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TikTok SEO: How to appear in TikTok searches

January 19, 2023
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How is the Dow Jones doing today? What’s the best banana bread recipe of all time? 

Whatever the query, millennials and older generations have long relied on search engines like Google and Bing for information on practically everything. (Yes, people really do still use Bing.) 

These days, however, Gen Zs are bucking that trend by relying on social media platforms like TikTok to answer their most pressing questions. A recent study commissioned by Google determined that almost 40% of people aged 18–24 prefer TikTok or Instagram over online search engines.1 

In other words, brands that want to reach younger audiences need to learn how to advertise on TikTok.

The good news is that getting started is actually pretty easy, especially with the help of a TikTok agency. Check out our quick and simple steps for mastering TikTok search engine optimization.

Why do young people use TikTok for search?

When young folks today want to find out about the best restaurants in New York City or learn what their favorite pop star is up to, they don’t look to fact-checked news sources or established databases for information. Instead, they want to hear from real people like themselves. 

Platforms like TikTok and Instagram provide just that—word-of-mouth recommendations on a global scale.

TikTok hasn’t shied away from its enhanced status as the go-to source for celeb gossip or hidden gem restaurants in trendy locales. According to the New York Times, the app is leaning into search by testing new features around keywords and SEO.2

Right now, TikTok SEO is fairly new. Brands looking to “hack” the social platform can do so with relative ease. But as the app matures and more brands and retailers crowd the space, it’ll become more difficult to rank on TikTok. 

This means that content creators who are serious about showing up need to do so now.

social media agency

Top-tier ranking tips for TikTok searches

So, younger people are increasingly interested in visual representations of information from sources that feel authentic. But what’s the best way for a company to reach those people? There’s more to it than uploading random video content to TikTok in hopes of attaining virality. 

Here are four steps to grabbing—and keeping—your target audience’s attention.

Step 1: Determine the audience

What’s the golden rule of marketing? Know your audience. 

Okay, that’s far from the only golden rule—but for brands taking to TikTok marketing, it’s a good place to start. Before going through the steps of shooting and editing video content —brands need to determine their target audience and what those TikTok users might be searching.

For example, a company that sells hair care products might determine that a majority of its customers are adult women interested in fashion and beauty and hair stylists looking for tips. The company might use this information to create content on the best flat irons under $100 or tutorials on how to style long hair. Or they may look into TikTok affiliate marketing and find an influencer who resonates with this type of customer.

When it comes to understanding a brand’s audience, more information means better content creation. Understanding the target user and their pain points allows a brand to create content that provides solutions to a user’s most pressing queries, or their search intent.

Think of search intent as what the user is typing into the TikTok search bar. This is as straightforward as it sounds:

  • Users typing in “best vegan skincare” are interested in content about what kinds of cruelty-free moisturizers and serums to buy. 
  • Users searching “easy Instapot recipes” are looking for quick meals made with their favorite kitchen accessory.

Analyzing data-informed insights about the audience’s search intent is the first step a brand must take to reach its customers.

Step 2: Choose the best keywords

Any content strategist who has agonized over how to cram a challenging keyword into a blog post knows how valuable that process is when it comes to ranking in search engine results. They’re also likely familiar with the three components of selecting a keyword, which are:

  • Search volume – The number of people searching the keyword.
  • Relevance – How pertinent that keyword is to the content a brand is trying to promote.
  • Keyword difficulty How difficult it is to rank in searches for that keyword.

When it comes to choosing keywords, there’s both method and magic involved: 

  • Generally speaking, it’s a good idea to choose keywords with high search volume. For example, “best road bikes” has a relatively high search volume compared to “aerodynamic carbon fiber racing bikes,” since significantly more people are searching for the former than the latter.
  • It’s also a smart move to include keywords with high relevance. A company trying to push content about the best snow boots shouldn’t include keywords like “tallest high heels” and “best stilettos.” That’s because the video won’t give users searching those topics any of the information they’re looking for.
  • When it comes to keyword difficulty, finding a balance is key. It’s probably difficult to rank for a keyword like “best fitness app,” since there are many companies using this for all kinds of queries—from weight loss to bodybuilding to general health. On the other hand, it will be easier to rank for “app for tracking calories burned.” The trick here is that fewer people will be searching this term, limiting the number of people the company will reach.

