The ultimate guide to TikTok SEO - everything you need to know (Updated October 2023)
Carrie Rose Founder & CEO
14 min read
Monday, 2nd October 2023
Everything you need to know about TikTok SEO
In this guide you will find:
- Why Google is losing searches to TikTok
- TikTok SEO definition
- All the most up to date features you need to know about TikTok search
- Details on how TikToks algorithm works
- How to get views on TikTok
- How to find out whats trending
- How to optimise your content on TikTok
- How to get Keyword volumes from TikTok
TikTok SEO is the most in demand service in the US, demand is up 116% according to Rise at Sevens insight team and budgets are shifting towards TikTok to become more discoverable on the platform.
Social SEO is becoming more prevalent, with the roll out of Google SGE where UGC and shared media has more prominence in the SERPS.
We have always said "You should spend your marketing budget where your customers spend their time" and utimately where people search now, is changing!
Consumers are using Pinterest, TikTok. YouTube, Reddit, LinkedIn and even Giphy channels to search for information, content, ideas and products. And Google is certainly aware of that.
TikTok is now taking on Google as a search engine.
TikTok is overtaking Google Search and Maps for informational and discovery search queries for GenZ 🤯. But i's not just GenZ; search data, view data and user data shows is TikTok is widely becoming adopted as a search engine by all age groups.
People are going to TikTok to find the best foundations, authentic reviews of the Dyson hairdryer, and the coolest spots in New York City. And this is usually where it all starts.
40% of 18-24 year olds, when looking for a place to go or eat, turn to TikTok over Google. In the fashion or beauty space, we’re now seeing TikTok become the place that refers the most traffic and demand, with a conversion rate as high as 80%. From our own data, it's not just restaurants or travel advice - users are heading to TikTok for e-commerce searches and purchases too. "TikTok made me buy it" is real.
GenZ and Millennials are always early adopters of new ways of using technology and influence other generations to follow suit.
TikTok is going to play a major role in search, going forward. Which is why learning all you can about TikTok SEO is key.
The problem: Consumers are becoming impatient with Google
So, why is this happening? Truth is, consumers are becoming more impatient and want fast results for their queries. The faster you can make the buying journey, all the way from awareness to conversion, the more you will win as a brand. Short-form content is therefore becoming the answer that users want and therefore Google will sooner or later reward short-form content too.
SEOs have historically relied on long-form keyword-heavy content in order to improve rankings, but in reality, users just want the answer quickly and clearly. Some even question whether SEOs actually ruin SEO? Ultimately, Google is and always will follow the suit of their users, looking at how they behave and changing the algorithm to suit.
Consumer trust with TikTok results
The only problem: many are arguing whether the content presented on TikTok can be trusted. Studies show that Americans trust Google significantly more than TikTok, which was found to be the most distrusted tech giant - mostly due to the way they handle their user data.
But as content on TikTok come directly from creators, trust in reviews and recommendations on the platform is growing. Trust is a key factor in whether TikTok will not just survive but thrive as a search platform.
At Rise at Seven, we are one of the first search agencies in the world to monitor trends on TikTok and the impact they had on search demand on Google - and we even won an award for the most innovative social strategy in 2022 as a result.
So, what is TikTok SEO?
TikTok is a video-sharing platform, primarily focused on short-form video (as little as 15s and as long as 10 minutes) content and we're starting to see signs of it becoming a search engine.
TikTok SEO is optimising short form video content with the use of keywords, captions, hashtags, and audience targeting to
What is SEO on TikTok? TikTok SEO means optimising your video content for search results so it's easily discoverable by users on the platform. The use of keywords in the video and captions, hashtags, and audience and location targeting are currently the strongest ways to optimise for TikTok SEO.
The TikTok algorithm is currently one of the most powerful algorithms we have seen, taking in multiple factors such as audience interests, posts they've interacted with previously, nd accounts they follow. This does give brands the opportunity to be seen by more highly qualified audiences.
Every TikTok SEO feature you need to know about, showing it is a search engine
TikTok has started showing signs of applying search engine features, raising questions about its ability to not only take over YouTube search but Google search as well.
It started with a search bar, then paid ads within its search results page, and now it’s even showing suggested search terms when viewing a video’s comments section.
1. TikTok search bar and auto suggest
2. TikTok showing up on Google search
Google has already started to show TikTok short videos in Google's SERPs. It is one of 3 social platforms that has seen the biggest increase in visibility on Google SERPs according to our own study using Sistrix data here
And that’s not just for searches with 'TikTok' mentioned in the query. Search things to do New York, and ranking pos 2 is Google Discover. Where TikTok videos take up 80% of video listings (Not Google).
full tweet and video here
You see this in searches for football players, too.
