Instagram hashtag cheat sheet

We get it – we’re also big fans of ‘the gram’ and social media in general. From spending hours scouting locations, choosing the right outfits to match the surroundings, the shoot itself and the time spent on photography – cropping, editing, tweaking – and posting the content on our curated Instagram feed, sometimes you need a bit of a clue card on how to make it all happen. We’ve put together all of our own experience in creating this article on getting the most traction with the top Instagram hashtags: our perfect Instagram hashtag cheat sheet!

RELATED: All our Instagram guides, from captions to photos

Do hashtags work?

If your aim on Instagram is to grow your account and show your content to more people (and I’m assuming it is!), then you need to use hashtags. While they might not be as effective as they were a few years ago, hashtags still allow you to gain visibility beyond your own followers and fans, and for others to ‘discover’ your content through hashtags they might follow.

Here’s an example of one of our older posts. You’ll see that of the 8,261 accounts reached with our post, 6,468 of those were through using the right hashtags – a whopping 78 percent! We also got 102 new followers and 10 people clicked through to this very website.

Researching hashtags

You can spend days in an Instagram hashtag research hole – trust us! But there are a few quick ways to research the right tags for your Instagram posts:

Use Instagram search

Instagram has it’s own built-in search which is going to give you a great starting point in your Instagram hashtags search. Think of one hashtag that you believe really fits your niche or your post, type it into the search bar and look for the automatic suggestions. Then once you have a few, use one of those and start the process again. This should give you a pretty solid list to pick from.

Get inspired by your competitors

Look at what other people in your niche are doing; trying a mix of accounts and Instagram users of a similar size to you and those that you aspire to be like. This is one of our favourite ways to grow our account and find new hashtags that obviously work for those in our community. You can also check out the top posts on your favourite hashtag and then go into their posts and see which other tags they might have used.

Using an Instagram hashtag generator

There are a plethora of these on the internet, both free and paid options. The only issue with most of these is that they will be generating hashtags with large volumes i.e. #ootd or #beach, which might mean you won’t be able to rank in the top posts.

Of the free hashtag generators, we like All Hashtag, which allows you to choose the ‘top’ tags but also randomise your results.

The best paid hashtag platform (which does also have free options is definitely Hashtags For Likes . It’s a small monthly fee but you can cancel it anytime and the use of their service really does make a major difference in finding relevant hashtags, and the visibility of your post.

If you’re looking for more than just hashtags, but also powerful publishing and analytics suites, you could try Tailwind (get your free month here) and Later, both of which offer very powerful publishing and analytics suites alongside. We’ll touch on Later in a bit but we use both of these platforms and can recommend them.

Selecting the right hashtag ‘recipe’

It’s important that when you select your hashtags you don’t just choose all the ‘top’ results but mix it up. This is since it might be more difficult for you to rank on some of these based on your size. As an example, if you have less than 2,000 followers it’s unlikely you’re going to hit the Top Posts for your chosen hashtag if it has 500,000 posts.

We like to create a little recipe which includes different volumes. Use our rule of thumb to get your 30 specific hashtags:

  • 7-8 very popular hashtags – think 100 – 500k posts but no more than 1 million
  • 7-8 popular hashtags – try hashtags with over 10k but definitely less than 100k
  • 5-6 niche hashtags – think about your niche. Are you in the travel industry, or just love clothing and style? Choose hashtags related to your image and your industry or focus
  • 3-4 branded hashtags – wearing a specific dress or shoes? What about being a big city? Find hashtags for the brand or for the place you’re in
  • 1 own hashtag – use your account name as your own hashtag. You never know when you’ll grow big enough for other Instagram accounts to use it!

Infographic for Instagram Hashtags Cheat Sheet

Saving and Publishing your hashtags

So you’ve researched them, stole a few from your competitors and now have a rock-solid list of hashtag prospects to use in Instagram. How do you actually publish them effectively?

The first rule in using Instagram hashtags is to change them up frequently. Instagram has been known to give you a ‘shadow ban’ i.e. ban on publishing or commenting on other accounts if you use the same group of hashtags repeatedly. This has happened to us so we highly recommend you mix it up and change them per post. To do that, we like to save ours into handy lists i.e. Beach hashtags, general travel hashtags, female traveller hashtags etc.

You can do this in a simple word document but the best is to use a tool like Later or, as we’ll show you, use text shortcuts on your mobile phone!

