In recent updates, Instagram has placed a big emphasis on aiding access to original content. With value being at the forefront of the app, it has introduced an Instagram Search and Explore tab to help users search and discover meaningful content to them.

While this may sound primarily beneficial for users – businesses big or small can take advantage of this for their future marketing strategies. Where Instagram is emphasising better connectivity to relevant content, this poses an opportunity for businesses to be better exposed to relevant audiences.

In this blog, we will delve deep into what Instagram Search and Explore is, plus how you can use it to your advantage.

Instagram Search and Explore: An Introduction

The name of the new Instagram feature is fairly self-explanatory, you ultimately use Search and Explore to seek and browse content related to a specific keyword. These can be either posts, accounts or topics. But how exactly does it work? Don’t worry, we’ve got everything you need, covered.

How Does Search Work?

Wondering where to start? Luckily, Instagram makes this process nice and simple. Once you’re on the app, look for the magnifying glass icon – this is where you can conduct your search. Simply tap the search bar to type in what you like.

Flat lay with a cup of coffee, plant, paperclips and a tablet showing Instagram grid-like images

To make the app as accessible as possible, Instagram allows you to search across a range of categories. You’ll notice under the search bar, there are a number of options to choose from. For example: you can search what is trending (Top); other users on Instagram (People); certain hashtags (Tags) and specific locations (Places).

Once you’ve done your search, you can then tap on one of these options to refine your results further. When you tap on a username, you will be taken to a person’s profile. When you select a hashtag or location, you’ll see posts that have used these.

Tablet screen with a magnifying glass over the top - Instagram search and explore
Instagram has now made discovering relevant, entertaining content a lot easier for users.

Sounds easy, right? Now, onto Explore.

How Does Explore Work?

Instagram’s Explore section is located just below the search bar. Here is where you will see all of the content, even before you have typed your keyword in.

Automatically, when you select the Search and Explore section, you will be presented with a mixture of content. This will include the top trending content across Instagram at the moment, plus tailored content to reflect your Instagram interests and habits.

This relates to the type of content you engage with regularly, based on your previous activity. Essentially, Instagram will take note of what posts you like and comment on. The more you interact with content, Instagram will make it a priority to show you more.

This makes Explore the perfect place to find streamlined entertainment, as well as conduct valuable research.

But how can marketers utilise this feature? Below, we will show you our top three ways your business can make the most of Instagram Search and Explore.

Flat lay of tablet zoomed into a search bar with Instagram grid-like images below. Coffee cup and plant at the side. Instagram search and explore
Instagram’s Explore page is a hub of both trending and tailored content.

Become More Searchable with Tags

Instagram is all about maximising user’s access to content that is specific and appealing to them. One of the easiest ways to achieve this is by streamlining your content.

To do this, take time to think about the hashtags your audience would search for. By putting yourself in their shoes, this will help you get better results.

However, don’t try to include hashtags that aren’t relevant to you. This will be seen as misleading and potentially hinder you. Instead, try to strike the perfect balance between relevancy and searchability.

Also, the trick with hashtags is finding a middle ground between highly searched hashtags, to more niche hashtags. It is recommended to use a mixture of both, so you have a better chance of being seen more widely.

For example, if you are a marketing agency, like ProfileTree, you can use a highly-used hashtag like #marketingagency, and refine it further by a lesser-used hashtag like #belfastagency.

This is where location tags are also extremely handy. As a business, you should want everyone to know where you are, so they can easily find you and actively seek your services. Instagram makes this easy, by including an ‘Add Location’ option when you’re posting. You can either keep it general by stating the city you are in, or even tag your physical shop if you have one.

This allows people who are searching in certain areas to find you. Whether it be for a day trip somewhere, or just to keep updated with what’s going on in their town. Either way, this is a great way to let people know you’re there.

Flat lay of a tablet with a ProfileTree Instagram post of the sea on left-hand side. On right-hand side, a list of hashtags.Instagram search and explore
Location tags and hashtags are the key to being seen in Explore.

Create the Right Type of Content

Instagram offers many different content options. From static images to interactive Reels, IGTV to Stories – the list truly is endless.

But where do you start? With the new Instagram update, the app is mainly prioritising Reels content to fill up the new, dedicated tab.

With this dedicated tab, comes an opportunity to be seen. This is another way Instagram is emphasising exposure to engaging, original content, as Reels focus on short-form, homemade videos.

This is where Search and Explore comes in. You can guarantee that when you tap onto your Search and Explore page, you will be automatically drawn to Reels first. Use this fact to shape your strategy. Is there something you want to say but can do it in an entertaining explainer video? Then definitely go down the route of Reels.

