TikTok SEO: The ultimate guide

Optimize for TikTok, the fastest-growing social search platform dominating Gen Z. Gain an edge with these hashtag, keyword and content tips.

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TikTok is no longer just an entertainment platform – it has rapidly evolved into a powerful search engine, particularly for the younger generation. With a staggering 74% of Gen Z using TikTok as their go-to search platform in 2024, brands can no longer afford to ignore it. 

This comprehensive guide delves into the intricacies of optimizing for TikTok, exploring strategies, tools and best practices to help you enhance your visibility, engage your target audience and ultimately drive success on this rapidly growing platform.

Why TikTok is threatening Google’s supremacy

TikTok is changing the buyer journey. Instead of a linear consumer path, TikTok has created a loop of videos where consumers watch and purchase. And because it’s rooted in entertainment, brand discovery is easier and more fun. 

TikToks Retail Path

Users are looking for the things they’d search for on Google, but staying in the app much longer than they’d stay on Google because of that entertainment factor. On TikTok, brands fit seamlessly into the fun videos people watch, making it easier for them to discover. 

As SEO professionals, figuring out how to help brands stand out in this new landscape is key to effectively targeting the younger generation.

Dig deeper: Is TikTok a search engine? Why meeting searchers’ needs matters more than semantics

The anatomy of the TikTok ‘For You’ page

Almost all video views come from the “For You” page (FYP) on TikTok. Understanding its functionality is vital to social SEO success. 

TikTok “For You” page

The search bar at the top lets users type in any query they’re looking for. Once you click into a profile or search for a video in the “For You” page search bar, it will display recommended searches based on what videos a user may be interested in.

TikTok FYP search bar

SEO strategies for Google and TikTok share some similarities but also have notable differences. Both emphasize the importance of creating informative and helpful content tailored to the target audience’s search intent, weaving relevant keywords into the content and consistently producing quality content following platform best practices.

However, one significant difference is that previous brand success doesn’t heavily influence rankings on social platforms like Instagram and TikTok, unlike Google, where brand authority plays a significant role.

The low barrier to entry in social media algorithms may lead to quicker success for brands in social SEO than traditional Google Search. 

While social algorithms vary and don’t adhere to a one-size-fits-all rule, there are still factors that marketers can control to optimize their content. These include:

Hashtags

Hashtag optimization plays a crucial role, particularly for D2C brands seeking to enhance their online presence, as it provides an avenue to incorporate essential keywords indicative of purchase intent.

TikTok hashtags

Experimenting with different hashtag types and lengths is an effective strategy to discern which hashtags resonate best with each unique brand. Here are some examples of hashtags that signify purchase intent:

  • #[product type]review
  • #best[product type]
  • #[product type]hacks

Keywords

Similar to hashtags, keyword incorporation plays a crucial role in conveying the purpose of your content to the TikTok algorithm.

You can incorporate keywords into your content, including video descriptions, verbal mentions, captions and voiceovers. Since video descriptions are much shorter than blog posts, keeping them clear and concise is important. 

Make sure to avoid keyword stuffing and instead keep the description succinct and to the point.

The combination of keywords in the text overlay and description in the screenshots of the video below are great examples of strategically placing keywords:

TikTok keywords on text overlay
TikTok keywords on description

Talking about a keyword in a TikTok video is important because mentioning it verbally reinforces your video’s relevance, making it more likely to be shown to users interested in that topic. The same goes for adding keywords to video captions and voiceovers.

Content 

Using popular sounds, filters and ideas can help your TikTok videos get on the For You page faster. TikTok shows you what’s trending so you can join in and boost your chances of getting noticed. 

But remember, TikTok videos can stay relevant for a long time and can rank for years, so it’s smart to balance trends out with plenty of evergreen content that will still be relevant when the trend is long gone.

Engagement

The way a video is shot and edited plays a significant role in influencing engagement on TikTok. Additionally, incorporating effective calls to action, such as encouraging viewers to leave comments or share the video, can heavily impact engagement levels.

However, it’s essential to balance fostering genuine engagement and solely aiming to accumulate comments since TikTok favors comments that add value to videos. Authentic interactions and creating opportunities for meaningful conversations are paramount for maximizing engagement success.

Optimizing video length is another crucial factor for enhancing engagement on TikTok since the platform’s users have short attention spans. As a general guideline, users’ attention spans on TikTok tend to mirror their age. 

For instance, a 30-year-old user typically has a 30-second attention span, while an 18-year-old user may only engage for about 18 seconds. Therefore, creators should tailor their content to align with these attention spans to maintain viewer interest and maximize engagement.

Thumbnails

Thumbnail optimization on TikTok is vital because the thumbnail is the first thing users see when scrolling through search results.

A compelling thumbnail can capture attention and attract clicks, increasing visibility and engagement. So, creating a thumbnail that effectively draws in a consumer is key.

Andrew Halfman, the Director of Social Media at Stella Rising, also recommends “[bulking up the] thumbnail section is to ensure the thumbnail has strong text overlay on it – indicating a preview of what the video is about.”

Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare’s TikTok account does a great job of optimizing thumbnails and effectively communicating the topics covered in each video to users. 

Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare’s TikTok account

How to measure SEO performance on TikTok

Measuring SEO performance on TikTok involves tracking key metrics like personalized KPIs, keyword ranking, audience demographics and engagement rates.

