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Hannah O'neill SEO Copywriter

As a brand, your success lies in connecting with relevant target audiences and winning their loyalty. While Facebook remains the dominant platform for getting in front of Millennials, TikTok is the go-to place to capture Gen-Z audiences.

While TikTok began as a platform where users could upload videos and entertain people, it’s now become one of the most powerful search engines, even rivalling Google.

If you’re targeting Gen-Z audiences, TikTok SEO is a vital investment—but many brands shy away from the platform because they don’t understand it.

Read on to discover:

  1. Why TikTok is such a powerful search engine
  2. How TikTok measures up to Google
  3. How TikTok SEO works
  4. The pros and cons of using the platform to market your brand
  5. How to win with TikTok SEO
  6. Getting results from your TikTok SEO strategy

TikTok’s transformation from an entertainment platform to a powerful search engine

Google will always play a significant role in the buying journey, but recently, we’ve seen a sizeable shift in how people use TikTok. Many now treat the platform like a search engine to find information and buy products.

Its USP lies in something that all consumers – especially Gen-Z audiences – want: entertainment.

Instead of searching through pages of information, people can perform a search on TikTok and access a loop of videos that inform, educate and demonstrate products or services.

Adobe reports that around one in ten Gen-Zers rely on TikTok more than Google as a search engine, and 40% of consumers will use the platform to search for information on products or topics they’re interested in (Search Engine Journal).

Is Google losing its audience?

Google’s SGE Update now means shared media and user-generated content have more visibility in the SERPs, making social SEO a vital investment when building a brand.

As consumer demands for quick information grow, more people turn to TikTok and its short-form content.

However, it’s not all bad news because Google isn’t completely losing its audience. It’s still the top search engine worldwide, with Axios reporting that 46% of people aged 18-24 make Google their first port of call.

However, that’s significantly less than the 58% of 25-39-year-olds who turn to Google before exploring other avenues.

The study also revealed that 20% of Gen-Z audiences begin searches on TikTok, highlighting its importance for brands.

Failing to incorporate it into your marketing strategy could mean you lose out on connecting with a highly active and enhanced audience.

How does TikTok SEO work?

The TikTok platform began as a video-sharing network where users could create, view, and share content, but its popularity has led to its gradual evolution into a powerful search engine.

Users can find content based on their queries, including helpful video guides, product demonstrations, reviews and social stories, making it a go-to place for younger audiences.

So, just as you’d optimise website pages to appear on Google and other search engines, your videos must go through the same process to ensure users can find them.

The platform has a range of features for content creators to ensure their videos attract the right audiences and secure more visibility, including:

  • Keywords: Users input keywords based on what they want to see, and TikTok will give them the most relevant videos.
  • Auto Suggest: When users view the comments section of a particular video, they’ll receive suggestions highlighting its transformation into a search engine.
  • Google SERPs: TikTok videos now appear on Google search results, encouraging more people to visit the app.
  • Hashtags: As with other social media platforms, hashtags are key in helping people find content and ensuring videos reach the right audiences.
  • Captions: Using captions to describe what videos are about can also enhance accessibility, but avoiding keyword stuffing is essential.

The benefits of using TikTok for marketing

Love it or hate it, TikTok is one of the most important platforms for brands that want to grow and scale while also building relationships with their target audiences.

Whether you sell products or services, are an international brand, or are just getting started, TikTok opens up a world of opportunities.

Build a brand

Consumers today—especially Gen-Z audiences—care about a brand’s identity and personality. It’s no longer enough to have a great product or service; these people want to see what you’re all about.

TikTok is the perfect place to showcase your brand’s uniqueness and demonstrate social responsibility, leading to higher loyalty levels.

Diversify your reach

Small businesses struggle to gain traction in competitive industries, but creating TikTok videos can expose your brand to different audiences and expand your reach.

Hashtags allow businesses to get in on trending topics and create content that resonates with what viewers are looking for.

Utilise UGC

User-generated content is one of the most affordable ways for brands to grow their audience. TikTok enables you to launch a campaign and let others pick up the trend and run with it, which can save money and expand your reach.

Partnering with influencers is a great way to spark and watch a trend grow. It can also be cheaper than relying on PPC or other platforms.

Reach people quickly

According to Backlinko, TikTok attracts over 50 million users daily in the USA, and 40% of the UK’s population uses the platform (The Media Leader). The sheer amount of engagement the app gets means it’s easy to reach your target audience quickly.

Whether launching a new product, expanding your brand or announcing a promotion, it’s easy to reach audiences quickly and creating compelling content will ensure more shares.

The downsides of TikTok

TikTok isn’t a miracle platform, and it does have some downsides. Understanding these can help you determine whether it’s the right social platform for your needs or whether you’d be better off sticking with traditional SEO or other channels to market your brand.

Trust issues

Despite TikTok’s popularity, its consumer trust levels are less than ideal. An article from the Search Engine Journal highlights that only 28% of TikTok users feel the platform is trustworthy – significantly lower than the 37.8% and 42.9% who trust Facebook and Twitter.

