TikTok SEO: How to rank higher on TikTok Search

Trio Media 2024 Organic Socials 54

TikTok is more than just trends and hashtags. It’s an advanced social media platform that’s become Gen-Z’s next-best search engine.

Is it time to hang up our Google hat and wave goodbye? At Trio, we don’t see Google going anywhere, but we predict TikTok will become a good contender. Who doesn’t love a bit of healthy competition?

As TikTok grows as a popular search engine, brands and creators must pay attention to TikTok SEO and how it increases your chances of success. If your audience is on TikTok, keep reading for our complete TikTok SEO guide.

In this guide, you’ll find out about:

What is TikTok SEO?

TikTok SEO is the process of optimising your video content to rank better on TikTok Search. Before diving in, let’s first understand the basics of SEO.

SEO – or search engine optimisation – is a digital marketing discipline that improves a website’s organic search performance. In the case of a website, appearing on search engine result pages (SERPs) comes from 3 pillars: on-page, off-page and technical SEO.

  • On-page SEO: Keeping your website content up to date, helpful and relevant with the right keywords and regular blog posts.
  • Off-page SEO: Improving your website authority with quality backlinks from reputable sites – PR plays a big part here.
  • Technical SEO: Making your site easier for search engines to crawl and index. This all happens behind the scenes.

You combine all these techniques to help your website appear higher on search engines. When it’s done well, web traffic increases, bringing in the right leads.

The same goes for TikTok SEO. You’ll use relevant keywords in hashtags, captions and video text. Use analytics to make changes and jump on TikTok trends to increase reach.

Is TikTok the new search engine? 

Technically, no – it’s a social media platform. But TikTok has similar qualities to a search engine. It has a search bar and even suggests related search terms. (More on this in the section below.)

Google’s own research showed that almost 40% of young people (aged 18-24) turned to TikTok or Instagram when searching for lunchtime recommendations.

Why is this? Younger audiences—Gen Z especially—are interested in immersive forms of content. Authentic content is on the rise, and TikTok allows users to search and discover answers in a way that’s true to them. That’s why 67% of Gen Z use TikTok as a search engine—mostly due to its short-form video format. (TikTok isn’t just for the young, though; 49% of millennials and 29% of Gen X use it, too.)

But this doesn’t mean you should put all your eggs in one platform! The ‘OG’ search engines aren’t going anywhere. Your SEO strategy should focus on Google and TikTok, so your content has a better chance of being discovered.

6 TikTok SEO features 

1. TikTok search bar

Have a question? Want to find out the latest news? TikTok Search is where your answers lie. Like Google, you can access a search bar that filters through content and picks out videos relevant to your search query.

TikTok Search bar

2. Auto-suggest

In the Search area, TikTok offers suggested searches in the “You May Like” section of search. As you start to type, TikTok’s automated system generates predicted search queries to help users save time and find what they’re looking for.

TikTok auto-suggest on TikTok Search

3. TikTok videos in SERPs and featured snippets

If you optimise your TikTok video content, it might appear on SERPs. Since 2020, Google has shown TikTok and Instagram videos in short video carousels. Even better, TikTok has its own video carousel on mobile.

TikTok videos also appear in featured snippets, where text is taken from a TikTok video’s caption. You’ll start to see more of these snippets once Google has fully rolled out the new Search Generative Experience (SGE). SGE is transforming the search experience, bringing in generative AI to help users get more value from a search.

Screenshot of Google featured snippet showing content from a TikTok video.
(Source: Search Engine Land)

4. TikTok featured snippets

What’s better than one featured snippet? Two. Last year, TikTok rolled out featured snippets on the platform. TikTok will show snippets from relevant videos to provide an answer to your search questions.

Relying on long tail keywords is key here, as most of TikTok’s featured snippets focus on informational content.

TikTok featured snippets

5. Bigger character limit

In September 2022, TikTok increased video description length from 300 to 2,200 characters. With a bigger character count, you can include more keywords and details to improve your content’s search visibility.

Captions are also at a 500-character limit, increasing from 100.

