If you’re a marketer, it’s likely that you’ve heard the new SEO stat that’s sent the industry into a frenzy: that 40% of Gen Zs prefer searching on TikTok and Instagram instead of Google (Tech Crunch).
The statistic spread like wildfire after Google’s senior vice president, Prabhakar Raghavan, announced the growing preference at this year’s Fortune Brainstorm conference. It has us all asking: Is TikTok SEO the future?
The powers at Google have certainly been asking similar questions, because the new data is causing them to rethink the types of search results they display. According to Raghavan, Google’s SERPs will start to steer towards more visual content to keep up with users’ changing demands. They’re even in negotiations with TikTok so that they can start indexing and displaying individual TikTok videos.
We already know that TikTok can facilitate digital PR with incredible TikTok reactive campaigns, but now it looks like the ever-growing social media platform is sneaking into SEO overall. So, how does it affect your strategy?
In this guide, we’ll share everything we know about TikTok SEO so far, so you can figure out how to appear in TikTok searches and get those views.
Why do Gen Zs prefer TikTok search over Google?
Before we dive in, let’s start with why our audiences are choosing their newer TikTok app over the search engine veteran.
Say they’re searching for ‘hotels in Paris’ on Google, this is what the SERPs will look like:
Ad, ad … oh, and another ad.
When they scroll down, they see results from TripAdvisor and Booking.com.
Now let’s compare that to ‘hotels in London’:
It’s the same ads and the same brands once again.
On TikTok however, it’s a completely different search climate:
Here, users can actually see the hotel recommendations in an instant, making it a perfect travel SEO tactic. They’re given posts by a range of real people, in a way that’s enjoyable and easy to digest. This authenticity and variety is something that Google sometimes lacks.
What is TikTok SEO?
Similar to any search engine optimisation, TikTok SEO involves optimising TikTok videos to appear in your audience’s search results. At the moment, this just involves the TikTok search results page, but once Google is able to index TikTok videos, this will involve the Google SERPs too.
How to appear in TikTok search results
Even though TikTok have kept their cards close to their chest when it comes to their exact search algorithm, we know that the below factors are used to match videos to users’ keywords:
If you want your video to appear in TikTok’s search results, optimising these with your keywords can help.
How to optimise TikTok hashtags
Hashtags are key to getting your TikTok videos discovered, so make sure you utilise these to the fullest. Carefully think about what keywords your audience is searching for and add these to your hashtags. Always make sure each tag is as relevant as possible too.
A common misconception is that creators should only use the most popular hashtags in their videos. Sure, joining these trends helps you get involved in conversations that your audiences are interested in, but when it comes to search visibility, these hashtags can be very saturated.
Instead, adding long-tail keywords to your hashtags can help you appear in results that aren’t as populated, so you have a bigger chance of cutting through the crowd. For example, if you’re styling a linen shirt, don’t just use hashtags like #FashionTikTok, be more specific with things like #linenshirts or #stylinglinen.
How to optimise captions
Captions and hashtags count towards the same character count, but don’t be tempted to replace one with the other. Keep your captions short to allow plenty of room for hashtags, but still add something that summarises your video and includes your keywords.
In TikTok SEO, optimising captions is your chance to get in specific keywords when your hashtags don’t allow – so our ‘linen shirt’ video might be captioned ‘How to style a linen shirt’.
How to optimise your video text
Adding text to your video can have a lot of rewards. A clear title cover can show searchers exactly what your video is about and encourage click-throughs, so where possible, add one with your keywords.
Similarly, adding text throughout not only ensures your video is optimised for search, but it also promotes accessibility and is a great storytelling tool.
How to make your videos appear at the top of TikTok’s search page
Ok, so now you know how to appear in TikTok’s search results – now all you need to do is get to the top.
TikTok ranks its search page videos by engagement, which means the videos with the most views, likes, comments, shares and playtime are shown first. To get yours in the top spot, you’ll have to use engagement tactics so you can appear on more For You pages.
TikTok’s For You page is the platform’s main feed – it’s what we all scroll endlessly through when we first open the app. When you post a video, it will appear on the feed of a test pool audience. If it receives sufficient full watch-throughs and likes, it’ll then appear on more and more feeds.
Here are some of the ways you can grow engagement:
1) Jump on trends
Where long-tail hashtags are best for appearing in TikTok’s search results, trending hashtags help you appear on For You pages. If you don’t have a business account, using trending sounds can also grow your reach.
2) Use shorter videos
Video completion rate is something TikTok’s ranking algorithm looks for, so posting shorter videos can help increase this.
3) Put quality before anything else
We can talk about ranking factors and algorithm theories all day, but the one thing that needs to come first and foremost is quality. Focus on creating videos that entertain your audience and let the rest follow.
The world of SEO is constantly changing, adapting and growing. Whilst this may make the lives of marketers difficult, it keeps the industry fast-paced and exciting.
TikTok has swept the social media world by storm and is quickly becoming another powerful tool brands can utilise to engage with their target audience and create meaningful content that’s useful to their followers. Adding new dimensions for SEO experts, beyond Google, this is one to get started on sooner rather than later.