What do TikTok and Google have in common? Besides being billion dollar companies, of course. They’re both powerful search engines. Well, sort of.
Surely, nobody yet dares to imagine a world where Google is no longer the go-to search engine for people all around the globe. But TikTok is quickly catching up.
Read on to see why it’s worth looking at TikTok as a search engine in its own right and develop a TikTok SEO strategy to make sure your brand gets the visibility it deserves.
Creating a powerful TikTok SEO strategy
1. Is TikTok a search engine?
Given the speed at which TikTok has been growing in the past years, it’s safe to say its days as a widely popular search engine are not that far ahead.
Google themselves admitted that TikTok is quickly rising through the ranks and becoming one of their strongest competitors, particularly for the Gen Z audience.
Their reports showed that 40% of young users (ages 18 to 24) favored TikTok or Instagram instead of Google Maps for discovering new places, like a new favorite lunch spot.
It’s just not Google that’s saying it. Regular users are saying it too. In June 2022, Claude Lukyamuzi simply tweeted: “I don’t Google anymore I TikTok”.
Much to his surprise, his short tweet quickly went viral because it resonated with many TikTok users who were already taking full advantage of the platform's advanced search function to look for new brands, places and people.
I don’t Google anymore I TikTok— LUKKZ 🇺🇬 (@ClaudeLukkz) June 8, 2022
The love affair between Gen Z and TikTok is no joke. Besides the tweet shown above, there’s a lot more evidence suggesting that Gen Z uses TikTok more than Google.
Why? The most common reasons are a general dissatisfaction with Google results, a preference for visual content and a short attention span.
TikTok happens to check all the boxes, by serving up short-form content that is visually engaging, informative and to the point. Perfect for Gen Z (and not only).
While TikTok’s main focus, at least as it appears for now, is not to become the next Google, it’s worth noting that this social media platform has a lot of features that make it very easy to be used as a search engine.
One of these features is suggested keywords.
Another one is the recently rolled out comment search feature, which appears primarily in TikTok's comment section. There, keywords appear hyperlinked next to a magnifying glass.
By clicking on the linked keyword, users are sent to a discovery page where they can see videos related to that keyword.
"For creators, brands, and businesses, we can assume that the new search feature gathers context for videos from keywords in comments, hashtags in captions, and actual video content (on-screen text and voice). In the future, it would make sense that a TikTok SEO strategy would involve optimizing videos with related keywords to help hyperlinked keywords appear in comments, in comment section headers, and to help videos appear in relevant queries." - HubSpot
Where there’s a search engine, there must be search engine optimization. Except TikTok is not exactly Google, so not all SEO principles apply here.
Even if you’re an expert on ranking on Google, you still have some more things to learn before you can master SEO for TikTok.
2. So what is TikTok SEO?
TikTok SEO is the practice of optimizing your content on TikTok so that it reaches your target audience.
Social media managers can use tactics inspired by traditional (Google) SEO techniques (and some new tricks) to make sure their brand’s content is primed for growth and will get in front of the right people.
Because TikTok’s algorithm champions discovery, just a few tweaks to your content can make a world of difference and boost your exposure.
3. What to focus on in your TikTok SEO strategy?
TikTok search engine optimization is relatively new territory for many social marketers out there. That means it’s the perfect time to gain a foothold and stay ahead of the competition by using the right SEO tactics.
So what are the key aspects you need to focus on when you’re doing SEO on TikTok? Glad you asked.
Bet you saw this one coming. Keywords lie at the core of any successful SEO strategy (regardless of the search engine), so it makes sense that they would also matter on TikTok.
Once you find the right TikTok keywords for your brand, it’s time to start creating content around them.
The key here is to create content that is optimized for the TikTok SEO algorithm and also likely to be searched (and hopefully found) by your target audience.
Wondering how to add keywords on TikTok? Easy!
Start by incorporating keywords in your:
- On-screen text (whether that’s closed captions or your own custom text)
Using the right keywords for your brand will not only help you gain more visibility on TikTok. It will also help you show up more often in Google results.
Since Google has started indexing more video content (mainly from Instagram and TikTok), TikTok has seen a 133% growth in visibility, according to Search Engine Journal.
Keywords and hashtags go hand in hand. As on many other social networks, they are a great tool for content discovery.
Which means that if you use them right, you boost your chances to get your content in front of more people, and more importantly, the right people.
In your captions, you should use both relevant keywords and searchable hashtags. Often, keywords will double as hashtags.
As with keywords, the key is to find the balance between generic and niche hashtags.
