With almost one billion monthly active users, Instagram is officially the second most popular social network behind Facebook (excluding YouTube).
And with so many users, it’s no wonder that so many companies are finding great success at building brands and driving engagement on this network.
All too often, though, it seems like driving engagement on Instagram is the ONLY thing Instagram is good for.
If you really want to get people back to your site and your content, you’ve got to pay for ads, right?
It makes sense, because you can’t link from any of your Instagram posts – only your profile. Ads, on the other hand, can drive traffic.
But the truth is, you don’t need to spend a single dime on Instagram ads to drive traffic to your blog posts.
You can, in fact, use Instagram to grow your traffic – and not just your follower count.
Here’s how to leverage Instagram to bring in more visitors to your top-performing content without spending your budget on advertising.
Let’s start with the one place on Instagram where literally anyone can create a clickable link:
Your profile bio.
It’s your only position to post a link on Instagram that is hyperlinked and clickable for the user.
Otherwise, you force them to copy and paste the link, which – let’s be honest – a lot of people might not do.
The problem with having only one link location is how limited your options become.
Do you want to promote your site in general? By doing so, you won’t drive as much traffic to specific blog posts.
Want to promote a certain blog post? What if nobody cares? You risk losing general website traffic!
So what do you do?
Most companies tend to place the link in their bio, setting and forgetting it, and leaving it to drive traffic all on its own.
This can work to bring in more traffic, but if you want to use Instagram with more intention, you need to get more specific.
One way to do this is by updating that link for each new post that goes live on your Instagram.
At MeetEdgar, we currently use a tool called Link In Profile!
This is a perfectly easy way to drive social referral traffic to your blog posts without spending a dime on ads.
But how do you keep a consistent link in your bio that people actually want to click?
It becomes tricky when you start changing links on every post, or even forgetting to do it. If you blog frequently, you could be updating your bio pretty often.
If that’s the route you take, make updating your bio part of your blogging process – and depending on how often you publish new blog posts, you might even consider only using Instagram as a traffic driver for some of them.
Alternatively, a tool like Link In Profile can turn your Instagram posts into a clickable feed, where every click takes you to a corresponding post.
What about the images themselves, though?
How are big brands creating the types of images that drive clicks?
Image and video content is what Instagram is all about.
There’s no escaping it. And you shouldn’t shy away from the platform – even if your only goal is to drive more blog traffic!
By creating high-quality images including text that complements the call to action in your caption, you can generate a lot more interest in your blog posts.
Gary Vaynerchuk has done this to great effect in the past:
This can be as simple as taking an image from your latest blog post, resizing it for Instagram, and adding a pull-quote or title.
It’s the sort of thing you can easily do for free using a tool like Canva:
This will automatically create an image with the right dimensions for your post, so everything scales correctly.
When you post the image, you can use the caption to invite readers to click a link in your bio, or even to tag any friends they think will be interested.
This is a common tactic used by major brands on Instagram, like Subway:
And don’t forget: when posting a link in your bio, you can get quality link data by using a tool like Bitly to track links for your content!
When you want people on social media to take a specific action, like clicking a link or tagging a friend, a simple reminder can go a long way.
Since launching in late 2016, Instagram Stories has become a huge feature – with location tags, stickers, support for both photo and video, AND a way to broadcast live, it’s secured a huge market of users!
And how do you use Instagram Stories to drive more traffic to your blog?
Well, this feature offers an added benefit that is critical when it comes to traffic:
Another place to share a link!
That’s right – you can link directly out from your Instagram Stories, making it one of the best places to share new blog content.
(Note: this feature is currently limited to verified accounts.)
For example, in this Story from Travel and Leisure’s Instagram, they used this exact tactic to promote one of their articles:
Swiping up opens a pane in Instagram where the user can read the article:
This saves users the trouble of stopping what they’re doing to go back to your profile and click a link in your bio – and that convenience can mean a lot more traffic for you.
Want more inspiration for Instagram Stories? Here are 12 ways to make your brand stand out using this feature!
