Mastering TikTok SEO: Boost Your Visibility and Reach
Wait, TikTok isn’t a search engine, right? Maybe not technically, but TikTok still has its own search bar. In fact, Google’s own data found that about 40% of young people do not use Google Maps or Search when looking for a place to have lunch, but instead search on TikTok or Instagram.
For content creators and brand marketers, this means that learning SEO for social media platforms like TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest is crucial for attracting new audiences, in addition to relying on Google.
Hashtags are not the only way to get onto TikTok’s recommendation page. In this article, I will try to explain how to adopt the right SEO strategy on TikTok to expand your influence, and let the right people discover your content.
What is TikTok SEO?
TikTok SEO is the practice of optimizing your videos on TikTok to rank higher in search. Just as you would use SEO to optimize the content on your website, you can also use some SEO strategies to help your TikTok videos appear in more search results—including results on TikTok and Google.
In addition to TikTok itself, I mentioned results on Google. This is because currently, TikTok content can appear in Google’s SERPs. Therefore, your TikTok SEO strategy should include SEO for Google and SEO for TikTok search. This way, you can secure a place for your content on these largest online search platforms.
TikTok SEO Ranking Factors
To understand TikTok SEO, you first need to know what factors TikTok considers when ranking videos. In my previous article about the TikTok algorithm, I mentioned several core ranking factors for TikTok videos, including:
(1) User engagement
User engagement includes videos users like, share, follow, comment on, and mark as uninterested.
(2) Video information
All information contained in the video will affect its ranking on TikTok. This includes captions, hashtags, sound effects, and music.
(3) Device and account settings
These are settings TikTok uses to further optimize search results. They include language preferences, country/region settings (users may be more likely to see content from people in their country/region), mobile device, and interest categories selected by new users.
8 Tips for Optimizing Videos for TikTok SEO
TikTok SEO Tip #1: Understand the needs and search intent of your audience
To optimize your TikTok videos for search, consider your target audience when planning and creating videos. Whether you are a creator sharing home improvement ideas, makeup techniques, or travel reviews and guides, you need to figure out what information your audience is searching for.
Who is your audience, or who do you want your audience to be? Build your user persona and think about why these users might be viewing your videos on TikTok. Are they interested in learning about specific products? Are they looking for product demonstrations or reviews?
Determining your audience and their intent will help you position your TikTok content towards your target audience.
TikTok SEO Tip #2: Conduct TikTok Keyword
Research Keyword research is an essential component of traditional SEO, and TikTok SEO is no exception.
For Google SEO or YouTube SEO, keyword research might be easier because you can use a range of keyword tools to get keywords and their search volume. TikTok does not have a similar reliable tool yet. However, you can still conduct TikTok keyword research using the following methods.
The first step is brainstorming the keywords you want to rank for on TikTok. You can add the main topics related to your business, product name, service name, and the problems your customers encounter to your brainstorming list.
(2) Using TikTok Keyword Autocomplete
Select a topic from your brainstorming list above and then enter the topic into the TikTok search bar. TikTok will then automatically provide the most popular keywords related to your query.
If you want to see more keyword suggestions, you can try entering your keyword and then continue to enter a letter. TikTok will then show you more directly related keywords.
For example, I entered “Hair care a”, “Hair care b”, “Hair care c” to expand more keywords. You can keep repeating this process until you have a list of relevant topics and keywords to use in your TikTok SEO strategy.
(3) TikTok’s “Other Searches” Section
Enter your topic in TikTok search and then scroll down to see the “Others Searched for” section. You can then click on one of the keywords and scroll down again, which will load more keywords.
(4) Using Discover or Hashtags to Evaluate Search Volume
If you explore “Discover”, it will provide you with details about the keywords from your brainstorming or autocomplete suggestions based on views.
In the example below, you can see that the hashtag has reached 3 billion views, so we can determine that there is enough demand for the content in this topic.
You can also find the view count of related topics directly in Hashtags within the TikTok app to determine the popularity of a keyword.
