How to Avoid Instagram's Shadow Ban

How to avoid Instagram's Shadow Ban, shadowban, shadowbanning. Avoid the shadowban and grow your Instagram!

instagram has made some big changes

You've probably been wondering why you've seen a major drop in your engagement on one of the most popular social media platforms, Instagram. It's not just you - it's everyone! Instagram has implementing a few... ahem, changes regarding how people can find and view your content on the app and it's hurting everyone from small bloggers to big businesses.

On average, most accounts have seen a drop in engagement from 30-70%. What does that mean? Less likes, reach, comments, video views and a big kick in the confidence of social media managers and users everywhere - ha!

The good news is it's happening everywhere. The bad news is this is one of the biggest changes - and challenges - to a social media platform's algorithms in quite a while. But don't fret! There are ways to minimize the impact. Let's talk about 'em.  

What exactly IS a shadowban?

Depending on the social media platform, the definition of a shadowban varies. It's been around for quite a while (over ten years!), but has only jumped into the spotlight with the extreme measures seen on our favorite image-sharing platform. It began as a way for a platform to "soft" ban a post, image or user temporarily as a way to cut down on abusive or spam-like content.

Typically, if you've been shadowbanned, you won't know it or be alerted by the platform or app, and your content will not be publicly found in searches under certain keywords or hashtags.

With Instagram's shadowban, your content may not show up under certain hashtags by people who do not follow you. This is a big deal. Why? People use hashtags to be found by new audiences!

This varies from post-to-post. If you've been shadowbanned, the likelihood of ALL of your posts not showing up in search is very, incredibly slim. If you use a hashtag Instagram finds to be frequently used by abusive or spam accounts, your post will be penalized (shadowbanned) and will not show up in the "Top Posts" or anywhere within any of the hashtags you used for that post.

All around, Instagram is placing priority on natural (and let's be honest: paid) engagement, especially with business accounts and is discouraging a reliance on using hashtags and automated services to reach your key audience.

Instagram's response to shadowban

How to avoid a shadowban on your account

first, Check if you've been banned

While at this time, there isn't a way to directly check individual hashtags, a sweet little site called the Instagram Shadowban Tester makes it easier to find out if you've been banned and how narrow down the likelihood of using banned hashtags in the future.

Type in your username to see if your most recent post has been shadowbanned or copy and paste the URLs of any of your posts to see if they're showing up in the public hashtag search option.

If any (even one!) hashtag has been zeroed in by Instagram for a shadowban, your image won't show up in the public searched for any of the hashtags you've used in that post.

If you use the same hashtags for every post, it may be difficult to narrow down how you've been banned. We'll talk more about how to use hashtags wisely down below!

Avoid using apps & bots 

As a convenience factor, many Instagram users sought the help from outside apps to boost engagement, whether it was by using apps or paid services to automatically follow accounts within their niche or ideal customer avatar or automatically liking/commenting on posts within a targeted hashtag or set of hashtags.

In 2017, that's not an okay practice, according to Instagram, no matter how ethically you use these apps and programs. To avoid being placed within the crosshairs of Instagram's TOS and avoid the risk of being shadowbanned or banned completely, pull your subscriptions from any apps that post, comment, follow or like on your behalf. Consider pulling any apps you've used in the past to track your followers, too!

Instagram has a limit to how active you can be within an hour as well:

Instagram suggests you don't exceed more than:

  • liking 120 posts per hour
  • following 60 accounts per hour
  • commenting 12-20 times per hour
  • 5 @ mentions per post

And do not follow a user, then unfollow once they follow you back! One, as a way to gain new followers, it's pretty shady. Two, Instagram's gonna find ya and ban ya.


There have been lots of questions about whether Instagram schedulers are part of this risk of being banned. As of May 2017, there is no issue with schedulers that do not automatically post like Planoly, Buffer and Later.

Schedulers that simply send you a push notification as a reminder to post, then copy the caption and image to Instagram are a-okay for now. The ones that post FOR you - without a push notification that guides you into the app to post - are getting banned left and right each day.

Use hashtags carefully

Watch out when using popular hashtags or those that are borderline abusive or spammy, such as those that are used to primarily gain likes and followers, super popular topics or hashtags that encourage a "like for like" or "follow for follow" engagement.  

Don't exceed more than 20-30 hashtags in your captions or comments. More than 30 hashtags in a caption or comment will have that content automatically banned and put your account at risk of being 100% banned.

Sometimes even innocent hashtags can fall victim to a ban if it suddenly becomes compromised with spam or abusive posts. Yep, even your #supermom, #halloween or #foodiefriday posts could suddenly be banned.

Check out this list of hashtags from The Data Pack that have been or are currently banned on Instagram - warning, some hashtags on the link may be offensive and/or nsfw! After all, they're banned.

Switch up your strategy

You may have notes or autofills to help you with pasting your hashtags in your posts depending on subject... And you may want to rethink it.

Try varying the number of hashtags you use per post. Using a number of popular hashtags for your niche? Break them up into two categories, varying which ones you use for each post. Post 3-5 hashtags for one post and 10-15 for the next.

Post 1-3 times per day, varying the times you post during the day. It's enough to get you seen in searches and your followers' feeds, but not enough to alert Instagram of any TOS-breaking actions. Most strategists recommend no more than 5 posts a day - more than that in 2017 and you're at risk of being flagged to be banned.

How to remove a shadowban

There isn't too much you can do to remove a shadowban from your content; however, if you know which hashtag Instagram has banned, you can remove the offending hashtags from your captions/comments and within a few hours to a day, your content should be searchable once again.

If you find you've been shadowbanned, remove the hashtag(s) that's caused the ban, take a break from Instagram: Log out for a few days before diving back in again. Slow how often you're engaging with content if you're on Instagram for several hours every day. Essentially, you're giving Instagram's algorithms a chance to realize you're a person, not a bot.  

All-in-all, the best way to remove a shadowban is to follow the above tips to avoid a shadowban in the first place! It's a chicken-or-the-egg approach, but by keeping an eye on the most recent trends and how your account is appear in searches, you'll start to see your engagement increase once again.

Has your content been shadowbanned on Instagram? Know of any other techniques to help with engagement in the "shadowban age"? Comment below and talk to us!



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