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Tiktok as a search engine with Annie-Mai Hodge

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Show notes:

In this week's episode, Jack Chambers-Ward is joined by Annie-Mai Hodge, Head of Brand Development at Atlas SEO and founder of Girl Power Marketing. Jack & Annie-Mai discuss:

  • How Tiktok is being used as a search engine (and by who!)
  • What data can we get from Tiktok?
  • What are the 'ranking factors' for Tiktok videos?
  • Are Tiktok videos appearing on Google SERPs?
  • Can you trust the information you find when you search on Tiktok?

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Transcript

Jack: Welcome to episode 29 of season two of the Search With Candor Podcast. I am your host Jack Chambers-Ward. And this week I am joined by a very special guest, Annie-Mai Hodge, the head of brand development at Atlas SEO and the founder of Girl Power Marketing UK.

Search With Candor is supported by SISTRIX, the SEO's toolbox. Go to SISTRIX.com/SWC, if you want to check out some of their fantastic free tools such as their Instagram hashtag generator, HF Lang validator, check out your site's visibility index, and your Google update tracker. Go to SISTRIX.com/trends to sign up for the monthly trend watch newsletter and SISTRIX.com.com/blog to find the latest sector watch and index watch. And we'll actually be talking about some index watch later on in the show.

So welcome to the show Annie-Mai.

Annie-Mai: Thank you for having me. It's really cool to be here.

Jack: It's a pleasure to have you. We've talked about you coming on the show for a while. We've teased it to the listeners for a few weeks, because we keep talking about TikTok.

Annie-Mai: We do.

Jack: TikTok keeps coming up on the show and my co-host Mark doesn't know anything about TikTok, so I thought I'd bring in the specialist, the expert of TikTok.

Annie-Mai: Why thank you.

Jack: So if the listeners don't know who you are, please do introduce yourself. What you've been up to recently, what you do in your day job and what we're going to be talking about basically.

Annie-Mai: So I'm the head of brand development at Atlas SEO, but I started my career doing social media. I'm only 24. So I've literally been doing social media since I could have a job. And obviously growing up that's all I've been on. So I feel like I know social media through and through. A couple of months ago, I realized that my search behavior on TikTok had changed, which to some of you may sound like a really odd thing to notice when you're just chilling, browsing on social media. So I decided to run a poll on Girl Power, which is a company that I founded back in lockdown actually. I kind of was transitioning from my old job as a project manager, and I wanted to do a lot more with social media. So I thought I'd kind of document my journey and that's kind of how Girl Power was born.

Annie-Mai: And it's grown into a community of 20,000 followers over Instagram and LinkedIn.

Jack: Congratulations.

Annie-Mai: Thank you. Yeah, we hit 16K on LinkedIn specifically yesterday. So that was a really cool milestone, but I kind of wanted to see if anyone else was talking about it. So I ran a poll to see if my audience were using it as a search engine, and surprisingly over 56% of my audience were already using it as a search engine and they were aware of it as well.

Jack: That's really interesting coming from my perspective, I'm bit olden than you, I'm 31, and me and my wife have gotten into this habit of sharing TikTok videos with each other throughout the day. Just kind of whatever comes up on your for you page. And, oh, that's funny, I'll share that with my wife. She'll watch it on her lunch break. I'll watch it on my lunch break, that kind of thing. And I never really thought about it until fairly recently, until this discussion we're going to be kind of be diving into. I never really thought about it as much of a search engine kind of thing. I always treated it as social media and just kind of a scroll and browse and never really thought about it. But your article that you published I think was early June?

Annie-Mai: It was, yeah.

Jack: So yeah, going back quite a few weeks now, a couple of months almost, it was really at that kind of early stages of everybody suddenly talking about TikTok as a search engine. And that's exactly why I wanted to bring you on the show because you are at that kind of ahead of the curve, cutting edge kind of thing, and talking about it and from your own experience, how did your searches shift and how did you go and then kind of notice that?

Annie-Mai: So I think in lockdown, I don't know if it was noticeable that people were using it as search engines, because there wasn't really anything to do in lockdown as we were coming out of things. And the world is kind of getting back to normal, wherever normal is. I realized that I was always searching for like UK holidays or I was searching for places to go wherever I was traveling to.

Jack: You do like a “things to do in [city]” or whatever? Yeah. So like the top five things to do in London, sort of thing. Because when I was Googling things and clicking on a website, I had to troll through what felt like a million ads to get to the point and with my attention span, which I think is a big thing to do with the fact that gen Z are using TikTok as a search engine, I can get top five places to go in 15 seconds, 30 seconds. And then I can kind of verify that information however I want to. Whether that's on YouTube or if I want to Google it. So I kind of noticed that I was doing that more. So I started writing my article after talking to my colleagues at Atlas SEO about it because they don't really use TikTok. So just thought, oh, start writing an article after running my poll and yeah. And since then it's snowballed. I feel like everyone's talking about it and people are getting very opinionated about whether it's a search engine or not. I've seen a lot of talk on Twitter about how even if you just ... If gen Z are using it to search for lunch, that's not really what a search engine is. I think people are just trying to be a bit controversial if I'm honest, or just not accepting the fact that TikTok can be used as a search engine, perhaps not traditionally, but in the same way that YouTube is also yet used as a search engine and Pinterest.

