TikTok Introduces Shortcut and AI to Promote Searches

TikTok Introduces Shortcut and AI to Promote Searches

TikTok, the short video-based social media platform, is looking to expand beyond content creation and posting. The social media giant is introducing users to a dedicated search shortcut, which they’re prompted to add to their device’s home screen. This recent push is to support TikTok’s effort to generate more in-app searches and user engagement. 

More than an innovation for user experience, this AI-based feature will potentially be transformative for businesses utilizing the social media platform and search engine optimization (SEO) for marketing purposes. In this article, we’ll explore the new integrative TikTok search engine and the world of discovery it opens for users and businesses.

TikTok AI Search Shortcut: What It Is

TikTok AI search shortcut

Welcome to more streamlined content discovery. True to its name, TikTok shortcuts make searching quicker and simpler than ever – without even needing to navigate to the relevant area in their app. TikTok users download and add the shortcut to their home screen, enabling the ability to search for content based on their interests. How does it work? Artificial intelligence, or AI, pulls relevant content from videos and text, including video topics and titles, captions, hashtags, and descriptions.

This move towards AI is a big one for TikTok, potentially serving as a catalyst for creating a full shopping destination. Take Douyin, known as the Chinese TikTok, for example. Users can already search in-app for restaurants, local businesses, other entertainment, and even order food. They’re also experimenting with generative AI search, a search-and-answer service that offers users quick and comprehensive answers to their questions that include videos along with information and links to third-party websites.

While a transformative experience for the average user, TikTok AI could also prove to be an invaluable tool for businesses as it progresses.

The Evolution of the TikTok Search Engine

If you’re a veteran TikTok user, you know that search on TikTok is nothing new. They already offer an existing – and increasingly popular – search functionality in their app. Where this TikTok shortcut differs, however, is that it poses even more serious competition to Google and other search engines. Google Senior Vice President Prabhakar Raghavan acknowledged the threat, sharing that younger audiences were turning to Instagram and TikTok search engines rather than Google. 

That’s not to say that Google is on its way out; it remains the top search engine worldwide, averaging between 86 to 96% of the market share. But younger generations, particularly those in Gen Z and followed by Millennials, have grown to use TikTok to find information more often than other platforms.

This implication is significant – not just for Google, but for businesses looking to connect with this younger demographic. Considering this growth, one thing is certain: if you aren’t yet utilizing a TikTok strategy for SEO, you should.

The New Google?

While it may be too soon to tell, TikTok is undoubtedly on its way. Aside from TikTok AI, the app has already enabled the use of keywords. They also have their own feature, Keyword Insights, which highlights top-performing keywords and phrases for businesses – not unlike Google. And if you need further convincing for TikTok’s impact on SEO, we should point out that TikTok videos and descriptions now show up in search engine results pages (SERPs) – including featured snippets and search generative experience (SGE), which uses generative AI. This is all the more reason why it’s beneficial to have an SEO strategy behind your TikTok content.

Why – and How to – Use TikTok for SEO 

The TikTok shortcut feature opens the door for increased optimization of content, making it extremely beneficial for businesses to take advantage of a TikTok marketing strategy in addition to their other SEO marketing plans. 

With a strategic plan for TikTok AI, you can increase your visibility and discoverability (i.e. more appearances on users’ For You Page), get more views and followers on TikTok, boost engagement, and increase search visibility in Google, to name a few benefits.

Currently, TikTok considers three factors to rank well for their algorithm: user interactions, video information, and device settings.

User interactions: This includes any accounts you follow, liked videos, comments, shares, or favorites. The reverse applies – if your content is relevant and has engagement, the more likely it is it’ll be recommended to users.

Video Information: Information includes captions, sounds (e.g., songs or audio used in your video), hashtags, subtitles/text on screen, and captions for the post. TikTok AI looks for posts that contain relevant keywords, which in turn are suggested to those searching for that type of content.