Using for saved hashtags or captions (like Preview or Tailwind), is a publishing app geared towards Instagram. They have pro account options but in the free account you have access to their ‘Saved Captions’ feature where you essentially can save your hashtag lists or strings into a handy list. With the Pro account you can even research hashtags to save into these lists.

Text shortcuts – Android

  1. Go to Settings> General Management>Language and Input
  2. Tap Onscreen Keyboard>Samsung Keyboard
  3. Choose Smart Typing>Text Shortcuts
  4. Choose Add Shortcut
  5. Under Expanded Phrase, put in your hashtags (e.g. #traveltagged #travelcommunity….)
  6. Under Shortcut, use something like ‘hashtagtravel’


Text shortcuts – iOS

  1. Go to Settings > General > Keyboard
  2. Look for Text Replacement
  3. Click the + sign on the top right
  4. Under Phrase, put in your hashtags (e.g. #traveltagged #travelcommunity….)
  5. Under Shortcut, use something like ‘hashtagtravel’

Instagram hashtags in the comments or caption?

This is an area of contention between Instagrammers and experts as you’ll find two schools of thought: those who say you definitely need to put them in the post text itself and those who strongly advise that they need to be in the first comment. We’ve tried both and found equal success with hashtags, so the results don’t lie!

Tracking your success

The best way to understand your success with hashtags is with Instagram’s own Insights feature, which is only available to Business or Creator accounts. Simply switch to a business account within your Instagram Settings and you’ll start to see the analytics on each post.

In the past you could see which hashtag generated the most volume but unfortunately this is no longer available. Here’s another example of a post where we didn’t spend time researching hashtags and, unlike our 6,468 impressions success in the first one, on this feed post we only got 374 impressions from hashtags and therefore only 1,090 overall and only 3 new followers. Plus the likes and engagement on the picture was particularly poor.

Hashtags in Instagram stories

So this article has really focused on posts in the feed, which is where Instagram made it’s first impact. But of course you can use hashtags in your stories, and this is a definite MUST since, like feed posts and location tagging, hashtags showcase your stories to more viewers than your own follower community. Here are a few tips to craft the perfect Instagram story hashtag recipe:

Selecting your hashtags

Generally the idea with stories to use a few selected hashtags, to increase your reach. Unlike feed posts where you are looking at 30 hashtags, here it would be overkill to use more than 3-4, since it would really overtake the content of your story as hashtags are generally overlaid on the image or video content.

Publishing hashtags – tricks of the trade

Firstly, there are two ways to add hashtags to your stories: through the actual Hashtag ‘sticker’ within the post options or through using the Text editor. Both have pros and cons: you can only add one hashtag with the sticker functionality but when using text, it can be that your hashtags don’t work, particularly if your text is too small. Our advice? Play around with both options and test what works for you!

When using more than one hashtag through the text editor, you also have the option of ‘hiding it’. This means pulling other text or stickers ‘over’ your hashtags so they are invisible to your audience. As above, it can be that if the text is too small, you might not rank for this hashtag.

How to use Tag for Feature hashtags

Do you notice those accounts that simply re-post other accounts, often creating an inspirational feed? Great examples include @dametravel or @backpackersintheworld, if you’re in the travel niche. These accounts are a great way to grow your account since many people follow them and you’re given a credit when featured.

To get your photos featured, there is generally a three step process where you make your photo submission ‘visible’ to this account:

  1. Follow the account
  2. Use their hashtag in your post. This is usually showcased in their bio or profile
  3. Tag their account (i.e. their @ name) in your actual picture
  4. Drop them a DM alerting them to your post and asking if it’s worth a feature

Here is an example using one of our favourite accounts: @backpackersintheworld

Important tip: it’s only worth DM-ing a feature account if you really believe that a piece of content is worth their feature – don’t spam them! Keep in mind that these accounts receive hundreds if not thousands of unsolicited messages, and you are much more likely to get noticed if you provide one high-quality post or a creative idea, vs sending all your pictures their way. Humans manage these accounts, not bots, so treat this exercise as you would a conversation in real life.

Banned hashtags

You might not know it, but you could be using a banned hashtag. These are not only hashtags related to nudity or legal matters, but even hashtags like #wtf are not allowed on the platform and can get you a dreaded shadow ban. You can run your list of hashtags through a tool like Ritetag’s free banned hashtag list, to ensure you are in the clear.

