TikTok Search - temporary trend or Google killer?

Published Apr 18 2024 Last updated Apr 23 2024 4 minute read
TikTok Search
  • Sean Dougherty
    Written by Sean Dougherty

    A copywriter at Funnel, Sean has more than 15 years of experience working in branding and advertising (both agency and client side). He's also a professional voice actor.

When you want to find something online, you probably head to Google, and rightfully so, since Google accounts for nearly 92% of the global search engine market. However, it's no longer the only option.

TikTok is a personalized video feed platform that has gained significant traction since launching in 2016 — it now has more than 1 billion users across 140+ countries. 

Today, more than two in five Americans use TikTok as a search engine, and around 10% of Gen Zers say they're more likely to use the social platform than Google. 

So, will this search option give Google a run for its money? This guide covers the growing trend and how it applies to your digital marketing strategy. Does this trend warrant a shift in your strategy? Here's what to consider if you want to capitalize on TikTok Search.

TikTok as a search engine and its competitive advantages

Like other social platforms, TikTok constantly updates its features to provide a better app experience. These features focus on the platforms' users, and TikTok is no different. 

While many use TikTok solely for entertainment, it is emerging as a search engine — placing pressure on Google's market share. A once-unexpected contender is now seen as a potential Google competitor alongside YouTube, Bing, and the newest kid on the block — ChatGPT.

Since most users are between 18 and 24, many of the younger users are adopting TikTok Search as their go-to. For example, when traveling to New York City for the first time, a user may head to TikTok Search to seek out restaurant tips. Research from Adobe shows that the most common topics searched on TikTok include:

  • New recipes

  • New music

  • DIY tips

  • Fashion advice

  • Workout routines

  • Beauty advice 

  • Product recommendations 

  • New restaurants/travel experiences

This shift is seen among younger generations, with 64% of Gen Zers and 49% of millennials saying they've used TikTok as a search engine to find relevant results.

Read more: How to set up a TikTok Shop in three steps


Does TikTok have an edge over Google and other search options?

One of the most distinguishing features of TikTok's search capabilities is its format. Video tutorials, product and service reviews, personal stories, trending challenges, and influencer recommendations are particularly popular. 

TikTok Search only lists TikTok videos as search results, whereas Google Search has webpages, YouTube videos, images, and shopping results. While some may see this limited formatting as a disadvantage, it's actually the top reason consumers use TikTok instead of traditional search engines. 

  • The short video format is what 44% like best about TikTok's search engine — this format is digestible and informative. 

  • The storytelling aspect is what 34% like most about TikTok's search capabilities. 

  • Content personalization is what 31% of users like most about this search engine option. 

  • Since TikTok stays on top of the latest trends, 29% like that the information is more current. 

  • The immersive and interactive experience is what 29% like most.

  • This search feature is integrated into users' social media browsing habits, which is what 27% like most.

Other reasons include:

  • It offers unique ideas and perspectives (26%)

  • It provides a sense of community (26%)

  • There are more reviews and experiences (25%)

  • The ability to see products in the real world (24%)

  • It provides accurate, clear information faster (12%)

Is TikTok Search something marketing professionals should consider?

As TikTok Search grows in popularity, it's no surprise business owners are exploring new opportunities.

Based on Adobe's research, 54% of businesses used TikTok for promotion, posting an average of nine times a month. According to business owners, there was TikTok content that outperformed traditional SERPs, including:

  • Video tutorials 

  • Creative content

  • Product or service reviews 

  • Trending challenges or memes

  • Personal stories 

  • Short, digestible slideshows 

  • Guides

  • Interviews or Q&As

  • Influencer recommendations

Based on the untapped potential of TikTok, many SMBs are starting to use the platform as a tool to cater to search intent more effectively. Based on the 251 business owners surveyed, on average, 15% of their marketing budget was spent on TikTok content creation.

TikTok Search shows excellent promise

Social media apps like TikTok reward those who make good content with the features they're trying to push. 

While TikTok already offers an in-app search bar, the platform is working to improve the user experience even further.

In early 2024, TikTok began pushing users to add the Search shortcut — there is plenty of TikTok content on the subject. The platform encourages users to add the TikTok search icon to their home screen, indicating they're taking search seriously.

So, should you take the leap?

Considering that 53% of business owners intend to increase their investment in TikTok marketing in 2025. If your target audience includes regular TikTok users, you should consider this opportunity. 

To ensure an optimal ROI, focus on how you can overcome some of the most commonly reported challenges, including engagement rates and the ability to create quality videos

Invest in TikTok SEO to rank higher in search

If you see the value of TikTok Search for your business, TikTok SEO strategies will remain a critical component of your marketing strategy. 

Here are some TikTok SEO ranking factors:

  • User interactions, including liked, hidden, and favorited videos

  • Video information, such as hashtags and captions

  • Devices and account settings, like country setting or type of mobile device

What's not included in the ranking algorithm? Follower count. So, if you create top-notch content, you could end up on your audience's "For You" page alongside some of the biggest TikTok stars. 

Tip: The best way to see if your TikTok SEO strategy is paying off is to track data. Invest in a platform to automate reporting and transform complex TikTok data into actionable insights.


Will TikTok overtake Google as the go-to search engine?

Based on the available data and discussions with Google executives, it's clear that TikTok is a genuine competitor and a possible threat to Google's business.

Senior Vice President Prabhakar Raghavan, who runs Google's Knowledge & Information organization, acknowledged younger users' social media and video preferences. This demographic is also using TikTok and Instagram instead of Google Maps, further threatening the tech giant's core products.

Raghavan said, "In our studies, almost 40% of young people, when they're looking for a place for lunch, don't go to Google Maps or Search — they go to TikTok or Instagram."

Predicting the future is impossible, but Google seems to be competing with many different companies. In addition to TikTok Search, users can use Gen AI chatbots like ChatGPT to search for information. 

Based on Google's market share, available technology, and ability to pivot, the tech giant isn't going anywhere anytime soon. Google is still the biggest search engine, but certainly not the only option. That's something to consider when tapping into new markets and unique business opportunities. 

Next steps: 12 expert TikTok advertising tips for 2024

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