TikTok SEO: What Is It and How to Rank

In the last year, TikTok has proven it has the ability to get more powerful in the social media world, and now the search world as well. Even compelling Google to make statements about TikTok eating into their search market share

On top of that, after Google’s most recent core update, TikTok’s visibility in Google search went up 133%. Though this number is impressive, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to SEOs or folks who have been watching search patterns over the last 5-7 years. 

For the last several years, Google has viewed video as the up-and-coming search result for a majority of searchers. Google began improving its ability to crawl, understand, and index videos across the web. YouTube continued to gain more traction in the search market share as its very own search engine, paving the way for newcomer TikTok. 

There has been recent speculation of TikTok joining the ranks of search engines. It’s no surprise, considering they’ve been running their own ads encouraging users to use the search functionality in-app to discover restaurants, how-tos, and even jobs. 

Knowing this, it begs the question “do you need SEO to be successful on TikTok?” Let’s dive in and figure this out together. 

What is TikTok SEO?

TikTok SEO seems to be taking a very similar approach to general SEO with a focus on keywords and phrases. When using their search functionality to type in a keyword, you see trending variations of that keyword. Once you click to search, top ranking posts in certain topics will populate in order of engagement rates. 

Aside from the obvious similarities in search functionalities, even content optimization techniques (more on these in a bit) are being figured out by the everyday TikTok user. 

So, TikTok uses SEO?

There’s no doubt from the SEO community, it’s TikTok that hasn’t alluded to much about this. Through different TikTok-ers results, it’s safe to say that TikTok has SEO functionalities and it’s working for the users who take the time to do it right.

How do I optimize my content to rank on TikTok?

Through my research (*ahem* watching too many TikToks for my elder-millennial brain to handle), I found there’s a 3-tier formula out there that is doing the trick for those looking to nab ranks on TikTok:

  1. Text Overlay
  2. Captions + Hashtags
  3. Audio (yup.)


Text overlay

This is the text you see on the actual video itself. This happens post-recording in the editing phase. Folks who mention the appropriate target keywords in their overlay are seeing better results for visibility.

Captions + hashtags

This is definitely the most obvious optimization area. Peppering your target keywords into your caption along with hashtagging said keywords, will result in better visibility as well. 


Finally, your audio will have an impact on your ability to be more visible for a topic. You must have subtitle functionality turned on (which I recommend). When creating your video, make sure you’re saying the actual keywords (naturally, I hope). Once to the editing screen, turn on the captions and let TikTok scan the audio to produce captions on your behalf.

Let me break that last ranking factor down a bit more… TikTok has AI that will scan your audio to caption each word on your behalf. TikTok-ers who use this functionality will rank better for their videos. 

Similar to Google or YouTube, this functionality helping ranks could be due to 2 very important reasons: universal friendliness and more keyword signals. 

Oftentimes, search engines will favor content that is universally friendly to those with particular impairments that need other features like captions to consume the content. On top of that, captions and video transcripts are features that provide signals to search engines to crawl this content to better rank and understand what the video is about. 

This adds another interesting question: Is YouTube also ranking you by your audio? Though their caption functionality leaves something to be desired, it’s available nonetheless (I’ll save this for another time).

Performing TikTok keyword research

Luckily, you don’t need to learn some crazy new technique to perform quality keyword research for your TikTok SEO campaign. There are 2 simple ways to perform your TikTok keyword research:

  1. In-app
  2. Via Google


tiktok search

Much like YouTube, in-app keyword research is the most valuable way to see what populates for your keyword targets in terms of variations of the word as you type in the search bar and, of course, what results actually populate.

When performing keyword research in TikTok, take notice of variations and even test out natural variations used in your industry. For example, when doing research for this blog I might search TikTok SEO then variants like TikTok SEO Research or TikTok SEO Keyword Research etc.  

I would also be interested in combing through the top results to note things like the general content of the top TikToks and the language being used in the overlay, captions, hashtags, and audio. 

Via Google

If TikTok isn’t producing how you’d hoped (look at you, trailblazer) then performing keyword research via Google is a safe bet. 

You can do this through manual search by heading to Google and analyzing the SERPs of the keywords you’re looking to target. Take note of the questions being answered, keyword variants being used, and any gaps in knowledge you could fill. 

If you have the resources, this can also be done through trusted SEO tools like SEMrush or ahrefs. 

TikTok SEO strategies to implement

First and foremost, as you’re getting up and running on the platform make sure you optimize your profile as you would with any other social profile for your brand. This looks like a value statement or catchy one-liner and, of course, you must include a link to your website/store/etc.

Quantity + Quality

Well, here’s a first for this SEO, advising folks to boost the quantity of their content. Now, don’t get too crazy, the quality still matters but everyone has to start somewhere!

Being consistently engaging on the platform will help to boost your visibility and prove authority in your industry and over the keywords you’re targeting. It will also be a good sign to engage users who benefit from your content because they’ll know they can count on your updates and will continue to engage with you, only further boosting your ranks. 

Ultimately, get out there and give it your best shot, find what works or what doesn’t work, replicate the good and trash the bad. 

Newsworthy industry TikToks

If you’re in an industry that relates to a lot of newsworthy content, it’s time to dust off some hot takes. 

Younger generations are always looking for ways to be involved, but like to consume most of their content in the exact way TikTok serves it: bite-sized, informational videos. 

If the content presents itself, put yourself and your company out there by staying ahead of the conversation and talking about breaking news in your industry and your take on its impacts. 

This strategy will get you noticed, make you look like a valuable resource, and keep your brand name trending within your industry.


Going in a completely different direction, culture focused TikToks are a great way to show off your brand’s values, voice, and style. 

A great way to implement this strategy is to share in-office (or remote) sneak peeks around the day-to-day fun and community within the company or day-in-the-life videos to show how the ‘magic’ happens. 

Another great culture technique is to show off any philanthropic efforts your company partakes in as a whole. This is an impactful way to show the younger generations, who are driven by positively influencing the world around them, that your company ‘gets it’. And, it’s just a great way to encourage others to be involved as well!

Paid alignment, influencers, and partnerships

There’s a whole world of TikTok strategies out there for the taking. As you dive into creating campaigns, consider aligning the strategies of your paid efforts with your SEO efforts by covering similar topics and using the same keywords.

Other strategies to consider are tapping into the vast influencer bank TikTok houses or partnering with other brands that would make sense to help boost each other’s visibility and to gain new audiences as well. 

Great. Is TikTok worth it for me?

Generally, yes. 

TikTok is a growing presence, and even if that plateaus at some point, it’s a strong indicator that video content is the new king. 

Like any digital strategy, it will be worth the most bang for your buck if you go in with a strong strategy and an understanding for how you can work to see success on the platform. 

Plan your TikTok strategy by choosing to do TikTok SEO, paid TikTok campaigns, or both! Once that’s in place, line up a general content strategy and make sure to include creative. A major success factor for both TikTok SEO and paid TikTok campaigns relies on your creative. So, make sure you’re putting in the time and effort (and $$$).

If you’re ready to take the leap into the world of TikTok, or just need a little refresh of your TikTok strategy, we’ve got your back. Our savvy team of TikTok experts, creatives, and strategists are ready to help you get the TikTok ranks.