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Navigating the TikTok SEO Landscape: Optimizing Your Content for Success

Published on
July 26, 2023
TikTok has become an excellent marketing platform for businesses. Learn how to optimize your content and leverage TikTok SEO in this post.

TikTok is mainly known for being the Gen Z app where people post dancing videos or partake in silly challenges. While these observations are valid, the platform is also an excellent marketing tool businesses can explore and use to reach their goals.

The short-form video app has experienced rapid and massive growth over the past few years. Now, it is one of the most widely used social media platforms, especially among younger generations. In 2021, TikTok had over 656 million users worldwide.

This large audience and the app's engaging nature make it an attractive avenue for businesses who plan to expand their reach. Performing TikTok search engine optimization (SEO) can help marketers achieve this goal and reach their target audience.

Key Takeaways

  • TikTok SEO involves different practices and strategies that improve your videos' performance on the platform.
  • It uses similar principles as traditional SEO but focuses more on discoverability within the app.
  • Understanding the TikTok algorithm is critical to optimizing your strategy and ensuring your videos gain significant engagement.

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What is TikTok SEO?

TikTok search engine optimization, or TikTok SEO, covers practices that help your videos show up and rank higher on the TikTok search engine. 

Sure, many content creators have experienced success or virality seemingly without trying. However, businesses and marketers need a strategy to enjoy consistent audience engagement and account growth.

This is where TikTok SEO comes in. It uses similar principles as traditional SEO but focuses more on how one's content performs on the app. TikTok is primarily a social media app, but its search function has also proved helpful for its users.

Focusing on TikTok search instead of traditional search might seem odd. However, the app has become so influential that most of its audience prefers finding things on TikTok instead of on regular search engines.

During last year's Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference, Google's Senior Vice President Prabhakar Raghavan referenced that many users would turn to apps like Instagram or TikTok for discovery. 

Google usually performs internal studies to analyze user behavior, which he cited during the conference. According to him, around 40 percent of young people prefer using TikTok or Instagram over Google search to find a place to have lunch. 

This revelation shows that TikTok is an excellent place for businesses to promote their brand and increase visibility among their audience. Using TikTok SEO techniques can help companies achieve these goals.

TikTok SEO vs. Traditional SEO

While TikTok SEO and traditional SEO have some similarities, they also have some key differences. These differences usually depend on the primary goals of each strategy and how businesses could achieve them.

Here are some primary differences between TikTok SEO and traditional SEO techniques.

Video vs. text

TikTok is primarily a visual, short-form video platform. With these characteristics, TikTok SEO must focus more on audiovisual aspects than pure text.

On the other hand, traditional SEO primarily focuses on text through short and long-tail keywords. These keywords would optimize text-based content like blog posts, landing pages, or articles.

Engagement vs. ranking

Success on the TikTok platform often comes with greater user engagement, such as likes, shares, comments, and follows. The more people engage with your content, the more likely the app's algorithm will push it toward larger audiences.

In comparison, traditional SEO campaigns often measure success through higher rankings on search engine results pages (SERPs). SEO experts often target specific keywords and optimize your website's content to ensure your page appears on Google search results.

Hashtags vs. keywords

Hashtags are one of the primary ways users can find relevant content on TikTok. Content creators could place them in the video's caption or on the video itself as on-screen text. Viewers and users could tap these hashtags or type them in the search bar to discover other videos related to the term.

Traditional SEO focuses on keywords. These keywords are often words or phrases that one's target audience would use when using search engines. You can place these keywords strategically into your website's content to help them rank higher on SERPs.

Ranking Factors for TikTok SEO

TikTok is still primarily a social media site. While TikTok SEO uses similar principles as traditional SEO, it considers different ranking factors, especially as it mainly deals with video content.

The TikTok team has released a write-up on how they recommend videos to users' For You pages (FYPs). This article has helped audiences understand how the algorithm works. At the same time, many social media experts have also weighed in and added additional observations on the TikTok algorithm. 

In line with the existing literature surrounding the TikTok algorithm, here are some of the main ranking factors you should consider for TikTok SEO.

Image by Collabstr on Unsplash

Video content

Short-form video is the primary type of content that the TikTok algorithm analyzes. Similar to traditional SEO, optimizing your video's content is essential so the app can analyze and understand it. As a result, the app can then recommend your video to bigger audiences.

