TikTok SEO: How It Works + 5 TikTok Search Strategy Tips

Is TikTok SEO on your radar? Learn how TikTok search works and ways to build a strategy that helps your brand rank for relevant TikTok keywords faster.

tiktok seo cover compressed

“Okay, so what’s the deal with TikTok SEO?”

Many marketers are still skeptical as to whether consumers today actually treat TikTok like Google. 

But look no further than new features and rollouts across TikTok, including:

  • TikTok's automated detection of common phrases, pain points and search terms in videos.

  • Competition for keywords via TikTok Shop and ranking for product searches in Spark Ads.

  • Keyword recommendations from TikTok's own Creative Center.

We recently discovered that TikTok is explicitly using the phrase "SEO" which is a first (see below).

tiktok SEO in creative center

The key takeaway? Ranking for relevant TikTok search terms should be a priority for brands. 

If you want to know how to make it happen, we can help! In this post, we’ll break down:

  • What TikTok SEO is (with examples!)
  • How TikTok search works (including the algorithm, keywords, hashtags and more)
  • Tools and strategy to help your videos rank for relevant TikTok keywords faster

And if you want even more actionable tips, make sure to check out our TikTok SEO webinar.

What is TikTok SEO?

If you’re familiar with SEO (search engine optimization), the concept of TikTok SEO is simple.

As more shoppers turn to TikTok, brands must “rank” there just as they do on Google or Amazon. Brands should explore opportunities to optimize their videos for visibility. This means researching trends and making content that satisfies searchers on TikTok.

And so when we talk about TikTok SEO, we’re talking about…

  • Thinking of TikTok as a search engine (hint: not just a content distribution channel)
  • Identifying search and keyword trends to inform your TikTok strategy (and vice versa)
  • Creating videos that satisfy search intent and rank in the TikTok algorithm

✅ What TikTok SEO is 

❌ What TikTok SEO is Not 

  • Making small tweaks to your TikTok content strategy to boost discoverability
  • Creating videos that satisfy the search intent of consumers on social media
  • Fine-tuning your posts for engagement and visibility in TikTok's native search

  • Using relevant keywords being searched by your target audience (both organically and via TikTok Shop)
  • Cramming keywords into your captions and hashtags
  • Posting as much as possible to satisfy social algorithms
  • Sacrificing creativity, community, and authenticity for “optimization”

Why TikTok SEO Isn't Just a Marketing Buzzphrase

We get it, though. The concept of TikTok as a search engine is eye-roll-worthy to skeptics.

The app is in a unique position as the go-to social search engine for consumers across industries.

Heck, it's already happening (and it's been happening).

Below are a few key reasons why brands can't afford to ignore TikTok SEO anymore.

Consumers Are Already Comfortable with TikTok Search

The fact that 64% of Gen Z turn to TikTok over Google for both commercial and educational searches speaks for itself. 

And spoiler alert: social SEO isn't even a new concept!

A 2021 report from Hootsuite and GWI notes that 45% of people use social platforms to search for products. Fast forward to today and social search is even more universal.


TikTok is Outpacing Google for Commercial and Product-Related Search Phrases

The numbers don't lie. A recent study notes that there are 503% more searches on TikTok than Google for fashion-related terms. Beauty phrases are likewise seeing a surge in TikTok searches.

example of conducting a tiktok search

How Search Works on TikTok Mirrors Other Social Search Engines

This includes recommended searches, autocomplete and an algorithm to rank content. TikTok feels more like a search engine than Instagram, Facebook or X (Twitter).

Not unlike Google's own keyword planner, social SEO tools across TikTok are getting more and more sophisticated. TikTok SEO is becoming much less of a guessing game now that brands can more easily identify search intent and keywords to target based on actual data.

TikTok Creative Center

3 Tips for Planning Your Brand's TikTok SEO Strategy

Again, trends point to TikTok’s potential to dominate as a social search engine. 

But ranking for search terms on TikTok doesn't happen by accident.

Below are some points to consider as you begin to plan and prepare your TikTok SEO strategy.

1. Target TikTok Keywords Across the Buyer's Journey

Fact: 21% of consumers now use TikTok to start their product searches. 

But consumers aren’t just stumbling on brands or things to buy on TikTok.

Your TikTok SEO strategy should be built around keywords across levels of customer awareness.

This includes keywords for people who are brand-aware, problem-aware and solution-aware.

