TikTok for SEO Success: Finding an SEO strategy that works for you

TikTok for SEO Success: Finding an SEO strategy that works for you

Aimee Metcalf • 08/05/2024

Ahead of the Go! Networks virtual event, Senior Organic Performance Manager Aimee Metcalf delves into her talk ‘Social as an Engine – Finding a Strategy that Works for You’.

Table of contents

  • What exactly is TikTok SEO?
  • Why do we need to care about TikTok SEO?
  • Is TikTok threatening Google’s dominance for search?
  • How TikTok SEO is different from traditional SEO.
  • Step 1 | How to optimise for TikTok’s “For You” Page. 
  • Step 2 | Understanding TikTok Ranking Factors. 
  • How to incorporate TikTok in your Google Search strategy.
  • How can we optimise TikTok videos for Google Search?
  • How do we measure TikTok success on Google Search?
  • Key Takeaways. 

What exactly is TikTok SEO?

TikTok SEO is the practice of optimising your video content for TikTok’s search engine, specifically for TikTok’s “For You Page” and search results pages. Just as we would traditionally use keywords and analytics to optimise website content for higher search engine rankings, we can now use specific tactics (exact tactics explored later in this piece) to help TikTok videos show up in more search results, this includes appearing in results both on the TikTok platform as well as Google search.

Why we need to care about TikTok SEO 

TikTok is no longer a platform just for short-form entertainment but should now also be considered a search engine, particularly among the Gen Z audience (those born from 1997 to 2011). We know that Gen Z are increasingly engaging in TikTok, for example:

Among Gen Z outside China and India, use of  TikTok has grown by 43% since Q4 2020

GWI Gen Z Webinar | February 2024

Instagram is Gen Z’s favourite platform, but they believe TikTok has the biggest cultural influence

GWI Gen Z Webinar | February 2024

But how exactly are Gen Z engaging in TikTok? Gen Z are increasingly using TikTok as their preferred social engine,  with TikTok overtaking Google as the most popular search engine among Gen Z according to Adobe 2024 report

Adobe Jan 2024 Survey also found that nearly 1 in 10 Gen Zs are more likely to rely on TikTok as a search engine than Google. 

TikTok: The New Google

The same Adobe Jan 2024 Survey also found that Over 2 in 5 Americans now use TikTok as a search engine. With the above insights in mind, brands can no longer ignore the power of TikTok for search,  particularly for those targeting younger generations like Gen Z, or brands who have an American target audience.

Is TikTok threatening Google’s dominance for search?  

Core Google services, including search and maps, are being heavily impacted by a growing preference for TikTok and multi-format content like video as the first stop on Gen Z’s’ path to discovery. 

Google’s senior vice president Prabhakar Raghavan, in a discussion on the evolution of search, even noted users are now turning to apps like Instagram and TikTok instead of Google for discovery purposes. Users are increasingly moving away from typing in keywords into Google search but rather looking to discover content in new, more immersive ways. 

“In our studies, something like almost 40% of young people, when they’re looking for a place for lunch, they don’t go to Google Maps or Search,” he continued. “They go to TikTok or Instagram.” 

Prabhakar Raghavan, Google’s senior vice president

User’s are researching queries they would traditionally search for on Google but staying on the TikTok app much longer than they would on Google due to the entertainment factor and tailored algorithm.. Highlighting the opportunity for brands to fit seamlessly into the videos their target audience are already engaging with, through platforms like TikTok.

TikTok SEO is different from traditional SEO

SEO strategies for Google and TikTok share some similarities but also have notable differences. Both emphasise the importance of creating informative and helpful content tailored to the target audience’s search intent. Yet, there is one significant difference between traditional SEO and TikTok SEO: previous brand success and brand authority do not heavily influence TikTok rankings unlike Google, where brand authority plays a significant role. 

  • TikTok = visual

TikTok SEO involves optimising video content, while traditional SEO involves optimising text-based content. 

  • TikTok = hashtags

On TikTok, using popular and relevant hashtags are a great way to help users find and discover new content, more so than optimising for relevant keywords like traditional SEO.

  • TikTok = engagement

On TikTok, success is often measured by the level of engagement a video receives, such as the number of likes, comments, and shares while traditional SEO is predominantly focused on rankings. 

  • TikTok = non-authoritative

For Google search, sites that want to rank top of page 1 need to earn this by showing Google that the site is an authority on the topic.  However, TikTok does not factor authority measures (like follower & like count) into its SEO ranking algorithm. 

Step 1 | How to optimise for TikTok’s “For You” Page? 

