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TikTok SEO: Guide to Boosting Your Profile Visibility

One of the hottest debates in digital marketing right now is TikTok as a search engine. Can it really tower over Google Search as the preferred method for Gen Zs? According to survey results from Her Campus Media, more than half of ‘young people’ prefer the social media platform for its personalised results.

Further research into the type of content searched for suggests that “how to” queries are favoured, with search volumes up to 10 times larger than Google’s. However it’s used, there’s no doubting the inexorable influence of TikTok – surpassing 1.5 billion users in 2024.

So, how can your brand use TikTok search to reach its target audience? Learn more about the famous algorithm and how to get more views on TikTok.

What is SEO on TikTok?

Just like search engine optimisation for Bing or Google, your TikTok SEO strategy should always have your users’ search intent in mind. Rather than the traditional SERPs (search engine results pages), TikTok videos are displayed on the ‘For You page’ (also known as FYP). 

The TikTok ranking algorithm measures user interactions on these videos, including number of views and time spent watching. There are multiple ranking factors that will help to push your content in front of the right people – including trending hashtags, high-quality video content and influencer partnerships.

What counts as a TikTok view?

The fundamental difference between TikTok content views and other platforms is how it’s measured. For example, on a YouTube video, a single ‘view’ is only logged if somebody has viewed it for 30 seconds or more. On Facebook, this value is lower at just three seconds.

Appealing to the short-term nature of its content, the TikTok search engine counts all views. This means that your viewing figures will go up the second somebody lands on your content. It also means that ‘dwell time’ is not the only thing that makes your videos rank. As such, TikTok users need to think about other ways to persuade the algorithm that their videos offer relevant content.

How TikTok SEO works

The TikTok algorithm works in mysterious ways. Views in isolation won’t make your content go viral. Instead, you’ll need to consider positive user interactions such as likes, comments, shares and account follows. 

Dwell time is indeed a factor – the platform will take note if your videos are watched to the end and even re-watched. It will then serve similar content on a user’s ‘FYP’. This gives your TikTok account more chance of showing up, though it could also rank your competitors.

The difference between search engine optimisation and TikTok SEO

Your marketing strategy should follow some of the same principles as traditional SEO. For example, informational search queries are more likely to return ‘how-to’ videos. You’ll need to carry out TikTok keyword research, thinking about how long-tail keywords could translate into popular hashtags.

Transactional searches, meanwhile, may be more reliant on trending topics – for example, if a key influencer has just launched a new product range.

Fundamentally, while there are overlaps between Google and TikTok, there are differences. SEO ranking factors for TikTok include:

  • Optimised, relevant hashtags
  • User interactions such as follows and shares
  • Audio and video quality considerations
  • Content length and scheduling regularity.

Why optimise content for TikTok?

Producing relevant, engaging content for TikTok will not only grow your brand; it also offers monetisation opportunities. In August 2020, the TikTok Creator Fund was launched. According to the TikTok app, the fund helps creators “realise additional earnings that help reward the care and dedication they put into creatively connecting with an audience that’s inspired by their ideas.”

In monetary terms, you can expect to make between $0.02 and $0.04 (£0.016 and £0.032) per thousand views, or CPM. With these TikTok SEO tips, you can get more eyeballs on your content and grow your brand. Monetising your content is just a bonus.

How to get more views on TikTok

The algorithm made some interesting updates in 2022, namely to its search bar features. Users can now highlight on-screen text or caption content when they see a relevant keyword. TikTok will automatically create a clickable link, taking viewers through to related topics.

This puts more emphasis on creators to use relevant keywords in their captions and content. But it’s not the only way:

Think about your audience – what’s on their ‘For You’ page?

This method follows the fundamentals of all marketing, particularly SEO. Think about exactly who your user is – let’s say they’re an avid female gym-goer in their mid-20s. Transactional keywords might be shorter, such as the products they’re buying. Use hashtags like #gymleggings #yogapants #sportsbra etc.

Then consider the questions they might ask. “How can I gain muscle?” “How often do I need to stretch?” This can inform your hashtag strategy and your video content. TikTok video series work well, keeping users engaged with a single topic and then following it up with further answers to questions.

Jump on trending TikTok hashtags

Short-term boosts in sales based on trends are not to be sniffed at. You can use the ‘Discover’ page to browse videos and identify popular topics and hashtags. Include these in your video information to help your content show up in the search bar.

Don’t forget that hashtags aren’t the only thing that can trend. Phrases like #TikTokMadeMeDoIt showcase what products, movies or celebrities are hot in popular culture. These may inform memes, which you can recreate to align with your product or service. There are also TikTok challenges – a fun, light-hearted way to jump on whatever’s got users creating, contributing and interacting.

Keep your content under 30 seconds

There’s no hard and fast rule for optimum TikTok video content length – though the upper limit has now been extended to 10 minutes. This has come a long way since the early days of the platform when clips were limited to just 15 seconds. 

While you’ve got the freedom to make almost mini-movies with 10-minute content, you’re likely to see users dropping off. Between March and August 2023, the most popular TikTok videos averaged 34 seconds – suggesting that users are ready to move on long before 10 minutes.