Bonus: Increasing engagement through edited images

This article is about hashtags and of course this is hugely important to increase engagement.

However, more than just hashtags and a caption, the most critical thing to drive engagement is making sure your picture is incredibly compelling. Let’s be honest a picture tells 1000 words!

For us, the only way to ensure we have a stand-out, cracking shot is to use Adobe Lightroom Presets. Think of these as your photo editing game-changer; taking a good picture and making it GREAT by just using a solid preset. Check out some of these that we would highly recommend. They also make sure our Instagram feed looks consistent.

Hashtag frequently asked questions

Instagram can be a confusing platform, so there are many more questions that might arise when you’re compiling your hashtags. Here are a few FAQS:

Are hashtags on Instagram case sensitive?

No. They are not case-sensitive at all, so it doesn’t matter if you use upper or lowercase.

What is the maximum number of hashtags you can insert in a comment on an Instagram photo?

We usually recommend you use all 30 but if you have recently been shadow banned, its often wise to start with 6-7, and then increase again.

Why don’t my Instagram posts show up in hashtags?

Sorry to tell you, you’ve copped a shadow ban. This means that your content is only showing up in the feed of your followers and, sometimes, not at all. Usually the fix is to wait a few days until your account is cleared.

How do I find all the photos using a specific Instagram hashtag?

Simple, just search the hashtag in Instagram’s search bar, and you’ll find all the photos sorted by Top and by Recent.

Why can’t you copy and paste hashtags on Instagram?

We don’t know why, but you can’t copy and paste other users’ hashtags on the mobile version of Instagram, yet you can do so on the web or desktop version. However, if you want to copy your own hashtags from an existing post on your mobile, you can simply edit the post and this allows you to copy the text.

What are the hashtags that get you shadow banned?

Firstly, make sure you’re not using any banned hashtags. Then, remember to mix up your hashtag lists!

How do I hide hashtags on Instagram?

To hide them on a post, they can be put in a comment instead. On Instagram stories, hide the hashtags behind other text or stickers.

How can I search Instagram Stories by location and hashtag?

Just insert the location or hashtag in Instagram search and when on the hashtag page, click on the profile picture as you would usually to view stories.

What are the top Instagram hashtags in 2019?

All Hashtag curates a list of the top hashtags here.

Our favourite hashtag ideas

Well done! You’ve made it to the end of our lengthy exploration of hashtags – we hope this Instagram hashtag cheat sheet was helpful! We hope we’ve given you all the tips and tricks you need to successfully deploy hashtags on your posts and stories but do let us know if you have any questions, either in the comments or by getting in touch.

To make your life a little easier, we’ve also put a list of our favourite hashtags in a few of our niches, for your copy and paste pleasure!


#traveltheworld #passionpassport #wandergram #thewanderingtourist #welivetotravel #travelshots #travellust #borntotravel #beautifulmatters #traveltagged #sidewalkerdaily #viewsfordays #speechlessplaces #travelphotography #beautifuldestinations #dreamtravel #worldtravel#travelblogger #postcardsfromtheworld #traveltheworldtoday #worldtourist #passportcollective #travelerography #seetheworld #wheretogo #wonderful_places #discoverer #voyaged #stayandwander #bbctravel #travelinspiration #amazingtravel #travelgram #travelinspiration #exploretheworld  #backpacking #backpackerstory #backpackersintheworld

Dame (Female) Travel

#femmetravel #dametraveler #travellikeagirl #travelgirls #shewhowanders #wanderess #shetravelz #darlingescapes #sheisnotlost #travelinladies #journeysofgirls #travelgirlsgo #femmetravel #girlswhotravel #girlpowertravel #damestravel #pinktrotters #iammissadventure #babeswhowander #girlaroundworld  #femfeed #wetravelgirls #femaletravelbloggers


#writing #novelist #author #writers_den #writersofig #writersociety #writerslife #booksofig #bookworm #booklover #bookwormlife

Earth and Nature

#earthpics #ourplanetdaily #naturelovers #nature_shooters #naturephotography #visualofearth #visualsofearth #wildernesstones #landscapescapture #landscapephotography #world_shotz #earthpix

Want to save it for later? Why not pin it…

Pinterest graphic for Instagram Hashtag cheat sheet


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