To learn more about Reels, check out our blog series explaining the feature, how businesses can use it and how to create a Reel.

Flat lay of tablet showcasing an Instagram Reel of a woman by the sea. To the left-hand side, a plant and paperclips on a white background. Instagram search and explore
Instagram is prioritising Reels content at the moment.

Collaborate with People of Influence

To get seen across Search and Explore, you have a better chance if you collaborate with people who specialise in engaging audiences regularly. This can be done through B2B partnerships, or influencer collaborations.

While Instagram is a much-loved app across the world, it is a known fact that the algorithm is temperamental. What we can work out from its recent update, is that it is focused on favouritism.

Posts that users are truly engaging with, will in turn be more favoured by the app, and thus get featured to more people.

This is therefore a clever way to combat the app’s ever-changing algorithm. Plus, you can use Search and Explore to find and research accounts to collaborate with.

Using keywords and the ‘People’ tab, you are guaranteed to find promising leads. Once you have selected a number of potential people, Instagram makes it easy to reach out to them via DM messages.

For example, if you’re a fashion brand looking for influencers to model your products, you can start your search with specific tags like #fashionblogger. You can also tap the location option to find people near you – it couldn’t be easier!

Flat lay of two tablets - one showing a well-dressed female blogger, the second showing a blurred picture of accessories. On the right-hand side, a green plant stem.
Collaborating with influential people on Instagram is a great way to get seen in Explore.

Advanced Search Techniques for Instagram Search and Explore

Beyond the basic keyword and hashtag searches, Instagram offers several advanced techniques to help you refine your results and uncover content beyond the obvious. Here are some key techniques to explore:

1. Boolean Operators:

  • AND: Use “AND” to find posts containing all specified keywords. For example, searching for “pizza AND Chicago” will show posts mentioning both pizza and Chicago.
  • OR: Use “OR” to find posts containing any of the specified keywords. For example, searching for “dog OR cat” will show posts mentioning either dogs or cats.
  • NOT: Use “NOT” to exclude specific keywords. For example, searching for “travel NOT beach” will show posts about travel destinations besides beaches.

2. Filters:

  • Location: Refine your search by location by entering a city, town, or specific address.
  • Category: Explore posts related to specific categories like Food, Travel, Beauty, etc.
  • Date: Find content posted within a specific time frame (e.g., “past week,” “past month”).
  • Account Type: Filter by account type (personal, business, creator) to narrow your focus.

3. Hashtag Combinations:

  • Exact Match: Enclose hashtags in quotes (e.g., “#foodphotography”) to find posts using that exact hashtag.
  • Related Hashtags: Explore related hashtags suggested by Instagram based on your search.
  • Niche Hashtags: Use long-tail, specific hashtags for targeted audiences (e.g., #veganbaking instead of just #baking).

4. Google Image Search:

  • Utilize Google Image Search with advanced operators like “” and relevant keywords to discover Instagram content not readily found within the platform’s search.

5. Third-Party Tools:

  • Consider exploring third-party tools specifically designed for advanced Instagram search. These tools often offer additional filters, analytics, and competitor insights.


  • Find influencers or competitors: Use Boolean operators and filters to target specific demographics or content types related to your niche.
  • Track trends and hashtags: Monitor trending hashtags and discover emerging conversations.
  • Uncover user-generated content: Search for specific brand mentions or keywords related to your product or service.


  • Combine these techniques strategically to achieve precise results.
  • Experiment and iterate to find the best approach for your specific needs.
  • Stay updated on the evolving features and functionalities of Instagram Search and Explore.

By mastering these advanced search techniques, you can unlock the full potential of Instagram Search and Explore to find valuable content, connect with your target audience, and gain insights for your marketing strategies.

How to Create Content that Shines in Instagram Search and Explore

Crafting content that shines in Instagram Search and Explore isn’t just about posting pretty pictures. It involves strategic optimization to increase your discoverability and reach new audiences. Here are some key strategies to make your content a search magnet:

Keyword Magic:

  • Research: Identify relevant keywords related to your niche, brand, and target audience. Tools like Google Keyword Planner and can help.
  • Integrate: Weave your target keywords naturally into your captions, bios, and hashtags without keyword stuffing.
  • Long-tail is key: Go beyond single words. Use relevant long-tail keywords that are more specific and have lower competition.
  • Location matters: Include location-specific keywords to attract local audiences.

Hashtag Harmony:

  • Research trendy hashtags: Utilize tools like to discover trending and related hashtags within your niche.
  • Mix it up: Combine popular hashtags with niche-specific ones to reach a wider audience while targeting your ideal viewers.
  • Don’t overdo it: Stick to a reasonable number of relevant hashtags (around 5-10).
  • Create branded hashtags: Encourage user-generated content with unique brand-specific hashtags.

