Social media SEO: TikTok as a search engine?

Young woman using a smartphone for social media at a desk with a laptop and indoor plants in the background.

We all know that SEO is an essential part of content marketing, but did you know there are clever ways to intertwine SEO into your social media strategy too? Biteable’s Growth Marketing Manager and social media guru, Haily Moulton, joined our VP of Marketing, Mike Wong, on the Video Vantage podcast to chat all things SEO on social media. 

Catch the full episode below, or keep reading to learn everything you need to know about the emergence of TikTok as a search engine and social media SEO.

Is TikTok the new Google?

Have you ever used TikTok as a search engine? Video Vantage’s Gen X rep, Mike, hadn’t. Still, according to the New York Times, TikTok is quickly becoming Gen Z’s preferred way to find information. Which tracks, as Millennial rep Haily admits to finding all her best recipes and restaurant recs from searching TikTok. 

Google itself agrees. “In our studies, something like 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,” says Prabhakar Raghavan, a Google Senior Vice President. 

Does that mean younger generations are ready to ditch Google altogether for bite-sized video results instead? It doesn’t seem likely. Although Haily (and Mike’s Gen Z kids) dabble in a TikTok search from time to time, “I definitely still default to Google for other things — I’m more familiar with it.” 

Not only is TikTok acting as a search engine in and of itself, but Google now includes TikToks and YouTube shorts in search results. What does that mean for social media optimization? New opportunities for your TikTok content to be discovered on Google. Thanks, Google!

Smartphone screen displaying a search history list with queries about lunch ideas, things to do, brunch, dinner ideas, vegan recipes, social media SEO, and resume formats.

What’s the benefit of searching on TikTok?

Google loyalists may wonder why anyone would want to use TikTok as a search engine. According to Haily, “With something like a recipe, it’s helpful to see the step-by-step. It’s pretty convenient to have it all in one spot.” 

In terms of something less tutorial-y, Haily says it’s all about authenticity. Using a local restaurant recommendation TikTok as an example, Haily says, “It’s more than just a text-based summary; you can really see the environment, the food they’re eating, you can see how they felt about it in real-time. It feels more trustworthy.”  

Although both Haily and Mike noted that the success of your TikTok search will depend on what you’re looking for. You’ll likely have luck with things like local recommendations, recipes, and resume tips. For other things, “It can be hit and miss,” says Haily. “TikTok is certainly not as reliable as Google for accurate search results.”

Are there downsides to using TikTok for search?

As with any social media search, the biggest risk with using TikTok for search is the ability for misinformation to spread quickly. 

“And that’s not unique to TikTok,” notes Haily, “it’s just easier on TikTok since all that information is given to you right there.” 

Mike agrees, adding that searchers need to be aware of the risks when searching on TikTok and take the time to fact-check where necessary. “The onus is on the searcher to fact-check.”

How does TikTok rank content in the app?

As a content creator, it’s important to stay up-to-date on what factors a social platform uses to rank its content. For TikTok, the app looks at a few factors from the video itself when ranking content for search. According to Haily, the main factors TikTok looks at are: 

  • The video’s content 
  • The audio (bonus points for saying your keywords out loud!)
  • The on-screen text 
  • Description text 

TikTok ‘listens’ to spoken audio and ‘reads’ the text in and around your TikTok to understand your content’s topic. They use this information and other factors like your TikTok’s popularity and watch analytics to rank your content in search results and on For You Pages. 

Can you request that a TikTok doesn’t show up on Google?

Currently, there’s no option to tag a TikTok as noindex. The only way to hide a TikTok from search engine results is to set your account to private or “friends only.”

The best social media platforms for SEO

For anyone looking to grow their audience online, Haily suggests YouTube and TikTok as the best social media platforms for SEO.


“YouTube is so SEO heavy,” Haily explains. “It’s owned by Google, so it makes sense. It’s a video-based Google.” 

But that’s not to say getting your foot in the door is easy. “YouTube is a difficult platform to grow on,” Haily admits. The sheer amount of content you’re up against can make it challenging to get seen, but there are always tools and tactics to help you get off the ground.

“YouTube Shorts is a great option, or going live,” Haily shares. “Websites like TubeBuddy can help you optimize your content and generate content ideas, too.” 


After YouTube, Haily recommends TikTok as a powerful platform for SEO. “It’s where Gen Z is,” Haily explains. “There’s a huge opportunity to reach a younger audience.” 

Compared to other ‘pay to play’ social platforms, TikTok’s algorithms are still reasonably friendly to content creators in the process of building an audience. 

“The For You Page is so catered to what people are watching,” Haily says. “It’s a great way to get your content in front of an interested, targeted audience.” 

As for other platforms, like Instagram and Facebook, Haily wouldn’t suggest prioritizing SEO there. “TikTok is what Instagram used to be,” she explains. Instead, Haily recommends repurposing your Shorts or TikToks for Reels.

The key takeaways

  • Gen Z is searching on TikTok
  • Optimize your TikToks for search by using keywords in your:
    • Audio 
    • On-screen text 
    • Description 
  • Fact-check your TikTok news
  • Use YouTube and TikTok to grow your socials with SEO

Keep up with what’s new in marketing each week on the Video Vantage podcast

See the difference video makes in your content strategy with a free 7 day Biteable trial. 


Make stunning videos
with ease.

Take the struggle out of team communication.

Try Biteable now.