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A complete guide for marketers

A complete guide for marketers

Want to take full advantage of one of the world’s favorite photo-based social media apps?

You ought to. Instagram can be crucial to any business’ marketing plan.

And if you want to upgrade your Instagram game, go to the Search and Explore section.

It’s free. It’s easy. It is relatively painless.

Made to recommend personal, new content. Search and explore gives Instagram users a way to check out what they might not have seen otherwise.

What they see may be your business. It’s time to make it happen.

Instagram Search & Explore is essential for marketers

Social media controls the internet and Instagram is one of the top leaders.

By October 2020, it had an estimated 1 billion active users – that’s a lot of potential viewers for your site. Instagram happens to be the 9th most visited site in the United States with approximately 972 million monthly visits in June 2021.

Instagram user numbers are only increasing. By 2023, the company is expected to have 1.2B active monthly users.


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And Instagram’s Search & Explore feature is potentially groundbreaking. No more ads – instead recommended content that people will interact with leads back to products or services they might be interested in.

Everyone wins.

But how exactly does it work?

This is how Instagram’s algorithm works

While backend can be complicated, Instagram’s explanation of its algorithm is pretty simple. Everything is divided into two stages: generation stage and rank phase.

Instagram’s algorithm can get a little more complicated, but you can implement new best practices to stay ahead if you understand how it works.

We have also gone even more in depth and have looked at how posts have been selected for the Search & Explore page before.

That being said, here’s what you really need to know about the two phases of Instagram’s search & explore algorithm:

1st Generation Phase

In its first phase, Instagram uses “seed” accounts for research. These are accounts that people have already dealt with.

Using the seed accounts, Instagram analyzes and identifies posts that specific users may be interested in.


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Instagram’s algorithm then runs its numbers again using seed accounts and accounts similar to them. This time, it tries to find media that these accounts have interacted with.

Once it has a large list of potential posts, it’s time for the ranking phase.

During this phase, only 500 candidates are sent out of a pool of tens of thousands of media posts to the next step.

2. Ranking phase

During this second phase, Instagram’s algorithm will gradually narrow down hundreds of possible candidates to only 25 of the most relevant posts of the highest quality.

What’s left is what you end up seeing on the first page of your Instagram Explore feed network.

On the back, Instagram rates your negative or positive interactions with posts based on your past behavior, giving the app a good guess as to what you like – or not.

How to find content using Instagram search and exploration

Instagram makes it easier than ever to find brand new content. In addition to just the new search and exploration feature, the app continuously adds more ways to discover posts.

Specifically for the Search and Explore page, there are a few different ways to find content. This is how they work.

front page

In front and in the middle you can see the 25 best posts tailored to your interests. Keep scrolling and you’ll go further down the list – it’s long.

Here you can see photos and videos that Instagram specifically thinks you will enjoy. Not only can you find new users that you may never have interacted with otherwise, but you can see what type of content Instagram sees as high quality.


The search bar at the top is where you can really push the edges of Instagram’s new feature.

This is where you are able to search for keywords, not just hashtags. This means you can find related content that does not match the exact hashtag you entered.

Don’t worry, you can still search for specific hashtags. If you start writing one, you will even see suggested top tags based on what you have already written.


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You can also search for top accounts to find users you might want to follow.

In addition, you can search by location. Just choose a place that is relevant to your business or your audience’s interests, so you can see what’s going on at the moment.

Topic channels

Just below the search box, you can see that Instagram’s search and exploration feature is really flourishing.

To make things even more straightforward than having to come up with keywords or hashtags to search, you can choose topic-oriented feeds that are tailored to you.

Some of these include food, nature, fashion, travel, beauty, home and science and technology.

This is also a great way to check out your competitors. If you know which category you would like to fall into, scroll through some posts to see who gets on the front page.

Analyze what they do and you will be able to apply it to your own account.


At the top left just below the search box and next to the topic channels you will find IGTV. It is an individualized feed of videos in long form (videos that are longer than about a minute).


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You can not just see short clips from people you follow, as in Instagram stories. Instead, the algorithm includes both accounts that you follow and accounts that it thinks you should follow.

Another great way to discover what’s popular out there, IGTV also gives viewers a more personal feel with its format.

It is often used for behind-the-scenes views, one-on-one interviews or jam sessions for musicians.

Tips for getting on the Instagram page Search and explore

Want to know how to quickly be on Instagram’s Search & Explore page?


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We’ve talked about how to drive traffic from Instagram before. Here’s how to specifically view impressions from their Search and Explore page.

Use location codes and hashtags

Since hashtags are still the cornerstone of Instagram, be sure to use them. However, you want to use them properly to avoid under or overwhelming your audience.

Many experts recommend about nine relevant hashtags per day. Posts – the more niche, the better. You do not necessarily want to use only the most popular hashtags: you can drown out.

It’s also important to tag your location now that Instagram allows you to search for posts by location.

Take your storefront, the venue of an event or other area that makes sense to your audience. This is a basic way to run multiple views.

Post consistently

It is important to post consistently as accounts that are posted sporadically or almost never tend to see low number of followers. Not only that, but they are also likely to drop followers steadily.


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Depending on your business, try writing at least 1-2 times a day. If not, go a few days a week.

If posting on a regular schedule seems too daunting, you can buy tools like Sendible to do it for you.

Post at the right times

You want to cater to your audience – this is always true in marketing. On Instagram and generally on social media, part of this means posting the right time of day.

You can use features like Instagram Insights (available for free with a corporate account when you reach 100 followers) to find out when your followers are active.

Instagram Insights gives you strong data that you can get back to, so you can establish patterns and take advantage of formats and times that your audience likes.

Engage with others

Engaging with others is the easiest way to get them to engage with you. By liking others’ posts and leaving thoughtful comments, you increase your brand’s image and attention.


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People will start recognizing your name as a friendly face and may be more likely to check your business out in the future or at least like your next post.

Submit high quality content

This last step can be the most crucial when it comes to a media based app like Instagram. Not only does everyone love a beautiful picture, but on Instagram they expect it.

If you post a grainy or blurry photo or video, viewers will be turned off and unlikely to interact.

On the other hand, if they see a beautiful image they like, a viewer is likely to engage in some way.

Size is also important. To get the best quality, send photos that are 1080 pixels wide and 566 pixels to 1350 pixels high.

Keep in mind that Instagram’s maximum resolution is 1080 pixels wide, so anything larger than that can cut off your image or video.

Instagram Search & Explore is a Game Changer for Business

With so many new ways to find brand new content that you probably would never have seen otherwise, Instagram’s Search & Explore feature gives businesses a whole new way to be discovered.


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Do not wait. App users are only climbing higher in number, and Instagram is ready to burst even more than it already has.

By using our tips and tricks on how to navigate and use Search & Explore effectively, you will see fresh views in no time at all.

More resources:

Image credits

Image 1:
All screenshots taken by the author, June 2021

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