Watch out Google: TikTok is coming for your crown! Or at least that’s what the Senior Vice President of Google thinks, as the company shared in July that TikTok is becoming more like a search engine, especially among Gen Z. And TikTok is investing in maximizing users’ habits with new features like suggested searches at the bottom of videos and in the comments section.
With the buzz around TikTok’s value as a source of knowledge for its audience, businesses and creators need to pay attention to TikTok SEO which helps you get your videos to the top of TikTok’s search results. Here’s how to get started with optimizing your TikTok content for search.
What is TikTok SEO?
TikTok SEO is the practice of optimizing your videos on TikTok to rank higher in search. Just as you would use keywords and analytics to optimize the content on your website, you can also use these tactics to help your TikTok videos show up in more search results – this includes results on TikTok, as well as Google.
According to Google’s internal research, when looking for a place for lunch, almost 40 percent of young people in the U.S. (aged 18-24) would go straight to TikTok instead of Google Maps or Search. And, although social media posts on TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, and the like were not indexed by Google in the past, they now show up in the search engine results page – or SERPs.
Why is TikTok SEO worth investing in?
TikTok SEO can help to increase the visibility of your content on the platform, boost your engagement, and attract a wider audience. Optimizing your TikTok content for search engine optimization will help you to drive more targeted traffic to your videos, increase your chances of going viral, and gain more followers.
TikTok has been adding more features to support increasing video discoverability on the platform. Recently, they expanded the video description field from 300 characters to 2,200. Users can also now edit their captions where they couldn't before.
The key focus is on improving the searchable element of videos and connecting it with interested users. TikTok's algorithm gathers video information to determine what the post is about and who might find it interesting.
So, with a strong TikTok SEO strategy, you can increase your discoverability on the app (i.e., appear on more For You pages) and boost engagement. It's the ultimate tactic for reaching interested audiences and giving your videos the visibility they deserve. And with the Google update that allows you to see TikToks in search results, it can also help drive new traffic to your TikTok account.
How is TikTok SEO different from traditional SEO?
TikTok SEO is different from traditional SEO in a few key ways. Here are some of the main differences between the two:
- Video versus text: TikTok is a visual platform, so TikTok SEO involves optimizing videos and other visual content, while traditional SEO involves optimizing text-based content such as blog posts, articles, and web pages.
- Hashtags versus keywords: The method of discovery is another key difference between TikTok and traditional SEO. On TikTok, hashtags are used to help users find and discover content, so creators need to be optimizing videos and other content with relevant and popular hashtags. In contrast, traditional SEO involves optimizing content with keywords that are relevant to the content and are likely to be used by users when searching for information.
- Engagement versus ranking: Success is also measured in different ways. On TikTok, success is often measured by the level of engagement that a video or piece of content receives, such as the number of likes, comments, and shares. In contrast, traditional SEO is more focused on ranking, with the goal of appearing as high as possible on search engine results pages.
While there are some similarities between TikTok SEO and traditional SEO – ranking is determined by how helpful your content ultimately is – you can’t treat them the same. It's important to understand these differences and to approach TikTok optimization with a specific set of strategies and tactics in mind.
What does TikTok look for in ranking content?
Thankfully, TikTok shares their guidelines for what they use to recommend content. For creators, you can reverse-engineer these guidelines and apply them to your content:
- User interactions – likes, shares, comments, followed accounts, and content you create affect what is recommended to you. So it follows that the same principles apply to people creating content – if your videos have a lot of engagement and relevant content, they will be recommended to users.
- Video information – which includes details like captions, sounds, and hashtags affect what is served to a user. Therefore, if you’re within a specific niche like personal finance, the text on your video (hashtags, subtitles, text-on-screen) needs to reflect that niche to make it appear to people looking for or interested in that content.
Device and account settings like your language preference, country setting, and device type.
And be assured that your follower count doesn’t impact your ranking. The most important element – what you need to always keep people coming back – is relevant and engaging content. Determine what expertise you can build a brand off of (are you really good at furniture DIYs? Do you take care of plants really well?) and share that knowledge.
