TikTok SEO is a term that has quickly entered the marketing lexicon, thanks to the incredible success that ByteDance’s short-form video hosting app has enjoyed during the last two and a half years.
TikTok now has more than one billion monthly active users, and the average person spends almost an hour and a half browsing the app and watching content every single day. It’s no surprise then that marketers are desperately trying to find ways to uncover the mysteries of the algorithm to get their content seen.
While everyone has been talking about TikTok as the hot, new search engine for Gen-Z during the last few months, content on the platform is also soaring in visibility on Google. After a broad core algorithm update earlier this year, TikTok saw a significant 133% boost in rankings, making it one of the biggest ‘winners’ overall.
The surge follows reports that Google began indexing TikTok videos in search results in late 2021. This is something that you can test for yourself right now. When entering the query ‘funny TikTok videos’, for example, Google presents five clickable clips from TikTok, complete with thumbnail previews near the top of SERPs.
Fortunately for SEOs, there is an overlap in the SEO tactics that increases the visibility of videos on TikTok itself and third-party search engines like Google. First and foremost, you want to get your videos front and centre on TikTok, as this is where you will get the most clicks, views and shares.
And as already noted, how people search for things online is changing. Rather than heading over to Google, many TikTok users are instead conducting searches within the app. Marketers and SEOs who take advantage of this trend could reap huge benefits in terms of reach and engagement.
The good news is that optimising content for SEO on TikTok is relatively simple compared to other platforms. TikTok hasn’t spoken about optimisation or algorithms specifically, but users have been experimenting with different strategies and formats to see what works best and have come to the following conclusion: text, captions and hashtags are where it’s at.
You may be surprised to hear that views and likes don’t have a major influence on TikTok rankings. When entering a search query, videos with a low number of views regularly appear at the top of the results page. This is because the videos in question use the right keywords. Just like for other SEO campaigns, keywords are critical.
Add keywords to text overlays
TikTok is obviously a visual-first format, with its short-form clips enabling brands to create buzzy, engaging content strategies. However, in terms of visibility, text plays a key role in the search algorithm. More specifically, the text overlay that viewers see during videos is the best place to include the most important target keyword. TikTok reads this text and then serves content to users based on these keywords.
During post-editing, after you have shot your video, you should add a text overlay within the first five seconds of its runtime. The overlay should be short and snappy. When searching for ‘best foundations’, for example, the top-ranked video simply has an overlay with ‘The best foundation’.
Add keywords to captions
TikTok is similar to Instagram in that the captions section is the best place to add keywords and hashtags to optimise content for search results. There is a 500-character limit for captions on TikTok, which should be enough to add several target keywords, though they need to be included naturally within a sentence. Do not use this as an opportunity to stuff your caption with keywords, it's not best practice, your user experience will decline and this will not increase your chance of getting seen in TikTok SERPs. Just don't do it.
An important feature for discoverability is the humble hashtag. TikTok uses hashtags to categorise content so users can find what they want right away. Adding hashtags to your videos will make them more visible in search. These hashtags can be broad, such as #tiktok, which is one of the most popular tag on the platform, with 1.1+ trillion views, but it's highly likely that your content will get lost amongst the competition. So more targeted and niche hashtags are better to focus on in your TikTok strategy.
Experts recommend using around three to six keyword-based hashtags in each of your videos. Ideally, these hashtags should cover lower-volume, long-tail and high-volume keywords. You can find keywords for text, captions and hashtags by conducting keyword research, which is a core part of general SEO. Tools such as Semrush and Google Keyword Planner will help you to find the right keywords for your business. Remember, though, that these words must be relevant to the video content too. Think about using hashtags as a way to add extra context,
Generate audio captions
Finally, the audio in your video can also boost visibility. TikTok has a handy AI feature that automatically scans videos to generate captions, which users can see when they turn on subtitles in accessibility settings. You can turn on captions in editing, prior to posting. Using audio captions ensure that your content is accessible to EVERYONE, and research shows that many people actually watch mobile videos on mute - so if you're not using captions, you're missing out on a huge audience.
Finding trending and popular topics
As you can see, keywords are critical for TikTok SEO. While the actual video content is what drives views, likes and other forms of engagement on the platform, discoverability is tied to text-based features like hashtags and overlays. While standard SEO keyword research is important for this reason, you should also use TikTok’s search functions to find relevant keywords.
Researching hashtags on TikTok can help you understand what's trending and can be a great resource for coming up with new content ideas. Trending hashtags will have a high volume, and therefore you'll have more competition when it comes to battling it out in the SERPs. But you can use this data to see what people are interested in, what's popular and what's working vs. what isn't.
Now you can start creating high-quality, engaging videos for TikTok. If you need assistance with the creative process, we can help. Atlas SEO offers a comprehensive social media management package that includes an audit, a tailored strategy and content creation. Contact us today to find out more.