Jack: Pinterest is an interesting thing because I think I only really got into that when I was planning my wedding. So I could keep track of what color suit do I want to have, planning my wedding ring, all this kind of stuff thinking about. I'd never thought to dive into Pinterest at all, but it comes up all the time. So many times I'm using that site operator of like minus pinterest.com and search for everything else. Because I always found that Pinterest was this middle person kind of thing, where you would click on an image and then it would take you to Pinterest and then it would link to your final destination was like, I just want to go to the final destination. And I think you're totally right. That kind of attention span, instant access to information you get from TikTok is that top of the funnel search, right? It's not going to be hugely converting, we will get on bit of TikTok ads and stuff later on, but it's that initial things to do. And like you said, you then go and verify that on another platform, whether that's YouTube or Googling it or Google maps or whatever it is. I think that's really interesting and you're totally right because everybody was kind of fighting back against that. Some of the SEO old guard, naming no names on Twitter, we're arguing about it and say, ah, it's just social media. It's just the kids doing the things and whatever. That's not a proper search engine.

Annie-Mai: Yeah.

Jack: And I saw Search Engine Journal covered it. Semrush have been talking about it. TechCrunch have dived in now. We've had YouTube executives like senior vice presidents of YouTube talking about it as well. It's getting a lot of coverage and it's a really interesting conversation because I think no one would consider Twitter a search engine. Instagram, yeah little bit. Again, we'll get onto this later on as well, things like reels and how the shift very controversially from Instagram recently and from Facebook side of things that they're moving towards a more video based platform rather than an image based platform, trying to compete with TikTok, I guess in a way.

Jack: But it's very interesting to me and I think we've even kind of gone through and had a look at some of ... Some people have been analyzing internal documents from TikTok about how they handle their things with an analysis of their algorithms from Search Engine Journal as well. And it's very interesting to see how kind of personalized it is on one side of things, but also is actually functioning as a discovery tool as well. I think that's kind of what separates it for me from something like Instagram and something like Twitter and more social media is, there feels like there's that instant kind of gratification of search straight away.

Annie-Mai: Yeah, absolutely. And like you said about the personalization, you've got the for you page, which is your homepage. Which TikTok's algorithm is so incredibly smart that it grows with you. So you could be interested in cooking for a couple of months and get loads of cooking videos pop up on your feed. But then if you start searching for makeup ideas, for example, you'll start getting loads of makeup tips coming up on your feed.

Jack: I know my wife does. She's very into makeup.

Annie-Mai: Yeah. And I think that's what's kind of separates it for me from the likes of YouTube, for instance, as another kind of video based search engine is that it feels very personal. It feels like the results are kind of what you are already looking at or have kind of been interested in before. And it's just really interesting that like you said, no one used Twitter as a search engine. We may search on there, but no one really considers that search and no one's talking about it, but all of a sudden over the last couple of months, there has been Google releasing internal data about yet 40% of gen Z using it as a search engine. Which is an incredible amount if you think about it.

Jack: Yeah. Anytime we talk about percentage, we always say this on the show, but you're talking about percentage of people using search engines or percentage of searches. You're instantly talking about millions and millions of things. You say like, oh it's only changed by 2%. That's 2% of 8.5 trillion or whatever it is. These absolutely enormous numbers, say 40% is absolutely massive.

Annie-Mai: Huge. Yeah. I think the fact those 40% are aware that they're using it as a search engine because I think like you said, sometimes you may not realize that using it as search and some people might not understand that if you are searching for top things to do in London, you're still using that as a search tool over going to Google. I think that's a really interesting habit that perhaps gen Z have, which I do think perhaps comes down to an attention span because it's just the instant gratification of getting the information that you need, the information quickly, and visually. And I think that's a big aspect.

Jack: I think the visual side of things is really key there as well, because like you said, they can be much longer now, but initially like 15, 30 second, one minute, three minute now, 10 minutes, it's still usually going to be a shorter thing where you just get access to that information. And rather than having to scroll through a whole article, that's formatted badly and trying to find this thing and oh, the heading says one thing, but I'm actually only looking for one piece of information hidden in this long article of 10 pieces of information. Whereas with TikTok, you get all 10 pieces of information in 20 seconds and then you can, again, it's that kind of top level stuff. You scratch the surface, but you get that initial result that you can then go and investigate further if you want to.

Annie-Mai: Yeah absolutely.