For example, a natural haircare brand shouldn't focus on generic product terms at the top of the funnel like "hair cream" or "hair routine." Instead, your TikTok SEO strategy should feature keywords

2. Review What Phrases You Rank for Beyond TikTok

Chances are your brand is also fighting tooth and nail to rank in Google search too, right?

As you should!

And it totally makes sense to double-dip those organic efforts for better TikTok SEO, too.

Think about how those on-site searches translate into TikTok content ideas and trends. This has led to the rise of “searchandising," which is the process of curating search results to drive sales.

If you're already aggressively targeting commercial terms in your niche, brainstorm how you can turn your existing content and assets into TikTok videos. Bonus points if you're already blogging!

Fact: searchers today seek out short-form video content as an alternative to written content.

Simple as. Consider how digital natives have grown up consuming smartphone video their entire lives. This isn’t just a trend among the younger crowd, though.  

titkok-related search results in google

Chances are there are tons of "how-to" and other pain point-related keywords you can transform into TikToks. Doing so is a low-hanging but invaluable way to scale your search presence on TikTok without totally guessing.

3. Brands Can't Rank on TikTok All By Themselves

This is the big one.

Much like ranking in Google is a numbers game, the same rings true with TikTok SEO.

Brands cannot brute force their way to ranking for keywords with native content. This is especially true as brands continue to lose organic reach as opposed to creators with higher engagement rates.

This speaks to the value of having customers and creators consistently posting on your behalf to rank for TikTok search terms. By weaving keyword phrases into content supported by new videos at scale, you consistently feed the TikTok algorithm in a way that's totally natural.


We've seen firsthand how a high volume (think: 100s or 1000s) of videos from creators help brands on TikTok cement their place in social search. This volume is impossible to do alone and is a tall order for most brands organically. That's exactly where TikTok micro-influencers can save the day.

What are Some Examples of TikTok SEO in Action?

While TikTok SEO is a relatively new concept, its impact is already well-documented. Now, let’s review how elements of SEO like keywords and ranking are taking over TikTok.

Brands and Products Ranking in Shopping Searches

The boom of social shopping on TikTok is well-documented. Data says 48% of consumers are now willing to purchase products from TikTok directly. The stakes are high to rank for shopping-related search terms and hashtags.

#amazonfinds on tiktok   

Brands Earning UGC by Ranking with TikTok Hashtags

Note that 62% of consumers want to see videos with real people before making a purchase. Brands ranking for general and brand-specific search phrases with UGC is incredibly valuable.

ugc and reviews on a tiktok hashtag

TikTok Videos Popping Up in the SERPs

This is common with both educational queries (ex: “brow tutorial”) and shopping (ex: “makeup kit”). Brands can now double-dip their social content with their SEO content.

Well, that’s because it’s become one and the same.

tiktok visual search results from google

How Does TikTok SEO Work?

The inner workings of any social algorithm are complicated. TikTok is no exception. As far as social platforms go, TikTok’s native search features are surprisingly powerful. 

Below is a quick breakdown of how TikTok SEO works when it comes to getting discovered.

TikTok Native Search

The demise of the “Discover” tab means the app's native search bar is the sole way to browse TikTok directly. This includes content, hashtags and accounts. Everything else comes from the #ForYou page or accounts you follow.

TikTok serves content based on search terms and hashtags in your video descriptions. The algorithm then ranks videos based on which are most “relevant.” This is primarily determined by engagement and interactions. 

You’ve probably noticed that the top-recommended videos boast high view counts, right? Likewise, this is why you might see videos rank well in TikTok search. The platform also recommends related search terms based on trending searches and content.

tiktok search query example  tiktok related searches example

The TikTok Algorithm

Like the Instagram algorithm, TikTok uses AI and machine learning to rank content. The algorithm is capable of identifying “what” a piece of content is and serve it accordingly. 

In the past, TikTok has stated that #ForYou results are presented based on factors such as:

  • Interactions (ex: likes, comments)
  • Video information (descriptions, captions, trending sounds)
  • Hashtags

Figuring out how to rank often requires a combination of a lot of trial and error (and a bit of luck). This applies to TikTok and Google alike. 

For more context, check out our deep dive on how the TikTok algorithm works for brands.


As noted above, TikTok hashtags play a role in how content is both ranked. 

More importantly, hashtags categorize your content and make it discoverable for searchers.

