Are Hashtags The New Keywords?

Ross Peterzell
Ross Peterzell

September 22, 2020

Traditional search keywords make it possible for people to organically find your site in search engines. Hashtags make the same thing possible on social media platforms, like Instagram, Twitter, and Linkedin. Facebook has a hashtagging feature, but it is not as prevalent on the platform. As social media has emerged as the second most frequented method of receiving new information, now is a great time to review how hashtags have taken the form of search keywords on social media. 

Hashtag Rankings

Ranking for hashtags has never been so important. Search result pages are great resources for user reviews, new product discovery, and open forums surrounding goods and services available for sale. One of the many reasons we encourage businesses to build a strong social media presence is to create a higher level of trust with their audience, which is possible by interaction and developing a brand personality. Posts that are easily discoverable by its hashtags are often highly interacted with and can be packed with important commentary that support the post.  

Users of all sizes have an equal opportunity to rank at the top of the search results page in the “recent” tab under hashtag results. Next to the top posts associated with each hashtag, Instagram provides a feed in real-time that displays every post using the hashtag, and it will appear in chronological order—as long as the account is public. There may be less traffic, but it feeds the algorithm and will pay dividends once you make it to the Top Posts page. This interactive feature highlights the value in hashtags that can’t be found in search engine keywords. 

Hashtag Best Practices

Posting the same hashtags over and over again will not land you in the Top Posts. Instead, it will likely hurt your rankings. Rightfully so, as social media platforms assume posts with the same copy in the body of the message (like hashtags) are produced by bots—and everyone hates bots. 

There are, however, several tactics that can boost your optimization score and lead you to getting #blessed by the social media gods. SEO best practices encourage having keywords and phrases in the headings, titles, and descriptions of anything you post to your website. To the same degree, having your hashtags (or the words they represent) in your bio, username, and display name will serve as a strong foundation for your social media presence. Tying your hashtags into captions and comments and providing alt text for visibly impaired people will also contribute to your hashtag SEO. 

The best tactic is one that my mom has told me since I was a little kid: be true to yourself. Authenticity, personality, relevance, honesty, and variety are the #majorkey’s for hashtag search results. 

Long-Tailed Keywords and Hashtags

The final, and possibly strongest comparison between keywords and hashtags is the effect of long-tail keywords. On Milk Street, when we do SEO work for clients, we hunt for keywords that put us in the best position to rank at the top. Keywords with high search volume and competition can be impossible to find any success, so we implement the use of long-tail keywords: phrases that may be searched less on a monthly basis but yield higher click-through and conversion rates. Check out our post on how to use local SEO to your advantage for an example of the long-tail.

To tie it into hashtags, if someone is looking for a gourmet bakery in Philly, it would make sense to look up “bakery” under tags. However, the tag #bakery would provide results from all across the world. A search for #phillybakery may have a fraction of the search results, but the searcher’s intent for #phillybakery means way more if you’re a bakery in Philly. You know what they say,—sometimes it’s quality over quantity. 

Geotagging, or adding the location, is just one method of building your hashtag to become something more valuable. We also like to incorporate branded hashtags to help stick out and create a brand-specific feed, whether it be for an event, a posting theme, or just daily life on Milk Street.

#Hashtagging & #LifeOnMilkStreet

Businesses who want to adapt to current market trends should consider how hashtag searches are impacting today’s consumer journey. At Milk Street Marketing, we look at every post we send out for clients as an opportunity to build on our rankings and engage with new users. Feel free to reach out to learn more about how we turn social media accounts into #brandassets.


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