Video content is extremely popular on Instagram – and it can help you drive traffic, too.
For example, here’s a video post from the Starbucks Instagram account that gives a brief preview of content you can find on their site, along with the URL where you can find it:
Videos give you the opportunity to advertise links without them seeming as intrusive as they might in a static post.
The video above even qualifies traffic ahead of time by putting the URL at the end of the video, instead of the beginning – anyone interested enough in watching until the URL is shown is likely curious enough to learn more.
Not a videographer? No problem.
Online video tools like Biteable make it easy to put together short, quick animations that are just the right size for this sort of thing.
Biteable, for example, offers animation templates to which you can add your own text and details:
Try summarizing the top content from your latest blog post into a short 10-30 second video that can generate some buzz and interest.
Here’s what that sort of animation might look like:
(As you can see, sites like Biteable generally offer both free and paid versions – free videos like the one above typically include a watermark.)
Just be sure you include a call to action at the end of the video to direct people where you want them to go – and make sure that the URL is easy to remember! (Hint: using a branded link can help.)
A lot of Instagram Feeds look something like this:
Most of the content is static, and without any context. Nothing really grabs your attention.
Compare that to Instagram updates like these ones from Tai Lopez:
Updates like these, which contextualize and preview the content using headlines, do a lot more work to generate curiosity.
Here’s another example, from Gary Vaynerchuk:
He uses this strategy to drive hundreds of thousands of views on his content – and that kind of visibility makes a big difference when you’re trying to get people to notice a URL.
(Note also that in the above example, he uses the “tag a friend in the replies” strategy, too.)
Try using catchy headlines (even ones with emojis) in your headers, and see what kind of impact it makes on your views!
Here is a bonus tactic of mine, inspired by the classic blog post distribution strategy where you reach out to all of the influencers, sites, and companies you’ve mentioned or linked to.
First, I’ll create an Instagram image for each statistic or quote I used in a post or article.
Then, I’ll reach out to the source of that statistic or quote, and let them know about the post or article mentioning them. I’ll even create an Instagram post for them!
Here’s an example.
Let’s say I mentioned Neil Patel in my blog post and quoted him. Using the Canva template I showed you earlier, I would proceed to create an Instagram quote image based off of his quote:
(Notice I even took the time to match Neil’s font style and brand color. In my opinion, if you’re making the effort already, you may as well do it right.)
Then, I’ll message him on Instagram, letting him know that I’ve quoted him in my post and that I turned his quote into an Instagram image. I can send him the image itself, and ask him to tag my own Instagram handle if he wants to share it.
On top of that, I’ll follow up with an email to let them know that I’ve messaged him on Instagram, and attach the image there, as well.
If he decides to post the image, I can reply to the Instagram post with a call to action, like this one:
“Love the quote Neil and thank you for sharing! To read my latest post with this awesome quote, click on the direct link in my bio description (@myinstagramhandle) or you can copy and paste this link to your browser *INSERT BITLY LINK*”
If I don’t get a response, I’ll post the image I made on my own Instagram page, and add a similar call to action. I can even repurpose it for an Instagram Story with a swipe-up link to my post, as well.
Either way, your work isn’t going to waste – it’s being shared, and giving you an opportunity to drive traffic, even if they have to copy and paste a short URL.
Instagram isn’t just for visual-based content to generate brand awareness or rack up a follower count.
It’s not just for travel photographers looking to establish a portfolio.
In fact, Instagram is a surprisingly useful social network when it comes to bringing in more visitors!
Follow the tips in this post, and you’ll be on your way to driving more blog traffic through Instagram.
What are YOUR favorite ways to leverage Instagram for more traffic? What strategies have worked for you?
Share your experience in the comments below!
David Zheng is the Founder of Growth Wit and Wisemerchant and the Head of Growth at BuildFire. He specializes in growth and content strategies to help influencers, ecommerce brands, venture-backed startups, and Fortune 500 companies grow their traffic and revenue online.