TikTok SEO: How to Get Discovered on TikTok

Gen Z are using TikTok like Google, so it’s high time to get your TikTok SEO in place. Here’s everything you need to know about how to do SEO for TikTok videos.
Fanbytes | TikTok SEO

In 30 seconds:

  • SEO – that’s search engine optimisation – is how to get your content discovered in online searches. Whatever people are looking for, good SEO practices means they’ll find you.
  • And for young people? It’s not Google they’re searching on – it’s TikTok.
  • So for brands asking, “How can I improve my TikTok SEO?”, here’s everything you need to know to further your social media reach.

Research has shown that Gen Z is using TikTok as a search engine. In fact, Their habit of looking for answers on their social feeds has led many to christen TikTok the “New Google

What does that mean for your brand? Well, it means that TikTok’s algorithm, which is famous for adapting quickly to show users relevant content, has triggered TikTok users to consider the app as more than a social network – or even a passive discovery platform. TikTok is now a space for active discovery – i.e, searches. This is an exciting new route for target customers to find your brand.

Young people are using the search function within TikTok to look up content they might historically have Googled, or looked-up on Google Maps (for recommendations and reviews). And they’re using it for new kinds of searches, too. 

Given that TikTok can directly link to storefronts and business websites, it pays to make sure that your brand’s TikTok SEO is strong. Not only will this bring you more engagement on your short-form videos, it’ll also guide your audiences from your TikTok account, to your business – meaning more revenue

Here’s how it works.

What is TikTok SEO - and who should use it?

For Gen Z, TikTok isn’t primarily for social networking – it’s a discovery platform, and the way they use it is more akin to a search engine.

But it doesn’t work like Google or Bing, and it provides a different kind of answer to their searches. 

TikTok SEO, therefore, works a little differently than the traditional search engine kind. But the principles remain the same: the central idea is to flag to your potential audience (and the platform) exactly what your content is offering, including what it’s about – such as the questions or search intent it will answer or satisfy. Then, make sure the content you create is better than your competitors – so you land near the top of the search results. You do this by having a water-tight keyword strategy, using the right keywords and relevant terms for every piece of content – and creating content that’s perfectly suited to your audience’s needs

For business owners who are selling to a young B2C audience – especially e-commerce businesses- TikTok SEO is the next frontier of SEO worth pursuing. 

That’s because nearly 40% of Gen Zers actually prefer TikTok for making online searches, according to Google’s own internal data, which means that for brands who want to target this young consumer generation, this new form of TikTok marketing is more important than discovery on any other social platform. 

But to really nail TikTok SEO, you have to understand your target audience’s TikTok search intent. Audiences here are choosing TikTok over a Google search because they want TikTok content. They primarily go to TikTok to be entertained, but they’re also looking for trusted advice and recommendations from other – human – users. These are other everyday TikTok users as well as Influencers that they trust as much as they trust their friends. 

It means that the kind of information that works in a traditional search engine optimisation strategy is not going to perform well in this form of TikTok digital marketing, no matter how concisely it addresses the search terms

How to do SEO for TikTok videos: 4 tips for SEO success

The concept of the TikTok search engine is usually associated with the app’s search function – accessed via the search bar. This is a great place to start when considering adding TikTok SEO to your social media marketing strategy.

However, TikTok SEO goes further than this – because it interplays with the TikTok algorithm to support high-performing content by including it in passive discovery – i.e., placing it on users’ For You Page (FYP). TikTok is also taking additional in-platform steps to help it compete with Google as a search engine, so it’s important to keep an eye out for these as they can help supercharge your TikTok SEO.

Here’s are the four main things to incorporate into your TikTok SEO strategy:

1. Research your keywords

As with traditional SEO, keyword research is vital.

Many SEO digital marketers use a keyword SEO search tool, like SEMrush or Ahrefs, to find relevant keywords to target on Google searches. For TikTok SEO, this can be a helpful tool – but it’s also important to conduct searches on the app yourself to bolster your keyword research.

When you search for a keyword that’s relevant to your business, what other words and search queries appear? You can (and should!) undertake the kind of searches on TikTok that you hope you’ll soon rank for when your target audience is searching on TikTok.