A great example of someone who has mastered sharing expertise is Miss Excel, who is known for helping people navigate Excel and has built a brand off sharing her knowledge.
5 ways to do TikTok SEO
With all this information about why TikTok SEO is important, you might be wondering how you can start optimizing your videos. Here are five tips to get you from invisible to the eye of the TikTok algorithm.
Understand what your audience is searching for
To optimize your TikTok content for search, it’s essential to plan and create content with your target audience in mind.
Whether you’re a creator who shares home improvement ideas, graphic design tips, or travel reviews and guides, you need to figure out what kind of information your audience would be searching for. To make content that your audience will find relevant, you’ll want to address their specific needs by providing answers to their questions.
Start by looking at what hashtags are popular on TikTok within your niche – this is usually a good indicator of what people are searching for. You should also keep a list of other creators within your niche and keep an eye on what questions are asked in their comments. If you're a newer creator, it's a great opportunity to gain ground in the search results as audiences perform further research to satisfy their queries.
Research and use relevant keywords and hashtags
Incorporating keywords and using hashtags in your content is important for SEO. When you use relevant keywords and hashtags on TikTok, it optimizes your content for search and increases your videos’ discoverability.
Using trigger words in your content may also help improve your TikTok SEO. Trigger words are eye-catching words that make readers consider taking action that they might not have otherwise thought of.
For example, if you want to show authority, include words like “proven” or “guaranteed” in your copy, keywords, and hashtags. Alternatively, if you want to communicate ease, use words like “no sweat” and “effortless”.
You can also use them in call-to-actions (CTAs) in your TikTok captions or bio to communicate the benefits of taking that crucial next step. Make sure your trigger words go hand-in-hand with searchable hashtags.
When posting on TikTok, add your search keywords to your captions and the text on your videos to optimize them for search. We recommend using three to six keyword hashtags for each piece of content, strategically including high- and low-volume keywords. It’s also helpful to use both general and niche hashtags.
To help with your research, you can look up popular hashtags and filter by region, date, and level of popularity through this TikTok search tool.
Collaborate with and get inspired by other creators
By looking at your competitors, or creators who post similar content as yours, you may find out what’s been performing well for them.
Getting inspiration from others is never a bad thing, as long as you aren’t copying them and your ideas remain original. It can allow you to learn about popular trends or topics in your niche or TikTok SEO practices that help other creators’ videos rank in the search results.
Collaborating with other creators is one of the best ways to skyrocket your own engagement. They don’t even have to be in your niche and could just be a well-loved account or influencer. This method can help increase your videos’ reach and, ultimately, your views, making your account popular in the TikTok search engine.
Mix traditional SEO with TikTok SEO by setting up a platform outside your social media
Some creators have newsletters; others have YouTube channels — both of these can get indexed by the Google search engine, which is a double win.
For example, blogging is a big part of ranking in Google Search. To leverage this technique for your TikTok SEO, create a microblog post that discusses a particular topic related to your TikTok video.
Be sure to include your main keyword in the title and your secondary or long-tail keywords in the subheadings and content of the post. Also, don’t forget to embed your TikTok video in the blog too.
Engage with other accounts
Building relationships with other creators can help improve your TikTok SEO. That’s because the number one rule to getting traction on any social media platform, including TikTok, is engaging with other users’ posts.
Make a list of creators and brands in your niche area, and regularly comment on their TikTok videos. On top of that, follow your audience and engage with them in their posts to develop a strong relationship. Liking and commenting on other TikTokers’ posts will make them more likely to do the same for yours.
Direct your audience to take further action
While people are using TikTok as a search engine, it doesn’t mean that all other platforms must be thrown out of the window.
When you’ve built a decent-sized TikTok following, it’d be a waste not to redirect your audience to your website and other social media platforms.
Be sure to include these links in your TikTok bio. In addition, direct viewers on where to purchase your products or where to engage with you off the app in your videos.