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In the last year, TikTok has proven it has the ability to get more powerful in the social media world, and now the search world as well. Even compelling Google to make statements about TikTok eating into their search market share.
There has been recent speculation of TikTok joining the ranks of search engines. It’s no surprise, considering they’ve been running their own ads encouraging users to use the search functionality in-app to discover restaurants, how-tos, and even jobs. Therefore, do we really need TikTok SEO to be successful on the platform? Let’s dive in and figure this out together.
TikTok SEO seems to be taking a very similar approach to general SEO with a focus on keywords and phrases. When using their search functionality to type in a keyword, you see trending variations of that keyword. Once you click to search, top ranking posts in certain topics will populate in order of engagement rates.
Aside from the obvious similarities in search functionalities, even content optimization techniques (more on these in a bit) are being figured out by the everyday TikTok user.
It is safe to say that TikTok has SEO functionalities and it’s working for the users who take the time to do it right.
This is the text you see on the actual video itself. This happens post-recording in the editing phase. Folks who mention the appropriate target keywords in their overlay are seeing better results for visibility.
This is definitely the most obvious optimization area. Peppering your target keywords into your caption along with hashtagging said keywords, will result in better visibility as well.
Finally, your audio will have an impact on your ability to be more visible for a topic. You must have subtitle functionality turned on (which I recommend). When creating your video, make sure you’re saying the actual keywords (naturally, I hope). Once to the editing screen, turn on the captions and let TikTok scan the audio to produce captions on your behalf.
Let me break that last ranking factor down a bit more… TikTok has AI that will scan your audio to caption each word on your behalf. TikTok-ers who use this functionality will rank better for their videos.
Similar to Google or YouTube, this functionality helping ranks could be due to 2 very important reasons: universal friendliness and more keyword signals.
Oftentimes, search engines will favor content that is universally friendly to those with particular impairments that need other features like captions to consume the content. On top of that, captions and video transcripts are features that provide signals to search engines to crawl this content to better rank and understand what the video is about.
This adds another interesting question: Is YouTube also ranking you by your audio? Though their caption functionality leaves something to be desired, it’s available nonetheless (I’ll save this for another time).
Much like YouTube, in-app keyword research is the most valuable way to see what populates for your keyword targets in terms of variations of the word as you type in the search bar and, of course, what results actually populate.
When performing keyword research in TikTok, take notice of variations and even test out natural variations used in your industry. For example, when doing research for this blog I might search TikTok SEO then variants like TikTok SEO Research or TikTok SEO Keyword Research etc.
I would also be interested in combing through the top results to note things like the general content of the top TikToks and the language being used in the overlay, captions, hashtags, and audio.
If TikTok isn’t producing how you’d hoped (look at you, trailblazer) then performing keyword research via Google is a safe bet.
You can do this through manual search by heading to Google and analyzing the SERPs of the keywords you’re looking to target. Take note of the questions being answered, keyword variants being used, and any gaps in knowledge you could fill.
If you have the resources, this can also be done through trusted SEO tools like SEMrush or ahrefs.
Plan your TikTok strategy by choosing to do TikTok SEO, paid TikTok campaigns, or both. However, a major success factor for both TikTok SEO and paid TikTok campaigns relies on your creative. So, make sure you’re putting in the time and effort to all of them.
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