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Is TikTok a Search Engine? The Google vs TikTok Debate

Posted In: Digital by Connor,
January 2, 2024


TikTok vs Google – the debate we’re homing in on. TikTok has taken on other social media platforms, and now it’s gunning for search engines. In this blog, our SEO consultant, Zoe Perkin, shares her take on whether TikTok is a search engine.

Do people use TikTok like Google?

Yes! TikTok is being used as a search engine, primarily by Gen Z. The platform has started to embody SEO principles, delivering helpful and relevant content to searchers. In fact, a survey of a Gen Z audience by Search Engine Land found that 51% of respondents preferred Google to TikTok when searching. Read on to find out how TikTok are using this new audience to their advantage.

How is TikTok a search engine?

TikTok can be considered a search engine due to some of the features that it displays, such as suggested search. We listed some of the ways that the social media platform does this:

1. Suggested search

TikTok’s algorithm suggests search terms when you go to the search bar. This includes trending searches across the platform, as well as topics related to your own past searches. This strategy encourages users to spend more time on the platform and consume more media.

2. Search history

Users are able to easily see what they previously searched for. New content is uploaded frequently, so users may see new content that they missed before. This also allows people to revisit the content they liked, increasing the time spent on the app and the prospect of shareability.

3. Related searches

Once you’ve entered a search term, other related searches are visible on the videos within the results. For example, if you type in ‘marketing tips’, you might be prompted to search for ‘social media marketing’ or ‘marketing strategy’ on other videos. This leads users down a rabbit hole of content, keeping them on TikTok.

Is TikTok beating Google as a search engine?

In our opinion, TikTok isn’t beating Google as a search engine. Google is primarily a search engine, whereas TikTok is a social media platform. Although it is possible to be both a social media platform and a search engine, specialisms are important.

How will TikTok impact Google?

Although it’s doubtful that TikTok will replace Google as a search engine any time soon, the search engine can learn a few things from them. We predict that Google could start to implement the following, inspired by TikTok:

1. Snackable content prioritised

Google already does this, but they could do better. Snackable content can be digested quickly, able to be understood in a few moments. Currently, Google prioritises content that is helpful, telling people exactly what they need to know in relation to their search term. However, this could go one step further. According to the survey by Search Engine Land, 69% of participants that preferred TikTok to Google did so because of the video format of the results. There is scope for Google to start showing short videos in the default main search, experimenting with different types of content that go further than the written word.

2. Reassessed related searches

When it comes to frequently asked questions, Google is king. The platform selects questions that ‘people also ask’ to pull snippets of information from articles. Related searches are also usually provided, but can be commonly found half way down the results page. However, Google can learn from TikTok’s enhanced visibility of related searches. The best way to do this would be to have the related searches at the top of the results page, which people can then click to search. This sends users down a tunnel of information gathering, keeping them exploring on Google.

3. Heightened focus on trustworthy content

Trustworthy content is Google’s biggest superpower over TikTok. TikTok’s algorithm favours content that has the most user engagement, but this can mean that click-bait videos are prioritised. In contrast, Google’s algorithm prioritises content that is expert, authoritative and trustworthy. This means that users get results that are reliable. In future, we predict that Google will place even more of a focus onto trustworthy content, to get ahead of TikTok.

So, is TikTok a search engine? When it comes to the Google vs TikTok battle, we believe that Google will stay on top. TikTok is first and foremost a social media platform, whereas Google has unrivalled knowledge on the search engine side of things. However, Google should take TikTok’s popularity with GenZ search engine users as a stark warning – they need to up their game.

If you want to learn more about the power of search engine optimisation from a Leeds based marketing agency with in-house SEO experts, click here Work With Us or pick up the old dog and bone 0113 394 8990! 




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