Google is the most trusted platform, scoring a 65.7% trustworthy rating. TikTok’s low scores highlight potential issues for brands.

Audience limitations

If your brand caters mainly to Gen-Z audiences, TikTok is the best platform to gain traction. However, brands focusing solely on TikTok could miss out on other generations, including Millennials, Boomers and Generation X, who are less likely to use the platform.

It’s easy to get lost

We don’t just mean getting lost in a sea of content – but forgetting what your brand’s about. With so many trending topics, it’s easy to get over-excited and join in without factoring in brand identity and social responsibility.

In some cases, this can harm your brand—especially if the content you create goes against your ethos and target audience values.

How to win with TikTok SEO

how to win with tiktok seo

So, now that you know more about TikTok and why it’s a must-have for Gen-Z-focused brands, it’s time to reveal how to optimize your website. In many ways, Google and TikTok SEO are similar because your main goal is to create content that offers value.

However, there are some differences and knowing them will help you develop a strategy that secures results.

Keyword integration

Keywords are an important aspect of SEO for TikTok, as they help users find it and ensure you can target the right audience. As with traditional SEO, keyword stuffing can halt your efforts, so choose relevant terms and don’t compromise user experience.

TikTok is unique because you can use verbal keywords in your content or place them in captions and descriptions. Remember to take a strategic approach and ensure the keywords fit your content.

Hashtag implementation

As with X, LinkedIn, Instagram and even Facebook, hashtags are central to your TikTok SEO strategy.

They’re labels for social media content that ensure people interested in the topics can find them while also allowing brands to diversify their reach.

If you’re a D2C brand, hashtags are particularly beneficial, providing clear signposts for shoppers.

When using hashtags, remember to keep them relevant and match the hashtags with the searcher’s intent.

Niche hashtags are ideal if you’re targeting particular demographics or you’re in a highly competitive market. They can break through the noise and place your content in front of relevant audiences.

Find the right balance with content

When creating content for TikTok, it’s essential to strike the right balance between leveraging trending topics and creating evergreen videos that position your brand as an authority.

For example, there’s always a new song or dance on the platform, and taking advantage of trends can maximise your visibility and land you a spot on TikTok’s highly coveted For You page.

However, you don’t want to miss an opportunity to create content that survives changing trends and continues to attract target audiences.

Thumbnail optimisation

Thumbnail optimisation is another key area that creators often forget about—despite being the first thing users see when browsing videos.

Ensuring your thumbnail looks great is one piece of the puzzle, but you should also utilise text overlays that explain what the content offers. These overlays can include keywords and are often the difference between people watching your content or scrolling right past it.

Creating a strong preview can greatly affect how many people view and engage with your content.

Maximising engagement

Views without engagement on TikTok are the same as attracting consistent flows of website traffic but having nobody take action. Engagement is the difference between creating content for the sake of it and generating an ROI from your efforts.

Sure, you can create content bound to get comments, which means TikTok will reward you—but are you generating meaningful engagement?

Great content opens the doors for conversations and compels people to either share it or take action on your website, so make sure you’re focusing more on quality instead of getting loads of views with conversions.

How to get results from SEO on TikTok

As TikTok SEO isn’t as established as Google and other search engines, gaining traction on the platform will require a degree of trial and error. However, there are built-in tools to give you a helping hand, including:

  • Keyword Tools: TikTok has a predictive search function that allows you to look for long tail keywords on a topic, while the Creative Centre offers creators data on trending phrases.
  • Optimisation Support: The Creative Centre also highlights popular videos, music, and other video elements, allowing brands to filter by industry or product.
  • Insights: Users can also use the platform to look at different demographics and expose their interests, making creating content that resonates with audiences easier.
  • Analytics: TikTok’s Business Suite allows brands to track their content and make decisions based on its performance.

Key takeaways

From its release in 2018 to cementing itself as a go-to place for Gen-Z audiences, TikTok will continue to help brands expand their reach and connect with wider audiences.

Whether you want to attract prospective customers, scale into new areas or demonstrate your social responsibility, upping your SEO game on TikTok will secure results.

Taking note of these key takeaways can help you get the most out of TikTok while also safeguarding your brand’s longevity:

  • Don’t Forget Google: Don’t put your growth goals in one social media platform. Investing in traditional SEO is still integral to connecting with wider demographics who are more likely to trust Google.
  • Content is King: You can spend hours optimizing your videos, but nobody will care if the content doesn’t resonate with them. Put quality and value over everything else.
  • Optimize for TikTok: Use the keyword research tools and hashtags to ensure relevant audiences can find your content.
  • Measure: Don’t forget to track your engagement rates and make changes if necessary.

If you’d like support to promote and grow your brand, Assertive offers a range of bespoke SEO and digital marketing services. Please get a free proposal today and discover how we can help you reach your goals.

Hannah O'neill

Hannah O'neill SEO Copywriter