Jack: And I think the visualization side of it is so key in that I will often think, ah, I just can't be bothered to actually scroll through and read something or on the audio side of things, I'm in the habit of listening to audiobooks now rather than reading novels and because I can do it in my spare time. How often would I ... I don't know on my lunch break or like kind of bathroom break or whatever it is, sit and flick through articles on Google discover or whatever it is on the newsfeed or whatever it is. I can very easily just flick through TikTok.

Annie-Mai: Yeah.

Jack: And find multiple things. Yeah, exactly. We've talked about TikTok so much because it keeps coming up in all the trends we cover. I know SISTRIX have talked about it recently. We even talked about the fact that it was the most visited website in the world in 2021. Google has consistently been unsurprisingly, the most visited site in the world. And the first thing to beat it in like, well over a decade is TikTok.

Annie-Mai: Is a dance app.

Jack: Yeah, exactly.

Annie-Mai: Essentially.

Jack: Yeah. It's people dancing on social media. And we won't get into the whole political side of things, but obviously China is a huge factor in that. Google is not a thing in China, TikTok is driven by Chinese companies and technology and stuff like that. So that's a huge factor there in terms of the numbers there as well because the population of China is so huge and I think they were just clamoring for some new technology and a new way to search and new way to engage in social media and stuff like that as well.

Jack: So yeah, to dive into some data from SISTRIX, Alexa, this is from their recent trend. I'll link to that in the show notes for you listeners, it is pretty astounding. Just looking at the last year in terms of Tiktok.com and its visibility. You know you want that graph for your clients where you look at it and it just skyrockets around the end there, that's kind of what this graph does. It really takes off, kind of in the last fun enough, in the last few months, this kind of covers from June of 2021, all the way through to the end of June 2022. And it is steady growth, steady growth. And then this real kind of boost towards the end of April, beginning of May. And it goes astronomical to say the least.

Annie-Mai: Absolutely, it does.

Jack: And I think that's a real kind of testament to the way people are using it and how many people are using it and even SISTRIX do an interesting thing and they dive into the directory side of things. So thinking about the discover directory, the tags, the music, all that kind of stuff. And we'll talk about some of the trending things and kind of virality of TikTok as well, because searching through tags, searching through the discover function, having a look at the music and the audio side of things, which is a whole element of being visible on TikTok, basically that I don't think really applies to anything else. And I think it makes it really unique. The fact that you can do so many different things and search in different ways where it feels like a search engine, then it feels like social media, then this other thing searching by audio, which I've not really seen anywhere else before.

Jack: All these different things and different elements of their site from a site structure perspective, from an SEO perspective, just continue to grow as people create more content, they're adding more content to that site and growing the visibility basically organically. They've got the dream of just having, I have an incredibly popular site everyone wants to work for basically.

Annie-Mai: Yeah, absolutely.

Jack: And getting all this free content and incredibly popular trend driving viral content that just happens to keep blowing up over and over and over again. It's fascinating to me and yeah, like I said, TrendWatch covers a lot of things, but they specifically highlight the growth of TikTok in the most recent issue. So recommend you go and check that out in the show notes. And like I said, and go to SISTRIX.com/blog, you get TrendWatch, you get IndexWatch, all the different things there to cover all of your TikTok trending needs there as well. So let's dive into a bit more detail shall we? So me as an SEO, and you much more of the social media kind of person, I think this is going to be an interesting conversation because we'll kind of come at it from two different angles. There's also the age difference. So me being in my thirties, you being in your twenties, there's an element there as well. And to let you behind the scenes here, listeners, I threw Annie-Mai a bunch of questions before we started. So we're going to bounce around and do a few different things and cover a lot of different stuff. But to kind of think about what all the skeptical SEOs, all the grumpy old SEOs that don't want to think of TikTok as a search engine, what kind of data can we get from TikTok as a search engine? So if we want to use it for our sites and for our clients, how can we kind of dive into that data and have a bit of a more strategic approach? Is there much data there? How much can we kind of play with? Is there equivalent of search volume or keywords or whatever it is and how do we kind of factor that in when using TikTok?

Annie-Mai: I think as the months go on and as the year progresses, we're going to see a lot more data that we are going to be able to get from TikTok because I feel like that's definitely the way that it's heading. But as of right now, you can't see things such as search volume. I RISE at seven mentioned in their blog that they posted this week, that there is a tool called keywordtool.io. And that's actually a fantastic tool where you can find search volumes for the likes of YouTube, Instagram, that sort of thing. And obviously as a video based kind of search engine if you will, that TikTok is kind of becoming, or being recognized as the data that you are kind of looking for could be similar to YouTube. So if you're looking for search volume, you could probably look at what's the keyword that you are looking for on a tool like that. I'm sure there's other tools out there, but that's the one that they kind of mentioned. And that I have used personally myself. As for other data, you can see related searches, which do seem to be a bit similar to people also ask on Google, but the difference for me, and that is more noticeable in my opinion, is that on people also ask, the format's questions and underneath that question that you see more on, there's only ever one article underneath. Whereas on TikTok, if you search for something and you scroll down, you'll see suggested searches or searches that other people have done. And when you click on that, obviously you get all of the videos under that search term. So for example, if you search for dog training.