Monitoring these metrics helps assess visibility, audience interaction and content effectiveness, allowing for optimization and goal achievement.

Defining your KPIs

KPIs are individual to each brand, so pick which ones are most relevant to yours and begin tracking them. Some great KPIs to start with include conversion rates, engagement rates, website traffic and revenue growth.

It’s important to note that the brand KPIs will vary based on business objectives, so this performance measure isn’t a one-size-fits-all.

Use the TikTok search bar to determine keyword ranking

Using the TikTok search bar allows businesses to measure keyword ranking by observing where their content appears in search results relative to specific keywords or search terms. 

In the screenshot below, you can see a video about Merit Beauty ranking second for the search query “bronzer stick.”

TikTok search bar for keyword rankings

Analyze your audience to ensure you’re reaching your target consumers

Access the Viewers tab by clicking More insights at the bottom of your video and then clicking Viewers at the top right side of the screen. 

This tab provides information about your audience, such as whether they’re following you or are discovering your account for the first time. You can also see audience demographic information like gender, age range and location. 

By noting how this information matches up with information about your target audience, you can determine whether your strategy is reaching the right consumers.

TikTok audience analysis
TikTok audience analysis - Age, location, etc

Analyze engagement rate with the ‘Performance’ tab

Access the Performance tab by clicking More insights at the bottom of your video and then clicking Performance at the top left side of the screen.

This tab provides data on user interaction with a video, including metrics such as new followers, average watch time, likes, shares and retention rate.

TikTok video analysis

This tab is also very useful for helping you figure out what kinds of videos keep your audience’s attention. Metrics for average watch time and the percentage of viewers who made it through the full video are available. 

TikTok video analysis - engagement

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SEO tools for TikTok

Although SEO for TikTok is a relatively new concept, there are tools available to simplify optimizations.

Keyword research

Many tools, such as the predictive search feature and the Keyword Insights Tool, assist with keyword research on TikTok.

The Predictive Search feature allows users to see which long-tail phrases containing their target phrase are most popular. Accessing this feature is simple: you only have to type in a few words and wait for the predictive search to generate.

TikTok keyword research

TikTok’s Keyword Insights tool, located in the TikTok Creative Center, also provides data on keyword popularity, trends and performance.

By entering a keyword, you can access insights about engagement metrics, video content on the platform about a given topic, associated hashtags, trending related topics and demographic insights, which can help inform content strategy and audience targeting.

TikTok Keywords Insights tool in Creative Center

Using the TikTok Creative Center to optimize

The best optimization tool for TikTok is TikTok itself. The TikTok Creative Center is the number one place to go to find trends, conduct keyword research and learn about the most up-to-date creative best practices.

The trends dropdown in the top navigation bar shows users what hashtags, songs, creators and videos are most popular at a given time.

TikTok Creative Center - Trends

Once you’re in the trends section of the Creative Center, you can choose to browse by hashtags, songs, creators or videos. You can also filter by industry and time period.

This tool is extremely useful for trend and hashtag optimization since it provides insight into the popularity of these video aspects. 

When you click on the See analytics tab in the Creative Center, you’ll be taken to a page that provides information similar to Google Trends.

The TikTok Creative Center shows how many posts are being created for each hashtag, how many views the hashtag is getting and interest in the hashtag over time. 

TikTok Creative Center - Hashtag interest over time

The TikTok Creative Center also shows related videos, which can be extremely helpful for content ideation on the platform. 

TikTok Creative Center - Related videos

In addition to trend popularity insights and related videos, the tool provides information about audience demographics and their related interests.

TikTok Creative Center - Audience insights and regional popularity

TikTok doesn’t have as many optimization tools as traditional search engines. However, the Creative Center does a good job of providing information that can be critical to improving organic visibility on the platform.

Measurement and reporting tools

Although TikTok doesn’t have nearly as many measurement and tracking tools as Google, creators and businesses can use TikTok Analytics through Business Suite to see how their content is performing and who’s watching it. 

Within the Business Suite dashboard, you can seamlessly navigate to the Analytics section, where a wealth of performance metrics awaits.

From video views and likes to shares, comments and follower growth, every facet of account engagement is meticulously tracked and presented for analysis. 

The platform also provides in-depth demographic data, furnishing crucial insights into your audience’s age, gender, location and interests. 

Armed with these analytics, you can embark on a journalistic journey of understanding their TikTok audience dynamics, enabling them to fine-tune content strategies and foster heightened engagement on the platform.

Gain an edge with TikTok SEO

As SEO for TikTok becomes more prominent, more information on how to optimize will become available.

Even though limited resources are available at the moment, it’s important to optimize where everyone is searching – and that’s no longer just Google. You are left with a choice: adapt or get left behind. 


Contributing authors are invited to create content for Search Engine Land and are chosen for their expertise and contribution to the search community. Our contributors work under the oversight of the editorial staff and contributions are checked for quality and relevance to our readers. The opinions they express are their own.


About the author

Cali Saturn
Contributor
Cali Saturn is an SEO Specialist at Stella Rising, where she leads organic search strategy for international beauty brands. Her creative approach to SEO and ability to adapt to the ever-changing industry have helped her drive her clients towards exponential growth. Cali’s impact has been felt across the globe as she has clients in countries as far away as Australia.

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