Step 3: Deploy the keywords

TikTok SEO uses keywords in various places, and it’s important to consider each carefully. Here’s how a content creator can optimally include a keyword on the social media platform:

  • Say it – Yes, TikTok is listening. A content creator using the keyword “best ramen recipe” can rank higher in searches by using that phrase organically in the audio of their content. This is generally easy to do: “I’m going to show you the best ramen recipe I’ve come across in all my late-night microwaving adventures” would suffice.
  • Use it in closed captions – TikTok uses AI to log what a creator is saying and then mirror it in subtitles. Ensuring that these subtitles are automatically added to the video will help with the video’s ranking.
  • Include it in the title – Creating a title at the top of a TikTok video isn’t required, but it does encourage users to click. In addition to using the keyword, titles should be easy to read. In terms of TikTok SEO, “My favorite coffee shops in Boston” is better than “An assortment of establishments in which I enjoyed imbibing cold-pressed java beverages.” 
  • Add it to captions Similar to the title, the caption provides added context and information. But a scramble of different keywords won’t do—a caption must read like real text to make sense to the user. “Best pan best pots to cook in inexpensive cooking hacks foodies” might include all of a brand’s keywords, but its nonsensical words are likely to turn viewers off.
  • Use it as a hashtag – Most marketing professionals probably learned this from a decade of experience trying to reach consumers on Twitter and the like. However: Don’t go overboard. Seriously, chill with the ###s. Junking up a caption with a bunch of random hashtags signals amateur hour and degrades a brand’s authority. Instead, select the most relevant hashtags and stick to them.

Step 4: Make the content stand out

If the content creation is good and marketers heed steps 1 through 3, their video should start to rank. However, for content to hold its spot or even rise, it also needs to perform

This happens when the video receives likes, comments and shares. It also happens when people choose that video over all the other videos they see when they search.

The best way for content creators to make their videos stand out from all the others is to choose an engaging thumbnail that TikTok users can’t resist. In general, a good thumbnail is easy to look at, contains a digestible title and most importantly utilizes an appealing and relevant snapshot from the video.

In other words, a creator looking to make a video about the best omakase in Japan rank will want to use the most jaw-droppingly tantalizing pic of sushi they can find in the video. If all goes as planned, this will attract a crowd of authentic sushi lovers—leading to more clicks, likes and comments. 

Knowing when to post on TikTok is also very important. Once your content is created make sure you are posting when your followers are most active.

Fast-track your TikTok ranking with Power Digital

TikTok didn’t set out to replace Google as the go-to search engine, but that hasn’t stopped millions of people from looking for information on the world’s favorite video-sharing app. And since the TikTok algorithm helps people look for content, it’s a high-performing channel for brands looking to reach new customers in authentic ways.

The basics of TikTok SEO may seem old hat to digital marketers, but there’s plenty of nuance to artful advertising on Gen Z’s favorite app. That’s where Power Digital comes in.

Whether you’re new to TikTok or looking to level up, our digital marketing agency can help you create content that stands out. And if you can’t decide between TikTok vs. Instagram for your marketing endeavors, we have the answers for you. Want to get started? Get in touch today.

 

Sources: 

  1. USA Today. Is TikTok the new Google? Why TikTok is Gen Z’s favorite search engine. https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2022/09/18/google-search-tiktok-gen-z/10361233002/?gnt-cfr=1 
  2. New York Times. For Gen Z, TikTok Is the New Search Engine. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/09/16/technology/gen-z-tiktok-search-engine.html 

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