Video is an audiovisual medium and consists of several elements, such as the following:

  • Visuals. TikTok's privacy policy says the app can "detect and collect characteristics and features about the video and audio recordings." The app can determine the visual contents of your videos, such as objects, scenery, and body parts. Identifying these elements helps the app's content moderation and FYP recommendations.
  • Audio. The app detects the audio used in your videos. If your video contains speaking parts, TikTok can process the words spoken to determine what the video is about.
  • Text over the video. TikTok allows users to add on-screen text and titles to their videos. These text elements can help the app understand the contents of your video.
  • Caption and hashtags. You can type in a caption and add hashtags when posting a TikTok video. Make sure to add an exciting and keyword-rich caption related to your video. Using relevant hashtags to help audiences find your content is also a good idea.
  • TikTok sounds. TikTok hosts a variety of sounds that people can use or reuse to suit their content. Using trending sounds can boost specific videos, as the app predicts better engagement.

Video engagement

TikTok significantly considers user engagement toward your content when determining which videos to boost or push toward audiences. Engagement comes in different forms, such as:

  • Likes
  • Comments
  • Shares
  • Bookmarks
  • Profile visits
  • Watch time

These actions that users take help to indicate their video preferences and interests. Some forms of engagement will also weigh more than others. For example, a user commenting on your video would show stronger interest than if they simply liked it.

It's also important to note that not all forms of engagement are positive. A user could report your video for inappropriate content, negatively impacting your account's performance.

While follows are essential to growing your account, TikTok measures engagement through videos. However, the accounts a user follows will inform the app about the types of content they might prefer.

Having more followers also helps you reach more people. When your followers engage with your content, it will help you grow your account further.

Discover tab engagement

The TikTok app analyzes user actions beyond their engagement with video content. These actions include exploring hashtags, using the search function, exploring a trending topic, or viewing videos under a specific sound.

Engaging with these other TikTok functions informs the app about each user's content preferences. In turn, it influences the types of videos on each user's FYP.

Content language

TikTok users come from different parts of the world. For this reason, TikTok content also comes in several languages. 

Upon signing up, you can set three language preferences: the app language, preferred language, and translation language. The app can identify your most preferred languages through these settings and the content you primarily consume and engage with.

User device

TikTok also receives information from and about your device, such as the following:

  • Mobile carrier
  • User-agent
  • Time zone settings
  • Device model
  • Operating system
  • Network type
  • Screen resolution

Different devices often have varying capabilities for accommodating content quality. For this reason, older and slower mobile or computer devices might get shown shorter or less demanding content to avoid disrupting the user experience.

Creator locality

Audiences often find content within their vicinity more engaging and relevant. It's easier to relate to someone who lives near you and has a similar culture.

TikTok measures the proximity between a video creator and the viewer. The app will likely push content from creators within your locality through your device's location settings and other indicators.

How To Execute a TikTok SEO Strategy

Creating and implementing a TikTok SEO strategy is a relatively new practice. However, many TikTok creators and social media experts have devised methods to maximize the app's algorithm to gain engagement.

Follow the steps below to begin crafting and executing your TikTok strategy. As you put these steps into practice, you can make tweaks according to your needs and observations.

1. Understand your audience

Every social media marketing strategy requires understanding one's audience as the first step. Knowing your audience serves as the foundation of the entire campaign going forward.

To do this, look at the types of content your audience or followers like to engage with or watch. Through this practice, you can understand their preferences.

This step will require you to stay active on the platform and scroll through the different types of content available for your niche. You can explore different niche hashtags or use the search function to hasten the process.

2. Perform keyword research

Unlike traditional SEO, there aren't any keyword research tools dedicated to TikTok yet. However, these established SEO tools can still help you get started in finding relevant TikTok keywords and hashtags.

After doing traditional keyword research on these tools, you can select your target keywords and type them into the TikTok search bar. Consider different ways you can phrase specific keywords, as well. 

Typing into the app's search bar will pull up the most popular keywords relevant to your niche. Selecting one will pull up related videos whose phrasing, keywords, and hashtags can help inform your strategy.

3. Add keywords to your content

After you arrive at your selection of keywords, it's time to incorporate them into your content. Add them to video descriptions, on-screen text, and hashtags.

When using spoken content, add the keywords to your script. TikTok can detect the words you say in your videos and will likely consider them when making content recommendations.

Ensuring each video you release incorporates relevant keywords and hashtags can help it reach your target audience. This optimization process also allows interested users to find your content easily.

4. Share your TikToks to external platforms

While TikTok SEO mainly prioritizes native discovery within the app, it would also help if audiences found your content outside of TikTok.

After posting your TikTok video, you can promote it to external platforms. Share them on your social media accounts and post them on your blog or website to gain more traction.

This process also helps traditional search engines find and recommend your content. Many people still use search engines like Google for discovery purposes. Your TikTok video showing up on traditional search results can attract more eyes to your TikTok content and your brand in general.

