TikTok Search Engine: How to Make it Work to Your Benefit

Jose Garcia
Jose Garcia
Business Development Manager at Insense
the tiktok app on a phone screen

TikTok came into people's lives some years ago, but it's really been the last couple of years when the app has become extremely popular.

In particular, younger generations, such as Generation Z, tend to use TikTok to explore things that interest them and make them feel part of a community.

What does this mean for marketers and brands? 

You can capitalize on this trend if you understand how to leverage the TikTok search engine and the platform’s algorithm. 

We can help you do that by covering the following in this guide: 

  • How people search on TikTok
  • How the TikTok search engine algorithm works
  • The main TikTok SEO ranking factors
  • Steps to optimize your content for the TikTok search engine

Exciting, right?

Let’s get into it!

How and Why Do People Use TikTok as a Search Engine?

Last year, TikTok was the most downloaded mobile app worldwide. 

The short-video-sharing platform has taken market share from Google since users have started searching on TikTok to find content that’s interesting and relevant to them. 

First things first, the TikTok algorithm looks at user behavior data to provide users with relevant content, which they can find by clicking on the search icon at the top right of the screen. 

Image Source: TikTok

Also, users can type what they are looking for in the search bar, where they can either type key terms they’re interested in, like “beauty”, or the name of a specific content creator or brand.

Then there are various search tabs where you can explore related content:

  • Top
  • Videos
  • Users
  • Sounds
  • LIVE 
  • Hashtags

Another innovation of TikTok is content discovery. 

TikTok users can also discover new content by scrolling through the For You page (FYP). 

Through using the FYP, users are exposed to anything new, from brands, restaurants, and places to go to useful products and unique content creators. 

Does this mean the end of Google?

Definitely not.

TikTok and Google satisfy very different search intents. 

On the one hand, most people use TikTok to find content about their interests or simply have fun with easy-to-consume, funny content. 

On the other hand, people use platforms like Google or YouTube to find more specific content or information about specific issues and topics.

However, it’s worth mentioning that there are certain verticals, such as food and beverage, beauty, and travel, where the TikTok video format is just perfect for searchers. 

Some more reasons why people use TikTok as a search engine are:

  • They find relevant answers easily: Searchers can find relevant and authentic answers to the topics they are interested in.
  • The platform has a strong community: Younger users (Gen Z) spend almost 10 hours per week on TikTok, and 59% of them feel a sense of community when they are on TikTok.
  • Relatable and authentic content: Young users enjoy interacting with influencers and creators who resonate with them. Actually, 53% of users say they trust others to be their real selves on TikTok.

Now let's see how to use TikTok SEO to your advantage.

Why Does TikTok SEO Matter?

TikTok is booming right now!

It’s a whole new way for brands to engage with their customers and find new clients by helping them make educated decisions.

Before we explain more about the importance of TikTok SEO, let’s clarify some things about search engine optimization (SEO) in general.

Basically, SEO doesn’t only refer to Google but to every platform used as a search engine, like YouTube, Reddit, or even TikTok. 

As we mentioned earlier, more and more people are using TikTok as a search engine.

Actually, research found that 69% of Gen Z users have an account on TikTok, which is the social media platform of choice for them.

According to an interview, Senior Vice President of Google, Prabhakar Raghavan, stated that when looking for a restaurant, almost 40% of young people don’t go to Google Maps or Search.

They seem to prefer TikTok or Instagram, which indicates the value of TikTok SEO for some verticals. 

As a result, we can conclude there is value for brands to use TikTok

There are, however, a few more statistics worth mentioning. 

In fact, TikTok content appears to help consumers make purchasing decisions.

The hashtag #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt has reached the whopping number of 45.2B views, and it doesn't seem to be slowing down. 

Audiences feel a 73% deeper connection with the brands they interact with on TikTok compared to other platforms. 

If this isn’t enough of a reason to take advantage of TikTok SEO, then what is? 

But there is one more important feature that sets TikTok apart from other platforms—its algorithm.

How Does the TikTok Search Engine Algorithm Work?

Before we reveal a few things about the TikTok algorithm and why there has been so much hype around it, let's briefly explain what a search engine algorithm is. 

In summary, each social network has a system that recommends content to users based on certain data, and this is a very simple explanation of how algorithms work. 

Generally, these systems remain hidden as they are proprietary technology that makes each social media platform unique. 

The interesting thing about TikTok's algorithm is that it quickly adapts by defining the user's interests through their interaction with the content displayed on the For You page (FYP).

Do you remember what your feed looked like the day you signed up on TikTok?

You most likely watched dance videos, humorous videos, and similar content. 

These are mainly based on the demographics of the user upon registration. But as time passes, the algorithm provides you with content that interests you. 

However, TikTok's algorithm has been accused of promoting radicalization and the spread of misinformation through echo chambers.

In response to these accusations, TikTok released a document about how it recommends videos on FYP. 

TikTok provided a solution to this filter bubble effect by showing random content to users from time to time. 

This way, they avoid content homogeneity while promoting fresh content. 

While this may not provide an immediate solution to the problem, it explains why the content in the TikTok feed is constantly updated, and there are opportunities for creators and brands to reach a broad audience. 

Having said that, let's analyze the factors that affect the content that appears in the For You feed.

What Are the Main TikTok SEO Ranking Factors?

The most interesting thing about TikTok’s algorithm is that it suggests random videos to people.

Even better, the TikTok algorithm doesn't consider the follower count or if the creator has previous high-performing videos. 

