TikTok as a Search Engine: How to Optimise Your TikTok Content for SEO in 2022

Katie White

Dec 20, 2022 . 8 minutes read

Tiktok as a search engine optimise your tiktok content for seo

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Google has consistently dominated the search engine market since 2004, when it overtook Yahoo as the most popular search engine.

Since then, no other company has come close, as Google maintains a whopping 92.18% of the worldwide search engine market share, with Bing, the second most popular search engine, holding just 8.04%.

However, there has recently been one company that is giving Google a run for their money and it may be one you least expected: TikTok.

Despite TikTok being predominantly known as a social media platform designed for sharing short videos, it is also becoming an incredibly popular search engine.

In this guide, we’re going to be taking a look at exactly how TikTok has managed to become one of the most popular search engines this year and what you can do to optimise your content for TikTok SEO.

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Is TikTok Catching Up to Google?

At a conference in July 2022, Google disclosed that their studies found that nearly 40% of young users used TikTok or Instagram to find a place to go for lunch instead of Google Maps.

Google’s Senior Vice President Prabhakar Ragavan outlined that younger users are looking to discover content in new and immersive ways.

In order to meet this demand, he revealed that Google plans to enhance Google Search with more visual content, suggesting the threat it faces from TikTok is forcing it to rethink its strategy.

But what exactly is driving this growth?

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How Did TikTok Become a Popular Search Engine?

TikTok is incredibly popular with younger users, who also happen to be the most active users of search engines. However, the key reason behind the success of TikTok as a search engine is down to how the platform fundamentally differs from Google.

When you search for a product or service on Google, you will either see search results from brands that pay Google to display their websites/products (PPC) or results from those that are experts at SEO and create mega content.

Put simply, Google focuses on brands.

TikTok, on the other hand, has a platform that is built for the user. Its unique algorithm delivers personalised results based on a user’s interests, which means users see more of the things they like and less of the things they don’t.

What Makes TikTok Work So Well as a Search Engine?

Relevant Results

What matters most on TikTok is how relevant the content is. When you search for a specific term, TikTok will display the videos that other users have engaged with the most, through likes, comments and shares.

This allows for more trust than other platforms, because recommended content comes from people who have searched for the same things themselves, as opposed to only seeing content that brands have either paid to put at the top or spent time optimising for SEO.

For example, if you’re looking for a chocolate cake recipe and search it on Google, you’re likely to be presented with search results that prioritise lengthy blog posts, where you have to scroll for a while before finally reaching the recipe at the end of the page.

On TikTok, you can easily find quick recipe videos that other users love which are short and to the point without much rambling.

Short and Sweet Content

The reality is that most users searching for a recipe want something quick and easy to follow without having to read all about the history of your Grandma’s famous chocolate cake recipe, making TikTok the preferred way of searching.

This is especially true for Gen Z and Millennial audiences, who typically have shorter attention spans of around 8 and 12 seconds, compared to Boomers who have attention spans of around 5 minutes.

Constant Feature Updates for Easier Searching

All of the above proves that TikTok is already threatening Google, and it only plans to get better as it constantly adds new features.

For example, one of TikTok’s latest features highlights keywords in comments and provides a shortcut link to search results for those terms, listing even more relevant videos. This makes finding out more information quicker and easier than ever before.

Are There Any Problems with Using TikTok as a Search Engine?

Quality of Information

If TikTok truly wants to position itself as a search engine, it needs to ensure the results it displays are high quality, not just popular (e.g. just because a chocolate cake recipe has been posted by a top influencer and is viral, doesn’t mean it's the best).

Inaccuracy and Misinformation

There’s also the big issue of trust and accuracy. Although TikTok is praised for its authenticity, it’s important for users to be cautious when it comes to information provided by video creators.

For example, some users may trust medical advice they have learned through the app simply because it was posted by somebody popular and has received lots of likes and comments.

However, it’s always worth checking sources when searching for medical information- even on Google- to make sure information is accurate and confirmed by medical experts.

Fortunately, TikTok does have a fact checker which generally warns viewers when a video contains information that isn’t 100% accurate, however, this may only appear after a significant number of viewers have reported the video as ‘harmful misinformation’.

How to Optimise Your Content for TikTok SEO

Get to Know the Platform

If you aren’t already familiar with TikTok, the first thing you should do is get to know the platform and understand how it works.

