Is TikTok the Next Google?

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Is TikTok the Next Google?

While many young internet users use TikTok to search for various information, the entire SEO community is rocked by a debatable question: Is TikTok classified as a search engine?  


It’s a question that drives the community in a gridlock of opposing arguments. But here’s the thing: users don’t care about technical definitions. In this SEO Premier blog, we will unpack the reason behind TikTok swiftly becoming the go-to search engines of many users, especially Gen Z.  

The Massive Search Engine Shift 

If you’ve been a digital marketing professional for quite a while, you do have firm notions about what exactly a search engine is: Apart from the frontrunner Google, Yahoo and Microsoft Bing also come to mind. It’s any system designed to conduct searches on the web. On the backend, search engines crawl through the web, index the information contained in every page, and locate the specific information if triggered by an appropriate search query.  


There are countless factors why web pages rank on search engines. Search engines consider keywords, content, backlinks and others to present an ordered list of results following a search.  


But while we are divided over this topic, users seem to ignore the ruckus and just search using anything, anywhere!  


It turns out, platforms that aren’t traditionally search engines have started mirroring search engine-like capabilities in their feature. Social media giants like TikTok. Pinterest, Reddit have done such, as well as AI generative tools like ChatGPT and Gemini. Gen Z users favour more personalised, algorithm-based social networks like the examples, which is no surprise that they flock to them for quick yield of information. Visually engaging content like reels are the preferred content format especially for Millennial and Gen Z users.  


For example, according to Prabhakar Raghavan, Senior VP at Google, when people look for a place to eat, 40% of young people no longer visit Google Search or Google Maps. They either go to TikTok or Instagram. To these younger audiences, they put a premium on speed and convenience. Hence, the growing preference  

What this means to the SEO Community 

If there is a takeaway here, it’s that search engines are no longer about merely indexing and pulling together text content from the web. Search engines, or those platforms that try to develop search engine features, must adapt to the needs of the users - what they want and in what format they prefer the content to be in.  


In the case of TikTok, a lot of users like the platform’s visually appealing presentation, trendy music, improved user experience, a host of influential content creators, and the community engagement. It helps that certain searches are suited to audio-visual content, rather than just text.  


The SEO community can ramble on and on about TikTok not being a search engine, but if a huge segment of users use it that way, brands that are slow to pivot sacrifice their visibility in these platforms. As digital marketing professionals, we put our ears on the ground and react to the signals and behaviour of the users, and not impose how they must interact with a platform.

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