TikTok famous in 2023? SEO & algorithm tips for viral videos

Jun 26th, 2023

The popular social media app TikTok has started making changes to position itself as a search engine. The new features added by the platform to support this transition include:

  • Expanding caption character limit from 300 to 2200
  • Allowing users to edit captions following the posting of a video
  • Displaying suggested keywords and phrases in its search bar

As TikTok innovates and improves their platform to become more search-centric, it is our job as marketers to adapt our social media and digital marketing strategies to accommodate these changes. If TikTok wants to position itself as a search engine, then perhaps it’s time we started treating it like one by applying similar search engine optimisation (SEO) strategies as we would on traditional search engines.

Applying these strategies to TikTok is important for two main reasons:

  • To boost your organic reach on the platform itself
  • Google have started showing TikToks on their SERPs, using these optimisation tactics can help you rank on the search engine, rather than just the social platform

So can we just take our pre-made SEO strategy for traditional search engines and apply it to TikTok? Not necessarily. There are major differences between TikTok and traditional search engines, and therefore to be successful, our strategies need to be different too.

Visual & video optimisation, rather than text-based

Due to TikTok being a more visual and video-centric platform than traditional search engines, the optimising elements differ between the two. On TikTok it is important to optimise your video, and other visual elements for SEO this includes:

  • In-video text overlay
  • Video title
  • Words spoken within the video

#Hashtags instead of keywords [though keywords are still important!!!]

In the same way that we would use keywords for our traditional search engine content, we would use hashtags for TikTok. Used across several social media platforms, hashtags help users discover content that they either relate to or are searching for. This does not mean, however, that keywords are not important for TikTok SEO; keywords should be used in the textual elements of your TikToks (titles, captions, in-video text overlays) as well as spoken within the video to ensure that your content is found by the relevant audiences [see more on this below]. As a further note, using keywords in your TikToks will help them appear on traditional SERPs.

Measures of success

When it comes to SEO, visibility is key. Whether you are optimising to rank high on a traditional search engine, optimising for the ‘for you page’ (FYP), or to appear on the discover tab – you are essentially trying to make your content as visible as possible for your audience. What differs, is how we measure ‘visibility’ success on each platform.

On TikTok success is measured by engagement with videos (see ranking factors below for more information), whereas on traditional search engines success is measured by appearing as high as possible on the SERP.

There are several aspects that combined will determine how high your TikTok video will rank on the FYP, or TikTok search results. They are as follows:

  • User interactions: the ways in which your TikTok audience interacts with your video, including: likes, comments, shares, favourites, watchtime (but not views).
  • Video content: the different elements embedded into your video including visuals, text overlay, title, hashtags, and sounds.
  • Device type: any information that TikTok can garner from your device including, mobile carrier, time-zone settings, operating system etc.
  • Account settings: such as country, age, language preferences etc.
  • Initial account preferences: upon creating a TikTok account users are directed to choose categories they are interested in. While not as important as user interactions, this plays a part in which videos rank in different fyp categories.
  • Discover page engagement: user engagements with the discover tab such as, clicking on a hashtag, exploring a trending topic, viewing videos that use a specific audio or filter

TikTok ranking factor myths

There are some common misconceptions for factors that are often assumed to be associated with video rank on TikTok, but actually do not contribute. These include:

  • Views: while watchtime is a ranking factor, the amount of views a video has does not have an effect on rank
  • Follower count: the number of followers a TikTok account has has no effect on whether or not their videos will rank.
  • Native content creation: Other social media platforms favour native content (content created in-app), so naturally it is assumed that TikTok follows the same principles, however, TikTok does not list this as an official ranking factor

Videos ineligible to rank

There are some factors that make content ineligible to rank at all, or are flagged by TikTok as inappropriate content, meaning these videos will not appear on the FYP. These are as follows:

  • Content uploaded by users under the age of 16. If you are creating a business account, do not put the ‘age’ of your business if it was established less than 16 years ago.
  • Any violence, nudity or hate speech
  • Inclusion of QR codes within videos
  • Content that manipulates user engagement
  • Duplicated content, either from TikTok or another social platform
  • Displays of dangerous stunts, if these are not performed by professionals
  • Any feature of tobacco or alcohol products
  • Content that could be considered spam
  • Anything that could be classed as endangering minor safety
  • Overly sexualised content

Previously, social media posts were not indexed on traditional search engines, and would not appear on SERPs. As preferences shift to a more visual search experience, search engines have started including relevant images or videos in their results.