Jack: Why not.

Annie-Mai: We got dogs in the office, so it just reminded me. If you search dog training on TikTok and you scroll down, you'll get dog training tips. And then if you click on that, you'll get so many other videos rather than just one blog. And like I said, you're not clicking on that blog and then having to suffer through five, 10 ads which is fair enough, but with the attention span sort of thing, yet, it's not really feasible, especially for gen Z.

Jack: I know you and I talked about the related search things on Twitter the other day as well. Trying to find, I can't remember what the exact wording was, like other people searched for or something like that was it?

Annie-Mai: Yeah. So I saw something when I was searching on the app. Because I'm just doing research all the time at the moment now that it's popping off a bit and on the videos, there was one specifically that I had watched and then clicked off of. And then it came up with three little boxes on top of the video that said people also searched rather than separated from the videos. Because at the moment, people also searched is kind of separated between videos. So it's kind of like you get four videos, people also searched and then more videos. Whereas this was actually on the video itself, in the search.

Jack: I tried to replicate it. I couldn't get it to work myself.

Annie-Mai: I've been trying to replicate it ever since, it is always the way isn't it. But when you see something like that, or maybe they're trialing it out, but you can't find it again.

Jack: Yeah. We see this in SEO all the time with like certain features and stuff like, oh, Bing's trying this new thing or Google's trying this new thing and God bless Barry Swartz, he is amazing at picking this stuff up and being able to track it all. And you see so many tweets of, Hey Barry, is this thing new, like Nope, covered this six weeks ago. Nope. Done this already. I think we're getting the same thing with TikTok now. We're getting new features that they are testing in certain markets or on certain devices or whatever it is, but we don't have the transparency from TikTok at the same way that we do from Google. Google to their credit, and I know I talked to Steve from SISTRIX about this when he's been working on Amazon as well. Another search engine you don't think is a search engine, but it's definitely a search engine. Amazon do not disclose any information, any data, any algorithm stuff, absolutely nothing. You are just working against a brick wall basically. And I think you're totally right at the moment, we're kind of in that sort of middle ground with TikTok. You can get a number of views. You can get this kind of other searched for this kind of data, but it's nowhere near as transparent as Google, but maybe we're heading in that direction. We'll be getting more and more data. I mentioned Instagram earlier, like moving towards a video based platform as well. If they're trying to compete in this space, I wonder if TikTok then kind of pushes themselves even more towards a search engine kind of thing, and really blurs the lines between search engine and social media even more than they already have, to then give people access to data. And I think that might be the thing when you get cold hard numbers in the hands of digital marketers.

Annie-Mai: Oh absolutely.

Jack: Suddenly everybody will be jumping on board and being like millions of people. I've got 200,000 searches on my client's thing or whatever. Like I think as soon as you get numbers, you can present to clients and stuff like that. From me working as an agency, that's always key. You've got to have, oh yeah, this has converted us this many times or this is a thing as search. So this is a high value thing. We should target this without any data, it's kind of difficult to point you in the right direction. But I think we're certainly heading in that direction.

Annie-Mai: I think so too. And I think like you said, people want data and marketers definitely want data. And since Google released the statistic about 40% of gen Z, it's just skyrocketed in terms of people talking about TikTok as a search engine. And that's one snippet of data that we've had so far. So you can imagine the more data comes out, perhaps Google released some more data. It's only going to keep spiraling. And like you said, if Instagram, I saw someone referred to it as the TikTokification of social media because all of these apps are trying to compete with TikTok. And I think like you said, if that's the direction that Instagram are heading in, I really do think that TikTok are going to lean into the search engine sort of discourse. I just wanted to mention that in terms of data for SEOs, something that's really handy is TikTok creative center.

You can get so much data on there in terms of hashtags, trending videos, trending sounds, without you having to do much research yourself. So if you don't particularly want to download the app or you don't want to spend time searching through all of the sounds, you can go on TikTok's creative center and you can see audience insights, whether it's likely to trend in the next seven days, which that's incredible advice. Related interests, which is very interesting. And regional popularity. And you can separate all of these by country as well. So if you are looking to target the U.S., you can search for trending hashtags in the U.S., trending sounds. Because obviously it's going to be different to the UK for example.

And I just think that's a really incredible resource that they've kind of handed people, but not many people know about it as far as I'm aware. I've spoken to other people in social media and they didn't know that kind of existed. And they were doing all of the research manually, which is also fine. But if you can make your life easier, that is really handy data for anyone to have.

Jack: Having the access to, like you said, that kind of creative center and going in, even if you are not actually creating much content, but going in as a creator, so you can at least see it from that side. That sounds incredibly powerful. What's going to trend in the next seven days is massive.

