Have you ever wondered what determines which videos are placed at the top of TikTok’s search results pages? That’s TikTok SEO, and now that more and more users are using TikTok as a search engine, optimizing your videos for search results is more important than ever.
In simple terms, TikTok SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the practice of optimizing content so that TikTok users can easily find it when using the search function on the platform. Similar to traditional SEO, TikTok SEO involves using relevant and high-volume keywords that users are likely to search for. However, the difference between TikTok SEO and traditional SEO is that TikTok SEO is a relatively new concept that is only now emerging as a way for brands and creators to leverage the unique audience behaviors on the platform. Not much is known about TikTok SEO at present, but we have narrowed down key tips that will help you better optimize your content to rank in TikTok’s search results.
Why is TikTok SEO important?
TikTok labels itself as an entertainment platform rather than a search engine, but that doesn’t stop consumers from using it as one. According to internal data from Google, nearly 40% of Gen Z users prefer using TikTok and Instagram instead of searching on Google. In fact, Google’s SVP, Prabhakar Raghavan, has stated that «new internet users don’t have the expectations and mindset that [Google has] become accustomed to.» Google has confirmed that TikTok is impacting its search business, particularly among younger audiences who value authenticity and community-validated content.
The primary driver behind TikTok’s move into search is TikTok’s ability to provide users with valuable and engaging content that is socially validated by a community of like-minded individuals and creators. As a platform driven primarily by authenticity, TikTok inherently operates much like word-of-mouth (but on a global scale), amplifying the already high percentage of 92% of consumers who trust word-of-mouth above all other forms of advertising. Whether it’s finding customer reviews on the latest Dyson hairdryer or the best spots for a night out in New York City, users turn to TikTok for information based on real experiences rather than paid advertisements or large corporate sponsorships.
As a result of TikTok’s move into the search engine space, as well as the platform’s inherent culture of authenticity, more and more brands are turning to TikTok as a way to connect with their audience in a more direct and genuine manner. This is exactly where TikTok SEO comes into play: brands and content creators must understand TikTok SEO in order for their TikTok content to be seen by the right audiences during their search process.
How to Optimize Your Videos for TikTok SEO
Here’s a simple 5-step formula to optimize your video content for TikTok SEO:
Let’s Break It Down Step by Step:
Step 1: Understand Your Audience and Their Search Intent
Before creating your content piece, ask yourself who you’re trying to reach and what that audience might be searching for on TikTok. Are you a hair care brand looking to attract consumers searching for the best shampoo products for their hair type? Or are you a new SaaS company targeting small business owners who are looking for tools to help increase their work productivity? Understanding your audience and how your brand fits into their lives is the first step in understanding the search intent of your ideal audience. Search intent reflects the information that the user is seeking during their search process, which then informs what type of content they would find relevant.
Taking Anagram as an example, our audience base would consist of marketing industry professionals seeking growth marketing tips and industry news, and who relate to agency culture and the latest marketing trends. Marketing professionals may be searching for «brands on TikTok» to understand and learn from their TikTok marketing strategy, therefore, their search intent would be to find content that analyzes what brands are doing on TikTok to achieve visibility with their target audience.
Step 2: Select the Right Keywords for Your Video
Understanding your target audience and their search intent leads to the next step in the process: selecting the right keywords to use in your video. There are three key components to consider when selecting keywords for SEO:
1- Search Volume = how many people are searching for your keyword
2- Relevance = how relevant your content is to the searched keyword
3- Keyword Difficulty = how difficult it is for your content to rank for that keyword (higher keyword difficulty means it is a more competitive topic to rank for)
As a general rule, you want to select a keyword with:
High search volume = this is a keyword that people are actually searching for
High relevance = this keyword is directly related to your content
Low keyword difficulty = this keyword is not yet saturated with relevant content
That being said, there is no one-size-fits-all formula for selecting the right keyword. There are cases where these three priorities of volume, relevance, and difficulty may contradict each other. Targeting high search volume may bring you high keyword difficulty, as other brands and creators are likely to have already created a lot of content to address that topic. Similarly, low keyword difficulty could align with low relevance; just because a keyword is easy to rank for doesn’t necessarily mean it is relevant to your content.