As you can see, TikTok gives a fantastic edge to brands over other social media platforms.

Let's look in detail at the factors that contribute to promoting content on the For You page, according to TikTok’s documentation.

1. Video content

This factor refers to the information that helps the platform categorize your content and understands the topic, the tone of the video, and the keywords. 

The features that act as video ranking factors are:

  • Captions
  • Sounds
  • Hashtags

By adjusting these details, your content can be appropriately categorized in the Discover tab and displayed to users who like this type of content without even searching for it.

2. User interaction and video engagement

This factor largely shapes TikTok's recommendation system. 

In essence, it’s about user actions on the platform, which defines the content that interests users and identifies what they don't like to watch.

Video engagement includes: 

  • The videos you like or share
  • The accounts you follow
  • Your comments
  • Videos created by yourself

TikTok records all of this data to determine which videos to show to users.

3. Viewing device 

In the documentation, it states that the type of device is a ranking factor for the content you recommend to users. 

Nevertheless, no further explanations are given regarding this factor. 

All we know is that the algorithm is being adjusted to optimize performance. 

Therefore, we could make the assumption that older devices with fewer capabilities will receive lightweight content that’ll be displayed in a better way.

Also, this factor is of secondary importance, as it doesn’t directly concern user preferences.

4. Interaction with the Discover tab 

Through the Discover tab, TikTok analyzes user interactions through their searches. 

In this way, TikTok determines the topics and the relevant creators or videos.

In order for the platform to make correct choices regarding content recommendations to users, it analyzes: 

  • Exploring hashtags 
  • Searched sounds and effects 
  • Trending topics 

Your searches in the Discover tab define the categories of content served in the For You feed to give you a more personalized experience.

5. Viewer and creator location

TikTok's algorithm seems to take into account users' language preferences and country settings. 

While the documentation doesn’t emphasize this factor, we can assume that you are more likely to see content from people in your country. 

Clearly, this affects the content that will be shown to users, but we don't know to what extent it affects the algorithm. 

Since you’ve learned the basic factors of TikTok SEO, it's time to optimize your marketing strategy for the TikTok search engine.

How to Optimize Your Content for the TikTok Search Engine in 6 Steps

We left the nitty-gritty for the last section. 

The time has come to learn how to optimize your content by utilizing the factors evaluated by the TikTok search engine. 

Below you’ll find hacks that will help you create a successful digital marketing content strategy on TikTok. 

Let's get into it!

Step #1: Know your audience and their search intent

The first step to optimizing your TikTok content is to understand your audience's search intent. 

Find out what problem they want you to solve, what content they're interested in, and what the best approach is through audience analysis. 

You can use tools that analyze what users are searching for, such as Ahrefs, Semrush, and more. 

This way you’ll create relevant content for those who answer their questions and the chances of being discovered through the TikTok search bar will increase.

Step #2: Use the right keywords and hashtags

When it comes to TikTok SEO, keywords and hashtags are very important. 

Through keywords and hashtags, your content can become discoverable on the platform while enabling new users to find it. 

TikTok categorizes content based on keywords and hashtags and recommends them to relevant users. 

You can use keywords and hashtags: 

  • In your profile bio 
  • In the captions of your videos 
  • In subtitles in videos (to attract users who have muted audio) 
  • In your script 

Also, you can use words or phrases that trigger an emotion in users.

Step #3: Stay abreast of TikTok trends

Trending topics are a great way to take advantage of the TikTok algorithm. 

As we mentioned, the algorithm tends to promote content that users like. 

Therefore, leveraging trends is more likely to send your content to the For You page.

However, trends come and go, so you should jump on them immediately to be relevant. To identify TikTok trends, you can: 

  • Follow successful creators in your niche
  • Look for exploding hashtags 
  • Use trending original sounds
  • Look for what the audience likes

And when you find a trend, go for it!

Step #4: Collaborate with creators

Connecting with other creators is a great way to promote yourself more on TikTok, especially if you create content with established creators who have a large following. 

In this way, your content will reach a larger audience, and you’ll have more views, while at the same time, it’ll be noticed by the TikTok search engine.

Also, if you have a lot of collaborations with creators in your niche, TikTok will address you as an authority in this specific category.

Step #5: Engage with accounts

As we saw earlier, engagement is a key tracking factor for TikTok's algorithm. 

So building relationships with other accounts improves your TikTok SEO.

Some things you can do are: 

  • Interact on content related to yours 
  • Communicate with your audience 
  • Answer their comments

This way, you show TikTok your expertise which helps it categorize you and recommend you more.

Step #6: Monitor and tweak

The final step in a marketing strategy is monitoring and adjusting your content. 

You need to watch your SEO strategy pay off. 

You can do this by clicking on each of your videos. A button called “More Data” appears at the bottom of the screen. 

From there, you can see how many viewers found you from the search or the For You page. 

Another way to view your account statistics is through the menu on your profile by clicking Creator tools. For an even better experience, you can open the analytics on your computer

See what works best in terms of TikTok SEO and refine your strategy accordingly.

Let’s wrap this up!

Conclusion: Will TikTok Search Engine Replace Google?

This fantastic journey has come to an end.

While it’s a controversial topic, it seems that TikTok has affected user behavior.

TikTok is an entertaining and informative way for users to search for topics through relevant short-form video content.

So, this trend is an opportunity for marketers and brands to capitalize. 

How to start promoting on TikTok?

By finding the right partners. Feel free to book a demo with Insense, and one of our team members will help you leverage your content through creative collaborations.

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