Annie-Mai: Yeah. It's huge.

Jack: That could be millions of uses.

Annie-Mai: Yeah. And it keeps you on top of trends as well, which is super important with TikTok because it moves so fast again, which is I think another reason why people like it and you're always getting new videos that you wouldn't have seen last week. So being able to stay on top of trends on top of trending hashtags, to get your video seen in the search is so vital because by using the right hashtag, using the right keywords, you are more than likely going to be seen in search, or you're going to have a higher chance than if you're trying to do it without that kind of data.

Jack: Let's dive into that a little bit. So what influences a search essentially, a SERP on TikTok? What influences a results page? How do certain videos get ranked higher? How do certain videos disappear into the algorithm and all that kind of stuff? Do we have much information about that kind of stuff?

Annie-Mai: So I was looking this up for more clarity for myself if anything, but there's not much data about it. I saw on TikTok about how the for you page works obviously, and they kind of banded that in with how the following page works and how search works. I don't really know how true that is in terms of, so the for you page works based on like your interactions across the app, including searches, your likes, your follows, all of that time spent on videos, skipping videos, that sort of thing. I think what influences the search or what would be good for SEOs and social media managers and anyone working in marketing really, is keywords in your caption. Keywords in the video itself. So you can, when you're creating a video, you have the caption underneath and then you have the opportunity to put text in the video.

Jack: Subtitling is a huge thing.

Annie-Mai: Yes. Subtitling is huge.

Jack: Credit to TikTok. That's a fantastic accessibility side of things as well. For so many visually impaired or non-native speakers or whatever it is. I don't think I've seen subtitling and mostly accurate kind of closed caption kind of stuff happened so quickly on a platform and it's credit to TikTok and their team for doing that.

Annie-Mai: Yeah. They integrated it really well.

Jack: Considering YouTube is still like.

Annie-Mai: Bit iffy.

Jack: Kind of crap and that kind of stuff.

Annie-Mai: Yeah. Yeah. So I think that is the key thing in terms of search, but then again, you could search for something I'm going to use dog training again, you could search for dog training and it's at the forefront of my mind now.

Jack: We have dogs in the Candour office. So those of you don't know, Annie-Mai's just met a couple of the Candour dogs.

Annie-Mai: They're amazing. So yeah, you could search for that, but it does seem to be in terms of popularity of the video. So I don't tend to look at a lot of dog training videos myself. I've got a blind 11 year old Labrador who is in a very mischievous phase, so he doesn't listen to anything. So yeah, dog training is definitely not on my radar. So in terms of my results, it seems to be millions of likes, lots of comments, lots of shares, lots of engagement overall, and those keywords of dog training or dog training UK or dog training tips. That sort of thing.. They do seem to be, I will say that it does seem to be very relevant to what I'm searching. I've tried searching a bunch of different things and the results I'm getting, at least from my experience, they're very relevant. Whereas I was searching for something on Instagram earlier, I think it was like marketing tips. I was trying to get some content ideas and I was getting content in different languages. Which is a big problem for Instagram because you don't get that on the likes of YouTube or TikTok. So yeah, that was really odd. And I think Instagram are panicking a little bit.

Jack: Yeah. I agree. I think Instagram are definitely panicking because of what's happening with TikTok and the fact that you kind of talked about the number of likes, the engagement and watch time are such key factors for YouTubers. I know that watch time has become a massive, massive factor. It used to be, you had to do super short videos and everybody was trimming things down. So it's a five part series and each part is eight minutes long. And then suddenly you could only monetize videos that were 10 minutes long and everyone, ah, everything's half an hour long, quick, we can get three ads in that. And then there's now this trend and I know I watch a lot of this stuff, is these like two hour, three hour, four hour video essays. ASMR is a huge thing with these really long term ... Engagement and watch time is such a huge factor on YouTube for what's going to show up again. There's an algorithm on YouTube, most people kind of forget that search engine as well. And it seems to be a similar kind of, I guess, because it's video based, a similar kind of factor here for TikTok. But to compare it back to Instagram, what the similarities and differences I guess, between how hashtags work on most kinds of traditional social media. So what do you think about hashtags? I think about Instagram. I know people still use them on Twitter, but it's kind of not cool to do it on Twitter anymore, but they're pretty prevalent from what I've seen on TikTok. I know there's a lot of the hashtag FYP stuff, apparently that doesn't particularly work. The people just chuck it in there for the sake of it and they've seen other people do it I guess. But how much ability is there in using the right hashtags at the right time do you think?

Annie-Mai: Yeah, I think it's similar to how ... And not to sound, I know I'm only 24, but back in the good old days of Instagram, back in the good old days, how Instagram hashtags used to work, you could get so much visibility from it and now they kind of feel they're dying on Instagram. But comparing back to Instagram's good old days, like I said, the hashtags on TikTok work pretty much in exactly the same way. I think the big differences with hashtags on TikTok is you can get involved in trends really easily, which I've not personally seen on Instagram much, especially in the recent years. It's not much of a community, which is a big factor on TikTok.

