Traditionally, search engine optimization (SEO) was synonymous with Google and optimizing a website for search. In recent years, a trend has emerged for finding information that shifts away from typing a keyword into a search engine—Gen Z is looking and finding content in new ways with social media. Google confirms this behavior with a study finding that 40% of young people ages 18-24 will use TikTok or Instagram instead of Google Search or Maps when looking for something such as a new restaurant, advice, or reviews. For brands, this is a tremendous opportunity, so if you aren't already conducting keyword research for your TikTok, now is the time to do so.
We know that discoverability is vital on TikTok but what is TikTok SEO? Much like the traditional way of optimizing your website for search engines, TikTok SEO is the process of optimizing your videos to rank at the top of the search. Having a TikTok SEO strategy is important because positioning your videos at the top of search improves your discoverability. Although technically, TikTok is not a search engine, as mentioned before, many Gen Zs are moving away from Google when searching, meaning that brands can capitalize on this opportunity and use what they’ve learned from web-based SEO practices and apply them to TikTok. Aside from ranking videos in the app, Google has recently started indexing TikTok video content in the search engine results page (SERP). Because of this cross-over between traditional SEO and in-app-based TikTok SEO, we will break down the top ranking factors for both and how you can improve discoverability for your TikTok videos.
There has never been a better time to develop your brand’s SEO TikTok Strategy. Before dreams of getting on the FYP or going viral, research should be done ahead of the creative process to give your videos the best chance of being seen. Much like Google, TikTok has its own algorithm, which must be considered when creating your strategy. Because this is a new avenue for search, the competition for ranking your content is low and will never be less difficult than it is right now.
The first place to start when developing your TikTok SEO strategy is right at home. Understanding your target audience, where they are, and what they like is crucial for creating content that sparks their interest. To better understand your current audience, look at your past video performance to see which ones get the most engagement, comments, likes, saves, and shares. Knowing your audience and what they like is essential for SEO because it gives you an insight into who you're speaking to. This can then help you pick the best trending sounds and write titles and descriptions for your videos that, in turn, are easy to find while searching on TikTok. A TikTok measurement tool, like Dash Hudson's TikTok Insights, is perfect for helping you understand what resonates with your audience and measure your performance.
The most fundamental part of SEO is keyword research. In its most basic form, you're optimizing a piece of content with keywords so that users can search and find you easily. Because TikTok has a search bar feature and videos are findable in Google, it's crucial to incorporate search terms or 'keywords' into your TikTok content. Many tools can help you do keyword research, but if you're new to SEO, we suggest using TikTok itself. Try going into the search bar area of the platform and typing in a focus keyword phrase, which is usually a short keyword.
For example, if you're a makeup brand with an eyeshadow product that you want to promote, try typing in 'eyeshadow.' The search bar will auto-populate with top search queries that start with your focus keyword and can give you an idea of what TikTok users are interested in and how they search for topics.
By finding search terms that match your strategy, you can now build your content accordingly. Try not only adding keywords into your video title, description and hashtags but also saying them in your video. TikTok has an advanced algorithm, and we suggest saying the keywords you want people to find you for so that they appear in the auto-generated captions too.
The art of SEO can be difficult to master. Tracking your progress is the key to success, as not all algorithms are created equal, and they are constantly changing with improvements to the platform. Every niche industry is different; for example, what might work for beauty might not work for travel. Try new things to test out how your content performs in the TikTok algorithm. Dash Hudson’s TikTok Insights tool is perfect for keeping track of the metrics that matter.
We’ve covered what TikTok SEO is, why it’s important for brands, and some strategies to get you started. But what are TikTok SEO ranking factors? Much like other algorithms, this can be somewhat of a mystery. A few of the fundamentals of how to rank well lie within the algorithm itself. Along with optimizing the content you're creating, the following factors will play a part in your TikTok SEO ranking.