Brands on TikTok should take special note of TikTok’s new hyperlink feature. This is where certain keywords get hyperlinked in the comments of your video. To try to get more people searching with TikTok, the app has created this built-in system that finds and recognises highly searched keywords and attaches them to related videos.

Fanbytes | Filter TikTok SEO search function

Fanbytes | Hyperlinked TikTok SEO keywords

To find hyperlinked keywords to use, search a common keyword in your niche. Then (still on TikTok’s search function), filter your answers by “this week” and “most liked”. Scroll through the top videos you find until you see a video that has something different in the comment section: a hyperlinked keyword at the top. This is the long-tail keyword you should use as the subject of your next video.

In this example, searching for ‘Autumn boots’ has led to a top trending video where TikTok has added the hyperlinked keyword ‘Knee high boots Outfit ideas.’ A footwear brand should use this long-tail keyword to create content that trends ASAP.

As with all keyword research, note down what kind of language commonly appears between the top results, the terms that lead you successfully to those top pages, and any related posts which also help you to get a bigger picture of the kind of searches you’re going to be targeting.

2. Include keywords in more places than you think.

Including your keywords is a vital way to help your audience locate your content. 

On TikTok, it’s important to include the right keywords in the right places. That means they should be included in your video captions, sure, but also spoken aloud within the videos, since we know that TikTok is able to understand video contents as well as written captions. 

Other places to include your keywords are within in-video text, and – of course – your TikTok bio. These are all places where potential audiences can begin to better understand what your content is offering, which means they’re perfect opportunities for flagging up keywords. 

Here’s a handy list to consider when ticking off your keywords in your TikTok content marketing:

  1. In-video text 
  2. Spoken out loud in the video – or in your voiceover
  3. Written In the caption
  4. Added as a hashtag
  5. Written in automated closed captions

An example of a TikTok user who did this well is Lex (@lexnicoleta). This fashion influencer saw that the fashion aesthetic ‘Coastal Grandmother’ was trending in her niche, and added the keyword to her bio and TikTok name. It means that when potential new followers search for the trend on TikTok now, her content is more likely to land front and centre for this target audience

But it’s not the only step she took – and you can copy – to secure the top spot…

TikTok SEO in action: the Origins example

Authentic campaigns on TikTok often start with influencers. These familiar faces lend a trusted voice to a brand’s campaign, and they bring with them established audiences who can then be converted to loyal brand followers. 

Just look at our work with skincare brand Origins

We designed the campaign with a multi-layered approach, using TikTok SEO to get the initial push off the ground. We focused on Origins’ entire profile, making sure that it would function as a hub of information for TikTok users looking for reviews on products – and a diverse content strategy meant that there was a range of information for all audiences. 

We worked with influencers who posted about the brand on their own accounts before linking through to the official brand channel. This gave the campaign an authentic credibility – and meant that, when users were searching for information on Origins skincare products, they found a range of users

Plus, top-ranking videos came from a wider, trusted network; all of which helped to spark the second-wave of the campaign, which focused on user-generated content. 

3. Use hashtags wisely

As with any social media platform, hashtags are the key to discoverability. Researching and deciding which hashtags to target is a key element of your TikTok SEO strategy

Creating a great hashtag strategy for TikTok SEO does not mean “the more the merrier”. Brands should target both breadth and depth by incorporating a combination of long-tail (i.e. niche) and high-volume (i.e. generalist) keywords. 

On TikTok, there are hundreds of specific hashtags that cover individual content communities. Active and engaged users collect under hashtags like #BookTok and #SkinTok to discuss mutual interests and share highly-specific content – so this is an important use to factor into your keyword strategy.

high-volume keyword hashtags are typically shorter, and a large population of users are searching for them. These will expose you to a larger audience, but their search intent is lower and conversion rate not as strong. The more specific your hashtag, the more engaged your audience will be. Long-tail keyword hashtags are more likely to be used at a later stage of a TikTok user’s search process. These searchers often have a more specific action in mind, such as making a purchase or asking a question.

Use a combination of long-tail hashtags and high-volume hashtags to target searchers through both relevance and volume.