(5) Using Traditional Keyword Tools
You can further expand keywords by using traditional Google SEO keyword tools (such as Google Keyword Planner, Ahrefs, SEMrush, etc.). Although the keywords and search volumes listed by these tools do not represent TikTok, human needs are always similar, and we can refer to the keywords provided by these tools to further expand our keywords.
TikTok SEO Tip #3: Add Keywords to Videos
After completing TikTok keyword research, we need to consider applying these keywords in the right places, such as video titles, descriptions, captions, etc.
(1) Speak the keyword: Make sure to mention your keyword within the first 3 seconds of the video and have it appear on the cover image. This not only lets TikTok know what your video’s topic is but also allows searchers to easily identify your video.
(2) Add keywords to hashtags: I recommend using 3-6 keyword hashtags for each video, strategically including high and low traffic keywords, as well as using both broad and niche tags.
(3) Add keywords to video captions and text: The text you use in your video description will help users and TikTok (even Google) understand your content.
(4) Add keywords to your TikTok profile: You can use the main keyword in your username or include keywords in your profile’s bio.
TikTok SEO Tip #4: Create Engaging Videos
When making TikTok videos, you should ensure your content is optimized for your target audience. You need to understand user demographics (age, gender, region, etc.) and the content they are interested in; you also need to research current popular topics, background music, filters, etc.
TikTok SEO Tip #5: Quantity + Quality
We need high-quality videos, but for TikTok, I recommend increasing the number of videos as well.
On TikTok, millions of new videos are generated every second. Moreover, TikTok’s algorithm favors content creators who post multiple videos daily. Therefore, you need to consistently produce a large amount of content to maintain a chance of appearing on TikTok users’ “For You” pages.
Additionally, consistently publishing videos helps increase your visibility and proves your authority in your industry and the keywords you target. This is also a good way to attract users and improve video engagement and ranking.
TikTok SEO Tip #6: Maximize User Engagement
It is well known that user engagement is a key part of SEO. Many social media algorithms, including TikTok, take user engagement into account as a ranking factor. When users like/comment/share content, it tells the algorithm that the related TikTok video is favored by users, so TikTok will show it to more users.
- Educational, humorous, and entertaining videos tend to perform better than other types of content.
- Open-ended questions encourage your audience to engage with your content.
- After posting, build customer loyalty by replying to comments.
- Use suspense. To keep your audience hooked, you can create a series of videos and use compelling content in each video to build user anticipation for upcoming content. This strategy keeps the audience curious and prompts them to go directly to the search bar or your profile to watch more of your videos.
TikTok SEO Tip #7: Localization
TikTok tracks user location through SIM card, IP addresses, and GPS (if allowed) and includes this as a ranking factor. Therefore, when creating an account and publishing videos, I recommend using a SIM card and IP address from your target country.
TikTok SEO Tip #8: Use TikTok Analytics
If you are a regular TikTok user, you need to switch your account to a Pro account to access TikTok Analytics. Similar to Google Analytics or Instagram Analytics, TikTok Analytics can help you analyze your videos and audience, providing detailed information about follower preferences. With this tool, you can plan future video content, develop posting time strategies, and improve your overall content based on existing data.
Now, Let’s Talk About the Timeline for Tiktok SEO Success
When discussing Google SEO, many people may accept getting results within 6-12 months. However, when we talk about TikTok, most companies expect “viral” results. While this expectation is good (and it can occasionally be achieved), TikTok SEO success usually requires a process that takes time and continuous improvement, as well as persistence and patience.
The Future of TikTok SEO
Although still a relatively new concept, the future of TikTok SEO is bright. Currently, the “TikTok SEO” tag on TikTok has over 26 million views. The “SEO for TikTok” tag has over 500 million views.
According to a report by Cloudflare, TikTok ended Google’s 15-year reign as the most visited website globally in 2021. If TikTok’s rise indicates anything, it’s that the way users search for and find information has fundamentally changed – and through TikTok SEO, brands can certainly capitalize on this shift.