Engagement and interactions are things brands can't control, but they are important to understand. The TikTok algorithm will look at the videos a user has liked, saved, or hidden and either show them more or less of that content. This can be good or bad news for you, but keep in mind that your target audience is someone who enjoys watching your content, so don't worry about the people who don't. User engagement also includes comments, profile visits, and how long a user watches your video. If a user saves or replays a video, that's a positive signal to the algorithm to show this user more of your content in the future.
A user is more likely to be shown your video if they use the discover tab to view similar content. This is where the SEO part of your TikTok strategy comes into play. Using trending sounds that are popular in your niche can impact the algorithm showing your video to a new user. The same idea holds true for someone clicking on a hashtag or viewing trending content closely related to your brand content.
This is the part of the algorithm you can impact the most—the information that goes into your profile and short-form videos. Take everything you’ve learned about your target audience, what they’re searching for, and the keyword phrases they use and incorporate it into your video. Use the key phases to create the short-form content and then use the search term in the video title (plus text on the video), description, and hashtags. Don’t forget to also use the terms in the audio. Audio can also include a trending sound, as strategically using TikTok trends such as sounds can give your video a short-term boost if done correctly. This algorithm impact can help catapult you in front of millions of new users. Popularity can help increase your authority in the space and move your videos up in the search results of TikTok.
There are hundreds of speculated ranking factors when positioning your content at the top of Google search. Like any mysterious algorithm, we will never be 100% sure what exactly has the most significant impact on SEO rankings. In the interest of this article and creating a comparison to TikTok, we will look at 3 main factors that go into ranking on Google and how these can positively impact your TikTok SEO strategy. Remember, your TikTok videos are searchable on Google as well.
Simply put, if the keywords you place in your content match the keywords that users type into Google, there is a good chance that your content will rank for those searches. In its simplest form, that is SEO. It is important to note that the position your content ranks in for those keywords depends on many factors. But if you create good content, follow best practices and naturally use keywords, you should be able to start ranking your content. This strategy should be followed for all search engines, apps, and algorithms you’re trying to rank in.
Expertise and authority are important ranking factors that can be tough to measure. The number of relevant, authoritative websites linking back to your content can help determine your expertise. This goes hand in hand with authority. If your content is created by experts and other high-quality websites link back to you as a vote of confidence and trust, then you are most likely an authority in your space. Google looks at this complicated web when determining ranking, and the same can work for TikTok SEO. Are trusted, authoritative expert creators talking about you in their videos? When collaborating with content creators, make sure to pick experts in your industry that can help elevate your own TikTok Authority.
There is a delicate balance in SEO ranking between freshness and relevance. It is said that Google prefers new content over old, but if your content is relevant to the search intent and has built authority over time with valuable backlinks pointing to it, your more relevant content will rank higher. Fresh content really comes into play when answering long-tail queries. A user would prefer a new answer vs. an answer to a question that is 5 years old. This is also true for TikTok. Old content can still be picked up and perform well, but freshness is what TikTok is all about.
Throughout this article, measurement was emphasized as the most important aspect of TikTok SEO. Without measuring your TikTok SEO efforts, it is impossible to determine what works. Dash Hudson is a social media marketing software that works with global brands to bring their social media strategies to life. With Dash Hudson’s TikTok Insights tool, you’ll be able to measure your performance while also staying ahead of the competition. Our TikTok Insights tool also has a trending sounds feature that can save your team hours of scrolling and is perfect for creating your TikTok SEO strategy.
Yes, TikTok uses SEO. SEO is the basis for optimizing anything for search. All web-based technologies that house information use search in some capacity. It’s how we categorize, organize and store to find and recall relevant content. TikTok categorizes content using SEO tactics and then shows users what they are looking for based on various factors.
It's recommended to limit your hashtags to around 2-3 to avoid appearing spammy. If you have to incorporate more than 3, try to use them in your video description without the hash sign, but only if they sound natural.
If you want to incorporate SEO into your TikTok strategy, there are several factors to consider:
Although TikTok is known as a platform built for social entertainment, its search capability and complex algorithm lend itself to more of a search engine, and younger audiences are using it in this way. Users search the platform to answer questions, find information, and get reviews, the same as the traditional way we use Google.