For example, someone looking for viral recipes might dig into the #EasyRecipe tag. Yet with 14+ billion views, this might be overwhelming. Maybe you narrow your search to a less popular hashtag tag that which still has significant search volume (like #VeggieBurger with 41 million views).

Again, the most “relevant” videos on a tag are often the ones with the most engagement.

#skincare101 tiktok hashtag

5 TikTok SEO Strategy Tips to Rank Faster

While TikTok's ranking factorsaren't front-and-center, we can read between the lines to understand how the algorithm determines what rises to the top.

To wrap things up, let’s review tips and content ideas for brands to improve theirTikTok SEO.

Pssst! For a more in-depth breakdown of these tips, make sure to watch our TikTok SEO webinar!

1. Create Videos That Answer Specific Questions

This might seem like a no-brainer, right? 

But many brands on TikTok struggle because their content strategy is a free-for-all.

The key to winning with TikTok SEO is to treat it like, well, SEO. 

Just like brands create blog posts and long-term content related to customer questions and pain points, you can do the same on TikTok. 

Note that 14% of all Google searches are related to asking questions. TikTok says that discovery on the platform is largely driven by the desire to learn. This explains the popularity of videos like:

  • How-to and tutorial videos
  • Explainer videos (think: ingredient breakdown videos from skincare brands)
  • Reviews and recommendation videos

TikToks are perfect for teaching viewers “how to” or “what is” in a matter of seconds. Consider how you can answer common product questions in bite-sized videos.

New call-to-action2. Publish Your Videos to Relevant Hashtags

According to TikTok, videos categorized by hashtags saw 151% more views last year. Again, hashtags boost discoverability and also help the app categorize your content. 

Good news for brands: it’s easy to balance promoting products and getting view in hashtags. That’s because product-related tags are among the most popular on TikTok. This includes:

  • #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt 
  • #AmazonFinds
  • #ProductReview 

shampoo review hashtag  on tiktok

3. Mind Your Content Previews and Thumbnails

Did you know that 90% of top-performing videos on YouTube contain a custom thumbnail?

Apply the same principle on TikTok by treating video previews like SERP previews. Done right, thumbnails provide a sneak peek of your content and entice viewers to tap through.

example of content previews on tiktok

4. Using Autocomplete Results from TikTok to Inform Your Content Strategy

This is a spin on a tried-and-tested SEO tactic. Autocomplete results can clue you in on what people are actually searching for. This can serve as timely inspiration for your next TikTok videos.

example of autocompleted search on tiktok

5. Publish and Engage on TikTok Consistently

Just like publishing content to rank via Google, TikTok is a sort of numbers game. 

And to be clear, that does not mean you should spam videos to satisfy the algorithm.

You won’t know what’s working and what’s not until you publish on TikTok consistently. Over time, you can get a better sense of which formats and hashtags perform best. More content means more opportunities to rank via hashtags or get picked up on the #ForYou page.

If you need to ramp up your content output, consider how TikTok influencers can help. Consistent engagement from creators is a nice bonus for your TikTok SEO strategy. Data says creators with <5,000 followers have the highest engagement rates, too.

Beyond that, the ability to fill your content calendar with creator videos can help you rank as well. It’s no surprise that many of the best brands on TikTok have content strategies based on creators.

Casetify compressed

Source: @casetify

How to Supercharge Your TikTok SEO Strategy

Given the growth and popularity of TikTok, brands need to learn ASAP how to rank on the platform. Competition is only going to get more crowded. The tactics above can keep you ahead of the curve!

This is especially important and more and more brands prioritize social search. 

And again, we invite you to learn even more in our in-depth TikTok SEO webinar!

We've seen firsthand how influencers help brands boost their TikTok search presence. By working with influencers at scale, you can quickly publish content that pushes your brand to the top of search queries relevant to your audience. The more content you publish, the likelier you are to rank.

There's a window of opportunity for brands that capitalize on social search sooner rather than later.

That's where Statusphere's platform can lend a huge hand. Our micro-influencer platform enables brands to source high volumes of authentic videos from our community of vetted content creators.

Statusphere Platform Dashboard

Statusphere's advanced matchmaking and fulfillment technology makes it possible for brands to work with influencers at scale in a fraction of the time it would take on your own or with other platforms. We've saved our brands a collective 11,000+ hours to generate 75,000+ pieces of authentic content.

Want to see how our platform can make it happen? Get in touch with one of our experts to see how our software can scale your micro-influencer marketing campaigns.

This article was first published in November 2022. It was last updated March 6, 2024.

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