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  • Writer's pictureMordy Oberstein

Is TikTok A Search Engine?

Is TokTok a search engine? It's a more complex question than you might think. Limor Barenholtz joins the SEO Rant Podcast to share her view on TikTok as a search engine:

  • How do you define a search engine?

  • Can you really do SEO on TikTok?

  • Does TikTok present a threat to Google?

TikTok, Search Engines, and SEO

Various accounts have indicated that young people are flocking to platforms like TikTiok as means for discovering information (as opposed to going to a traditional search engine). This, of course, brings up the question, is TikTok a search engine?

I guess it depends on how you look at it.

Do you define a search engine by how the user engages with the platform? If so, there's a strong argument to say that TikTok is very much a search engine.

Do you define a search engine by how it functions, namely information retrieval? Then I guess TikTok is a social media platform primarily but does have search-engine-Esque functionality when engaged in a certain way... much the way anything with internal search functionality would be. In this case, formally, no TikTok is not a search engine.

But what if we define a search engine as that which one can do SEO on? Would TikTok be a search engine? According to Limor, no. There seems to be a very limited number of things you can do "on page" to influence the TikTok algorithm (I don't personally know, as I've never created a TikTok anything before and probably never will). I guess in this way it's like saying you can do "Twitter SEO" - which would essentially mean getting more likes, retweets, and comments. That's not much in terms of "optimization" - that's more about influencing user behaviors.

Does TikTok Present a Threat To Google?

In the immediate sense, no, TikTok is not a real competitor to the search engine. While I'm not sure Limor would agree, I do think social media platforms being used as a replacement for search engines is a concern for Google long term. This goes more into how people choose to consume content and information than it does with TikTok being a search engine. To me, that's semantics in a lot of ways. The next generation has been raised to look towards social media in a primary way that's never really been seen before. I would bet on the search engines trying to incorporate more social content onto their SERPs in response. We've already seen this with Google adding elements like the TikTok "carousels."

I think the deeper question here is what does it say about content expectations that the young people are looking to social first? Content creators are going to have to tap into that underlying desire and search engines are going to have to find ways to showcase that sort of content if indeed that is the content expectation among the general web populace.




For more of the SEO Rant Podcast check out our previous episode on SEO growth velocity


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