Google search results page showing TikTok results for "lunch places London" TikTok search results showing TikTok results for "food haul"

Keywords are important for any SEO strategy, so it goes without saying that you need a strong keyword strategy for your TikTok account. Traditional keyword research tools are a good place to start, as they will let you know which keywords are ranking on traditional SERPs, such as Google. It is important, however, to conduct further research as the keywords produced by these tools are not necessarily the ones trending on TikTok.

To counter this, many people are using a method where they start with a root keyword from the keyword research tools, and then do further research in the TikTok app itself to see what is trending. For example the root key word might be ‘lunch’; using this keyword you would type it into the discover tab followed by the letter ‘a’ and then note down some of the trending topics that might be relevant to you. Keep doing this with every letter of the alphabet until you have your keywords.

TikTok search page showing keywords that come up when you type in "lunch a" TikTok search page showing keywords that come up when you type in "lunch h" TikTok search page showing keywords that come up when you type in "lunch p"

Other ways of getting an understanding of what keywords are trending on TikTok would be to use TikTok’s creative centre to discover the hashtags, songs, creators and videos currently trending in your industry and location.

…or you can use TikTok’s keyword insights tool to see what keywords are trending, and the change in popularity of each keyword over the selected time period (for example in the screenshot below shows the change in the last 7 days).

Using this tool you can either:

  • Search for a specific keyword to see its current popularity, any recent changes in popularity (whether it is increasing, maintaining, or decreasing) and its clickthrough rate


  • Simply look at the keywords trending filtered by a combination of location, industry, objective, keyword type, and date range.

Once you have your keywords you need to incorporate them into your content. Just like with traditional SEO you will want your keywords to appear in certain areas of your video content:

Captions: TikTok has recently expanded their caption character limit from 300 words to 2200 words. This allows creators to be more imaginative when describing the content within their video; meaning there is more room to incorporate keywords into captions, alongside up to 5 relevant hashtags, all contributing to more ‘searchable’ content.

In-video text overlays: Text embedded in videos is also taken into consideration to decide which videos are relevant to an audience – therefore it is important to use your keywords in this way.

TOP TIP – if there are keywords that you would like to include within the video, but you feel like you already have too much text on-screen, this trick might be for you! You can type your keywords into the in-text overlay, but then drag the text ‘off-screen’ – this means users will not see those keywords on the video itself, but the TikTok algorithm will identify them and push your content out to relevant audiences.

Titles: Just like with traditional SEO, it is important to include your keywords in your titles.

Spoken word: Normally you would incorporate your keyword within the body of your text if you were writing a blog post, or a guide for example. In a similar way, since TikTok consists of video based content, it is important to speak your keyword out loud within the video. Speech can be analysed to determine whether the keyword is included in the content, and again will be then shown to relevant audiences.

As TikTok continues to make changes to position themselves as a search engine, it is important that as marketers we are aware of these changes and adapt our strategies accordingly. TikTok SEO is becoming an essential part of your digital marketing strategy, so understanding which methods can be used to gain results is vital.

TikTok’s machine learning algorithm will grasp a better understanding of your offering the more you adhere to your TikTok SEO strategy, and will therefore display your content to relevant users. Following the steps in this article will help boost your engagement, and take your brand from TikTok lame to TikTok fame.

Is 2023 the year your brand will become TikTok famous? Let Click Consult help!

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