Is TikTok a search engine? Why assembly searchers’ wants issues greater than semantics


The controversy round whether or not TikTok must be thought-about a search engine continues to divide the web optimization neighborhood.

However right here’s the factor – customers don’t care about definitions or technicalities. For a lot of, particularly youthful audiences, TikTok is a go-to place to go looking and uncover info.

So, whereas we argue semantics inside the web optimization neighborhood, manufacturers that aren’t contemplating TikTok as a part of their search technique threat shedding visibility and engagement alternatives.

Let’s discover why customers aren’t curious about our jargon-fuelled definitions and why they deal with TikTok as a search engine. 

The shift in search engine dynamics

As SEOs, we historically see a search engine as a system designed to conduct internet searches. It crawls by means of the net systematically to find particular info laid out in a search question. 

The basic examples embrace giants like Google and Microsoft Bing. These platforms index and rank webpages primarily based on key phrases, backlinks and different components, presenting them in an ordered listing in response to consumer queries.

Nevertheless, the idea of what constitutes a search engine is evolving quickly. Whereas we’re arguing over which platforms are literally search engines like google, customers are simply looking – all over the place.

This evolution is not only within the expertise that powers search engines like google but additionally of their type and performance. Siri, Alexa, TikTok, Pinterest, Reddit, ChatGPT, Gemini (previously Bard), and SGE signify this shift.

Platforms not historically thought-about search engines like google at the moment are fulfilling related roles to the likes of Google and Bing. So far as customers are involved, they’re doing so extra successfully. They see these platforms as search engines like google, so why can’t SEOs?

And, please, don’t take my phrase for it.

Gen Z customers favor extra personalised, algorithm-led social networks (48%) over search engines like google (44%) when on the lookout for details about manufacturers, services or products, per WARC’s 2023 Shopper Developments report (subscription required).

This shift is broadening the definition of a search engine, for my part. It ought to signify an innovation in executing search advertising and marketing methods and interested by platforms.

Central to this transformation is consumer habits. The best way folks seek for info has modified dramatically.

There’s a rising choice for fast, concise, and visually participating content material, particularly inside these Gen Z and Millennial audiences (which are usually my focus).

We’ve all seen the “40% of younger folks, once they’re on the lookout for a spot for lunch, they don’t go to Google Maps or Search. They go to TikTok or Instagram” quote by Prabhakar Raghavan, Senior VP at Google.

On the subject of consumer habits, these youthful audiences worth these platforms’ pace, comfort, and relatability, typically preferring the visible and interactive content material format TikTok affords.

Dig deeper. Survey: 51% of Gen Z girls want TikTok, not Google, for search

Get the each day publication search entrepreneurs depend on.

web optimization as we speak: Assembly customers the place they’re

Somebody may seek for a cooking tutorial on TikTok as an alternative of Google. Maybe they’re looking for extra than simply the recipe.

They is likely to be within the platform’s participating presentation, improved consumer expertise, and neighborhood side. This could possibly be as a result of sure searches are suited to visible content material or as a result of their reference to a selected creator.

Engines like google are now not nearly indexing and retrieving internet content material. They should meet customers the place they’re and within the format they like – and Google acknowledges this shift.

In response to those developments, “Views” has been created to problem these platforms (TikTok, Instagram, Reddit) and their search capabilities and produce customers again to a Google SERP for these kinds of queries. Google additionally lately has been testing TikTok movies in SGE and featured snippets.

E-E-A-T has been iterated, putting extra emphasis on the first-hand expertise of content material and its creator. This can be a essential issue driving folks to different platforms within the first place. This reveals an additional dedication to enhancing the relatability and trustworthiness of content material options.

Dig deeper: The fashionable search panorama: How and the place to succeed in your target market

What truly issues 

This debate can drag on endlessly, with arguments over semantics and definitions attempting to sway folks to at least one aspect. Nevertheless, this gained’t make a distinction for our manufacturers.

As an alternative, we must be seeking to our audiences to information us. As a result of, as a lot as we are able to argue TikTok isn’t a search platform, if audiences are looking there and your model isn’t current, you permit invaluable visibility on the desk.

In the end, we must always prioritize activations on the platform that finest meets our model’s strategic wants and develop search content material there.

If that leads to a TikTok search technique, nice.

If we as an alternative focus solely on Google as a result of that’s what will transfer the needle, then implausible.

It might even be a mix of them each, leveraging a extra holistic “search all over the place” method.

The important thing right here is to not flip down a platform as a result of it doesn’t meet your definition for a search engine proper now. As a result of whereas we’re debating about this, a model competitor is probably going executing these observations and gaining visibility.

In the end, as has at all times been the case, it’s not our job to dictate to customers the content material they have to eat and the place they need to eat it. 

Relatively, we react to the alerts offered by our audiences and create the content material options they want within the format they count on them to seem. 

And, in an increasing search universe, on the platforms, they’re conducting such searches. 

Dig deeper: Search universe evaluation: A deep dive

Opinions expressed on this article are these of the visitor writer and never essentially Search Engine Land. Employees authors are listed right here.


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