Instagram Algorithm: How It Works & How to Beat It in 2021

5 July 2021

Whenever a user decides to open Instagram and check their feed, a lot of content is already there. And every time, it’s the Instagram algorithm that determines which posts would be interesting and relevant for the specific user in their Instagram feed.

How is it possible for an algorithm to evaluate and determine what is good content and what is not?

This article reveals the main factors influencing the algorithm and provides essential tips on making the most of this knowledge and increasing the chance of delivering your new content to your target audience on Instagram.

How the Instagram Algorithm Works

Remarkably, to ensure the best customization of the Instagram feed, the algorithm utilizes a machine learning feature. The Instagram Explore page provides new content based on the user’s previous account interactions. However, the new Instagram algorithm is an intelligent system that addresses many more factors. Let’s take a closer look at them:

Evaluating Your Potential Interests

Instagram introduced an algorithm that determines the order of user-generated content displayed in your feed based on your preferences. The system evaluates all your past activities and defines the most frequent interactions as your potential interests.

Suppose you recently engaged with children-related content, such as entertaining activities for kids. Instagram will consider this category important and rank such content higher in your feed. Therefore, you will get more posts on kids’ extracurricular activities, theme parks, birthday party arrangements, and so on.

It is also significant that the Instagram algorithm does not rely on content popularity. That means that less engaged posts may be present at the top of your Instagram feed due to their relevancy.

Giving Priority to Recent Posting

The Instagram algorithm works on evaluating posts’ timeliness. The system is designed to consider recent content as more interesting and relevant to its users. That means that it shows you the most up-to-date photo and video content whenever you visit the platform.

Before you check your feed, the algorithm determines and delivers the relevant new content published between your last and current visit. So, if your last Instagram visit was at 7 am right when you woke up, when you check in again during lunch break at 1 pm, Instagram will display the posts you missed during those 6 hours.

Defining Your Relationships Through Regular Interactions

A new post from any of your closest friends and family is considered greatly important, one that you do not want to miss. Thus, Instagram keeps track of your relationships with other users to rank their content higher on your news feed.

The smart algorithm learns about your interactions with your contacts and how you’re engaging with each of them. It uses this to determine whether or not you have a strong relationship. So, the more interaction you have with an account, the more likely it will be assigned to the best friends category.

Moreover, each time you search for a new account, Instagram includes it in its ranking algorithm.


Checking the Frequency of Your Instagram Visits

Whenever you check in to the Instagram app, the algorithm works to deliver you the most interesting, relevant, and recent posts created since the last time you visited.

That is why if you check your feed once a week, then the system will gather and show you the top-performing posts during the week. If you visit on a daily basis, you will see the most relevant Instagram posts of the current day, based on the Instagram algorithm. But if you check in every couple of hours, then the main Instagram focus is to show new content that is applicable to you that you haven’t seen before.

Considering All Accounts That You Follow

Here’s something to consider. All the accounts you follow matter to the system. That means if you started following some users a while ago and forgot about them, Instagram still remembers. And that, in its turn, affects the ranking of the accounts that are significant for you.

Therefore, if you follow hundreds of accounts, remember that the algorithm sorts through more posts, and you are likely to see less content from each account. And the other way around, users following fewer accounts are shown more of their posts. So, if you want to see more content from your best friends, revise what you’re following.

Gauging the Duration of Your Instagram Sessions

Individual users spend different amounts of time on Instagram. Some scroll the feed and watch videos for hours; others take just a quick look at their friends’ posts. Either way, every session’s duration matters to the system.

Instagram strives to provide the most relevant posts for users who make quick visits to catch their attention and satisfy their needs. However, for an audience that tends to engage with Instagram more, the algorithm prepares a greater diversity of content. That way, it encourages them to spend more time on the app without frustrating interruptions.

How Has the Instagram Algorithm Changed?

Initially, the Instagram feed was built using a chronological posting order. The scheme worked for a while, and users were comfortable with it. Then, all of a sudden, Instagram made significant changes.

Since 2016 priority in the ranking was given to the content users cared about most. Thus, posts with a personal touch outweighed marketing content. This was inconvenient for a business model which was forced to adjust its content strategy practically immediately to maintain market share and brand awareness in social media.

Around the same time, many users experienced problems with engagement and noticed a drop in reach. Some even had to deal with an undetected Instagram Shadowban, which blocked their content to non-following users throughout the social network.