Device and Account Settings: This includes country, language preferences, and device type. Keep in mind that this carries less weight compared to other factors in their recommendation system.

Leveraging TikTok AI

With the introduction of the TikTok search engine, video information is poised to become even more vital to businesses engaging in a strategy on the platform. How can brands leverage TikTok’s new shortcut? It can vary based on goals, such as whether you’re looking to increase visibility on TikTok or boost your ranking on Google. However, the key takeaway is to use highly relevant keywords in titles, captions, hashtags, and spoken audio (if any) so they can be pulled by TikTok AI. 

Canva 5 font combinations for presentations TikTok video still

One great example of a brand using this strategy is Canva, the photo and video editor. They consistently use on-screen captions and titles with keywords/phrases relevant to their brand on their account. 

Canva TikTok video caption with hashtags

Posts like “5 Font Combinations for Presentations” have both on-screen text and hashtags enabling Canva’s content to be placed at the forefront for users that have either searched the phrase or indicated an interest in their features – on the TikTok search engine and Google.

5 tips for a mindful morning TikTok video still from Macy’s

It’s also worthwhile to integrate optimized website content with social media. For example, a blog post could discuss a topic related to one of your TikTok videos with keywords included in the headings and content. This could be anything from tips and how-to’s to trends in your industry. Macy’s regularly posts this type of content on TikTok, offering viewers fashion and style trends and must-have items for traveling and holidays. Your video could also be embedded so the content could double as SEO for Google and TikTok.

Another example would be to use a TikTok video to address optimized FAQs from your website. A TikTok video optimized for keywords and content (similar to Canva’s use of keywords on-screen) would help to increase reach, especially within your target audience. Remember that the TikTok AI search pulls answers from videos, text, and websites, so your content would effectively work hand-in-hand with their new search shortcut.

How the TikTok Shortcut Has Shifted SEO

Prior to the introduction of the TikTok search engine, businesses and brands could always have engaged in SEO on the platform. But their use of AI has completely changed the game, so to speak. As a visual platform, TikTok SEO has revolved around optimizing videos (and hashtags), rather than primarily focusing on text-based content like traditional SEO. 

TikTok AI introduced a new layer of complexity to brand strategies, broadening their SEO to include the same text-based/keyword content of traditional SEO. It’s important to also note that value is another vital component to TikTok’s success. According to TikTok, all of the factors to get recommended on their social media platform are weighted based on user value. This means that while optimization (i.e. hashtags or trending sounds) is critical to TikTok AI, so is creating content that users watch from start to finish. 

This aligns with TikTok’s goals to maintain strong user engagement and keep users on the app for as long as possible.

The Future of TikTok

What does the future have in store for TikTok? While only time can tell, we can take a look at Douyin. Their generative AI search – enabling discovery inside and outside of the app – is revolutionary. AI has taken TikTok a step in the same direction as its Chinese counterpart by offering increased search optimization. Should their search functionality also extend beyond their app, TikTok’s shortcut could potentially change the entire digital landscape.

Making TikTok Work For Your Brand

More than a source for endless scrolling and entertainment, TikTok has solidified its position as a worthy competitor against Google – and a viable tool for SEO. Some quick tips to get started utilizing TikTok AI for your brand:

Understand What Your Audience is Searching For: Similar to traditional SEO, understanding your audience, including their interests, is essential. Strengthen your brand identity and provide value with content that addresses their needs and answers any questions.

Research and Use Relevant Keywords: Increase discoverability on the TikTok search engine through the use of relevant hashtags and keywords in your video – including on-screen or in descriptions.

Integrate Traditional and TikTok SEO: Get indexed by TikTok and Google by integrating your two strategies, such as through blog posts or FAQs.

For help getting started with, or optimizing your TikTok and taking advantage of their new AI, reach out to the experts at Coalition Technologies. Our exceptional experience with ecommerce and lead gen businesses has made us the best at what we do across many different platforms.

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