Hey, remember how last year, reports were circulating that TikTok had become the search engine of choice for many younger users, and that it could, at some stage, take a much larger chunk of Google’s market share, even though discovery isn’t its main focus?
Well, Google might now have found a way to counter that. Sort of.
According to a new report from Business Insider, TikTok and Google are currently exploring a new partnership, which would integrate Google search prompts, and potentially, at some stage, even results, into TikTok’s own search stream.
As you can see in this example, posted by app researcher Radu Oncescu, some TikTok users are now seeing a new prompt appear within their search results in the app, which includes a CTA to expand their search on Google.
Which looks like a sort of custom ad unit, though apparently it isn’t, which TikTok clarified in communications with BI.
As per Business Insider:
“A TikTok spokesperson has confirmed that the company is experimenting with third-party integrations within the TikTok app, including a test with Google. The feature, which is being trialed globally across several different markets, is not an ad unit, the spokesperson said. A Google spokesperson said the company had nothing further to share and declined to comment on whether there was a financial agreement between the two companies as part of the partnership.”
So, it’s a custom integration, made for Google in this instance, which aims to provide more context, and facilitate more discovery via the TikTok app.
Which, for both apps, probably makes some sense.
Last July, in a presentation to Fortune’s “Brainstorm Tech” conference, Google’s Senior Vice President Prabhakar Raghavan said that Google does indeed see TikTok’s emergence as a discovery tool as a potential business risk.
“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.”
Based on this, it could be a logical, and beneficial move for Google to integrate its tools into TikTok’s discovery surface, which will help to keep Google in mind as an expansion offering, and maintain relevance with this audience.
And for TikTok, it also provides more direct connection to broader discovery options, while there could also be additional benefits in terms of data sharing between the two companies that can help to improve their discovery tools.
Though the specifics of any such deal could be quite sensitive.
As Business Insider also notes, Google’s currently under investigation over its dominance of web search, which it’s been able to maximize via distribution deals Apple, Samsung, and others.
You would assume, then, that the Department of Justice, which is examining these arrangements, might take a dim view of similar on TikTok, though again, Google hasn’t said that there’s any financial deal in place.
And maybe there isn’t. Maybe the benefit for TikTok, as opposed to charging Google for this option, is actually via improved discovery, with Google indexing more of its content, and showing more TikTok results in search. That could also be stepping on the toes of YouTube Shorts, Google’s own short-form video offering, but maybe, given TikTok’s emergence as a discovery threat, it’s a “best of both worlds” option for the Big G.
This is all speculation, of course, as Google’s not saying what the deal is. But it does seem like Google’s looking for another way to maintain its hold on search, and to potentially negate the growth of a competitor, or at the least, work in tandem with the rise of TikTok as a discovery platform, in order to keep its tools front of mind.
What TikTok gains is less clear, but presumably, it’s helping to drive more traffic to the app.
Either way, it’s an interesting partnership, and an interesting consideration for digital marketers, in regards to the emergence of TikTok as a search complement.