However, the algorithm continued to evolve. In 2018 Instagram implemented another new feature – prioritizing recent content in the feed. From that time on, the system based its ranking decisions on user activity.

To remain competitive, many companies had to improve their marketing strategy, advance the skills in creating content, and focus on high-quality material.

How the Instagram Algorithm Works for Instagram Stories

Commonly, the Instagram stories you see first in your feed are those posted by the users you interact with the most. Engagement is considered in general terms and includes likes, reactions, the number of views of each story, comments, DMs, or a sticker.

Similarly, the algorithm of Instagram stories bases its decisions on stories’ timeframes. It is of the utmost importance for the system to deliver you the most up-to-date stories’ from accounts that will be of interest to you.

New stories from the accounts you connect with most frequently will appear before others whenever they post. This applies even if you saw all of their previous posts. So, posting to Instagram regularly is a good way of drawing viewers’ attention to your account.

If you wish to achieve a higher ranking in the algorithm, you need to get more views. Regular posting to Instagram can be done quickly and easily with story scheduling software.

How the Instagram Algorithm Works on the Explore Page

The thing is that both the Explore page and Instagram algorithm are focused on similar goals. In each case, the system works on processing your past communications, evaluating relationships, and providing relevant content.


Although, there is a significant difference. While the regularly developing Explore page delivers mostly content from new accounts, the feed Instagram produces consists of content from the accounts that you are following.

When we speak about the Explore page algorithm, it may refer to hashtags, keywords, visuals, and caption wording. That is why it is not hard to get your own content onto the Explore page when necessary. To do this, focus on the use of niche hashtag systems and high-quality headlines.

If you represent a business that requires a presence on the Explore page, your goal is to prepare thought-through content to categorize with relevant hashtags.

How the Instagram Algorithm Works for IGTV Videos and Reels

Both features of the Instagram reels and IGTV videos are characterized by the algorithm which prioritizes your interactions and preferable post types in terms of feed ranking.

In addition to their feed, Instagram adds numerous IGTVs and reels to the Explore pages to increase engagement according to potential interest.

You can always influence the algorithm’s decision-making and promote your profile to be seen by the intended audience. Here is a tip. Share a quick 60-second preview of a new IGTV video in your Instagram feed for maximum impact. It will help gain views and achieve a higher rank. Concerning the reels, they should always be posted on your feed. Moreover, a reel containing catchy hashtags alerts Instagram and gains more awareness.

How to Beat Instagram Algorithm

It is possible to beat the Instagram algorithm and obtain a higher ranking to reach a wider audience. Apart from regular communications involving numerous likes, shares, saves, comments, and so on, there are also other convenient ways of achieving the desired goal. Benefit from the knowledge of Instagram algorithm’s peculiarities.

Focus On the Newly Introduced Instagram Features

Instagram is interested in promoting its latest features. That is why it gives extra credit to users who help to spread them through regular use. Not only is it beneficial for Instagram as new options are adopted more quickly and gain awareness, but also for users who share a new type of content and draw the audience’s attention, gaining a higher ranking to expand their reach.

Take Advantage of Instagram Stories Stickers

As we know, the decisions made by the Instagram algorithm significantly depend on the engagement level. So, the main goal is to stimulate an increase in the audience’s engagement with your account. And Instagram Stories stickers are a great way of doing this.


However, there are many sticker options; the most attractive for the audience are questioning stickers, emoji sliders, and polls.

Sliders and polls don’t require much time to set up; they are easy to handle and entertaining. That is why they are so good at engaging the audience. Besides, they are convenient to apply to any topic, expert, brand, or business.

Question stickers require more time and effort. Despite this, they are highly attractive for users as they allow them to share their opinions on a topic. Such engagement, without a doubt, is always detected by the algorithm.

Think Through Your Hashtag Strategy Carefully

A proper hashtag strategy is essential when it comes to audience reach expansion. With relevant hashtags, a post gets more views, and Instagram considers this fact and increases the ranking.

Besides, a hashtag strategy is good for earning more views and gaining new customers or attracting individuals relevant to your business. That means better quality of your audience and an increase in brand awareness and sales.

If you find it difficult to develop a good hashtag strategy, turn to specialist services for help. They generate a set of relevant hashtags automatically.

