TikTok SEO: 5 Ways To Make Your Videos Show Up in Search

What is TikTok SEO?

TikTok SEO is a method of optimising videos to ensure you appear at the top of the search results within the app. Several factors can increase the likelihood of a video ranking well organically such as keywords and hashtags.

Will TikTok replace Google?

Almost 40% of Gen Z use TikTok on Instagram for Search instead of Google. It can be an easy way to get recommendations for where to eat, what to buy, and where to go. The answers are instantaneous and most importantly – visual. However, TikTok will not replace Google. Google is still the number one Search Engine for the world, and currently, there is still no match for Google when it comes to more complex search queries.

TikTok app on mobile phone screen

5 ways to do TikTok SEO

Step 1: Define your audience

The first step is to define your audience. It’s important to understand who you are trying to reach with your content. What do they look like? What are their interests? What are their pain points? The more you can understand about your audience, the better your content will be as you could tailor the structure, the format, and the narrative towards their needs or wants.

Step 2: Conduct keyword research

TikTok has a recommendation system which determines which videos should appear on the For You page. From what we see with our clients, all of these factors also contribute to the search results on the app too. In no particular order, the following are taken into account by TikTok’s algorithm:

1) User interaction e.g. likes and shares

2) Device and account settings e.g. language preferences

3) Video information e.g. hashtags and keywords

For the purposes of this article, we will solely focus on the latter – hashtags and keywords. By adopting a strategic approach to the way captions are developed you will be able to help your videos rank in search.

SEMRush Running Shoes Search


Using a SEO tool like SEMRush or Ahrefs, you will be able to research search terms that are being searched for on Google to gain an understanding of the search volume. When looking for keywords choose a combination of general keywords, medium tail keywords and low tail keywords for users far along their purchase journey. Then search each keyword in TikTok’s search bar to see what type of content is ranking organically for the keyword. If we use “Running Shoes” as an example, the word “Running Shoes” is a high volume general keyword in SEMRush. When we search “Running Shoes” in the TikTok search bar, it’s clear that the algorithm prioritises videos aimed at beginners looking for their first pair of shoes. With this in mind, rather than trying to rank for “Running Shoes”, it would be better to try to rank for a medium tail variant like “Running Shoes For Beginners”.

In addition to using Google Search tools, you can also use Search Listening within TikTok to see what people are searching around for specific phrases. TikTok will automatically auto-populate the search bar with the most popular keywords related to your query. Look through what it shows you, and select any keywords that align with your brand.


TikTok Hashtag Tool

Step 3: Research your competitors

Search the keyword you want to rank for on TikTok:

1) Review all of the videos rank organically

2) Filter by like count – have the rankings changed?

3) Filter by view count – is there a difference?

    Make notes of what is working for the most popular content. This content is directly related to the query that you want to rank for. Therefore, understanding what exactly works well and identifying why is key. More often than not, what sets the top performing videos apart is the hook in the first 3 seconds, and the relatability of the content creator which appears in the video. This leads us nicely onto Step 4…

    Step 4: Identify suitable influencers

    To rank organically in search you don’t need to work with influencers who have the biggest following. We’ve helped brands rank in position 1, by partnering with creators who have less than 20,000 TikTok followers. However, the influencers you select need to be suitable. Suitability can be determined by a variety of factors including their subject expertise (comparable to E-A-T), their personality, their content style, and their engagement levels. 

    However, the most important thing to remember is that you should be guided by your research, not your preferences. As a brand, it’s easy to have a very strict notion of who should be representing your brand – in terms of looks, age or personality. On TikTok in particular a narrow view can be detrimental. Therefore, remaining unbiased in your assessment of an influencer is vital. 

    Rather than working with one influencer and hoping to get lucky, collaborate with several influencers. Test several different captions, and hashtags until you’re able to find a combination which works. This is what we did successfully for one of our clients who rank in position 1 for the keywords “Coding Bootcamp” and “Tech Bootcamp”.

    TikTok Keyword Rankings Position 1

    Step 5: Analyse the reception

    In our experience, a video is more likely to rank if the engagement is overwhelmingly positive. Contentious videos may get higher levels of comments, but as some of these comments can be negative, critical, or down-voted, it seems like these actions devalue the content in TikTok’s ranking algorithm. Therefore it’s important to monitor the reception of each video. This is fairly easy to do when the video is entirely organic. But if you plan to turn the video into a Spark Ad, it’s worth monitoring the comments closely and removing any negative comments – especially if they are repeated constantly about the creator.

    On a positive note, the comments section of a video can be an invaluable tool for gaining additional insight into new queries. On Google 15% of Searches have never been seen before. This means that getting real time insight to customer queries and concerns can add an additional layer of insight to your content strategy and provide inspiration for future videos. For example, as part of a more long term collaboration, the same influencer could “respond” to the question with an answer video.

    Things to avoid when doing TikTok SEO

    This article has suggested a lot of “Do’s”, but there are two things you should absolutely avoid when doing TikTok SEO. The first is duplicate content. The second is creating content that could be considered spam. The principle behind creating great content on TikTok, are no different to the principles behind creating great content on Google. Above all else, the user experience needs to come first. Therefore, it’s important to make sure that your content is valuable, entertaining or insightful. A combination of the three is the sweet spot!

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