The Explore page on Instagram is (pretty much) the Holy Grail of social media placements. It’s the one place you want to be regularly to organically grow your following and increase your engagement, but the question is, how does one land a post there?
First things first: everyone’s Instagram Explore page looks different. Instagram has been working hard to make the Explore page more personalized to each individual user. Your Explore page will look totally different than what may show up on another account’s Explore page, because it’s specifically tailored to help you find new content that you’ll enjoy based on what you already like to see (read: engage with) on Instagram.
The Instagram algorithm is constantly learning from your behaviors on the app, like which accounts you follow, what kinds of posts you like and comment on, and what kinds of Instagram Stories and IGTV content you love to watch. It uses this information to create a unique Instagram Explore page with tons of suggestions of similar content that you might like, but don’t already follow or engage with.
Before we get into it, if you’d prefer to watch us run through how to get on the Instagram Explore page rather than read the steps, we got you:
Stick To Your Niche
As with everything these days, the more niche you are, the better. Become a topical authority by posting about a limited number of specific subjects, as any more than say 3 or 4 different topics will begin to position your account as too broad to classify in any given area. Choose one to four things to post about – for example, if you’re a clothing brand, try to stick to the various types of items you sell (like shoes, men’s clothing, women’s clothing) and don’t post about unrelated things like cats or food as this can throw the algorithm off. This way, you’ll be able to teach the algorithm that your expertise lies in a few key areas and you will begin to be considered for ranking. In addition, it’s also helpful if you concentrate the accounts you follow in these key areas, too. It’s not essential but it contributes to convincing the algorithm that you’re focused on your specific niches, as you’re more inclined to like posts that come into your feed, and in turn this also helps keep that element concentrated.
Utilize Alt Text
As with Search Engine Optimization (SEO), a newer element in Instagram’s back end allows you to customize the alt, or alternate, text. Sitting under the Advanced Settings section, alt text is the area of a website or platform that the Google spiders crawl to understand what an image contains as it is typically unable to figure that out by itself. The other function of alt text is to help visually impaired people “read” an image. Use very descriptive keywords in your alt text to really tell the algorithm what your post is all about, while keeping it brief and straightforward. For example, “A bearded man drinking a craft beer with friends at a brewery” or “A mastic tree on the plains of the Sahara desert”.
We’ve covered hashtags in depth in our Ultimate Instagram Hashtag Strategy, which we’d highly recommend you check out and follow the steps. Hashtags help Instagram sort your content categories so they know who to share it with, and it also gives you the opportunity to appear not only on the Explore page but in news feeds. One great feature Instagram added last year allows you to not only follow people, but hashtags as well. Just make sure that the hashtags you’re using are relevant to the post to avoid being flagged as spam either by users in the community or via the platform itself.
Curate Popular Content
If you’re curating content (as opposed to creating content), you can re-post or replicate content from accounts where the content type or topic performed especially well. You can identify this type of content by going to Instagram on the desktop, heading over to any given account and check which posts have substantially more likes and comments than others (just hover your mouse over each image in the feed). Any content that’s outperforming the majority of posts in the feed will give you some inspiration as far as how you can take that content and make it work for your account. If you do end up borrowing or customizing content, ensure you always give credit where it’s due. Nobody likes a thief!
Ask For Engagement
Instagram prioritizes posts that receive a ton of engagement within the first hour (likes, comments, shares) – so how can you increase your first hour stats? Just ask! Include CTAs (Calls To Action) in the caption – for example, “Tag a friend who needs to see this!” or “Save this video for later!”. These two elements are by far the most important engagements ranked in the algorithm. Initially Instagram shares your post with a small portion of your followers, and if the post receives a lot of engagement and is deemed to be “popular”, it begins to serve it to more of your followers and it can grow from there, inherently increasing the likelihood of that post hitting the Explore page.
Increase The Time Spent On Your Post
Another key way to land on the Explore page is to get people to spend more time on your post. Two fantastic ways to do that include posting longer captions, and posting carousels. Some examples of ways you can use longer captions include tell a story, get personal, or use a portion of a blog post (of course, with a CTA to read the whole post via the link in your bio). As far as carousels, the most engaging way to present them is to do a countdown of tips, similar to a listicle. The idea would be to have another piece of content to direct users to, but if you have a Top 10 Ways To… listicle article, you can take the headlines from each point in the list and create a nice design for each using Canva. Being that you can only post 10 images in a carousel, it leaves room to tell users to hit the link in your bio to find out what #1 is (if you use the first image as the title of the piece).
Upload to IGTV
As Instagram has placed more and more focus on IGTV, it’s more and more important to post there. They’ve made it super easy now, with a pop-up every time you upload a video that allows you to choose the feed or IGTV (if the video is over 1 minute). We’d suggest you choose IGTV every time unless you plan on boosting the video, which is currently not supported at the date of writing. When your IGTV video appears on the Explore page, it gets around four times more real estate on the page than a photo post — so all eyes will be on your videos!
Post High Quality Content
Sometimes we feel like a broken record, but we wouldn’t keep harping on this point if we didn’t see low quality content literally every single day. Please, for the sake of the Instagram gods, post high quality images and videos! Use a DSLR or a new smartphone to capture all your images, and edit them using free apps like VSCO or Lightroom. You can produce great quality content for a reasonable price these days, as we’ve outlined in our budget-friendly content creation shopping guide, so there’s really no excuse.
So these are some key ways you can increase your chances of landing your posts on Instagram’s Explore page. If you manage to get there, let us know, we’d love to hear what worked for you!