Understanding TikTok SEO

Nov 11, 2022 by
Understanding TikTok SEO

Anyone with access to the internet or a teenager will have become aware of the obscene popularity of TikTok over the last few years. While many might decry the Chinese app as little more than a recycled version of Vine (remember that anyone?) it has somehow managed to become a legitimate sensation amongst kids and young adults.

Indeed, TikTok is not only used by those under 30, as the app, which has been downloaded 3 billion times worldwide (that’s almost half the population of the planet) is also increasingly finding favour with older users. It’s projected to be used daily by 15 million users in the UK alone by 2025 and the average user opens the app around 19 times per day. So, if you’re not already using TikTok as a marketing platform, why not?

The TikTok algorithm

Of course, if you want to achieve SEO success on TikTok, you need to understand its algorithm, which the company is surprisingly transparent with. TikTok released some solid documentation on how their algorithm works and the results are quite unique.

You see, TikTok doesn’t work like most social media platforms. It curates your content for you by using demographic data to select what it thinks you’ll enjoy. At first, that means you’re probably going to be seeing a lot of bikini-clad teenagers twerking to mumble rap if you’re a male between the ages of 16 and 25.

But the beauty of it is that the algorithm learns your behaviour and reacts accordingly. So, if you start liking certain videos it will learn more about you and start showing you videos it knows you’ll like. It’s tailored content on a primal level and it gets better at knowing you the more you engage with it.

For SEO purposes, this means creating content that we know is going to attract our target demographic. When doing so, however, it’s important to consider the platform’s ranking factors, which are subtly different to the ones used by Google.

Engagement – The most obvious ranking factor is based on likes and comments on videos because engagement on TikTok is measured at video level rather than at account level. The more engagement a video gets, the more worthy TikTok’s algorithm considers it and the more traction you’ll get as a result.

Content The TikTok algorithm says that it reads the “emotional tone” of a video by identifying objects, scenery and (worryingly) body parts and analysing the words spoken and written within the video. It also analyses the music, which is a major reason why the platform is so busy with copycat music video viral trends right now. If you can find a way to work your campaign into that trend, then leave your shame at the door and give it a go.

Language – If you’re trying to reach an international audience, it’s important to acknowledge that TikTok will only display videos to users in languages they understand. That means you might want to consider video content that breaks down language barriers and doesn’t focus too heavily on words.

Device TikTok can read the kind of device users are watching content on and adapt the videos they are shown accordingly. This means only showing shorter and less intensive videos to older devices and those on older operating systems. If all users are going to be shown your content, it needs to be suitable for all devices.

Eligibility – Finally, what’s the point in spending a lot of time and resources on content if it’s just going to be removed? Read into the community guidelines as much as possible and ensure you’re not creating content that goes against them, otherwise, you’re just wasting your time.