6. TikTok traffic reporting

TikTok allows you to track traffic sources, covering For You, Followers, Profile and Search. If users are finding you on Search, now’s the time to level up your TikTok SEO strategy.

You’ll also see key metrics in Search insights, including average position, CTR and impressions.

How does TikTok rank your content?

Before you master this TikTok SEO, you need to understand how its algorithm works. Here are the core ranking features:

  • User interaction – every video you’ve liked or shared, the accounts you follow, and the content you create contribute to what you see on TikTok.
  • Video information – this includes details like sounds, hashtags and captions.
  • Device and account settings – language preferences, device type and country settings.

TikTok vs Google SEO – What’s the difference?

Understanding Google’s ranking factors can feel like a minefield – even for SEO experts. If you search “Google SEO ranking factors”, you’ll end up in a maze of blogs confirming anywhere from 3 to 200 ranking factors.

So, what really matters? And is it any different to TikTok SEO? We outline Google’s SEO ranking factors here:

  • Meaning – Google shows content based on your query intent. Its language models can recognise and correct spelling mistakes and find pages with synonyms relevant to the words you’ve used.
  • Relevance — Google’s systems will display content that contains the exact keywords and phrases you’re searching for.
  • Quality — Your SEO content needs to be relevant and demonstrate expertise, trustworthiness, and/or authoritativeness. A link-building strategy is a must. For best practice, follow Google’s E-E-A-T quality guidelines.
  • User experience – Content must be accessible for your users and their device types. Web accessibility is one of top website design trends so it’s not worth skipping over.
  • Context – This information includes your location, previous Search history and Search settings to ensure you get relevant content for your area.

Comparing TikTok’s and Google’s ranking factors shows us one thing: they both value high-quality, relevant user-first content.

How to nail SEO on TikTok

We’ve combined Google and TikTok SEO’s ranking factors as part of our TikTok SEO how-to guide.

1. Learn about your audience

An effective TikTok strategy starts with research. Start to understand who your target audience is, what they’re searching for and content they engage with.

At Trio, we use GWI, an audience insights tool, to create custom target audiences based on demographics, interests, preferences and device type. This granular data allows us to craft content that resonates with users and keeps them coming back for more.

2. Conduct keyword research

Keyword research is essential to on-page optimisation – one of three pillars that make up SEO. Currently, no TikTok SEO tools are available, but there are alternatives to rely on. For example:

  • SEO tools – Semrush, Moz or Google Search Console are great sources for researching words or phrases your audience searches for. You’ll also find long tail and semantic keywords you can incorporate into your TikToks. Beware though – the data comes from search engines so the results may differ on TikTok.
  • TikTok – Here’s where the grunt work comes in. The most accurate keyword research comes from the app itself. Go to the Search area and start searching keywords of interest. TikTok will auto-suggest further keywords you can use as hashtags.

3. Optimise your TikTok content

It’s time to put your research to the test. Add your high-low volume keywords to your descriptions, captions, hashtags and the video content. If you’re speaking in the video or using text–to–speech, say the keywords! TikTok will pick up on this.

Don’t forget to jump on trends and use popular hashtags and sounds. TikTok will rank trending content higher, regardless of your following or popularity. This is a great way to boost engagement, too.

4. Work and engage with creators 

TikTok Creator Marketplace is where you’ll discover and collaborate with amazing creators on TikTok. Choose an influencer who posts similar content and has an engaged audience who mirrors your ideal buyer personas.

Collaborating with creators will increase brand awareness and reach, making your account popular on TikTok. You should also engage with other creators’ and your audience’s posts. Like, comment on, or favourite them—this type of user interaction is a key TikTok SEO ranking factor!

5. Track your analytics

Finally, monitor your TikTok analytics to see if your hard work pays off. Gather data on engagement levels and traffic sources to see how you’re progressing.

Like with any strategy, refine your approach as data comes in and identify opportunities for future growth.

Level up your TikTok strategy with Trio

We hope our guide has helped you on your TikTok SEO journey. If you want to go far, partner with us. We’ll help you create content your users and search engines love. Experts in SEO and social media – we’re the gift that keeps on giving.

Contact Trio to discuss your marketing needs.