All of the social media sites had a superpower, Instagram’s would be engagement. Instagram images, after all, see about 23% more engagement on average than their Facebook counterparts, and the like button has clicked an average of 4.2 billion times per day. There’s a lot of momentum here, and the social proof can be so valuable in so many different ways.
There might be a change coming, though, that could switch things up. Rumors are floating around that Instagram may start hiding that like counter, removing social proof of the metric and potentially impacting SEO along with it.
Wondering what these changes mean for you? Let’s take a look at how what Instagram’s potential like counter removal would mean for you, your campaigns, and your SEO.
Instagram and the Like Button: What’s the Deal?
Instagram’s like button is a quick, simple way for users to engage by clicking that little heart symbol, showing their approval, empathy, or interest. As content gets more likes, it gains priority in Instagram’s algorithm, which looks to serve the best content to the right clients. This means you get more visibility, which means more engagement, and it’s all a big upwards spiral.
So here’s the deal now: reputable coder Jane Manchun Wong (who has uncovered most major Instagram changes long before they’re actually released) recently found evidence showing that Instagram was testing a version of the app that would hide like counts. The owner of the post would still be able to see how many likes are coming in, but no one else would; only comments would be visible on posts.
Jane is reputable, so this is a big deal. She’s been able to identify changes in the code that give away upcoming features before they’re released or even announced.
For what it’s worth, Instagram has denied that it’s testing these changes… sort of. They gave a statement to Newsweek saying that they weren’t currently testing removal of like content but that “Exploring ways to reduce pressure on Instagram is something we’re always thinking about… While we do often test updated features, this particular one was not one we had rolled out to a testing phase.”
So the rest of this article will be based on the idea of what happens if like counts are removed to the public just in case this is something that happens in the future.
Could This Really Impact SEO?
Let’s go down the rabbit hole here. Instagram decides that do want to go ahead and remove those public like counters. Whether it’s to remove social pressure or for whatever reason, let’s say it happens.
Users will still be able to like each other’s content, which can still help in the algorithm, and content owners will get to see how their content is doing. That’s still good. The dip in social proof could hurt, especially since high social proof can cause a FOMO-like effect that causes other people to pay more attention to what you’re doing. Soon, follower count and comments would be the only social proof you’d have left on the platform.
The impact could be felt off the platform too, however, but not necessarily significantly. We know that Google does take social signals into account when choosing what content to prioritize, which includes Facebook shares, Retweets, and the number of people following you on any given account.
Follower count really matters more than a like count in terms of optimizing your profile for Google, so while a removed like count may cause a tiny bit of a hit, it shouldn’t be a cause for concern. It would really be a much bigger deal if Twitter decided to start hiding or disabling Retweets, which almost alike like a social media version of link building that Google does take into account.
If Instagram does ever decide to hide the public like counter, the biggest loss that you’ll see here is social proof, not SEO. Brands with low follower counts but overall higher engagement may be affected most, if at all because their primary form of social proof gets wiped out in this scenario.
How to Optimize Your Instagram Profile for SEO
Right now, Instagram doesn’t look like it’s necessarily getting rid of the like button, and even if they did, it wouldn’t completely derail your SEO efforts.
That being said, the best thing you can do now no matter what happens moving forward is to take steps to optimize your profile for SEO. This will give help interested users find your profile when searching on Google, and many of the best practices will also help them find you on Instagram, too! Win-win.
Here are a few strong optimization tactics you should consider using:
- Use Instagram’s new alt-image tag feature. This allows you to add in text descriptions of what’s happening in the image without giving up your caption space. It’s automatically taken into account for search, it helps Instagram detect what your image is, and (most importantly) it makes the platform easier to use for those who are sight-impaired.
- Treat hashtags a little like SEO. This tells Instagram and even Google what your content is all about. Also, include keywords in your description or alt image tag if at all possible to improve its search visibility.
- Always make sure that your profile is set to public. If you have a business account, this shouldn’t be a problem, but remember that people can’t discover your great content if they can’t find you.
Ultimately, this post has a lot of good news. It doesn’t seem like Instagram is currently interested in removing the like counter, and even if it did it wouldn’t necessarily have a huge impact on SEO directly, at least not as much as other changes social platforms could make. Keep in mind that changes do always happen, and the fact that there’s evidence of a test means that this one could be on the table, but it’s not something major to worry about right now.
Regardless, go ahead and optimize your Instagram profile for native and off-platform SEO. This will help your profile gain massive visibility, which is already a goal most advertisers have.
Want a little more help in discovering how your social and SEO work together? Get in touch here.
What do you think? How would you feel about Instagram removing public like counters? How do you optimize our profile for SEO now? Share your thoughts and questions in the comments below!