Are people really turning to TikTok before Google to search? – The social media SEO update for brands & creators – September 2023


Short answer: Yes, at least Gen Z is.

Long answer…

TikTok has been competing more and more with Google for years. At first, it was inadvertently. TikTok users were being granted such personalized For You Pages in TikTok that it became the place not only to hang out, but to shop. 2021 was the first time in 15 years that anyone (TikTok) unseated Google as the most-used site on the internet.

And they’ve just kept climbing…

tiktok seo guide 2023

… both in engagement and as an organic+paid advertising hub for brands:

social media seo guide 2023 tiktok vs google blog

(More metrics here and here)

And last year, marketers and tech lovers started to notice the rise of unofficial TikTok SEO. That is, the opportunity for TikTok content to rank not only on a TikTok SERP, but also for the same TikTok-native results to rank on regular Google SERPs for the same keywords and phrases.

This is because, yes, people are indeed beginning to use TikTok over Google for all kinds of search queries – at least, Gen Z is.

  • As first reported by Tech Crunch, nearly 40% of Gen Z members (born 1997 to 2012, according to the Pew Research Center) prefer TikTok for online searches, according to internal data from Google.
  • Prabhakar Raghavan, a Google senior VP, said at a tech conference that “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.” 
  • This was when Google confirmed that, indeed, it was in the midst or deals that allow them to index and prioritize Instagram and TikTok videos on Google SERPs.

But this doesn’t just stop with Gen Z; it points to a new way that people are using search engines.

People are beginning to want extremely visual, authentic points of views and results for their search queries. They don’t just want Yelp reviews of restaurants, they want someone’s real video review, storytelling and all. They don’t just want Google Maps photos (which admittedly do have the “Vibe” category of photos), they want video content that shows the vibe from the perspective of someone they relate to.

And when it comes to general queries and answer-seeking, they don’t want to read through top results or necessarily even the featured results and bullet points that Google can provide- they want videos (60 seconds or less) walking them through the explanation. And on TikTok itself, people feel the results are more tailored to them.

This is why Google is indexing TikTok videos on their SERPs, it’s why people are often turning to TikTok before Google with their questions, and it’s why TikTok now lets brands buy ads that appear in the app’s search results.

One caveat: users still are turning to Google AFTER TikTok to confirm answers when the desire is there or the topic is complex/serious enough to garner followup queries. But it remains clear: more and more users want more personalized, comprehensive (vibe, authentic relatable video) results for all their queries, especially at first, and especially for lighter topics.

So, whether you’re a brand, a creator, or a social advertising nerd, you should know that TikTok SEO (and even social media SEO) is here to stay. Learn about what this means for content, how to know what keywords to choose for different platforms, and how to optimize video content for ranking by downloading our free TikTok SEO guide here.

Or get in touch – we’ll take care of organic SEO or ad campaign content creation for you, all the way from pre-production brand strategy to post-production editing and A/B testing.

Download our Free TikTok Ads 101 Guide

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