Could TikTok really become a competitor in the web search and discovery stakes, and move into Google’s territory?
Google’s Senior Vice President Prabhakar Raghavan recently shared that the search giant does indeed see this as a risk, noting that:
“In our studies, something like almost 40% of young people, when they’re looking for a place for lunch, they don’t go to Google Maps or Search. They go to TikTok or Instagram.”
That’s not overly surprising, but the volume of searches that could imply is significant, with hundreds of millions of searches being conducted every minute via Google’s apps. If TikTok and Instagram are eating into that, that could have big implications, and not just for Google itself, but also for brands looking to connect with younger audiences, and maximize their discovery opportunities.
Do you have a TikTok SEO plan in place? Should you?
The idea of TikTok as a search engine isn’t new.
Back in 2019, investment firm Andreesen Horowitz highlighted the potential of TikTok as a search engine, based on how Chinese users were evolving their use of Douyin, the Chinese version of the app.
As per AH:
“Since many Douyin videos are geo-tagged and automatically categorized into buckets - restaurants, tourist attractions, hotels, culture, entertainment, shopping, exercise - users can browse them to find interesting places to visit and things to do. Businesses are also able to attract new customers by supplementing Douyin with basic information, waitlist support, and coupons.”
Douyin has become an eCommerce powerhouse in China, and parent company ByteDance has been pushing to transform TikTok along the same lines in western markets – with mixed results thus far.
But Raghavan’s comments do point to discovery, in particular, being a significant opportunity, and with more and more young users referring to TikTok clips to discover the latest trends and products, that should be on the radar of all brands, as a potential avenue to reaching new audiences, and maximizing interest online.
I’m not even joking but TikTok is proving to be a better search engine than Google these days— KA (@ikeko__) May 30, 2022
This sentiment is becoming increasingly common, and TikTok is also leaning into discovery, with a range of new features, aside from its main eCommerce push.
Recently, TikTok began experimenting with linked keywords within comments and video descriptions, which guide user discovery by connecting them through to broader trends.
As you can see in this example, posted by user Olivia Deng, certain keywords, including product names, now autolink through to search results for that term, helping to facilitate more search activity, and get users engaging with product discovery in the app.
That, of course, leans into TikTok’s in-stream shopping as well. But even as an aside from this element, more discovery could facilitate significant potential for many brands looking to raise awareness, and highlight specific products in the app.
Add to this the fact that, according to data from Cloudflare, TikTok.com overtook Google as the most visited domain in the world in 2021 and there’s a fairly clear picture forming, in regards to TikTok being a key destination for discovery in 2022.
As per Mashable:
“People are sick of the Google recipe algorithm that prioritizes obscure search engine optimized blogs. It's been a running joke on the internet that in order to read a recipe you have to get through the blogger’s entire life story, but this is actually deterring the young people I talked to from searching for recipes on Google. Because a TikTok has to quickly grab your attention, recipe videos on the platform are to the point, putting the focus on the food, not the creator.”
That could apply to more than just recipe sites, and with a recent survey also finding that TikTok is the fastest growing news source for users aged 16 to 24, the broader trend is clear.
So should you be developing a TikTok SEO strategy? It may seem unusual, but the stats don’t lie, and the insights here do suggest that product discovery is rising in the app, which is the fastest-growing social platform in the world at present.
That could facilitate big opportunities – and maybe, now is the time to get in, and establish a presence, before everyone else starts trying to optimize for TikTok search.