How TikTok is Changing SEO

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Social Media Insights
Social Media Strategy
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Content Strategy/Creation

TikTok has taken the digital industry by storm, but recently the channel has also started influencing the role of SEO, especially since Google started ranking the platform's videos in SERPs. 

You don’t need me to tell you that the social media marketing environment is forever changing, but it’s arguably changing now more than ever. Social media is becoming increasingly integrated with other digital marketing domains like SEO, paid media, and virtual reality, meaning knowledge of all aspects of digital is crucial for social media success - both for users and the platforms themselves.

So, how is TikTok changing the digital landscape for SEO? And why should you know about it?

 

TIKTOK AND SEO: THE LOWDOWN

On the whole, you might think that working with TikTok means you don’t have to worry about SEO, right? Wrong! As the social media platform evolves, it’s becoming increasingly intertwined with other areas of digital marketing - including SEO. 

A recent development in the TikTok sphere means that videos being shared on the platform are no longer restricted to being seen exclusively by those watching TikToks on the app, they’re now appearing in Google’s SERPs…yes, you read that right! As of July 2021, TikTok videos are appearing on search engine results pages meaning TikTok SEO could be a big part of the platform’s future. 

Interestingly, TikToks appear much less frequently in results pages of other search engines like Bing and Firefox. However, this latest update means that, in some cases, TikTok videos are pushing out and replacing YouTube videos in Google’s SERPs. This means we could see YouTube fighting to gain back its competitive edge by taking steps to increase its viewer base of YouTubeShorts which are similar to TikTok videos but failed to gain much traction with users since their launch in late 2020/early 2021 (during the same time as the rise of TikTok).

It’s been speculated for some time that social media, specifically TikTok and Instagram, has been replacing Google as a search engine, with users turning to search features within the apps primarily for informational search intents. So could this introduction of TikTok in SERPs be Google’s way of fighting the potential loss of market share? 

 

HOW IS THE UPDATE AFFECTING USER OPINIONS (OF BOTH GOOGLE AND TIKTOK)?

There have been mixed opinions from Google users, with some saying it’s a positive thing that SERPs are showing content that’s already proven to gain traction within the TikTok app. Others, however, have deemed it as a negative thing, saying that there’s no place for TikToks in SERPs and that YouTube is unfairly losing market share. What do you think? Is this the future’s way of coming into SERPS, or could this cost Google its users to other search engines?

It’s a similar situation for TikTok, with some saying the availability of TikToks in SERPs is unfair to competitors like YouTube and that it’s unnecessary because the app’s popularity is a trend that’s going to die out. On the other hand, many see it as a positive thing because it’s giving more exposure to those who make a living out of TikTok content creation, and giving Google users a wider array of content to explore when they’re searching. 

 

HOW CAN TIKTOK USERS IMPROVE THEIR CONTENT FOR SEO AND APPEAR IN SEARCH RESULTS?

As this is a new feature and relatively unexplored as a result, there’s not much we know about TikTok SEO that’s different to current SEO tactics. However, here are some things we do know about what TikTok users can do to try and improve their SERP visibility: 

 

#1 Keyword optimise

As far as we’re aware, Google similarly crawls TikTok content to website content meaning that if TikTok creators want to get into SERPs, they’ll need to include relevant keywords in their TikTok captions to improve their content’s SEO. However, it needs to be assumed that the same rules apply to captions as website content regarding factors like keyword stuffing so creators shouldn’t rely on keyword repetition for SEO improvement.

 

#2 Utilise relevant hashtags 

You don’t need me to tell you that hashtags are crucial for increasing visibility on TikTok or most social media for that matter. TikTok’s algorithm is arguably the most tailored to organically promote content that utilises trending hashtags in comparison to other platforms like Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. However, utilising trending hashtags as well as hashtags that are optimised for keywords which you want to rank on SERPs for is one way you can improve your SEO outside of the app. This being said, avoid using too many hashtags in your captions as this can ruin the in-app user experience. It’s important to not fixate on getting TikToks in SERPs at the expense of in-app user experience.

However, there is also a key SEO factor that is out of TikTok creators’ control that could influence whether or not their content appears in SERPS:

 

#3 User engagement

It’s fairly common knowledge that user engagement is a key part of SEO. Many social media algorithms including TikTok work in this way too, when users like/comment on/share content it tells the algorithm that the TikTok content in question is favoured by users so it shows it to more users and this continues like a domino effect. 

The same can be said about TikTok engagement in SERPs. Gurus speculate that better-performing TikToks are more likely to appear in SERPs because Google perceives them as valuable to users based on users’ responses.

 

KEY TAKEAWAYS

So now you know that the importance of SEO is beginning to shine through and impact how we behave during the content creation process for social media. TikTok has demonstrated this perfectly with its latest development - appearing on Google’s SERPs. However, this has been met with mixed opinions from both Google and TikTok users…some for the development, stating that it’s positive for giving users more choice in their content consumption on search engines. Others are against the development, arguing that it’s unfairly reducing YouTube’s competitive stance on search engines and that the popularity of TikTok will inevitably die out sooner rather than later. 

This is unsurprising, of course, because marketing is forever changing. However, this doesn’t mean that trends should be ignored because good marketing is all about being able to adapt and provide for what users want to see/consume, as opposed to what we as marketers want to produce. Off the back of this, I’ve explained three core factors that influence TikTok SEO:

  • Keyword optimisation in captions
  • Hashtag utilisation
  • Levels of user engagement

 

Need some advice or support on social media SEO? Our team at Reflect would love to hear from you and help you out! Get in touch today to find out more. 

 

This article was originally published by Reflect Digital in July 2022.