Why Instagram Search Results Suck (and Why They Should Improve Soon)


There are so many reasons to love Instagram. But while the Facebook-owned app is easy to use, its search function leaves much to be desired.

Thankfully, frustrating searches could be a thing of the past. Instagram has recently revealed how this often misunderstood feature works and unveiled plans to improve it. If you’d like to know more about what happens behind the curtain, read on.

How Instagram Search Works

Image Gallery (3 Images)

If you’re part of the group of frustrated users who’ve been in the dark about how Instagram Search works, you’re in luck. According to a blog post on the official Instagram blog, Instagram previously explained how it personalizes your search experience across the app. Here’s the breakdown:

Instagram Yields Search Results Based on the Text You Input

Unlike the explore tab, the results yielded by Instagram Search are mainly dependent on the text you input in the search bar. The aim is to personalize your experience by organizing results based on what is most relevant to you. Essentially, the text you input helps Instagram “figure out what to show you.”

Related: How to Change Your Instagram Explore Page

As explained on the Instagram blog:

Let’s say you’re interested in finding pictures of space after seeing the blue moon. When you tap the search bar on the Explore page, the first thing you see is your recent searches. As you begin typing “space,” we show you accounts, audio, hashtags, and places that match the text of your search. In this case, results like @space and # space show up because “space” appears in their name.

What Information Do Instagram Search Algorithms Use?

Over and above the text you input, Instagram’s search algorithms (according to the blog, there isn’t just a single algorithm as many people believe) use information from accounts, hashtags, and places to rank the results it shows you. Instagram refers to this information as “signals.”

Here’s what Instagram’s top-ranking signals are, in order of importance:

  1. Your text: Instagram considers this ranking signal to be the most important. Every time you enter a text in the search bar, Instagram will first search the app for matching text.
  2. Your activity: Instagram usually ranks your Search results based on who you’re following and the type of content you view. However, account interactions also matter.
  3. User engagement: When your search yields numerous potential results, Instagram will rank those results based on user engagement on the app—showing the accounts, hashtags, or places with the most engagement first.


Image Credit: Instagram Blog

According to the blog above, Instagram will also be launching a host of improvements focusing on “inspiration and discovery.” That’s a far cry from Search’s initial function—to help you navigate the app.

Instead, Instagram wants to show you a search results page that makes it even easier to uncover media you want to see.

Expanding Keywords and Optimization

The social media giant is also expanding the keywords you can use to search. This change will eventually allow you to explore a broader range of topics, and improvements will start in English, with other languages subsequently added.

Currently, when you input specific terms in the search bar, Instagram will show you accounts and hashtags with only those terms. Soon, that same search will also be able to return photos and videos in the same categories, in addition to accounts and hashtags.

This change will be beneficial when you’re exploring a genre of content without a specific keyword in mind.

Related: New Instagram Features to Try

Understanding Search Improves Your Reach

Finally, unlocking the mysteries of Instagram’s search function allows you to position your profile in a way that makes it easier for other users to find you. While great for everyone, it will be most beneficial for those looking to reach more users and increase their follower counts.


How to Clear Your Instagram Search History

When searching for content on Instagram, we run the risk of seeing things we don’t want to see in our search bars. Here’s how to get rid of that.

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