Let’s talk about Instagram banned hashtags.
A few years ago, banned hashtags were one of the biggest issues facing Instagram marketers. It seemed that the most mundane and ridiculous hashtags were getting “banned”, and “banning” also seemed to be a blanket term used for a number of different Instagram restrictions.
There were the kinds of hashtags that you’d expect to be banned — the rude, explicit, offensive ones. It was almost as though those words didn’t exist in Instagram-world. You couldn’t search for them, and posts that contained them were basically invisible.
And then you had the hashtags that were kinda rude, but not really.
And then you had the ones that were banned for really stupid reasons, such as a group of people adopting an everyday term to mean something more explicit.
#valentinesday was banned at one point because Insta users were using the tag to promote posts that weren’t deemed family-friendly.
There were even dog-based hashtags on the banned list.
2017 Instagram Banned Hashtags – A Brief History Lesson
I wrote a blog post back in July of 2017, talking about banned hashtags, and I included a list of the weird and wonderful ones I’d found at the time — #single, #singlelife, #newyears, #newyearsday, etc.
Back then, results for banned hashtag searches only showed the top 20-30 popular posts and not the most recent, along with a warning that stated the hashtag had been abused by the community.
You had absolutely no chance of having a post on the Explore feed if you used a hashtag that had been placed under restrictions.
Certain hashtags weren’t searchable at all. When you typed the word into the search box, it would give you a range of other options to click on, but not the one you actually wanted.
Things are fairly similar now, almost four years later, but a couple of things have changed.
Let’s take a look …
2021 Instagram Banned Hashtags
There are still hashtags you can’t search for at all. If you type in #booty, for example, the tag doesn’t appear in the results. Instead, you’re directed to #bootypics, #bootyworkout, and various others — which AREN’T banned hashtags.
This doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, to be honest. If #booty is out, surely #bootypics would be out, too?
Apparently not; #bootypics is not, in any way, banned on Instagram.
These non-existent hashtags are permanently banned hashtags.
There is no hope of them ever being usable hashtags and should be avoided at all costs. If you continually use these hashtags, your reach is going to go way down.
A few more examples of permanently banned hashtags include:
You then have the hashtags that are kinda banned.
#always, for example, only shows one half of the results page — most recent. There is no popular tab. You can’t follow the hashtag, and it doesn’t show you how many results the tag has. (Although this does come up next to the hashtag in the search results.)
These hashtags – the ones that have half of the results screen removed – are hashtags that have been banned for a short period of time — temporarily banned hashtags.
They aren’t permanently banned. The reason for the ban is usually because people have been using them for spam purposes, or in ways that violate the terms of service (such as nudity, violence, illegal activity, etc.).
During the 2020 US election and all the craziness that went along with it, a lot of the election-based hashtags were subject to this part-time ban. This was to help prevent the spread of fake news and misinformation.
You’re probably not going to end up on the Explore page if you use temporarily banned hashtags.
You’re definitely not going to end up on the Explore page if you use permanently banned hashtags.
If you’re looking for Instagram growth or reach, you’re going to want to make sure that you’re avoiding those banned hashtags entirely.
Is There a List of Banned Hashtags?
There are a few hashtags that are banned for obvious reasons, and the bans on those won’t ever change. These include offensive terms, explicit terms, swear words, etc. Just throw those hashtags out of the window. You won’t ever need to use them, nor should you.
The temporarily banned hashtags are much tougher to keep track of. When I first published the list of the ones I’d found, back in 2017, I vowed to keep updating it. The banned ones changed so quickly, however, it was impossible to keep doing it.
There are a few websites that try to keep track of all of the banned hashtags on Instagram, both temporarily and permanently, and the best one I’ve found is Instavast.
There are various free and paid-for services offered on the site, and the [free] list of banned hashtags is the most up-to-date one, in my opinion. Although it says the list hasn’t been updated since June of 2019, it has been. As far as I can tell the list is pretty up-to-date, plus it also allows users to add in new banned hashtags.
There’s an A-Z list of banned hashtags, with the permanently banned ones highlighted in red to make life nice and easy. You can search for specific hashtags, too.
A few surprising examples:
#beautyblogger is on the list — a hashtag I’d actually been using regularly. I honestly have no flipping idea why the hashtag would be banned, but it is, temporarily. Only one half of the results screen is there. The results is a non-sensical grid of posts; it’s not in chronological order, or most popular order. There are posts with 5 likes right next to posts with 1,500 likes.
#fitgirlproblems is temporarily banned.
#newyearsday is still temporarily banned, but #newyear and #newyears aren’t.
#skateboarding (what? why??)
Question: Who the heck is abusing these hashtags, and HOW? It blows my mind that these are banned but other hashtags aren’t. #bootypics isn’t banned … I mean, please.
So … What Really Happens If I Use Banned Instagram Hashtags?
If you use one or two banned hashtags here and there, you’ll likely just spot a decline in reach and engagement for those posts. Nothing overly dramatic will happen. You might not even notice.
Repeated banned hashtag usage could land you in a little bit of hot water with the powers that rule over Instagram, though … even if you are doing it accidentally.
If a hashtag has been temporarily banned for being associated with spam activity, for example, your account could be flagged as spam (spam-associated) for still using the hashtag. Over time, this will lead to quite a dramatic decline in reach. Instagram won’t show your content to people because they believe it is spam, or associated with spam.
Another apparent punishment for repeated usage of banned hashtags is said to be a “shadowban” of your whole account, although Instagram has repeatedly come forward to state that an actual shadowban doesn’t exist.
Let’s pretend the shadowban does exist for a moment.
If your account has been shadowbanned, it’ll feel like you don’t exist on the platform. Your reach via hashtags will be absolutely diabolical, and very few people who follow you will be shown your content in their feeds. Your content will get very little, if any, engagement.
It feels as if you don’t exist; you’re invisible; no one notices you.
A bloomin’ lonely place to be, is what it is.
And if you keep using banned Instagram hashtags after the supposedly non-existent shadowban hits you, you run the risk of losing your account temporarily, or even permanently. This is Instagram’s way of making sure that spam doesn’t overrun the platform (even though it still does), alongside other violations.
I’ve scrutinised a few accounts that have been hit with temporary/permanent suspensions and the ONLY violation (if you can even call it that) that I’ve managed to find has been the repeated usage of temporarily banned hashtags, such as #beautyblogger and #todayimwearing.
Instagram Banned Hashtags ~ My Advice
Don’t freak out about Instagram banned hashtags too much. Chances are, you won’t be using the majority of them. The weird and wonderful, mundane ones that are temporarily banned, such as #beautyblogger, aren’t banned for long.
Life goes back to normal, reach goes back up, it’s all just a temporary blip.
However, I do recommend double-checking on sites such as Instavast every now and then, just to make sure you’re erring on the side of caution.
You could also follow me on Instagram (all links below). I’ve started shouting my latest banned hashtag finds on my Stories.
Thanks so much for stopping by and taking a read of my blog today, folks. Do you have any questions? Have you been accidentally using banned hashtags in your Instagram strategy? Let me know in the comments below.
Don’t forget to check out Instavast, too.
[Not an affiliate, I just think it’s a handy tool.]