High-volume, popular hashtags might sound insanely appealing, but they are very competitive and ranking for them will take a lot of time and effort. Plus, you run the risk of getting lost in a sea of content.
Niche hashtags on the other hand are far less “crowded”, allowing you to speak to a specific group of people.
And don’t worry, there’s a niche for everything on TikTok.
Need some more help?
Socialinsider’s analytics data for TikTok can help you identify the top hashtags (for your brand or for your competitors) and rank them by count or engagement.
Depending on the case, this data can help you figure out if you’re on the right track with your choice of hashtags or get inspired by your competitors’ most engaging hashtags:
Add trending sounds
Adding popular tunes to your videos is admittedly the least conventional tactic of the bunch, but it’s one that works brilliantly on TikTok. Trending music is an integral part of the TikTok experience.
Why? Because it’s entertaining, inspiring and captivating. And it makes it easy for your content to be discovered by a wider audience.
What’s more, using popular tunes has a big impact on your videos’ watch rate, according to our most recent TikTok benchmarks study. Using original sounds, on the other hand, tends to bring your watch rate numbers down.
So how do you find out which sounds are most popular right now?
To quickly check what’s trending, click the plus button while creating a new video and click "Add Sound". On this page, you can view sounds listed as "New" or choose from the "TikTok Viral" playlist.
Or, you can use the search bar at the top of the screen, type in “viral sounds” and navigate to the “Sounds” tab.
With these, we covered the main ingredients of a successful TikTok SEO strategy. But what else can you do to make sure you are ranking as high as you can on this social media platform?
Let’s explore two more essential tactics:
Get to know your audience
TikTok prides itself on being a user-centric social media platform, with a highly complex algorithm that promotes discoverability and personalization. So it’s all about the users.
Why is this relevant? Because you can take a page out of TikTok’s playbook and make your content user-centric as well.
That means getting to know your target audience: what they like, what they are looking for and what they are missing.
To cut down on guesswork, it might be a good idea to lean on TikTok’s native Analytics feature, located inside the app. Or use a social media analytics tool like Socialinsider to get even more valuable insights about your followers.
Alternatively, you can look up your desired keywords, examine the results you get for each and see if there are any gaps you can fill. If you’re confident you can create content that matches your audience’s search intent better, go for it.
Do your keyword research
Because TikTok is the new kid on the block when it comes to SEO, there aren’t many tools that can educate you on the TikTok SEO best practices. But not all hope is lost.
You can still use traditional SEO tools like Ahrefs, Semrush or Google Ads Keyword Planner to give you an idea of what people are searching for inside your niche or industry.
Once you have a small list, you can expand it by hopping back on TikTok and using its magical search engine.
As we mentioned before, once you start typing words and phrases, the platform will give you more suggestions for popular keywords that you can add to your roster.
By the end of this process, you should have a solid list of keywords and hashtags to implement in your TikTok SEO strategy.
4. TikTok's own SEO ranking factors
One thing to keep in mind as you’re doing SEO for TikTok is that the app has its own ranking factors that feed its algorithm. These are:
- User interactions - this covers just about everything a user does to interact with the content shared, like watch all the way or skip, like, hide or add to favorites.
- Video info - this includes many of the elements we covered above, such as hashtags, keywords, sound effects, and music.
- Account details - here we have geographical location, mobile device type and OS, as well as interest categories (which users select when they create an account).
At the end of the day, combining Google SEO tactics with TikTok SEO tactics is the way to go.
Nobody knows for sure exactly how much each metric weighs in the grand scheme of TikTok SEO ranking, but one thing is certain: they are all important and they should be understood and implemented strategically to obtain the best results.
5. Stay on top of TikTok SEO with Socialinsider
We’ll say it louder for people in the back: any successful social media strategy starts with fresh, accurate data.
TikTok search engine optimization is relatively new because, well, so is TikTok’s role as a search engine. But that doesn’t mean social media managers are clueless or helpless in developing a strategy for ranking on this platform.
There are tools you can use to keep track of all your TikTok analytics data, like Socialinsider. On your TikTok analytics page, you have all the data you need at a glance: key metrics, posts info, hashtags, followers, engagement and much more.
If you’re already active on TikTok on behalf of a brand or small business, then our data can give valuable insights into how your content is currently performing and where it can be improved.
On the other hand, if you’re just starting out with TikTok, then the data essentially allows you to spy on your competition and get a sense of direction in your TikTok marketing strategy.
So, with all this mind, which TikTok SEO tactic will you tackle first?