5. Monitor your progress

Observing and monitoring one's progress is critical to any TikTok marketing strategy. This step lets you see whether your efforts have manifested in tangible, measurable results.

Each TikTok account has access to metrics and analytics surrounding its account and content. You can see your views, comments, and other engagement figures here. You can also see your audience demographics to identify whether you have reached your target audience.

These metrics can help you assess whether your current strategy works and will help you make the right tweaks if necessary.

TikTok SEO Best Practices and Tips

Any marketing strategy can be flexible and unique to address each business's specific needs and available resources. The same principles apply to TikTok SEO.

However, some standard practices can help companies and brands who are exploring TikTok SEO. Incorporating the tips and best practices below will help you improve your strategy and see better results.

Image by Solen Feyissa on Unsplash

Optimize your profile

TikTok SEO primarily focuses on optimizing your content, as these videos bring the most engagement. However, your profile is also a key to allowing audiences to find your content.

Use related keywords in your profile name and description. Not only will this step allow existing TikTok users to find you, but it will also aid your traditional SEO strategies.

Let's say you're a social media manager. Adding this title to your profile name and bio will help you appear on results pages for your profession.

Post regularly

Consistency will help you perform better on the app. This practice helps ensure you maintain your audience's attention and engagement. 

Make sure you post regularly on the app. One of your videos might go viral and gain engagement and new followers. However, if you leave your account and do not post anything after that, you might lose this momentum.

Creating a content calendar can help with this tip. The app has a built-in scheduling feature to help you plan your content. This way, you can continue creating content that enables you to gain consistent engagement and traction on the app.

Keep up with trends

Trends and challenges are big on TikTok. Every few days, you'll find that a sound, filter, or challenge has taken over the app's content.

For this reason, it's essential to check the app regularly to keep up with the newest trends.

Joining these trends and challenges could bring some extra engagement to your videos. Find ways you could incorporate your brand in popular content formats. It's an excellent way to get creative and gain attention simultaneously.

Create engaging content

Engaging and entertaining content can look different across various niches. So knowing and understanding your audience's interests and preferences is vital.

A good rule of thumb is to keep your videos short and to the point. TikTok is full of snappy, entertaining content, and it can be challenging to hold people's attention spans for longer than a minute.

You can also look at other creators within your niche for inspiration, especially in terms of aesthetics or styles that resonate with your target audience.

Engage with users

Another way to maximize your TikTok SEO strategy and engagement is to interact with your audience. 

Check your comments section and respond to user comments and messages. Not only will this practice inform the algorithm, but it helps you build better audience relationships. A loyal and engaged audience could create user-generated content (UGC) for your brand.

Interacting with other accounts is also a good idea, especially in related niches. Scroll through your feed and comment on other users' videos if you have something valuable to express. You can build relationships with other creators this way.

Collaborate with other creators

TikTok is full of creatives specializing in different niches and industries. You can find influencers or brands with similar interests and values. Try reaching out to these accounts and developing a working relationship.

Working with other creators who have similar content can help you reach more audiences and bring engagement to your profile. This way, you can share audience bases and expand your reach while creating something valuable for both parties.

Pro Tip: Nurture your audience and encourage them to create their own content related to your brand. User-generated content can be incredibly helpful in boosting visibility.

Expand Your Reach Through TikTok SEO and UGC

TikTok provides an excellent platform for brands who want to build a solid organic online presence with a highly-engaged audience. Creating a TikTok SEO strategy can help brands achieve success on the app.

As a video-sharing platform, TikTok can also be a great place to post and find user-generated content from your community. With the massive amount of content on the app, finding ones related to your brand or niche can be difficult.

Archive can help you track and download TikTok videos and UGC from your brand's audience. This content can aid your TikTok SEO efforts and other marketing campaigns, helping you reach your company goals.

Leverage user-generated content on TikTok to improve your SEO strategy. Download Archive today.

FAQs on TikTok SEO

Is TikTok a search engine?

No, TikTok is not technically a search engine. However, it has a search function that helps audiences find content that interests them. For this reason, an SEO strategy would still benefit brands on TikTok.

Is it good to buy TikTok followers and views?

No. While buying followers can increase your follower count, it doesn't do anything for engagement. The app also detects inauthentic accounts and will likely remove them from the platform.

How do I create a viral TikTok video?

There is no foolproof recipe for a viral TikTok video, as engagement will depend on several factors. However, you can increase your chances by creating engaging content for your target audience, using trending hashtags and sounds, and joining popular challenges and trends.

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