Jack: The trends almost pull through to me like Twitter does. Where you get hashtag Royal, blah, blah, blah, whatever is happening on Twitter at the time. And you get a kind of similar thing on TikTok. Again, it's like this weird amalgamation of it's a bit of Instagram, it's a bit of YouTube, it's a bit of Twitter. It's like amalgamating all this different stuff. I think it's really interesting to see how much it differs because ... I think a lot of hashtags are pretty uncool these days, right?

Jack: You're much cooler than me. Are they uncool?

Annie-Mai: Thank you. I'll tell you on Twitter, they're very uncool. I still kind of wince a little bit when I see brands using hashtags that no one's using because even though Twitter's not used as a search engine, you don't really need to use hashtags on Twitter. I don't think they're relevant anymore. I don't know if that's controversial or not, but yeah.

Jack: Listeners, let us know.

Annie-Mai: Yeah. Let me know. So on TikTok you can end up on different Toks. So an example, one that I'm on is food Tok. And that you will just get loads of videos of food related basically. And I suppose if you are kind of like a brand related to food, it's a very good way of showing your audience that you are grouping yourself in with food Tok and that you know what you're talking about. And in the SERPS for TikTok, you are then grouped together. And I think that's one really interesting thing about TikTok is that you can easily jump into trends. You can easily jump into these communities without feeling like you're taking up space. You're there as much as anyone else and you don't need followers to get seen. You don't need anything to get seen. You don't need videos to get seen, that is not a ranking factor of TikTok. If you have a viral video, say you have one out of your hundred videos, that doesn't mean you're going to get another one. And I think that's why TikTok is such an important thing for businesses to kind of keep an eye on. At least if they don't feel like they're ready to make the transition as such. It's just very interesting that the amount of visibility you can get with nothing. You organically, I think it's one of the best platforms to be on at the moment.

Jack: Yeah. I think that's a huge factor where you don't have to rely on. And again, it's similar to how YouTube has gone recently, so many people were driving for the subscription. Don't forget to like and subscribe to the video, smash that like button, like at the end of every bloody YouTube video they said that. And now subscriber count, from what I understand from listening to YouTubers from the YouTubers I know, this has become far less of a factor and now you really need to trend on stuff. And you need to be on these things and have a video go viral. And like you said, the fact that the follower account doesn't really influence that. So I could go and make my first TikTok right now and I'm not going to, but become a viral sensation overnight or plug away for six months with no luck. And then suddenly overnight, the classic overnight success, that's actually been doing it for months or years previously. But yeah, that's a really interesting thing because it opens it up for ... It's kind of a level playing field right? And I think that's key for so many businesses coming in and thinking about the different kinds of Toks and by the way, there's a Tok for everything,

Annie-Mai: Everything, everything you could think of.

Jack: If you think of a word that is like a hobby or an interest, put the word Tok on the end of that and you got it. That's the whole thing. And my wife is big into book Tok.

Annie-Mai: Yeah. I'm on bookTok. Yeah.

Jack: Yeah. My wife loves it. So it's like beautiful books with the like painted edges and stuff and all that kind of thing. I know I am a big heavy metal fan, there's riffTok, which is different guitarists playing different rifts and all this kind of stuff. So everything from books to food to heavy metal and basically everything in between, it's mad. I was so surprised. Just casually in conversation, it would just come up and somebody said like, oh yeah, blah, blah, blah, book Tok. I like bookTok!

Annie-Mai: Yeah. It's becoming vocabulary, isn't it?

Jack: Yeah. Yeah. It's that thing like it's become part of our language, becoming part of the vocabulary because social media influences our vocabulary. The English language and languages around the world are influenced by our culture and vice versa. Like you or I would not know the word Tok or hashtag or anything like that. That was a pound sign or a hashtag sign on a phone to do like a reverse dial or whatever back in the day.

Annie-Mai: Back in the good old days.

Jack: Back in the good old days of like rotary phones and stuff. And I think this evolution of things like TikTok driving these trends, like I said, with the stuff that we cover on SISTRIX all the time, is why is octopus trending? What a weird thing. It's like, oh, it's those mood, like you flip them inside out and they change colors and stuff like, okay, what's that got to do anything? Like don't know, people are searching for it on TikTok, it's influencing things. It's influencing how we search, how we talk, how we communicate with each other. And especially with so many young people getting involved in TikTok, you mentioned the dance trends and stuff like that. So many gen Z and even younger are doing this kind of stuff for active on the platform. They'll just be part of normal vocabulary, like book Tok, whatever will just be like, oh yeah, that's a totally normal thing in the same way that I'm trying to think of an example for my childhood now. CD ROMS were a thing like, that influences the way we think about topics.

