Optimizing Instagram for SEO: A Guide for Artists

As surface pattern designers and illustrators, when we think about getting noticed on social media, especially Instagram, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is probably the last thing to cross our minds. Of course we prioritize beautiful art and product photography, hashtags, stories, and reels. But did you know that in the current Instagram algorithm scenario, a lot of importance is being given to keywords?

SEO can be a hard-to-grasp concept — let’s admit it, all we want to do is post pretty art, get likes and shares, and gain new followers. But trust me when I say this, you don’t need to know it all to have a good Instagram SEO strategy in place.

Optimizing Instagram for SEO: A Guide for Artists | Sketch Design Repeat

Why SEO?

Imagine you’re looking online for a recipe for sourdough bread. Nine times out of ten, you’ll click on the first few results that show up on the first page. Similarly, on the Explore page of Instagram, you would give the most importance to what fits on your screen, unless you have a lot of time on your hands for endless scrolling.

Getting your art to show on the Explore page is what your aim should be, and that is why a sound SEO strategy is so important. The more your posts are shown to the right people, the more chances you have of not only getting new followers, but also possibly being visible to potential clients and collaborators.

Spend a considerable amount of time understanding the basics of SEO and plan your Instagram content strategy around those basics. Keywords are definitely important but there are two other factors to consider — content relevance and user engagement. Let me break this down for you.

Ask yourself these two questions:

  1. Am I adding value?
  2. Am I reviewing content that I am posting already?

Search engines give equal importance, if not more, to how relevant your content is to your followers. For us artists, this means creating content (this includes our art AND our caption) that either inspires, entertains, or educates. Brownie points if it does all three.

It is also necessary to analyze the user engagement of your past posts from time to time. Find out which posts have been saved or shared. What is it about the post that has appealed to your audience? Have you shared a tip or a lesson learned? That’s the type of content you should be creating more of.

Related Article: An Artist’s Tips for Scheduling Social Media Posts

Challenges of Instagram SEO

Implementing the basics of SEO on Instagram isn’t as straightforward as say, a blog.

Visual Content

Search engines usually prioritize text-based content, posing a challenge for artists whose primary content is visual. This is why planning out the captions that go with your art is equally important as the art itself.

Niche Audience

Many artists cater to specific niches, making broad keywords less effective. Try targeting detailed, long-tail keywords specific to your niche so that your posts are visible to as many people as possible.


Standing out among countless other talented artists online can be challenging. This competition makes it crucial for us to optimize our posts for search engines by identifying our target audience (art directors if you license your art, fellow designers if you teach courses, and customers if you sell your own products).

Optimizing Your Instagram Profile

Profile Bio

Your bio should accurately convey who you are as an artist and what you offer, incorporating relevant keywords for SEO purposes.


Use a high-quality profile picture rather than a quick selfie. If you can show yourself making art or perhaps wearing something with your design on it, even better.


Incorporate keywords naturally into your Instagram bio to improve discoverability. Talk about who you are, your design style or your favorite medium or what you have to offer. Here’s an example:

Surface designer Priyadarshini Das Sharma | Sketch Design Repeat

In the image above of my own Instagram profile, the text in bold shows who I am — a licensed surface designer. The first line of the bio talks about my art style. The next line shows what I have to offer.

Relevant Links

Always include a link to your portfolio or website. Instagram now allows multiple links, so you can also link to a newsletter sign up or your blog. What you link to will depend on what action you want your followers to take.

Content Ideas for Surface Pattern Designers

Including a variety of content is important if you want to win the SEO game. Here are some ideas of Instagram posts that do well for all kinds of target audiences.

Process Breakdowns

Everyone enjoys a behind-the-scenes post. People want to see your design process, from initial sketches to the final design. This demystifies the creative process and invites your audience into your world, making them feel more connected to your work.

You could create a single post or reel that shows your entire process or you could spread it out across 3–4 posts. A timelapse video is also a popular way of showing your process.

Sneak Peeks

Offer previews of upcoming projects or collections. Starting a 100 Day project or a design challenge? Start with a sneak peek that announces it before you post the actual designs. You could go all out and make a video or just put together a few initial sketches for the challenge.

This builds anticipation and keeps your followers coming back for more, eager to see the gorgeous art you make in the days to come.

Collaboration Announcements

Recently bagged a fabric deal? Flaunt it! Announce your collaborations on Instagram to expose your work to a broader audience. Post multiple times intermittently to keep the interest piqued.

