TikTok SEO: How to Rank High in TikTok Searches

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Carolyn Howell

Last Updated: May 21, 2024

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TikTok has evolved beyond the traditional social media framework in more ways than one. TikTok has become the architect and prime mover of new trends among all other social media platforms. TikTok influences major cultural shifts and allows sub-cultures to flourish. The platform offers aspiring creators and music artists lots of opportunities to make a name for themselves and earn money. As a veritable wellspring of all types of content and content creators, TikTok now also serves as a go-to search tool for many. How can brands and content creators leverage TikTok SEO for better ranking?

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What Is TikTok SEO?

Whenever somebody wants to search for something online, they “Google” it. These days, it’s also common for people to say that they discovered their latest purchase or earworm on TikTok. TikTok is quickly becoming a search engine heavyweight in its own right! So, what is TikTok SEO, and why is it important?

We can find the simplest definition of SEO on Wikipedia. It defines search engine optimization as “the process of improving the quality and quantity of website traffic to a website or a web page from search engines.” Through SEO, a website can maximize the number of site visitors by ranking high on search results.

Search engine optimization on TikTok allows brands and creators to increase video views, engagement, and profile visits. As more and more people use TikTok for search and discovery purposes, content optimization has become even more crucial for ranking in TikTok search results.

When internet users have questions, many prefer getting answers in visually rich formats, such as TikTok’s short-form videos. The most current and relevant content about almost anything under the sun is on TikTok. Because of this, the app’s search bar has become one of its most used features.

TikTok is no longer just a popular online hangout for Gen Zers. Practically everybody who’s active on social media now uses TikTok. So you won’t just find youthful and trivial entertainment on the app. If you’re looking for tips, products, recommendations, trends, inspiration, and any other kind of information, do a TikTok search!

The Google search page is displayed on a laptop screen.

How Does TikTok SEO Work?

How does TikTok SEO work? Content optimization on TikTok pretty much follows the same standard rules for SEO everywhere else. To increase your video’s reach and visibility, you need to optimize it to appear among top TikTok search results.

Applying SEO best practices can help push your content higher on TikTok rankings. But you also need to understand how TikTok’s algorithm differs from that of a standard search engine.

Content optimization on TikTok works better than on other social platforms because the TikTok algorithm prioritizes user interests.  In comparison, other popular social media channels typically rank content based on follower numbers or impressions. Ads also get a higher ranking than organic content, regardless of optimization.

On TikTok, the algorithm recommends content based on how well it matches a user’s interests and interactions on the platform. When a user searches, the algorithm ranks results in order of relevance to the search and the user. The popularity of content in terms of views and engagement or an account’s follower numbers is only a secondary consideration. This is one of the ways that TikTok serves as an effective discovery tool.

However, TikTok delivers results in a bite-sized and easily digestible video format compared to Google and other search engines. You get quick answers — in every sense of the phrase.

TikTok’s powerful algorithm is one of the reasons for its meteoric and swift rise in popularity. It has an uncanny knack for tailoring recommendations to a person’s tastes. Because search results primarily include organic content with real people behind them, they’re more authentic and relatable. Traditional search engines, on the other hand, often deliver information from faceless and impersonal (albeit sometimes highly credible) sources.

TikTok SEO Tool: How TikTok Ranks Search Results

Optimization will set you up for success on and off TikTok. Understanding how the TikTok SEO tool ranks search results will put your content in front of people who will genuinely contribute to your growth.

The algorithm acts as a highly intuitive matchmaker when delivering content to For You feeds and searches. It considers your video information to determine the right audience for it. It takes a user’s expressed interests and previous interactions with content to determine the most suitable content for them. When the content information and user preferences match, the algorithm makes sure they find each other.

So, what kind of information does TikTok look at when recommending and ranking content? Let’s take a look at the primary ranking factors for TikTok optimization.

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User Preferences

User preferences are paramount to the TikTok experience. When optimizing For You feeds and search results, the algorithm looks at a user’s account preferences and past TikTok interactions. Their language preferences, location, and the interests they selected when they signed up are all essential factors. The videos they watch in their entirety, like, comment on, share, and save influence all other future content they see. The accounts they follow, keywords they search for, sounds and effects they use in their posts also come into play.

TikTok’s algorithmic recommendations serve content that ensures viewer engagement for as long as possible.

Video Description and Information

Your video content, description, and information help the algorithm determine the right audience for your content. Your video’s meta information, caption, closed captions, hashtags, tags, and music are signals that TikTok uses to find users with matching preferences.

Optimize your content with keywords and niche hashtags that your target audience will likely use in search. Hop on trends that are relevant to your viewers to rank high on their For You feeds. Keep up with your community’s evolving interests so you can create content that TikTok will deliver to them promptly.

Device Settings

Device settings, such as language and location, also inform the algorithm. If a user has enabled their device location and they’re traveling to another country, for example, their For You feed may feature more local content.