I know there were some studies a few years ago talking about how this is again, very off topic, but interesting nonetheless. How psychological studies of how we remember information now and humans are developing memories of how to search for a thing rather than the thing itself.

Annie-Mai: Oh, wow.

Jack: So you don't remember the source of the information, you remember the thing you searched for. So you wouldn't necessarily remember, I don't know, Jack Chambers-Ward is 31 years old. You would remember typing in Jack Chambers-Ward age, not that I'm on Google. Nobody gives a shit about my age, but it's a fascinating thing. Literally shifting how our brains work. And I think TikTok is the next evolution of that basically.

Annie-Mai: Oh absolutely.

Jack: Yeah. It's fascinating. We're very off topic. Let's get back on this. So to kind of get back to those quick answers and stuff and again, compare it to Google, we talk about EAT and trustworthiness all the time here on the show. It's a huge topic in SEO. Expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness, are becoming bigger and bigger factors, especially when it comes to seriously important topics. So the phrase your money or life is a big thing in SEO as well. Whether it's talking about your health or finances or anything like that, something that have a massive ramification on your life, you need to prove to Google that you know what you're talking about and you're not just spewing rubbish to potential customers and just making stuff up. How much of that kind of is integrated into TikTok? From my experience, I see a lot of rubbish. So I specifically went out of my way, because Mark here at Candour, you probably already know if you're listening to this podcast, does the unsolicited SEO tips on LinkedIn. We've got 500 of them now on the blog. I'll link for that in the show notes. If you want to go and read them. It's a very, very, very long post, but full of great information. And I searched SEO tips.

Annie-Mai: Oh yeah. Marking tips on any platform, but especially TikTok is the worst.

Jack: Full of idiots and liars and Chalitons, and out objectively wrong information that is provably wrong according to Google guidelines or whatever it is. It was mad. And I say I couldn't believe it. I did kind of believe it. So how much of that is kind of factored into TikTok? How much of it can you kind of trust in that initial kind of search phase?

Annie-Mai: If I'm being totally honest, I don't think you can trust anything. If I'm being cynical, I really don't think you can trust anything. It's the same as like infographics you see on social media that get spread when something happens and people share it to their stories without really kind of reading what it says. I think misinformation across social media is bad enough, but TikTok, I think especially because of the very young user base.

Jack: More easily influenced and stuff like that?

Annie-Mai: Exactly. It's easy to take things as gospel when you're young. You're not going to go to TikTok like I would, and then check the information on Google. You've got to take in the information you see on TikTok as fact. And like you said, for fun, if you want to laugh, go on TikTok and search SEO tips.

Jack: I ended up DMing him, downloading a bunch off of TikTok and just DMing him a bunch of these SEO tips. And I think he legit ended up trying to fire me. Because I was annoying him so much. I can't tell if it was just like a haha, please stop, or like a no seriously, you need to stop now. So yeah I put my job on the line for TikTok research.

Annie-Mai: For the research.

Jack: But yeah, I think that's really interesting ... We talked about the habits of people searching on Google and things like that. Me, as an SEO, I never click on an ad. We talked about that and I'm sure a bunch of people, key people are cringing at the thought of that already. All the money that their clients and sites are putting into those ads. I will never click them. Never have never will always scroll down.

Annie-Mai: Actively avoid it, I'm the same yeah.

Jack: I think a lot of people are. And it kind of comes from two sides of it. And Mark made a really good point as well. Going back to the early days of the internet and talking about ads were spam and rubbish back in the day. So you would avoid them at all costs and hopefully just find the right information. Now to Google's credit and to Google ad credit and all that kind of stuff, they are much more trustworthy and legitimate and actually targeted through the work of PPC specialists and things like that. But with TikTok, there's no way to kind of initially check that. And if I wasn't doing SEO professionally, if TikTok was around five years ago, before I kind of started working in SEO and I just saw these SEO tips and it's like, I'm going to teach myself SEO, like so many people do for digital marketing skills, just YouTube and you can find out so much information. You can listen to podcasts and learn stuff.

Annie-Mai: Like this one.

Jack: Like this one. But I think it's really interesting that so many people will just, yeah, okay, cool. That seems ... Scroll to the next video. And because it's such little investment in that, right? Like you were saying before, 15, 30 second, a minute, maybe three minutes, if you really want to stick around and learn something. But you could see a 30 second video, go and use this thing, this is the secret tool to break Google's algorithm, scroll onto the next one. Scroll onto the next one.

Annie-Mai: I think you don't also realize this when you are scrolling through things so quickly, you don't realize what information you're taking in as well. So even if you are not actively watching the video and repeating the video and know consciously that you are watching it, you are still taking in all of the information from all of the videos that you see. So I don't know if anyone else has ever had this, but I'll say something and they'll be like, where do I know that from all the time at work. Nine times out of 10 it's TikTok, because I don't realize that I've scrolled through so many videos. And yet I think when misinformation slips through the cracks, that's a big problem.

