Update: Clickable links are still not a thing on Instagram as of December 2019. Most people are sharing links on their profiles but they cannot do so on their Instagram Stories nor on an individual post. Note that select celebrities and influencers on Instagram can share a link on their stories, but most users cannot.
This article was originally published on July 20th, 2014 but remains very relevant today.
Instagram has had a love/hate relationship with clickable links. To avoid spam, Instagram removed clickable hyperlinks in comments and on Instagram photo updates in 2012. One of the reasons for the growth of Instagram is the simplicity and the lack of “SEO” gurus. Time and again I have stated that social networks need to grow without claimed social media experts trying to get SEO value from them. That said, there is one way in which Instagram users can get a link that points back to their website.
In the Bio section of Instagram there is an opportunity to post 150 characters and one clickable hypertext link. Most people put a link to their website in this section. You can also put a link to a blog post or another social media profile such as Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. With only one opportunity to post a link it is best to choose wisely. From my perspective, I think you should always link to an entity you own which is a website or a blog. If you want to know more about SEO, ranking in search or getting customers from social media reach out to me at email@example.com.
Posting Links on Photos of Instagram
As Instagram has gained in popularity it comes as no surprise that many “Instagram famous” individuals and companies want to get more business from the social network. Unfortunately, this is extremely difficult. One way in which you can drive traffic to a website it to post a URL shortened link on the photo. Please note that this is not a clickable link nor is it crawled by Google. Here is an example.
There are numerous URL shorteners that you can use to make your link more attractive. Some of the most popular free URL shorteners are Bit.ly and Goo.gl. You can even purchase a premium account and change the word or string of letters after the shortened link. I would not spend any money doing this unless you have a very large and devoted Instagram following. Do not expect to see a huge amount of traffic coming from Instagram because that is not what the users are looking for. They are looking for cool photos to double tab.
Does Instagram Have Any SEO Value?
The quick answer is no. There is some value in placing a hypertext, clickable link in the profile but that link will only be as valuable as the Instagram account. If the Instagram account has had photos or videos embedded all over the web there is a good chance the Instagram account has a high pagerank. That said, most business owners are going to find that an Instagram account is not valuable; especially when it comes to other social networks that allow links and can be crawled by Google search.
To learn more about two of the most popular social networks and their SEO value make sure to read these articles:
- Do Twitter Tweets Get Indexed by Google and Affect SEO?
- Facebook Likes and How They Do Not Affect SEO
Please understand that search engine optimization (SEO) is the combination of all search engines but most businesses have the desire to rank in Google search. Twitter and Facebook could definitely help with Yahoo! and Bing search results but over 66% of searchers are using Google at this point.
If you want to get SEO value out of Instagram it would be a wise choice to build up an Instagram account. Unfortunately, this can take a lot of time and energy as you must learn how to become “famous” on Instagram. Unlike Vine, Instagram videos tend to be a more serious and to the point. The photos can be funny but the videos usually are not. It is also the case that hashtags determine the virality of a photo. I have seen photos that have over 20 hashtags that have thousands of likes. An article I recently read stated that the optimal number of hashtags on Instagram is eight. Yes. Eight.
This is reason enough for me to focus my efforts elsewhere. There are social networks like Flipboard, Google Plus and Pinterest that offer great SEO value while also being able to reach an audience. The fact that Facebook owns Instagram also worries me as they will likely start playing with the feed and users might not get to see all the photos of those they are following. This has been happening for years on Facebook and there is a good chance it could happen on Instagram in the near future. Here is a video that explains how Facebook utilizes its newsfeed:
What Are Instagram Alternatives with SEO Value?
At this point there are very few. Google Plus has tried very hard to get individuals to share photos but they are not willing to do so. That may change in the future but I see very few personal photos on Google Plus. Twitter is not a great place to share photos as it is more of a stream of news and links to articles. LinkedIn is business and Pinterest is photos of items people are looking to buy. If I stumble upon an alternative to Instagram that offers some SEO value I will be sure to post it in this resource.
Instagram is a social network full of teenagers and college students. Most business and service professionals recognize this so they do not sink a large amount of time or money into their efforts on Instagram. There are some businesses that could benefit from Instagram but most do not. If you would like to know if your business should spend the time and money to grow out an Instagram account please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are curious as to what the teenagers are doing on Instagram please read this article by Anna Cantwell: The Psychology of Instagram. It will open your eyes as to the ways in which the younger generation is using their iPhone, Android smartphones and tablets.
2015 Instagram Advertising Update
We have learned that in 2015 Instagram will offer advertisers the opportunity to place a clickable link in their Instagram posts that are ads. This is going to be huge for businesses as it will allow them to direct traffic to a website in which users can make a purchase. What makes this extremely attractive is the fact that only advertisers will be able to add a hypertext clickable link. When Instagram users are scrolling through their stream they will quickly notice a clickable link.
I would imagine the price for ads on Instagram is not going to be cheap. It is not like your everyday high school or college student will be able to purchase ads to get some of their followers to click on a personal blog post. Instagram is going after the big fish that have millions of dollars to spend on advertising. It will be very interesting to see how this plays out in the near future.