Content is King (and Queen):

  • Variety is the spice of life: Experiment with different content formats like photos, videos, stories, Reels, and Guides.
  • High-quality matters: Invest in good lighting, composition, and editing tools to create visually appealing content.
  • Captions captivate: Craft engaging captions that tell a story, ask questions, and encourage interaction.
  • Respond and engage: Proactively respond to comments and messages to build community and boost engagement.
  • Post consistently: Develop a regular posting schedule to stay visible and engaged with your audience.

Optimize Your Profile:

  • Bio magic: Write a compelling bio that showcases your brand personality, keywords, and a call to action.
  • Category clarity: Choose a relevant category that accurately reflects your content and target audience.
  • Link it up: Add a website link in your bio to drive traffic beyond Instagram.
  • Highlight reels: Feature engaging reels to showcase your best content and attract new viewers.

Leverage Insights:

  • Analytics are your friend: Utilize Instagram Insights to track your reach, engagement, and top-performing content.
  • Learn and adapt: Analyze what resonates with your audience and refine your content strategy based on insights.
  • Explore and collaborate: Interact with relevant accounts, participate in trends and challenges, and collaborate with other creators to expand your reach.


  • Authenticity is key: Stay true to your brand voice and avoid copying others.
  • Patience is a virtue: Building a strong search presence takes time and consistent effort.
  • Experiment and refine: Continuously analyze and adapt your strategy based on performance.

By mastering these content creation techniques, you can turn your Instagram presence into a discoverable haven, attracting new audiences and achieving your marketing goals.

Case Study 1: Eco-Friendly Clothing Boutique – “Terra Threads”

Challenge: Terra Threads, a small boutique specializing in sustainable clothing, struggled to reach their target audience of environmentally conscious millennials and Gen Zers despite high-quality products and engaging social media content.


  • Keyword Research: Terra Threads conducted thorough keyword research, focusing on long-tail keywords like “sustainable fashion,” “ethical clothing brands,” and “eco-friendly wardrobe.” They strategically integrated these keywords into captions, bios, and relevant hashtags.
  • Content Optimization: They crafted captivating captions highlighting their unique sustainable practices and ethical sourcing. High-quality visuals showcasing the clothing and its production process further enhanced engagement.
  • Community Building: Terra Threads actively responded to comments and questions, hosted Q&A sessions, and collaborated with eco-conscious influencers to build a strong community.
  • Explore Ads: They utilized targeted Explore Ads focused on their specific audience demographics and interests, showcasing their latest collections and promotions.

Result: Terra Threads saw a significant increase in discoverability:

  • Search visibility for their target keywords surged, leading to a 30% increase in new followers.
  • Website traffic from Instagram grew by 25%, indicating increased interest and potential customers.
  • Customer engagement improved, with more comments and questions related to their sustainable practices, showcasing brand awareness and trust.

Key Takeaway: Targeted keyword research, strategic content optimization, community building, and Explore Ads can significantly increase discoverability and attract your ideal audience.

Case Study 2: Local Bakery – “Sweet Sensations Bakery”

Challenge: Sweet Sensations Bakery, located in a bustling downtown area, wanted to attract more local customers and compete with larger chain bakeries.


  • Location-Based Optimization: They consistently tagged their location in every post and utilized relevant city-specific hashtags like “#DowntownEats” and “#SupportLocal.”
  • Engaging Content: Sweet Sensations Bakery showcased their unique offerings, from mouthwatering pastries to artisanal bread, through high-quality photos and videos. They also highlighted their community involvement and local sourcing.
  • Targeted Promotions: They ran targeted promotions like “Free cookie with your first purchase” using Explore Ads focused on their local area, attracting new customers.
  • Collaborations: They partnered with local businesses and influencers for joint promotions and giveaways, further expanding their reach within the community.


  • Local search visibility for “bakery” and related keywords skyrocketed, leading to a 20% increase in foot traffic and a 15% boost in online orders.
  • User-generated content featuring the bakery’s location hashtag further amplified their reach, showcasing customer satisfaction and local appeal.
  • Collaboration with local businesses and influencers generated positive buzz and attracted new customers.

Key Takeaway: Leveraging location-based features, targeted promotions, and collaborations with local partners can effectively attract local customers and establish a strong presence within your community.

Case Study 3: Handmade Jewelry Designer – “Luna Designs”

Challenge: Luna Designs, a talented designer creating unique handmade jewelry, aimed to expand their reach beyond their existing follower base and attract new customers with specific tastes.


