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Content Strategy

TikTok SEO and the power of short form video marketing

TikTok is taking over as Gen Z's preferred search engine. Here's how to optimize short videos.
by Dahlia Snaiderman • August 15, 2022
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TikTok SEO

We love TikTok. 

Its scary-accurate algorithm is quickly blowing all other social media out of the water for Gen Z and many millennials. It goes so far beyond Instagram and Twitter’s suggested content that seems to generalize based on gender, location, and age — TikTok has figured out how to gauge a user’s sense of humor, music taste, niche hobbies, politics, fashion sense, family and friend dynamics, favorite animals, relationship status, and even mental health and medical issues. Is it a little creepy? Sure! But it makes for the most relatable and entertaining platform available right now. 

Predictably, TikTok’s popularity has meant it’s the source of trends across many different industries. Birria tacos have blown up all around the US because last year, a TikTok showing off the cheesy, meaty, brothy, griddled goodness of birria went super-viral. TikTok users all over the country went searching for local restaurants that sold birria, and restaurants have added them to their menus to meet the demand. 

TikTok is gaining ground not only as an extremely entertaining (and addictive) video platform, but as a search engine in its own right. If you search “Birria [insert your city]” on TikTok, not only will you find where to go to get them, but you’ll also know what they look like and how to order them. 

TikTok as a Search Engine

Gen Z especially have started using TikTok as a search engine, as it provides quick, visual answers — as opposed to Google, which sometimes requires a user to fish through bloated articles, ads, and sponsored results to get the answers they need. It’s also a dream for visual learners of any age.

“​​In our studies, something like almost 40% 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 or Instagram,” said Prabhakar Raghavan, senior vice president of Google Knowledge and Information.

Bought a new skincare product and you’re not sure where to use it in your routine? TikTok has a dozen example routines to show you right away. 

Trying to figure out the best layout for a small bedroom? TikTok’s got you.

Looking for a recipe for gnocchi alla vodka? TikTok’s videos will walk you through it step by step. 

Need to fix a rusted hinge? TikTok knows how, and shows you the way.

The platform has even started showing suggested search terms on videos to encourage users to keep looking for the content they love.

Understandably, businesses are starting to take notice of the power of this platform. It’s become clear that TikTok is leading the way with trends, and it’s a good idea to invest some time into boosting your business with short, fun videos. 

But once you’ve started creating TikTok videos, how do you get them noticed? Enter TikTok SEO. 

What We Know About TikTok SEO

1. TikToks are now indexed on Google

Though it wasn’t the case early in the platform’s explosion in popularity, TikTok videos, their descriptions, and their hashtags are now indexed on Google, making them more searchable than they used to be. 

It’s certainly not perfect, but if you’re trying to find a TikTok without using the app, you can search related terms and the creator’s username in Google. 

This also means that TikToks are likely to start showing up in Google searches — creating yet another case for investing the time to build your brand’s TikTok presence. 

2. Hashtags are important — but not only the ones you’d think

Just like on any other platform, hashtags help categorize your content and align it with topics that you’re discussing. For example, #booktok is the vast community of book reviewers on TikTok, and they tag their videos accordingly. Same goes for #momtok, #tattootok, and so many others. 

For a TikTok showing off a new pair of shoes you’re designing, you’d want to use the obvious hashtags like #shoes #kicks #sneakerheads and #shoetok. But it might also make sense to add one more seemingly irrelevant hashtag. 

You may have noticed that on TikTok, viral videos sometimes include hashtags that have nothing to do with the content. That’s because of what’s called hashtag hijacking, which is when a brand with huge reach creates a hashtag for a promotional campaign, and users jump on that hashtag and use it on their unrelated videos because they know it’ll get more eyes that way. For example, #CVSPaperlessChallenge is one of the branded hashtags circulating on our feeds right now, and none of the videos we’ve seen with that hashtag have anything to do with the pharmacy giant. 

3. Keywords matter on TikTok too

Though many of the videos that go super-viral defy all odds by having no description and no hashtags, it’s still good practice to include your topical keywords in your description — especially if you’re posting on behalf of a brand or a company. It helps your video come up in TikTok searches related to your topic, which means more sustainable traffic over time to your videos. 

4. You can use TikTok’s search bar autofill as keyword inspiration

Not unlike how content marketers use SEO tools to find emerging keywords, TikTok creators can use the TikTok search bar’s autofill feature to see what content is being searched.

For example, if you wanted to find out what kinds of videos are being seeked out on TikTok about sustainability, you might type “sustainable” into the search bar and see what the autofill spits out: sustainable fashion, sustainable living, sustainable cleaning, sustainable home, sustainable lifestyle, sustainable products, sustainable restock, and sustainable swimwear. 

Then, you can create videos related to each of those related topics.

5. Trending sounds are ready for your spin

Part of the foundation of TikTok’s platform is the use (and re-use, and re-use) of trending sounds. Everyone is invited to put their spin on trending sounds, which can be anything from remixes of songs to riled-up rants to audio clips from movies.

When a sound is trending, users often jump on the bandwagon and create their own video that goes with the sound. If it does well, it can end up at the top of the trending sound’s search results, leading to more visibility. 

6. Create content that directly answer people’s questions

Creating semi-evergreen videos that answer common questions in your niche is a great strategy to get eyes on your content. As people search for the question, your video will be ready to provide answers. It likely won’t blow up overnight, but as mentioned above, it can lead to sustainable traffic growth on your page. 

Think “where to eat in detroit”, “how to use a drill”, or “what to buy at Costco”.

Get TikToking!

Not only is TikTok easy and enjoyable to use, but it’s also an important marketing tool and likely to stay that way for years to come. And part of what makes it so fun is that TikTok content feels a little more relatable and a little more real: it doesn’t have the same veneer of manufactured perfection that Instagram does. Be bold and don’t worry about making your video perfect, and start filming! And be sure to use the auto-captions function (and check them for accuracy) to ensure everyone can enjoy your videos.