3. TikTok extends its character limit
In (September 2022), TikTok announced that it is expanding post descriptions from 300 characters to 2,200. We've seen the same thing happen with Instagram over the past few years too. Opening up these character counts means brands are able to capitalise on keyword volumes to ensure they are more discoverable within search through TikTok SEO.
4. Google and TikTok new partnership
TikTok and Google are currently exploring a new partnership, which would integrate Google search prompts, and potentially, at some stage, even results, into TikTok’s own search stream. some TikTok users are now seeing a new prompt appear within their search results in the app, which includes a CTA to expand their search on Google.
5. TikTok roll out ads in the SERPS
TikTok has now rolled out ads in the SERPS for specific keywords
If a user searches on Tiktok for "Newquay" for example (because they’re looking to go and early in the research journey) - brands can organically rank through organic TikTok SEO or pay to appear there with ads on creative content. Influencing the purchase decision before they go to Google and buy. Example: We have already got our client to rank pos 1 organically for this term, and we are rolling out ads for high conversion keywords that we don’t yet rank for TikTok SEO is an industry about to rapidly grow and we’re already ranking for over 100 keywords on that platform for this client
6. TikTok launches featured snippets
TikTok launches FEATURED SNIPPETS for certain search queries
When users search for certain key terms, a WikiHow ‘featured answer’ pops up with a step-by-step guide.
This is being rolled out at the moment mostly on informational content, eg. how-to’s like Air Fryer Recipe Ideas
As users are constantly searching for faster ways to find answers to their search queries, this is yet another move from TikTok to steal search traffic from Google 🔎
How to increase visibility and rank on TikTok?
How does TikTok's algorithm work?
If you haven’t explored TikTok yourself, there are two feeds of continuous video: people you follow, and a "For You" page.
The For You page is filled with content that TikTok serves you, based on what they know (and learn over time) are your interests. Despite what you might think, the For You page is actually the section where users spend most of their time.
However, there isn’t one For You page that services the platform’s one billion monthly active TikTok users. There are a billion For You pages tailored to what each user watches, likes, and shares - even down to location.
While a video is likely to receive more views if posted by an account that has more followers, neither follower count nor whether the account has previous high-performing videos are direct factors in the algorithm.
Instead, TikTok displays new videos each minute of the day, based on popular hashtags, trending songs, trending filters or edits. It’s unique to each consumer but it’s likely that your friends will come across the same videos as you - because TikTok knows what people want to see for entertainment, education, or insight.
4 tips to getting more views and dominating the For You page:
1. Jump on current trends
Leveraging what's trending at the time (including sounds, memes, challenges, and hashtags) is the number one tip for generating high-reach content and increased visibility.
Trends are the currency on TikTok, where the most popular can inspire thousands of spin-off videos, and the algorithm will push the most popular out to more users, garnering more videos, more views, more engagement…
Knowing what the trends are is the first step to getting involved, or starting one yourself
2. Use the right hashtags
Using the most popular hashtags on TikTok will make you more visible to the right users. More on hashtags below.
3. Familiarity principle
Use faces people are familiar with (influencers/content creators). If your strategy relies on creating content, why not use a specific face that people attach to your brand OR faces people recognise. This helps capture attention and views and fuels the algorithm to push it further.
Gymshark has famously done this well across all channels with the Gymshark athletes.
4. The cliffhanger
Keep people watching - watch time is a big part of the algorithm. Spend the first 5 seconds hooking viewers in for a big reveal. You'll see this strategy plays a major role in a lot of trending videos.
How to find what's trending on TikTok
To discover the most relevant trends for you, it’s important to start engaging with TikTok yourself. Search for hashtags in your niche, then like or comment on the trending videos you see. The For You page (FYP) will adapt to show you more trending videos in your engagement-led niches. Assess what you see, and act fast! TikTok creators who are too slow to join trends get lost in the noise.
With 88 percent of TikTokers saying audio is "essential" to their overall experience on the app, knowing how to find trending sounds on TikTok poses a massive potential for brands to grow on the platform.
There are MANY ways to find the top trending sounds, but here are the four easiest…
1. There's a website that does this for you called TokBoard. It’s third-party and updated weekly but still one of the best sites to use to get quick access to which songs you should be using for your content.
2. Head to the TikTok creator centre, click sounds, and you will see the most popular of all time and breakout entries, much like the music charts.
Select 'Breakout' to see the most trending right now as TikTok moves fast when it comes to new emerging sounds and trends. The difference here is this: you get to see the full analytics too - including when it started trending, audience demographics, location, and related sounds.
