithm is a mathematical formula or set of rules that the platform uses to determine which posts a user will see on their feed and in what order. Early on, Instagram posts would be displayed in chronological order. However, with the introduction of the feed algorithm, posts are now shown to users based on the content that is most relevant to them. With this change, the hope was to keep users more engaged and ultimately keep them scrolling for longer.
Why Understanding the Algorithm Matters
Understanding the Instagram algorithm is essential for anyone trying to grow their presence or business on the platform. By catering your posting habits to suit what the algorithm values—timeliness, interest, and relationship—you can significantly improve your reach and engagement.
The Factors of Instagram Ranking
While Instagram doesn’t publicly disclose every detail of how its algorithm functions, several key factors have been recognized by experts and users alike. Here are several factors that play a role in Instagram ranking across various types of Instagram posts.
Instagram wants to show you posts that you’ll find engaging. To gauge your interest, the algorithm looks at how you’ve interacted with similar content in the past. If you’ve liked, shared, or commented on posts from a particular account frequently, Instagram assumes you’d like to see more content from that account.
Although the algorithm isn’t strictly chronological, newer posts are still given some priority. Instagram doesn’t want to show you outdated or stale content, so make sure you’re posting when your target audience is most active.
The algorithm also factors in your relationship with the account that posted the content. If you frequently DM, tag, comment on, or share posts from a certain account, Instagram recognizes this as a closer relationship and prioritizes content from that account in your feed.
How often you open the Instagram app also impacts what you see. If you’re a frequent user, your feed will look more chronological because Instagram has more opportunities to refresh your feed. If you check it less frequently, the algorithm will give you what it thinks are the highlights from your network.
The more people you follow, the more diluted your feed becomes. This means you’re less likely to see all posts from any specific account, simply because there’s more content to sort through.
How the Instagram Ranking is Signaled
The Instagram feed includes recommended content, content from accounts the user follows, and ads. The signals that are used to rank this content fall under three categories, signals from the user, the creator, and the post.
Signals from the User
- Likes, shares, and comments
- Accounts they have followed recently
- Accounts they have engaged with
- Posts they have shared
- History of interacting with other accounts
- Account preferences
- Format preferences – whether the user likes images or videos
- Accounts the user doesn’t follow, but that Instagram thinks they would engage with
- Whether or not the content follows the guidelines
- Information about the creator
- Number of interactions the creator has had recently
Information about the post
- The time it was posted
Instagram looks at and prioritizes slightly different elements for stories rather than the feed. It looks at things like how often a user views the stories for that particular account. They also consider how often they engage with that user’s stories, how close the user may be to the creator (friends or family), and if the story is shared by accounts you follow. These input signals help Instagram rank what content we see and put content in front of us that we are most likely to like and engage with.
Explore is where we see content Instagram recommends from accounts the user does not follow. Ranking for Explore is similar to the algorithm for Instagram stories and feeds.
Instagram looks at:
- Past Instagram and Explore activity
- User’s past interactions
- Creator and post information
- Whether the content follows the guidelines
When it comes to Instagram Reels, things like low resolutions, a watermark, being muted, or mostly text can make it less visible. The most important aspects of Instagram reels are user activity, interaction history, reel information, and creator information. Similarly, to other Instagram features, history, information, and interactions are key parts of ranking.
- Include any relevant keywords and locations in your bio
- Choose a profile name that relates to you and the content you post
- Include keywords and hashtags in posts
Tips to Get Your Content Seen
First and foremost, prioritize creating high-quality, engaging content that resonates with your target audience—this is the foundation of any successful Instagram strategy. Regularly posting compelling visuals and videos not only captures attention but also encourages interactions, sending positive signals to the algorithm. Use analytics tools to identify when your audience is most active and schedule your posts accordingly to maximize timeliness. Consistency is key; posting regularly keeps your audience engaged and keeps you on their radar. Leverage Instagram Stories, Reels, and other platform features to stay diversified and benefit from various aspects of the app. Utilize relevant hashtags but avoid overdoing it—a few, well-targeted hashtags often work better than a clutter of them. Lastly, cultivate genuine relationships by responding to comments, engaging with your followers’ content, and encouraging user-generated content.
Navigating the Instagram algorithm can seem like a game of cat and mouse, but there are actionable steps you can take to tilt the odds in your favor. Understanding the Instagram ranking process can help tailor your content and social media marketing strategy. By doing so, you can increase your visibility and beat the Instagram algorithm, ensuring that your content doesn’t just sit there but actually gets seen and appreciated.