Looking beyond just the importance of the keyword search and what the means for discoverability, what this change to the Explore page and beyond also represents is a shift in the Instagram algorithm.
Although some elements of Instagram’s algorithm remain unknown, many of its larger components have been made public. Recent changes to the algorithm that will shape our experiences on the platform in 2021 can best be defined in three core categories:
Based on your history on the platform, Instagram does its best to predict what you care about and present you with a similar experience. Past behaviors including the accounts you’ve followed and the posts you’ve liked inform how Instagram tailors the content you see.
Instagram does its best to decipher what you love and give you more of it. Accounts you interact with, what posts you comment on, and even past searches, all factor into your “interests.” So when you look at your Explore page and you think “how is Instagram in my head?” It’s because what you see is an accumulation of preferences and past experiences on the app.
Recency–or timeliness–is a little more self-explanatory. Instagram is putting a greater emphasis on posts that were recently shared as opposed to older ones. This is how Instagram keeps the content that you see fresh and relevant. It is also how they decide to share your content as well – so keep that content fresh!
Given that Instagram cares a great deal about how recent your last post was, learning the best times to post is critical to make sure that your post gets great engagement. By Instagram’s measure, of course, higher-performing posts are more likely to be shared based on likes, saves, comments, shares, and timeliness.
Relationships are a high priority for Instagram. They want to make sure that you see accounts from family, friends, business associates, and anyone you interact with at a high frequency.
The new algorithm uses your interactions to connect the dots with who you’re closest to on the platform. In doing so, they’ll prioritize showcasing content from those accounts.
Factors include those you Direct Message, people you know in real life, people's posts you’ve been tagged in, and people you search for.
Here are three additional factors that also influence the Instagram algorithm:
The amount of time that you’re on Instagram plays a role in what you see on the platform. Each time you open the app, Instagram takes all the content ranking factors into account and shows you the most recent posts based on your specifications.
Taking into consideration how many people you follow on Instagram and how often you follow new accounts, Instagram’s algorithm has more options to choose from when filtering content to the top of your Explore page and/or feed. The more people you follow the less frequently you can expect to see any specific person or account.
Spending lots of time on Instagram widens the scope of the content you’ll see. In the past, Instagram would often show you content that you’d already seen if you spent loads of time on the platform. Now, however, they have made a concerted effort to bottom out the content pool and use your specifications to present you with new and engaging content no matter how many hours you spend scrolling the Explore page or your feed.