3. Scroll the For You page and you will get a quick glimpse at the sounds that are most used. Like and comment and TikTok will serve you similar content, and more trending sounds.
4. Head to the search bar and type in "trending sounds" or "viral sounds", click sounds and you will be presented with the most popular ones.
The TikTok creator centre also shows trending hashtags, which you can break down by industry. Here, we can see the top trending fashion and apparel hashtags, complete with a report that shows full analytics, including the top creators using the hashtag, a great way to identify potential creators for collaborations.
The easiest way to find trending challenges on TikTok is by searching the #TikTokchallenge or #challenge hashtags. You’ll see related hashtags and can view the top trending challenges each day.
So, how do you optimise TikTok content for search?
Optimising TikTok content to appear in TikTok search results is different to understanding the algorithm to get views.
Also, views and likes AREN’T a ranking factor for TikTok search, remember that.
Many people post content on the platform, and they expect to get quality results instantly. One of the major benefits of TikTok is how keywords and hashtags can work to generate views in the millions by ranking in search. In this context, SEO would aim to optimise your TikTok content for views, so they can connect you to more people who want to watch your content. Here’s how to do that…
1. Add your search keywords in the text on your video
When you create a video, you can add text to the screen. TikTok reads this text and serves the user your content based on any keywords mentioned.
We recommend adding keywords into your text on screen, specifically within the first 1-5 seconds of the video.
As you can see here, when searching for "best foundations", the video that ranks first is a video with "best foundations" as the keyword text added to the screen. Note that "best foundations" isn’t mentioned within the caption, showing how powerful in-video text is on rankings.
When comparing this video to other results on TikTok for the same search term, it’s clear that likes and views aren’t influencing the search results as much as in-video text. Another video further down the results page has 250k views but ranks significantly lower than the video with 54k.
The most-liked video also sits further down the results page. Don’t get caught up too much on views or likes - focus on facilitating search demand.
To get a list of top keywords people search for in your niche, in-depth keyword research is needed. Tools like keywordtool.io and Semrush are best for this kind of analysis.
2. Keywords in captions
Make sure you take advantage of the 500-character caption limit by including keywords your customer will be searching for - we often use the same keywords people are searching for on Google and YouTube on TikTok. Keep your captions natural, placing the keyword in a sentence rather than keyword stuffing.
3. Using Hashtags to rank
Hashtags are one of the most important parts of TikTok SEO. In a similar way to how Instagram SEO works, hashtags will power your ability to optimise your content for the TikTok search engine.
Across TikTok, specific demographics of people subscribe to certain hashtags based on their intent. Use 3-6 keyword hashtags, strategically using both high volume and low volume keywords. Make sure to use both broad and niche hashtags, too.
Of course, this wouldn't be a proper TikTok guide without including my top three tips in a TikTok video
How Do I Find Popular TikTok Hashtags For SEO?
Other than trending hashtags explained above, you should consider both informational and commercial keywords as part of your hashtag strategy. Here is how we generate TikTok keywords that are effective for SEO:
- Choose long-tail keywords with under 100k volume to begin focusing effort on
- Update previous posts with new keyword selections
- Select high-volume keywords that are your final targets
- Use a combination of both long-tail and high-volume keywords on your posts
Can TikTok Help Website SEO?
TikTok is a very effective tool in both driving and facilitating search demand on the platform and directly on your website. There are many ways you can integrate TikTok into your site strategy - specifically on-site content. But pointing people to your website from TikTok alone is an essential way to start growing your website’s authority - as well as getting analytics on how the two interact.
Can you see search volumes on TikTok?
The best tools to use to track search volumes on TikTok are keywordtool.io, Glimpse, or correlate keyword views with search volumes. There is similarity in the way people use YouTube and TikTok. Therefore, the keywords people use are likely the same on both platforms, and keyword data for YouTube is readily available on Keywordtool.io.
Alternatively, you can track trending searches on Google for your products or services off the back of TikTok. We created our very own tool and built a dedicated team, Rise Live, to track and react to trends in less than 60 minutes. We then use PR, social, and paid to put our clients at the centre of those trends.
Putting this into practice
The future of TikTok SEO is bright. The “TikTok SEO” hashtag on TikTok already has over 221.3 million views. The way users are searching for and consuming information has fundamentally changed. Consumers are no longer looking for information from the biggest or most established sources; they’re looking for information that’s to the point, visually engaging, socially validated, and authentically trustworthy — and with TikTok SEO, brands can certainly take advantage of this shift
Hopefully, we've given you the tools to get started on your TikTok SEO journey. Get in touch if you want to both drive and react to TikTok trends - and create better-optimised content. Or, download our guide below which takes you through actionable ways to convert TikTok demand on site.