  • Niche Content: Luna Designs focused on creating content showcasing the intricate details and stories behind their jewelry pieces, utilizing relevant niche hashtags like “#artisanjewelry” and “#madewithlove.”
  • Micro-Influencer Collaboration: They strategically collaborated with micro-influencers in the fashion and handmade goods space whose audiences aligned with their target demographic and aesthetic.
  • Interactive Stories: They utilized Instagram Stories to showcase behind-the-scenes glimpses of their creative process, host Q&A sessions, and encourage user-generated content through design contests and polls.


  • Luna Designs’ work gained exposure to a wider audience, resulting in a 40% increase in website traffic and a 35% rise in online sales.
  • Collaboration with micro-influencers proved particularly effective in attracting new customers with specific interests, highlighting the power of niche targeting and influencer partnerships.
  • User-generated content featuring their jewelry pieces and branded hashtags further amplified their reach and brand awareness.

Key Takeaway: Content showcasing your unique value proposition, strategic collaborations with relevant influencers, and interactive engagement can expand your reach and attract new customers with specific interests.

Staying ahead of the curve in Instagram Search and Explore is crucial for brands and creators to maintain visibility and engagement. Here are some key trends to watch:

1. Rise of Video: Short-form reigns supreme.

  • Reels: Dominate with engaging, creative Reels focusing on storytelling, trends, and challenges. Explore AR effects and interactive elements.
  • Live Shopping: Utilize live streams with product demonstrations, collaborations, and exclusive offers to drive sales.
  • Ephemeral Content: Leverage Stories with polls, questions, and behind-the-scenes glimpses for higher engagement and connection.

2. Authenticity Takes Center Stage:

  • Community Building: Foster genuine connections through interactive content, responding to comments, and hosting Q&A sessions.
  • Transparency and Inclusivity: Showcase diverse voices and perspectives to resonate with wider audiences. Focus on real-life experiences and relatable storytelling.
  • User-Generated Content: Encourage and leverage UGC through branded hashtags, contests, and collaborations to enhance authenticity and reach.

3. Algorithm Refinements:

  • Intention-based Search: Instagram prioritizes content aligned with user search intent and content consumption habits. Optimize your content accordingly.
  • Topic Clusters: Explore related interests and trending topics within your niche to expand reach and attract new audiences.
  • Personalization: Tailor your content and hashtags to specific demographics and interests based on data and insights.

4. Shoppable Content Integration:

  • Product Tags: Seamlessly integrate product tags in posts and Stories to drive immediate purchase intent.
  • Guides: Create curated shopping guides highlighting products and collections by theme or occasion.
  • Explore Ads: Utilize targeted ads within Explore showcasing relevant products to potential customers.

5. Emerging Technologies:

  • Augmented Reality (AR): Utilize AR filters and effects in Reels and Stories to create immersive and interactive experiences.
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI): Explore AI-powered features like automatic image cropping and translation to enhance user experience and accessibility.
  • Voice Search: Stay tuned for potential future developments in voice search integration on Instagram.


  • These trends are dynamic and ever-evolving. Stay informed and adapt your strategy accordingly.
  • Experiment and analyze data to find what resonates best with your audience.
  • Authenticity, quality content, and strategic optimization remain key to success in Instagram Search and Explore.


1. What is the difference between Instagram Search and Explore?

  • Search: Allows you to find specific accounts, hashtags, or content by entering keywords or usernames.
  • Explore: Curated feed based on your interests, showing posts you might like based on your past activity and engagement.

2. How can I use Instagram Search and Explore to find new accounts?

  • Use relevant keywords and hashtags in your search.
  • Explore suggested accounts based on your interests.
  • Check out “Explore” categories like “Food,” “Travel,” or “Beauty” for inspiration.

3. How can I optimize my content to be found in Search and Explore?

  • Use relevant keywords in your captions and hashtags.
  • Create high-quality, engaging content that resonates with your target audience.
  • Post consistently and interact with your followers.
  • Leverage location tags and category selection (if applicable).

4. Can I use Explore Ads to promote my content?

  • Yes! Explore Ads allow you to target specific demographics and interests within the Explore feed.

5. How can I track my performance in Search and Explore?

  • Use Instagram Insights to see how many people found your content through search and explore.
  • Analyze engagement metrics like likes, comments, and shares to understand what resonates with your audience.

Key Takeaways

Instagram Search and Explore is an easy way to find and access more content that is relevant and meaningful. Not only this, you can utilise this feature to conduct essential research for your business, and gain more exposure.

From streamlining your search to find audiences or collaborators, to utilising the app to become more visible, Instagram Search and Explore is one of the best social media marketing tools to use in 2021.

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