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Digital Services

  • 25 Aug 2023
  • 5 min
  • by Elena Macciò

TikTok as a Search Engine

Senior Social Media Executive, Elena delves into how TikTok is increasingly being used as a search engine and what functionalities the platform has recently brought to life to take advantage of this.

It’s no secret that young people are increasingly shying away from Google and turning to TikTok to find answers to their questions. According to Google's own SVP, Prabhakar Raghavan, internal studies showed that almost 40% of young people, when looking for a new place to eat, don’t go to Google Maps or Search - they go to TikTok or Instagram.

Tweet about TikTok
Source: @ClaudeLukkz on Twitter

This isn’t just out of pure coincidence - instead, it’s part of a broader transformation happening in the digital search space. While Google is still the world’s most prominent search engine, people are increasingly using TikTok not just for entertainment purposes, but also for product reviews, looking for tips and hacks, searching for new things to do and places to try, and even to stay on top of the news.

Now, does TikTok know people are using it as a search engine? Of course, it’s even made a campaign about it 😉

TikTok Facilitating Search

In recent months, TikTok has been rolling out a series of new features to facilitate searching in the platform and steal traffic away from Google, one query at a time:

  • In April, the platform launched an initial roll-out of its featured snippets function, which surfaces enhanced results in response to particular search queries and displays instructional videos from WikiHow. For now, this feature is very much in the testing phase but it’ll be interesting to see how it develops over the coming months.

Searching for airfryer recipes on TikTok
Source: Screengrabs from TikTok
  • In May, it unveiled a search widget giving iPhone users a shortcut to its search so, when you’re tapping it, you're automatically brought to TikTok's search screen. Although it doesn’t actually save you much time, it suggests that the platform is doubling down on its status as a search engine and wants people to think of TikTok when reaching their phone to make a search.

TikTok search widget for iPhone
Source: Tom's Guide
  • In June, it released a new visual product discovery option, enabling users to take a photo of an item, and then find similar matches in TikTok Shop listings.

TikTok search by image
Source: Social Media Today
  • And most recently, in August, they introduced the TikTok Search Ads toggle - a new feature on TikTok Ads Manager that will allow brands to serve ads in TikTok search results based on relevant search queries.

TikTok search ads toggle
Source: TikTok for Business

TikTok Strategy for Search

So, you may be wondering - what does this mean for my brand?

Firstly, it’s important to remember that Google is still very much the world’s dominant search engine and it’s not going away anytime soon. So there’s no need to worry about having to change your entire digital strategy. What you might want to think about though, is your social strategy:

  • While TikTok isn’t for every brand (for example, alcohol brands aren’t yet allowed to advertise on this platform), for most brands the best day to get on TikTok was yesterday - second best, today.

  • Now might also be a good time to optimise your TikTok content for SEO (e.g. leveraging the right hashtags and keywords, and tapping into trends), to make sure your content ranks as high as possible where it’s relevant.

  • On the other hand, it’s important to remember that while Google focuses on brands, TikTok focuses on its users and the relevancy of the content - so it’s crucial for brands to think and act like consumers if they want to win at the TikTok game.

  • Creating TikTok-native, authentic videos and speaking the same language as your audience are just some of the key things to keep in mind to ensure that your content is relatable and relevant for the right people.

The end
Source: Giphy

If you have any questions or simply want to chat, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the ✨Social Team✨: [email protected]

Elena Macciò

Elena Macciò

Social Media Manager