5 essential metrics for Instagram hashtag research in 2021
5 essential metrics for Instagram hashtag research in 2021

There’s an almost infinite number of hashtags available for you to use on Instagram.

But, how do you determine if one hashtag is better than the other?

instagram hashtag research
It can be quite overwhelming to figure out which hashtags to use on Instagram.

In the past, you could look at the number of posts on a hashtag and determine if that hashtag was good enough or not — nowadays, not so much.

You can still use it to stay away from hashtags that have a really high post count. This typically indicates that a lot of people use the hashtag and your posts will get lost in the thousands posted each day. It can also help inform you if a hashtag doesn’t have many posts using it at all. It can be a sign that the hashtag isn’t very popular since not many people have ever used it.

But other than the post count for each hashtag, what else should you look at?

Instagram doesn’t provide any more data to help. 😤

Fortunately, we can calculate other metrics during our hashtag research and take our reach to the next level.

Here are my 5 most important hashtag metrics to focus on in 2021.


Posts Per Hour

Instagram automatically places your post in the Recent section of every hashtag that you use.

Keep in mind that Instagram shows every single post in chronological order that uses each hashtag.

hashtag research on instagram with recent
The Recent tab on the hashtag page has every post using that hashtag in order.

Take a hashtag that has over 700 posts per hour on average.

This means a lot of people are using that hashtag and if you do as well, your content will only be at the top of the Recent feed section for seconds.

A typical user won’t scroll through hundreds of posts. That means using these hashtags will typically get you no additional views since your content will be quickly buried under other posts.

It’s why sometimes people think hashtags are dead or don’t work well anymore. 🤭

Average Likes Per Top Post

For every hashtag, there is a section called Top Posts where Instagram puts the best content.

How exactly Instagram determines which posts are better than others is unknown but that doesn’t mean we can’t use data to understand our chances at reaching the Top section of a hashtag.

hashtag research on instagram with top
The best content is on the Top Posts tab, does your content fit in?

Take for instance a hashtag that has 2,000 likes on average for the posts in the Top section. If your content typically gets 200 likes then the chances you reach the Top section on that same hashtag are slim.

That’s not to say it’s impossible but it’s a good measure to understand how popular the content Instagram is choosing to display.

On the other hand, if you’re able to find hashtags that have less than your average number of likes, then your confidence can be much higher that you can rank in the Top Posts.

Average Comments Per Top Post

This is quite similar to the thinking behind the average likes per Top Post.

When doing Instagram hashtag research, you don’t want to look only at hashtags where you get more comments, but also ones that have a little more comments on average than you.

likes and comments of the Top Posts
You can check the likes and comments of the Top Posts pretty easily.

Learn to take chances on hashtags that are a little harder and mix them with some hashtags that you are more confident in.

You can’t expect every single Instagram post to go viral but sticking with a consistent hashtag strategy will help you have some that do.

Age  of Top Posts

How old the Top Posts are for a hashtag is a key metric that is often overlooked during hashtag research.

If you notice that all the Top Posts for a certain hashtag are in the last hour, then it’s going to be difficult to get a large amount of traffic from it. If your post even makes it into the Top Posts, it won’t be there long.

On the other hand, if you see posts that are over a year old in the Top Posts section, then that hashtag is dead — and it’s typically not worth using hashtags like this since it’s a clear sign of inactivity.

“Do Not Use” Hashtags

While not exactly a measurable statistic, there are telltale signs that I look for when doing research that tells me not to bother with a hashtag.

If you see a hashtag that has an emoji in it, then it’s best to stay away from it. There are many reasons why but in short they have a lot of variations and much less traffic.

Another thing to watch out for is banned hashtags on Instagram. Before using any hashtag, you should double-check. You would be surprised at how many seemingly normal hashtags are banned.

Keeping track of every single banned hashtag is impossible if you are doing it manually so I use Instagram hashtag tools when doing research to help me save time with this.


If you are going into this depth of Instagram hashtag research then you will see organic growth in whatever niche you are in.

It’s all about picking the best hashtags where your Instagram account can reach the Top Posts and also have your target audience browsing.

Doing hashtag research can be really time-consuming so use a tool like Curate. It can combine all of these hashtag metrics I just talked about into a single, personalized metric called your Hashtag Score.

score for your hashtags
Your personalized hashtag score for each hashtag saves you hours of manual work

By applying these hashtag research strategies in 2021, you will be way ahead of everyone else living in the past.

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