Insights / SEO

PUBLISHED: Aug 2, 2022 6 min read

How ‘TikTok SEO’ Shows What’s Next in Digital

Nadia Vostrikov

Nadia Vostrikov

Senior Manager, Digital Media

A search plus social revolution, or a hype cycle that’s too early to count on?

Additional Contributors: Barry Rolapp and Jein Funk

TikTok SEO is something to keep an eye on, but like other ‘breaking news’ digital evolutions, it’s still in its earliest stages. In the game of clicks and swipes, thinking smarter creates the real winners.

There’s no disputing that TikTok has disrupted social media, grabbing consumers’ attention like never before. Yet, TikTok’s success plays out in a landscape of larger changes in the ways that people use and engage with digital technologies. While 2020 transformed what could be done online from the comfort of our homes, an even bigger shift, almost twenty years in the making, has risen to the surface — Generation Z.

Gen Z has people talking about TikTok SEO

Gen Z is a tour de force that’s showing their parents, millennial siblings, and even grandparents everything the digital world can and should be offering. And one digital platform Gen Z burst the doors open on is TikTok. Gen Z’s affinity for the video-hosting app is one of the key factors bringing TikTok SEO to the top of the conversation. According to Business Insider, “Nearly 40% of Gen Z prefers using TikTok and Instagram for search over Google.” Statistics like these can make a person wonder: has Google finally met a legitimate challenger? As with all things digital, the answer is more complex and nuanced than a simple yes or no.

We tapped our specialist teams to share their initial thoughts on the current TikTok SEO hype cycle and what brands should watch for going forward.

28 gray cell phone graphics, one purple cell phone with text reading: When Amsive Digital team members want to learn more about something... 96% choose Google, not TikTok.

A quick internal volunteer survey showed that nearly 96% of the 28 people we polled preferred Google over TikTok when they needed to search for something. Admittedly, it’s a small pool, but when questioned further, a few colleagues estimated that about 25% of the time, they turn to TikTok over Google depending on the need. What does this show? Digital industry experts aren’t using TikTok to problem solve. So, what are they doing on TikTok? Answers level out to: entertainment. The Amsive Digital employees that did show an affinity to using TikTok to learn more about specific things were, in a word, younger. And they liked TikTok because it gave them the information they needed faster, as they didn’t have to spend “15 minutes on YouTube.” Another survey respondent considered their searches on TikTok “passive,” what the algorithm feeds them, and searching through Google “intentional.”

Two things can be true at once. As of April 2022, 92.49% of all search queries conducted across all search engine providers are done through Google, and people want to experience answers in faster, more personalized, more visually rich ways, which is currently video content. Some people don’t want to comb through a search results page for a new recipe and would rather be shown a quick-cut video of how to cook a salmon rice bowl. After all, show, don’t tell, perhaps the most famous literary advice, attributed to Anton Chekhov, has been around for centuries for a reason.

Digital platforms of all stripes are working in overdrive to keep up with evolving consumer preferences that change more rapidly than ever before. Brands must too. What do you need to know about the confluence of TikTok and SEO today?

TikTok SEO is just one piece of bigger changes in social media

Consider the current ‘TikTok SEO’ conversation a weather vane that shares which way the wind is already blowing. Social media has already been sloughing off its preconceived assumptions and stepping into an even more influential future.

“Social media content has always been perceived as having this tiny shelf-life. It was conceived of as being seen at the time it was posted and discarded from memory shortly after.

Algorithmic feed sorting was the first step in changing that. It was platforms saying, “No, you’re going to see this when we want you to see it.” So, the rise of social search is just a natural extension of that — of consumers accepting that the link between timeliness and social media is being severed and working to gain the upper hand in that transition.

Going forward, we’re going to see social strategies that prioritize long-term utility over in-the-moment relevancy— and that’s a good thing. It means brands are going to have space to really prove their value and their expertise instead of feeling like they always need to be wedging their way into the latest trending conversations.”

Jein Funk, Creative Director

What does this mean for your digital strategy?

While Google has been a great source of traffic and revenue for many years, change is always right around the corner. Solely focusing on one channel or source is never a good idea. The “TikTok SEO” question illustrates just how vital it is for brands and businesses to evaluate new platforms that their audiences might be using on a recurring basis.

“I’m interested to see where this goes, but I’m hesitant to call TikTok the great Google killer just yet.”

Barry Rolapp, Senior SEO Strategist

TikTok clearly has the potential to disrupt the search landscape; how and by how much is what’s yet to be known. While TikTok’s format does well for certain kinds of search content at the moment, such as ‘how-to’ style searches, there are many other things that don’t fit well into that format. Twitter has expanded text length for users, and we continue to see complex discussions and information requiring multi-threads to communicate. Those threads can be awkward to navigate, while Google Search, on the other hand, has decades of optimization under its belt in an attempt to serve the best answer and ease navigation. How, where, and when people search will continue to have an effect on both social platforms and search engines.

Next steps on your digital journey

Short-form video gaining more traction in the search world is just one of many adaptations within the digital landscape. Brands need to be flexible. With a portion of upper funnel searches happening on TikTok, brands should embrace omnichannel marketing and reconsider their persona’s search journeys across all channels.

Renew your focus on discovery, brand awareness, and top-of-funnel marketing, using visually rich digital formats as they continue to grow in popularity among people of all ages. While Gen Z is leading the charge, more people than ever before are online and ready to interact with your brand; make sure you’re gaining and maintaining their attention for the right reasons.

To learn more about what Gen Z is up to and the latest in social, read Snapchat Ads: Why Snap Ads are Worth It + Best Practices.