Show yourself opening a box of samples, post product photos, or reshare pictures of the products from people who have been using the products with your designs.

Creating Content that Matters

Instagram SEO isn’t just about the visual content you post. It is also important to couple it with text that is engaging and keyword enriched. Here are a few ways to incorporate SEO-friendly text in your Instagram posts.


A well-planned caption can be the difference between a post that’s scrolled past and one that stops your audience in their tracks. Share stories, inspirations, or challenges you faced during the creation of your piece.

Be yourself and be vulnerable at times to show that you are not just a brand but also a human who loves connecting with their followers. You can also share valuable tips and tricks to increase engagement.


Use relevant hashtags to increase the visibility of your posts. Avoid overdoing it. Instagram no longer recommends 30 hashtags; 3–5 are the magic number. Research and use hashtags specific to the followers you want to attract. A mix of broad and niche hashtags can help you reach both a wider audience and those particularly interested in what you do.

Calls to Action (CTAs)

Encourage your followers to engage with your post by incorporating CTAs in your captions. Ask your followers to share their thoughts, tag a friend who might love your work, or visit your website to see more. The more comments you get on your posts, the more chances there are of Instagram showing your content to new potential followers.

Using Instagram Metrics for SEO

Using Instagram metrics for SEO involves understanding how social signals — such as shares, likes, and comments — can indirectly impact your profile’s search engine rankings.

While these metrics are not direct ranking factors for search engines like Google, active engagement on your Instagram posts can tell search engines that your content is valuable and relevant.

Instagram metrics by surface designer Priyadarshini Das Sharma | Sketch Design Repeat

Tips for Artists to Improve Instagram SEO

Apart from what we’ve already discussed about optimizing your bio and captions, here are a few other things you can do to improve your SEO strategy for Instagram.

  • Use Alt Text for Images: Alt text is a great way to improve searchability for images and it also helps reach a segment of your audience that includes visually impaired users.
  • Engage with Your Audience: It’s important not to post and ghost. Reply to comments and DMs to increase engagement on your posts. Instagram notices this and boosts your visibility.
  • Post Consistently: Post regularly on Instagram. Even if you post just thrice a week, do it consistently. Planning a little ahead can help keep up the schedule. I personally often have social media burnout, but I do try and keep the breaks short.
  • Create Shareable Content: Tutorials and time-lapses are great ways to ensure your posts are relevant and shared by your followers.
  • Use Instagram Stories and Highlights: Share behind-the-scenes content, works in progress, and other engaging stories. Stories are important if you want to engage with and keep your existing followers. Save some of your stories for over 24 hours by creating highlights out of them.
      • Collaborate with Other Artists and Brands: Partner with others for takeovers, shoutouts, or collaborative projects to reach new audiences.
      • Create a Branded Hashtag: Develop a unique hashtag for your 100 Day projects or a challenge that you host. Encourage your followers to use it to increase your profile’s visibility.
      • Participate in Challenges: Participate in challenges like the 3X3 Design Challenge and use the challenge hashtags. I’ve always noticed that I gain a few new followers every time I participate in a design challenge.
      • Feature User-Generated Content: Share content created by your followers or other artists (with their permission) to increase engagement.
          • Keep Track of New Instagram Features: Instagram favors users who try out new features rolled out on the app. Take Reels, for example; instead of resenting these changes, embrace them and use them without sacrificing your authenticity.
          • Build a Consistent Visual Feed: Maintain a consistent aesthetic or theme in your feed to make your account more cohesive.

          Optimizing your profile, creating content that others can relate to, networking and engaging with your community, and analyzing the performance of your posts from time to time are all effective ways of improving the possibility of how Instagram uses SEO to show your art to others. 

          Start by auditing your current social media presence and identifying areas for improvement. Then tweak your approach to remain genuine and consistent while building a growing online presence. Believe it or not, SEO isn’t a tough task at all!

          Priyadarshini Das Sharma
          Written by Priyadarshini Das Sharma

          Website: www.thehappypost.com
          Instagram: @antheadesignstudio

          Priyadarshini is the founder of Anthea Designs and The Happy Post. She is passionate about art, organization, productivity, and mental health, and loves sharing her knowledge. When she’s not working on her next masterpiece, Priyadarshini loves spending time with her daughters and three rescue dogs.

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