The only correct answer to the question of what the best TikTok SEO strategy is: «it depends.» Here are some different strategy models for specific circumstances, based on what stage of growth the brand is in and what the optimization goal is:
To create content based on a gap in existing content in terms of relevance or quality, you’ll want to choose a keyword with:
1- High search volume
2- High relevance
3- Low keyword difficulty
To drive exposure and awareness to a top-of-funnel audience, you’ll want to choose a keyword with:
1- High search volume
2- Medium relevance
3- Low keyword difficulty
The key to choosing the right keyword is balancing the three aspects of volume, relevance, and difficulty while also considering what the ultimate goal of the optimization is. Avoid prioritizing one aspect too heavily over the others and ensure that the selected keyword always relates to your audience’s search intent.
Step 3: Incorporate Keywords into Your Content
There are 5 ways to incorporate keywords into your TikTok videos:
- On-screen text
- Automatic subtitles
And if possible, all 5 options should be used.
Maximizing the different ways your specific keyword appears in your video ensures that you are optimizing your content to rank at the top of the search results page for that keyword. The more times you mention your keyword (within reason), the more likely the platform will recognize your video as a relevant piece of content related to your keyword.
One important thing to note here is that you want to make sure you mention your keyword within the first 3 seconds of your video and have it appear in the cover slide. Doing so not only lets TikTok know what the topic of your video is, but also allows high-intent searchers to easily recognize your video to address their search queries.
Step 4: Determine Your Hashtag Strategy
When it comes to creating a hashtag strategy for TikTok SEO, it’s not just about «the more, the better.» A good hashtag strategy aims for both breadth and depth by incorporating a combination of long-tail and high-volume keywords.
Long-tail keywords are longer, more specific, and high-intent keywords that users are more likely to use in a later stage of their search process. These searchers are no longer casually browsing and are entering keywords with a specific action in mind, whether it’s making a purchase, visiting a location, or answering a question.
On the other hand, high-volume keywords are usually shorter and more general keywords that a large population of users searches for. Ranking for high-volume keywords has the advantage of exposing your content to a large audience, however, the search intent will be lower, and conversion rates may not be as strong as those for long-tail keywords.
Additionally, indexing is also a good way to utilize your hashtags and increase the visibility of certain content series. For example, if you plan to create a multi-part series on content creator tips, you can use the hashtag #[account name]contentcreatorstips to group multiple videos that cover a single topic.
Step 5: Use Previous Videos to Optimize Your SEO Strategy
The final step is not necessarily tied to any specific video but is rather a general tip to always use previous videos as a learning tool to refine your TikTok SEO strategy for future videos. This can come in the form of reusing successful hashtags in videos, creating part 2s of a specific topic that resonated with your target audience, or even looking at comments from previous videos to better understand what your audience is seeking. Another opportunity for continued learning is A/B testing hashtags or similar hashtag sets to determine which ones are driving traffic to your content.
The Future of TikTok SEO
Despite being relatively new, the future of TikTok SEO is bright. The hashtag «TikTok SEO» on TikTok already has over 26 million views as creators and brand social media managers begin to realize the importance of optimizing their content for search. According to a report by Cloudflare, TikTok ended Google’s 15-year reign as the most visited web domain in the world in 2021. If TikTok’s rise to the top is indicative of one thing, it is that the way users search for and consume information has fundamentally changed. Consumers are no longer seeking information from the largest or most established sources; they are looking for visually appealing, socially validated, and authentically trustworthy information, and with
TikTok SEO, brands can certainly leverage this shift.
Whether you are just starting to bring your brand to TikTok or looking to take your brand’s TikTok SEO to the next level, we are here to ensure your video ranks at the top. Ready to grow your brand’s TikTok account? Let’s talk.