Benefit From Cross-Promotional Tools

Instagram is a boundless platform delivering multiple options for mutually beneficial marketer collaboration. Whether you are a freelance expert or into blogging and looking for ways to boost your quality content ranking, or striving to enhance your business opportunities, cross-promotion could be very beneficial.

To make the most of the collaboration with a blogger or another company, use multiple Instagram features, such as your feed, stories content, IGTV, or Reels. This way, you will also increase your activity, introduce great content, and draw more people’s attention to your account. It can only help!

Do Not Disregard the Importance of Analytics

You cannot beat the Instagram algorithm unless you keep your fingers on the pulse and regularly monitor your content’s efficacy.

Exploring analytics helps to discover your strengths and your weak points. Thus, you will make the changes necessary to your marketing strategy and obtain better results.

On top of the initial evaluation of the posted photo, video, and stories, you can track the key metrics and determine how to improve the algorithm’s ranking.


Keep Track of Peak Hours for Posting

Posting content during peak hours is one of the easiest ways to get extra credit from the algorithm. The common “best” posting hours are considered to be from lunchtime until evening. This can vary depending on the topic, audience, or the business sphere; however, people tend to visit Instagram more often within these timeframes.

Posting in these hours does not mean that you will automatically get a lot of attention to your content. The algorithm has its recognition technology and does not base its ranking on chronology. But peak hours are still the best option to reach more of your audience. So, evaluate your followers’ peak hours and take advantage of them.

Give Priority to Video Content

Lately, Instagram has been promoting the video trend. Video content is involved in the feed, IGTV, stories, and live video. Moreover, the latest big news is that IGTVs will appear in the main feed.

However, it does not mean that it is valued more than photo content. The thing is that video content encourages people to spend more time on a post. They stop scrolling the feed and pay closer attention. In the view of Instagram’s algorithm, that means an increase in engagement, leading to a higher ranking.

So, do not neglect video and take every opportunity to post more of it.

Summary

When you know all the peculiarities and working terms of the Instagram algorithm, it is not hard to beat it and improve your reach and engagement.

To put it simply, to benefit from the algorithm, you should:

  • use all the recent Instagram features,
  • implement more stories stickers,
  • advance your hashtag strategy,
  • work on cross-promotion,
  • pay attention to Instagram analytics,
  • post during peak hours,
  • and develop more video content.

All those efforts together will help you advance your blog or business profile and make the most of Instagram’s promotional possibilities.

FAQ

What Is The Instagram Algorithm?

The Instagram algorithm is a smart tool that ranks various Instagram accounts and prioritizes posts in a user's feed. Based on the user's activity, it automatically evaluates their interests and decides which posts are to be put at the beginning of the feed and which are to be placed below.

What Is The Best Time to Post on Instagram?

The perfect timing for posting on Instagram is usually lunchtime hours and in the evening. It is explained by the fact that users are not occupied with work and have free time to check in to Instagram. If you have a problem posting during these specific hours, then use the scheduling software to help.

Can You Track How Many Times Someone Looks at Your Instagram?

Instagram does not provide an option to detect the number of times someone checks out your account. Unless this user leaves a comment, likes, shares, or contacts you in any other way, you cannot find this data. Likewise, no one finds out that you visited an account without any contact.

How Do You Beat the 2021 Algorithm on Instagram?

According to the latest algorithm updates, the best way to beat the algorithm in 2021 is to work on the content's quality based on the following tips. Keep track of and implement the latest features, regularly use Instagram stories stickers, consider a hashtag strategy, apply cross-promotion, use analytics, port your content during peak hours, and focus more on video content.

How Do You Beat the IG Algorithm?

The key to success is in using a range of actions, including usage of the latest Instagram features, involvement of stories stickers, advancing hashtag strategy, cross-promotion, analytics exploration, posting during peak hours, and prioritizing video content.

Will Posting Stories or Live Videos Affect Ranking?

Indeed, both stories and Live videos serve as an excellent way to engage the target audience. Like the other types of video content, they attract more viewers and encourage them to spend more time watching. That, in its turn, influences the algorithm ranking.

Should I Post Every Day?

Posting every day is a good way to increase the audience's engagement as the Instagram algorithm considers recent posting. Moreover, studies confirm that it is better to post daily to achieve desirable results.