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TikTok as a Search Engine… Is Google’s Search Reign Over?
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TikTok as a Search Engine… Is Google’s Search Reign Over?

Move over Google, there’s a new search engine in town. Here, we take a look at how brands can optimise their content for TikTok searchers.
We all know TikTok as the go to short form video app for people looking to get lost in an endless pit of time, scrolling everything from makeup reviews & recipe ideas, to dogs…lots of dogs!

It has arguably become the app to reach a younger audience, and it appears the TikTok train isn’t running out of steam yet, with many Gen Z’ers like myself using the app to search for products & recommendations. Move over Google!

TikTok For Search

TikTok’s algorithm allows each user to experience the app in a different way, serving them personalised content based on the user's interests & previous video engagement.

The search function is equally as smart, opening up a whole new way of using the app. For example, thinking personally now, if I’m looking for the best places to eat in London… I head to TikTok to search endless 10 second reviews to try and find the perfect spot, or if I’m looking for the best moisturiser for dry skin, back on the TikTok search function I go. In fact, I pretty much don’t go anywhere, or buy anything without a search for it on TikTok first.

It appears I am not the only one, this trend has been recognised by the search engine giants themselves, Google. In a technology conference in July 2022 Prabhakar Raghavan, Google’s Senior Vice President, said “In our studies, something like almost 40 percent of young people, when they’re looking for a place for lunch, they don’t go to Google Maps or Search. They go to TikTok”.

What Has Caused This Shift In Behaviour?

Since TikTok’s partnership with Shopify, consumers are able to easily find thousands of products not only in-app, but also in-video with just a few clicks, meaning for us Gen Z’s there’s really no need to scroll Google looking through countless reviews & product listings, when we can find the products people are using, tagged in the video where they are talking about it – work smarter not harder people! 

Aside from improving user experience, this behaviour shift has proven to be a positive for brands too as Patrick Nommensen, Head of e-commerce at TikTok Shop, said the UK live shopping market was forecast to reach $7.3bn by the end of 2023, but that’s nothing on China who’s shopping market is estimated to reach $500bn this year, showing us this market has real potential to grow.

What Can Brands Do to Leverage TikTok For Search?

There are few main ways you can optimise your brand's TikTok content to improve searchability. Here are my top points:

  1. The analytics tool📈
    Making full use of the analytics tool in TikTok will help you measure the success of your content, it will give you important insights such as number of views, how long the video was watched for and what kind of engagement you're getting, to help you decide what content is and isn’t working.
  1. Consistency 🕒
    This may feel like an obvious one, but people really do underestimate the power of consistency when trying to get their content in front of people. The TikTok algorithm priorities frequent posting and serves these videos more regularly. So, if you want eyes on your videos. Time to get posting!
  1. Hashtags 📱
    These are your best bet in getting content in front of the most eyes. The most important factor is that the hashtags are relevant to your video. It’s no good using #MakeupReview in the caption of a cooking video … no one will watch it; it’s annoying to app users, and you risk your videos getting shadow banned by TikTok.
  1. Reviews
    Our own Future of Beauty research found that 83% of Gen Z say reviews really matter to them - more than any other generation. So, with many users searching TikTok for answers to things like "is product X any good?", "does product Y really work?", make sure you're leveraging videos and content of genuine user reviews in your TikTok post
  1. Keywords
    Yep, with the rise of TikTok as a search engine, we now need to put our SEO hats on when creating TikToks. Start be researching key hashtags relevant to your brand or product. Then, make sure to include the most important of these in your titles, descriptions, and captions of your videos. This includes on-screen text  as well. Oh, and make sure you say the words too! That's right, TikTok's algorithms will be listening and optimising for those. 

A mix of trending and more specific hashtags is the secret to reach success. While popular hashtags have a higher number of people searching for them, your video could get lost in the ever growing video additions to the app, mixing these with smaller more niche hashtags allows you to be more targeted with the type of people you want your videos to appear for.
The way Gen Z search is changing, and although you may not feel this younger generation is your brand’s target audience, remember us Gen Z’s aren’t getting any younger! *Sets reminder to buy anti-ageing cream*

If we aren't already, GenZ'ers like me will one day become the people your brand is targeting. So, get ahead of your competitors & connect with us sooner on the platforms we are using!

Posted 2 March 2023 by Paige Byrne