The best way to do this is to use the app yourself and get to grips with it, but if you don’t even know where to start, here’s a general summary:

Viewing Content

When users open the app, a video automatically starts playing on their ‘For You’ page.

This is a feed which is generated by TikTok based on the user’s interests and similar videos to the ones they have shown interest in previously.

This means the more an individual uses the app, the more tailored the content becomes as it learns what they like and don’t like.

Creating Content

To create or post a video, a user can either click the ‘+’ button at the bottom of their screen or press ‘Use this sound’ from a video on their feed.

This brings up a camera for the user to record their video in the app as well as the option to select videos and photos from their Photos app.

Once the user has chosen a sound and either recorded or selected their videos (up to 3 minutes), they can then edit the clips together and add text, filters, stickers and video & sound effects before posting or saving to drafts.

Explore Trends

When exploring the app yourself, take note of which sounds, effects and hashtags are trending.

Once you’ve been down the TikTok rabbit hole for a while, you’ll start to notice prominent trends that do well on the app.

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Create a Strategy

A big part of getting to know TikTok in the beginning involves winging it, however, you should always have a strategy in place.

Although creating and editing videos is typically quicker than on other platforms, it takes time and effort to come up with interesting videos that will resonate with your audience. However, if you’re willing to put in the work, you will no doubt see more of the results you want.

You don’t just need to think about what to post, you also need to think about why you’re posting it and what it is exactly that your business wants to achieve. Maybe you’re looking to do one or more of the following:

  • Increase brand awareness
  • Increase engagement with prospective and existing customer
  • Reach a younger audience
  • Generate sales

Your marketing objectives can help to give your direction when it comes to planning your strategy.

As with any other marketing campaign, it also helps to define your target audience. Who exactly are you hoping to reach?

Before you begin to create content, take a look at TikTok’s demographics and make sure your target audience is there.

The worldwide distribution of TikTok users by age as of April 2022 is as follows:

  • 44.9% - 13-24 year olds
  • 31% - 25-34 year olds
  • 13.3% - 35-44 year olds
  • 6.7% - 45-54 year olds
  • 4.1% - 55 years old+

For more advice on How to Create a TikTok Content Strategy, check out our handy guide.

Use Relevant Hashtags for Maximum Discoverability

In order to make yourself easily discoverable, you should aim to use hashtags within your caption that are relevant to your video so that the TikTok algorithm knows what your content is about.

This might seem like an obvious one, but so many brands get caught out by using popular hashtags that have nothing to do with their content, which can often result in them getting flagged by the algorithm and being shadowbanned for up to 2 weeks (when TikTok hides your content from viewers without informing you).

You should also aim for a mix of popular and niche hashtags. Popular hashtags can give you more exposure, but they’re also super competitive, so it’s easy to get lost in the sea of other videos if these are all you use.

However, by mixing in some niche hashtags that are less competitive, you can reach a more targeted audience and become more discoverable.

You can see how popular a hashtag is by searching for it within the app and noting the number of views it has. TikTok will also list related hashtags below so you can compare stats easily.

Use Your TikTok Analytics

If you want to get serious about TikTok for your brand, it is crucial to know how to measure your success and the best way to do that is with analytics.

TikTok Analytics provides you with all sorts of data about your videos, such as how many people have viewed, liked and shared them, as well as an average length viewers watched for. This info is key to understanding what does and doesn’t work with your current TikTok marketing strategy.

Use the data to your advantage and adjust your approach if needed. To learn more, check out our Ultimate Guide to TikTok Analytics, where we discuss how to find them, what each analytic means and how you can optimise your strategy by using them.

Consistency is King

Anyone can go viral overnight, but in order to build a strong following, you’ll need to be consistent with your posting. The TikTok algorithm favours those who post frequently, so in order to be seen by more people, you need a regular posting schedule.

However, don’t forget that quality is always better than quantity, so don’t just post any old rubbish for the sake of it. The algorithm won’t push your videos if they aren’t engaging.

Thankfully, users on this platform aren’t looking for ultra polished 4K videos- they prefer more authentic content recorded and edited on a smartphone, which makes it easier to create videos more regularly.

Learn from Other Brands

As with any other SEO task, one of the best ways to stay at the top of the market is to look at what your competitors are doing well and do it better.

Take a look at the type of content they’re posting, the sounds they’re using and trends they’re participating in. You can learn from their successes and failures and keep them in mind when it comes to creating your own TikTok strategy.

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