Like traditional website SEO, identifying new TikTok video opportunities starts with thorough keyword research. Tools which can be used here include:

  • TikTok’s predictive search feature
  • TikTok’s keyword insights tool
  • TikTok’s creative insights centre – this is not only useful for keyword research but also favourable for identifying popular hashtags, songs, creators and videos most popular at a given time
  • Traditional SEO keyword research tools like Keyword Planner & Ahrefs
  • NEW! AnswerThePublic have recently released a TikTok search feature 

Step 2 | Understanding TikTok Ranking Factors 

  • Engagement

User interactions include the videos liked, videos hidden, videos added to favourites, and videos watched all the way to the end. TikTok stores all of this data and uses it to determine which videos to surface to the user. 

  • Video Information 

All information contained in a video can affect its ranking on TikTok – including hashtags, keywords, sound effects, and music. TikTok looks for videos that contain relevant keywords in their titles and descriptions, as well as videos that cover trending topics.

  • Relevancy 

Using popular sounds, filters, and ideas can help TikTok videos gain a spot on the “For You Page” faster. TikTok highlights to creators what’s trending in order to boost the chances of gaining a video on the “For You Page”. It’s Important to bear in mind that TikTok videos can stay relevant for a long period of time and even rank for years, so it’s worth creating a TikTok strategy which includes producing trending content alongside a strong catalogue of evergreen content.

  • Thumbnails 

Thumbnail optimisation on TikTok is vital – a compelling thumbnail increases CTR. Additionally, creating a visually engaging thumbnail which includes relevant text overlaying the thumbnail image is key.

  • Audience 

User interactions like comments and likes are confirmed contributing factors for having a TikTok video land on the “For You Page”. 

Although not a direct ranking factor, brands should consider collaborating with other TikToker’s or TikTok influencers within their TikTok SEO strategy. Collaborating is a great way to build more visibility by getting discovered on another part of the TikTok platform (the “Following” page).

How do we measure TikTok SEO success?

KPI 1  | TikTok search bar → to determine keyword ranking

KPI 2 | Viewers tab → analysing the audience insights to ensure the right target users are being reached 

KPI 3 | Performance tabhere you’ll find user interaction data, including metrics such as new followers, average watch time, likes, shares, and retention rate

How to incorporate TikTok in your Google Search strategy

Google also indexes TikTok videos on the main SERP highlighting that brands incorporating TikTok into their wider search strategy has value not only for TikTok platform-specific searches but also Google searches. 

Speculations as to why Google is increasingly surfacing TikTok content on Google search rather than increasing the amount of YouTube content being shown includes: 

  1. Google over the last few years has increasingly favoured site’s which incorporate short form, bite-size video content due to video content being a great way for sites to build on E.E.A.T signals and helpful content signals. Initially, the May 2022 core Google algorithm update increased the visibility and importance of site’s having video content and more recently through the April 2024 core Google algorithm update where helpful content is now built into Google’s ranking algorithm.
  2. With SGE rolling out in the US and soon to be rolled out in the UK,  we know there has been a clear emphasis placed on user-generated content by Google. Google has put increasing value on surfacing user-generated platforms like TikTok, Reddit and LinkedIn, with rankings of these platforms having more than doubled towards the end of 2023 in the US.
TikTok’s visibility on Google US SERP according to Sistrix data

TikTok’s visibility on Google US SERP according to Sistrix data. Source Here 

Ultimately, the introduction of TikTok in Google SERPs is likely to be Google’s way of avoiding the potential loss of market share but also adhering to Google’s ranking algorithm. Ranking short-form videos like those on TikTok, aligns to Google favouring sites which produce helpful content (E.E.A.T) created for users rather than search engines. 

How can we optimise TikTok videos for Google Search?

Step 1 | Analysis of the Google SERP to identify the categories where TikTok/ short-form video content is favoured 

Step 2 | Highlight if the suggested TikTok video content is a page embed opportunity or just a TikTok platform opportunity 

How do we measure TikTok success on Google Search?

KPI 1 | Traffic driven to the TikTok profile and website pages where TikTok videos are embedded into the page copy

KPI 2 |  Keyword rankings for the target pages with TikTok videos embedded 

Key Takeaways 

No matter a brand’s industry, TikTok is all about creating high-quality content that’s relevant and helpful for the user. Undoubtedly, TikTok is already playing a major role in search and shows no signs of slowing down. It is therefore increasingly important for brands, particularly those with a Gen Z target audience or those looking to capture their target audience at the discovery phase of their purchasing journey, that TikTok SEO is incorporated into a brand’s overall search strategy – otherwise, your competition most likely will.

To find out more on how ROAST can support with your organic strategy, or more specifically during the discovery stage through platforms like TikTok, get in touch here.