How Instagram's Ranking System Works - A Comprehensive Guide

Thu Jun 08 2023

TL/DR: Discover how Instagram's algorithm works and learn how to improve engagement on the platform. This comprehensive guide will teach you the three main factors influencing the ranking system, how the algorithm works for each post type, and provide tips for better engagement on Instagram.

marketing social-media

Table Of Contents

The Good Fellas Agency How Instagram's Ranking System Works - A Comprehensive Guide

Instagram is one of the most popular social media platforms today, and with billions of users, it's important to understand how its ranking system works. The Instagram algorithm is constantly changing and evolving, so it's essential to stay up-to-date with the latest information to ensure your content is seen by your target audience.

Instagram Engagement Chart

Importance of Understanding Instagram's Ranking System

The Instagram algorithm decides what content to show users based on various factors, including the user's past behavior, the engagement level of the content, and the content's relevance to the user's interests. As a result, understanding how the algorithm works is crucial if you want to grow your following, increase engagement, and ultimately achieve your goals on the platform.

What is the Most Important Ranking Factor For Instagram?

The main ranking factor for Instagram is engagement. This means that the more people interact with your posts, the higher they will rank on the platform. Engagement helps to show how popular a post or account is and can signal to other users that it's worth checking out. Engagement includes likes, comments, video views, story views, shares, saves, and profile visits (They call these Signal Metrics).

Instagram also uses its machine-learning technology to determine which content should be seen by each user. This could include looking at what type of images/videos you usually engage with and showing more of them in your feed. It also looks at who follows you and what type of accounts those followers are interested in so it can show more relevant content from similar accounts based on their Signal Metrics.

What is the hidden ranking Factor For Instagram?

Finally, Instagram also has a hidden ranking factor called Time Decay. This means that the longer a post has been around, the less likely it is to be seen. So if you want your posts to appear at the top of users' feeds, then you need to make sure you're posting regularly and consistently.

Overview of Instagram's Ranking System

Instagram Scrolling Home

The purpose of Instagram's ranking system is to present relevant and engaging content to users while prioritizing posts based on user preferences. Instagram recently updated its ranking algorithm, providing users with even more personalized content tailored to their interests. This new algorithm takes into account more user behavior and engagement metrics to better serve each user with the most relevant content.

What does that mean?

In English: They show you what they think is going to keep you on the app the longest.

Three main factors influence the ranking system: information about the post, information about the person who posted, and user activity. Let's take a look at how users' defines them.

Information About the Post

Instagram uses several factors to determine how popular a post is, including the number of likes, comments, and shares it receives. The platform also considers the type of post, whether it's a photo, video, or carousel, and the date and time the post was shared.

Information About the Poster

Instagram prioritizes posts from accounts with which a user has a close relationship. It also takes into account the poster's interaction with their audience, such as responding to comments and direct messages, as well as how frequently they post.

User Activity

The Instagram algorithm considers how often a user interacts with certain types of posts, as well as their browsing habits. For example, if a user frequently likes and comments on posts about fashion, Instagram will prioritize fashion-related content in their feed and explore page.

Algorithm Myths Debunked

Many people believe that Instagram's algorithm is a mystery and that it's constantly changing and unpredictable. There are several myths about Instagram's algorithm that need to be addressed that relate to this algorithm update.

Myth #1: Instagram Hides Posts

This myth likely originated from the changes Instagram made to their newsfeed algorithm in 2016, which shifted the way posts are ranked and displayed to users. Prior to this change, posts were shown in chronological order, meaning the most recent posts were visible at the top of a user’s timeline. After the change, posts are now ranked based on user engagement and relevance, meaning that posts that have higher engagement are more likely to appear higher in a user’s newsfeed. In reality, Instagram does not hide posts, but rather displays them in order of relevance and engagement.

Myth #2: The Algorithm Only Shows Content From A Small Percentage Of People You Follow

This myth also likely originated from the changes made to Instagram’s newsfeed algorithm. It is true that Instagram’s algorithm prioritizes posts based on engagement and relevance, but it does not limit the content shown to only a small percentage of the accounts a user follows. Instead, the algorithm aims to show content from all accounts a user follows, prioritizing based on engagement and relevance.

Myth #3: Instagram Penalizes Users For Posting Too Frequently Or Not Enough

While it is true that Instagram’s algorithm takes into account user engagement and relevance when ranking posts, it does not penalize users for posting too frequently or not enough. Posting frequency does not directly impact rankings, but user engagement with the content does. This means that if a user posts frequently and the content is engaging to their followers, then the posts are more likely to appear higher in newsfeeds.

Instagram User post Banner

How Instagram's Algorithm Works for Each Post Type

Instagram's algorithm is comprised of different sub-algorithms that are tailored to each post type. These sub-algorithms take into account various signals and metrics to determine which content to show users in a personalized way. This ranking system ensures that each user is presented with the most relevant and engaging content, based on their interests and past behavior.


Uses signals to determine which Stories users are most likely to watch based on factors like how often they view or interact with a particular user’s Stories, and whether they message each other.


Shows top content from people they follow, but also suggests content based on predictive algorithms—how likely they are to engage with the post, tap on a profile, or spend time on a post.


Guesses which Reels they’re most likely to watch or engage with using signals like Reels watch history, creator information, and similar metrics.


Posts popular topics based on what interests them, how often they interact with similar posts, and so on.

Instagram engagement image

Tips for Better Engagement on Instagram

If you follow the tips outlined below, we think it will help increase your engagement on Instagram.

Post high-quality and engaging content

Ensure that your posts are of the highest quality and provide value to your audience. Make sure you are creating content that resonates with your target audience and is relevant to their interests.

Interact with your followers

Respond to comments and messages from your followers to show them that you value their engagement. This will help build relationships and loyalty with your target audience.

Use relevant hashtags

Hashtags are a great way to increase your reach and discoverability on Instagram. Use hashtags that are related to your content and that are popular with your target audience. This will help your content reach more people and increase engagement.

Utilize all post types

Experiment with different types of content, such as photos, videos, and carousels, and track what works best for your audience using Instagram Insights. Utilizing all post types will maximize your reach and engagement.


In conclusion, understanding Instagram's ranking system is crucial if you want to increase engagement, grow your following, and achieve your goals on the platform. By creating high-quality, engaging content, interacting with your followers, and using relevant hashtags, you can improve your visibility and increase your chances of reaching your target audience. Keep up-to-date with the latest Instagram trends and algorithm updates to stay ahead of the competition and maximize your success on the platform.

Andew Buccellato - Owner of Good Fellas Agency

Andrew Buccellato

Hello! I'm the owner and lead developer here at The Good Fellas Agency. I've been working with code for the past 10 years and started this business over 5 years ago. I mostly write about how Web Design, Digital Marketing, and Search Engine Optimization help your business grow.