What are banned hashtags on Instagram?
7 October 2023
Confused by banned hashtags on Instagram, this female small business owner is looking at her phone with a frustrated expression. Hashtag symbols appear to be flying out of it as the cause of her frustration

*Updated for Feb 2024* Hashtags play a valuable role when implementing the social media marketing strategy for your small business, especially on a platform such as Instagram. As a marketing expert, I emphasise their significance in enhancing the visibility if you are a business owner aiming to maximise your online presence.

What are hashtags for?

First and foremost, hashtags serve as signposting tools. Each one works to categorise content, making it easier both for users interested in specific topics or industries to find related posts,  but much more significantly, for Instagram itself to understand your post. It can then work to deliver it into more of the most relevant feeds.
In other words, hashtags on Instagram do not particularly help your post to get more reach – ie a larger amount of visibility in front of different people. (They used to do this to a greater degree than they do now!)
However, they will work to focus the delivery of your post towards more people who’ll find it relevant.

It’s about improving the quality of the reach.

For small business owners, this means that using relevant hashtags can significantly increase the chances of their posts being seen by potential customers. And fewer ‘random’ accounts.

It’s important to note another thing that hashtags cannot do. While they can amplify your post’s visibility to the ‘right people’, they can’t replace high-quality, engaging content. If that were true, hashtags would be successful in isolation.
Businesses should focus on creating compelling posts that resonate with their target audience (Dream Customer/ Client).

Hashtags are complementary tools that help in reaching the right audience effectively.

What are banned hashtags?

Instagram restricts the reach of content categorised by certain hashtag(s). Those are hashtags associated with inappropriate or harmful content, such as hate speech, violence, self-harm, or illegal activities.
It’s right that content directly or even indirectly on those themes should be highly restricted.

Jump down to the bottom of this post, if you’re ready to see the full list (** updated & checked Feb 2024 **).

Unfortunately over the years a lot of spam and bot-produced content has used hashtags inappropriately in attempts to garner increased visibility, too. Many hashtags that are not obviously related to inappropriate and harmful content have been mis-used/ abused.
So #valentinesday #gloves #desk – yes, these are all on the ‘banned’ list.
I’ve even known #dogsofinstagram be restricted, so woe betide if your business is as a petgroomer and you were wanting to use one 🙁 (It’s ok now though!)

Instagram takes action to restrict any content that includes commonly mis-used hashtags, as well as the more obviously harmful tags.
Restricting content with those tags does not literally mean that Instagram ‘bans’ use of those hashtags (ie prevents you publishing content with them). The word ‘banned’ has been adopted as a colloquialism describing that a post will be held back, either completely/ partly.

What happens to your post in this case?

If a ‘banned’ hashtag is present, that post will not be pushed out to the feed in the same way it would’ve been without that tag. Irrespective of the content of that post, and what you intended by it. No appeals can be made.
Instagram wishes to err strictly on the side of caution against any post with that hashtag.

It’s always important to adhere to Instagram’s community guidelines and use hashtags responsibly to create a positive online environment. Instagram provides official information on their platform guidelines here.

For a list of currently restricted hashtags, compiled and checked by me (updated Feb 2024!), jump down this post.

How to use hashtags, purposefully for small business growth

When it comes to practical usage, it’s advisable to be strategic with your hashtags. Instagram’s best practices suggest using a mix of popular, niche, and location-specific hashtags. While Instagram allows up to 30 hashtags per post, it’s more effective to use a smaller number (around 5-15) of highly relevant ones for each specific post.
Generic hashtags like #love or #instagood are overly saturated, and not at all specific enough for your Instagram to learn which feeds to push your post to, so that they’re certainly NOT helping your content to be found.

While hashtags can be placed anywhere in the caption section, a cluttered caption with hashtags integrated into the body of the text is harder to read for most. Which might discourage users from fully reading the value you have to offer.
So my recommendation is to keep the caption clean and concise by reserving all the hashtags to the end of your post.

A-Z list of restricted or ‘banned’ hashtags – fully checked and updated, 25 February 2024


A
#abdl
#addmysc
#adulting
#alone
#always
#armparty
#anorexia
#antivax
#asiangirl
#ass
#assday
#assworship

B
#babe
#babyrp
#bacak
#bbc
#beautyblogger
#besties
#bikinibody
#bluejeans
#boho
#brain

C
#costumes
#curvygirls

D
#date
#dating
#desk
#direct
#dm

E
#earnmoneyonline
#edm
#eggplant
#elevator
#endme

F
#followtrain
#fuck

G
#girlsonly
#gloves
#goodbye
#graffitiigers

H
#happyhumpday
#happythanksgiving
#hardworkpaysoff
#hawks
#hotgirls
#hotweather
#humpday
#hustler

I
#ice
#ifb
#ilovemyinstagram
#income
#instababy
#instasport
#iphonegraphy
#italiano

K
#kansas
#kickoff
#kill
#killingit
#killme
#killyourself
#kissing
#kys

L
#l4l
#lean
#leaves
#like
#likeback
#likeforlike
#loseweight
#lust

M
#makemoneyonline
#master
#mileycyrus
#milf
#mirrorphoto
#models
#moneyinminutes
#moneyteam
#mustfollow

N
#nasty
#newyearsday
#nudes
#nudity
#nudism

O
#overnight

P
#parties
#payme
#petite
#petitegirls
#porn
#pornfood
#prettygirl
#pushups
#pussy

R
#rate
#ravens
#romance

S
#saltwater
#samelove
#selfharm
#sex
#sexworker
#sexy
#shit
#shower
#single
#singlelife
#skateboarding
#skype
#snap
#snapchat
#snapchatme
#snowstorm
#sopretty
#stranger
#streetphoto
#suicide
#suicideawareness
#sunbathing
#sundaymorning
#swole

T
#tag4like
#tagsforlikes
#tanlines
#teen
#teens
#thick
#thighs
#thought
#todayimwearing

U
#undies
#underage

V
#valentinesday

W
#workathomesuccess
#workflow
#wft

X
#xanax
#xxx

Y
#youngmodel

It’s worth periodically checking back to this list – bookmark this link for future reference! –
and/or using the hashtag search tool within Instagram in case any of your chosen tags are restricted. When you search for any hashtag, a notification will pop up ahead of the posts which feature that tag, if there is a current, active restriction.
This is what you’ll see:

Screenshot of a phone screen showing the Instagram search page for the hashtag #newyearsday. The top of the screen shows the warning notification indicating the restricted use of that hashtag

In summary, hashtags are a valuable asset for small business owners on Instagram. When used intentionally, they act as powerful tools, enhancing visibility.
For best effect, take time to understand their purpose, limitations, and best practices – not least, being mindful to avoid ‘banned’ hashtags, in order to leverage them effectively and drive your social media marketing efforts more productively.

PS. Did you know that hashtags can also be useful as an outreach engagement tool, as they can help you to find your customer, in order to engage with them and attract them to your page  – check out this post 🙂




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