Additionally, hashtag indexing will help you boost discoverability for a series of content, and will help users know which hashtags to use when they create UGC for your brand – which will also help boost your reach.

Don’t worry – we’ve put together a list of the best hashtags for TikTok, and a guide for how to use viral TikTok hashtags to skyrocket your brand. 

4. Optimise your user journey

There is little point putting so much effort into your TikTok SEO if you’re not prepared to turn the boosted traffic into something valuable. 

It should be easy for your new TikTok followers to find your website, find the right products and buy them easily, and find more ways to engage with your brand – otherwise your brand awareness will not unlock any revenue. 

What does an optimised user journey look like on TikTok? Well, it means having clear CTAs on your posts, a mobile-responsive website (with great UX and a fast load time), and a clear link between the two. Then, when your SEO efforts start to pay dividends, you can reap the benefits off-platform, too. 

What about the TikTok algorithm?

No matter what SEO principles you introduce, it’s the mysterious TikTok algorithm that will still govern how TikTok content is recommended on the site. Which means that your brand needs to consider the TikTok algorithm best practices as well as introducing new SEO principles if you want your videos to surface. 

Check out our article on Understanding the TikTok Algorithm for a full run-down on what we know about how the algorithm works.  

Here are the key additional insights to note when working on TikTok SEO

1. Don’t ‘keyword stuff’

You’ve done your TikTok keyword research, so it may be tempting to throw everything at your next post. But, just as with more traditional SEO, keyword stuffing can actually hinder your chances of getting your content to a wider audience. 

That’s because both search engines and TikTok look for content that is natural, authentic, and engaging. Text-heavy TikTok videos don’t tend to perform as well as shorter, snappy posts, and the algorithm prioritises content that is actually useful for users, not just things that list the highest number of related terms. 

2. Focus on people

Since engagement is a huge part of SEO success, keeping mindful of your audience is vital. 

Your number one priority should be to make a good TikTok video. Not to make the most discoverable one – just a good one. Everything else is an additional benefit, because if your video is not at home on the platform, and if it doesn’t match up with what your TikTok followers want to see, it’s not going to matter how well optimised you’ve made it: it’ll flop.

As is so often the case with TikTok videos, the buzzword has to be: authenticity

This is where TikTok content creators can be a huge help. These influencers may not always be well-versed in SEO technicalities, but they’re naturals at creating content that TikTok users love, and that nets them huge audiences – after all, this is why they have so many TikTok followers!

Communicate your values to your influencer, and let them have creative freedom in how they share it with their audience. They’ll know what their followers will respond best to.

For more advice on TikTok post success, check out our guide on how to go viral on TikTok.

3. Think whole-profile

As we’ve said, optimising your user journey over your whole TikTok account is vital. 

But it’s also important to think about the kind of content you post, and make sure that it’s all on-message and relevant for your target audience. In this way, you’ll establish your brand better in the eyes of the algorithm, meaning more of your content has the potential to be promoted to users’ for you pages. 

Just as you can find relevant influencers by searching popular terms and discovering who comes up, by applying SEO practices to your whole profile, and not just individual posts, you can begin to establish your brand as a name-to-know within your product or service niche.

Lessons on TikTok SEO

Brands need to start thinking about their TikTok profile as more than just another social media feed. It’s much more than that – and its role in attracting audiences is only growing. 

Brands should consider their TikTok profile as a permanent space to flag information to their customer bases. By using SEO principles to ensure that they reach their target audiences, brands can grow their online followings, reach new demographics, and establish themselves as leaders within their respective fields. 

Evidence would suggest there’s more to come from the video-sharing platform. Given that Instagram has introduced accessibility features that also impact SEO, like alt-text describing the content of images, there’s every chance that as TikTok explores more accessibility options, further features will also become available for brands to explore. 

If you’d like to learn more about how to use TikTok SEO to boost your presence on the platform and drive sales, get in touch. We’d love to talk you through how to make compelling, high-performing experiences for Gen Z on the platform!

Searching for more TikTok tips? Let us help optimise your next campaign – check out some of our other explainers on levelling-up your TikTok activity:

Let's Talk

To find out how Fanbytes can help you connect with a Gen Z Audience fill in the form to get in touch!