The secret is to get your message across within this time and keep viewers hooked. How? Pique their curiosity by presenting the problem quickly. (Even better if this ties into what they’re searching for!) Use a storytelling format – problem, method, resolution – ideally with humour and trending content.

Post your content at the right times

It’s not only a case of what content you create, but when. Of course, you don’t need to hit publish as soon as you create it. You can even use scheduling tools to make content in bulk. You will find hundreds of articles on what the best times to publish on TikTok are, but the reality is more nuanced. 

For example, perhaps you’re an online retailer that ships globally. (If so, it’s also wise to look at language preferences and your account settings!) Some users may interact in different time zones. Another factor to think about is your industry. If you’re in B2B, for example, are your customers more likely to buy during the 9 to 5, or if you’re in B2C, are they more likely to engage on a weekend?

You can look at your analytics dashboard to find out more. This will give you three things:

  1. A broad overview of your general video views, profile views, follower growth and overall user interactions
  2. Content information such as total likes, average watch time, comments and shares
  3. Follower insights such as where your audiences are based and what time of day they interact. This one is particularly important for scheduling.

Use trending sounds and audio effects

TikTok challenges and memes are one thing, but there are also sound effects. Again, head to the ‘Discover’ page to look for trending sounds. You can add these to your video by selecting the sound from the library. 

If a user likes a particular song or sound, they can click through to it on the video. This will show them other videos that are using this audio, including yours.

Capitalise on the ‘how to’ using the comment section

More and more users are turning to TikTok to find quick, accessible information on how to do things. If you’re stuck for content ideas, head to your comment section. Here, users may ask questions about your videos. You can answer their queries directly – which may prompt a follow – or you can go the extra mile.

Think about making a video that answers the user’s question. You can respond to their query right there in the comment section with a video. This will link the user through to your new content, keeping them informed and those algorithms happy. After all, TikTok rewards quality, but it also rewards quantity.

Merge your videos by ‘stitching’

‘Stitching’ video content is ideal for collaborating with others or even promoting your existing content. It involves playing two videos side by side in a split-screen fashion. You can use it to compare two of your posts or work with a partner to make fun and interactive content.

For example, some people might sing along to another clip or dub over pre-existing videos with their own dialogue. Others might use this tool to compare two products. It’s essentially twice the content in the same viewing pane – great for those time-poor users.

Cross-promote your TikTok content on other platforms

Who says your videos have to exist on one platform only? While TikTok may be separate from other social networks like Meta, its content can still be shared. You can take your TikTok content and share it again on Instagram Reels or YouTube Shorts. (Don’t forget, YouTube is still considered a highly influential search engine.)

It will feature the TikTok logo and your username, inviting viewers to follow you on your account. This essentially gives your videos more longevity – reaching new users on different platforms. You can even branch out into others like LinkedIn or X. Simply share a link and watch your views grow.

Partner with influencers

Influencers are ideal for keeping your ‘dwell time’ high – ensuring more users reach the end of your video. Today, TikTok influencers are stars in their own right, with high followings that encourage more users to interact and convert. 

To find the right influencers, follow these steps:

  1. Look at your current followers. Analyse their user activity and find out more about the kind of accounts they’re following. To make this faster, you can also use the influencer management platform Heepsy.
  2. Engage with your influencers. Once you’ve found a relevant TikTok star, reach out to them. Ask them what they think of your product. If they would have bought it anyway, they’re far more likely to promote it authentically.
  3. Negotiate achievable goals. This starts with ensuring your chosen influencer’s followers are real and not just bots. Once you’ve confirmed this, discuss how they could help. Is it a how-to video, product demo or channel takeover?

Like all marketing, there may be some trial and error with this – which it’s why it’s so important to do your research. Make sure your influencer has the same values you do and watch out for shady tactics, such as promoting unethical products.

Don’t compromise on video quality

You may feel under pressure to create often, but this should not be at the expense of quality! Modern devices mean we have more access than ever to user-friendly content creation tools. The TikTok algorithm prioritises high-quality content – that is, using good lighting and crisp audio.

You should also follow the right framing conventions. TikTok recommends video dimensions of 1080 x 1920 pixels with an aspect ratio of 9:16. Remember that most people will be viewing these portrait-mode on a mobile, so ensure there’s no way that content can be clipped or captions missing.

Speaking of captions, never scrimp on these. Keep them below 125 characters (essential for scheduling tools) and use up to three relevant hashtags, leading with the most important information first.

Keep your brand active in the TikTok search results

There’s no way of guessing which way the TikTok algorithm’s going to turn next, but the key is in consistency. Watch your brand visibility skyrocket by sticking to the basics:

  • Engaging, relevant and high-quality content
  • Focusing on user intent by answering questions
  • ‘Housekeeping’ with platform-specific features like audio.

TikTok is just one of a huge arsenal of tools that can elevate your brand. Find out more about growing your business with Adzooma’s digital marketing guides. Alternatively, explore CTI Digital’s award-winning social media services. This blog was written by CTI Digital on behalf of GreyMetrics.