SEO Strategies for TikTok Optimization

Your SEO strategy on YouTube, Facebook, or Instagram may not be as effective on TikTok. With TikTok’s algorithm as effective as it is, it’s worth the effort to formulate a TikTok optimization strategy from scratch! Here are eight tips to help you get started.

A person launched TikTok on his phone.

1. Know Your Audience

Whatever your niche, there’s an audience for it on TikTok. When creating your niche content strategy, keep your target audience in mind. What kind of information will they be looking for on the platform? What topics would they be interested in? What questions and needs might they have that you can satisfy with your content?

2. Stay Up-To-Date on Relevant Keywords and Hashtags

Working off of your niche audiences’ interests, identify relevant keywords they might use in searches and hashtags they might follow.

Put yourself in your audience’s shoes. What keywords would you use to find your kind of content? You can do a keyword and hashtag search yourself to see how popular they are on TikTok. Three to six hashtags are the ideal number for a post. It’s best to put all of them after your main caption so the algorithm can identify them more easily. Use a mix of popular and niche hashtags. Visit TikTok Creative Center to discover trending tags and view their insights.

3. Keep an Eye on Emerging and Current Trends

Are there challenges or songs trending in your niche or industry? You can also hop on universally popular trends to add variety to your TikTok content. Remember that TikTok trends come and go in the blink of an eye. So, you need to be quick in spotting them and participating in them.

Teach the algorithm to promptly show you what’s trending in your niche/industry by liking and commenting on trending/viral videos. Follow hashtags most relevant to your niche, community, and interests. Again, the Creative Center is a rich and up-to-the-minute resource for trends.

4. Revive and Re-Optimize Old Content

It will take some trial and error to figure out what optimization strategy delivers your desired results. Once you find your ideal formula, you can breathe new life into some of your old and underperforming content.

Can you edit a TikTok after posting? You won’t be able to edit the video itself, but you can edit the video description to improve optimization. Update the caption, hashtags, and other tags and share the post again. Alternatively, you can re-create an old video with an amazing concept and apply your optimization formula.

A woman films herself using her phone.

5. Focus on Your Niche

Especially while you’re still building a strong presence and your niche community on TikTok, focus on creating niche-specific content. Consistently delivering quality and optimized content for your niche and target audience will benefit you in a number of ways:

  • The TikTok algorithm will consistently deliver your videos to viewers with the highest potential of enjoying them. 
  • When you get views from genuinely interested audiences, you’ll have the highest chance of converting these into follows and engagement. 
  • The followers you gain will look forward to more of the same content from you and will be satisfied. 
  • You can expect consistent engagement from your dedicated fans. 
  • TikTok is likely to consider future similar content from you highly relevant to your target audience. The algorithm will push your videos higher on their For You feeds and those of potential new followers.

6. Engage With Other Creators

If you’re just starting, you can find creators in related niches whose content you genuinely enjoy. Make sure to choose creators that your followers will also find relatable. Those in your niche are more likely to be your competition. So, find ones whose interests and content complement yours instead.

Engage with their posts. Leave comments to make your presence known. Reach out to them via DM. Share some of their videos. Eventually, you may be able to tag them in your posts to widen your reach and improve your SEO.

7. Share Other Users’ Posts

Follow popular influencers and brands in your industry and share some of their most popular posts. This is a good way to add variety to your material, which also allows you to hitch a ride on their SEO.

Again, make sure the content you re-post will resonate with your fans. Additionally, re-post content sparingly. You need to build authority and gain your audience’s trust and loyalty by creating original and authentic content.

8. Check Out the Competition

Check out your competition on TikTok and their profiles on other social platforms. Identify and analyze their most popular videos. Why do people like them? What’s their SEO strategy? Pinpoint useful elements you can use in your content to achieve the same results.

A group of dancers performs while their phone captures a video.

TikTok Optimization for Effective Audience Targeting

How do you get a high optimization score on TikTok? You achieve it when your content is among the top results across all categories, e.g., Top, Videos, Users, etc. TikTok’s search bar is the most direct way for users to discover you on the platform. Effective content optimization increases the odds of your video appearing as a top result for a relevant keyword search.

The right wording in your caption, your hashtag combinations, the appropriate tags, and your choice of sound help with optimization. Before you can put all the right elements together, you need to know what your target viewers are searching for. What words are they likely to use when they do a search on TikTok? What hashtags and sounds are most relevant to the content they’re searching for? Can you tag locations or other videos to increase your video’s relevance?

Crafting an optimized video description is the final step in the TikTok creation process. How you describe your content informs the TikTok algorithm of who your target audience is. The more accurate your description is, the more accurately TikTok can match your video to interested viewers. When your SEO strategy focuses on your niche audience’s interests, you’ll have the highest chance of converting views into follows and engagement.

As a TikTok SEO tool, the For You recommendation algorithm is robust and extremely reliable. But you can still increase your targeting precision twofold when you sign up for a High Social plan. Double your audience-targeting advantage with High Social’s advanced, proprietary AI technology. Get your content in front of genuinely interested viewers. Start growing your TikTok today!

TikTok Tips