And like I said, as adults, we know when to fact check. We know not to take everything as gospel, but when you're younger and you're just scrolling on TikTok for fun and things slip through the algorithm and all of a sudden you get a random video about something political perhaps, or something that's violent. It's going to slip through because algorithms are smart, but obviously things slip through the crack sometimes. And then people are exposed to it very easily. And to dislike a video, not dislike a video, but to say that you don't like a video, you have to hold the screen down and actively say that you don't like it.

Jack: It's a real conscious effort, isn't it?

Annie-Mai: It is. And you have to keep doing it. So I've done it so many times where I get dance TikToks and I know that's what the app is for, but I don't want to see them. I don't really care. And I still get them on my feed, even though I keep saying I'm not interested.

Jack: Yeah. I think I also get recommended I've noticed, stuff that my friends who are friends on TikTok, so I follow them and they follow me back. I will get recommended stuff that is relevant to them. So Emma-Jane, who works here at Candour, is huge into K-pop and likes Korean culture, Japanese culture, all that kind of stuff. Suddenly I will get a K-pop recommendation of some new music video from a band I've never heard of and I'm way too old or uncool to know. And I'll be like, why is this being recommended to me? And then I'll see like, oh, she sent me messages on TikTok the other day. That's interesting. That's influence there as well. And like you said, there's a nefarious side to all of this, right? You're going to have, like you said, political stuff, violence stuff, way worse stuff we're not going to talk about on this podcast.

Jack: But there was recently a YouTube video talking about how parents are exploiting their kids for very nefarious purposes for views and stuff. And I think that's not relevant to the conversation we're having here, but I think there's been a big conversation about the kind of privacy issues as well and how much data they handle from the Chinese servers and all that kind of stuff. It's a tricky one I think when you're looking to verify information. I think you're totally right. The next stage should be YouTube, Google, whatever it is, and actually try and find a source that can verify that if you find a marketing tip or a dog training tip or whatever it is, actually go and then look it up and be like, is that a real thing? It doesn't sound like a real thing. If you get that little inkling in the back of the head, the little niggle in the back of your head, you just think, hold on a minute. That seems nonsense. And hopefully, I don't know how many younger listeners we have. Most of our listeners are all adults because they're working in digital marketing, but I think that's something to bear in mind if you've got kids, if you're working with kids, and talking to them about social media. It's a real key factor to, I know it's the obvious thing of like don't trust everything you see on the internet, but I think because you can consume media so much, so much media so quickly with TikTok, it's a real kind of minefield sometimes.

Annie-Mai: Absolutely. Yeah.

Jack: So as I mentioned, the audience for this podcast is pretty much professional digital marketers. So to kind of wrap us off and think about SEO on TikTok specifically, how can we as SEOs use it for our clients, use it for our sites and things like that and gain that kind of organic growth. TikTok ads is a whole other thing I know some of our team here have been experimenting with TikTok ads and seeing some really fantastic results for some of our clients and some of our clients definitely not in the right market for that kind of stuff. But how do you think SEOs can use and kind of get in on the trends and things like that for TikTok, for use for their clients and their sites?

Annie-Mai: Yeah. So I think like I've said throughout the whole podcast really, TikTok, it's such a good opportunity to drive traffic to your website. Just for the simple fact of you don't need followers to get your video seen, which is a huge, huge benefit to any business that kind of wants to get out there, wants to be seen, but is put off by the fact that they're starting from scratch. Because it feels like every business has X amount of followers. And again, back in the day when buying followers was a really big thing, you see brands on Twitter with like 20K followers and you kind of think, how can I start from scratch? TikTok is your best bet. So in terms of getting benefits for clients and for their sites organically, the best thing you can do is optimize your page firstly.

So having a clear profile picture, a relevant username, a decent bio, it doesn't really need to have hashtags in the bio. I wouldn't really recommend that. I don't think that comes up in search. I don't think it matters. One thing I will mention is if you're putting a link in your bio, please make sure it works. The amount of times I have seen or visited a page, gone to click on their bio, the link in their bio and it doesn't work. And you've got to think that say 2000 people see your video, half of them click through, then they can't reach your site. And then you are not only stopping website traffic, but potential conversions as well, or for sake of not checking if your link works.

Jack: Yeah. Broken links are a huge thing, as we know. Such a huge thing linking from social media. Is it worth then having like a specific landing page you want to point people towards from a video or from your bio and things like that?

Annie-Mai: I think it depends what you want from TikTok. Obviously, if you've not got something physical to sell as such and they want more blogs being read, then yeah maybe specifically send them there. It kind of just depends on what your goal is with TikTok. Obviously, I don't know how long this has been a thing. I think it's been quite recent, but within your TikTok videos now, you can actually place links within the video for shopping. Which again, kind of competing with Instagram for that.

Jack: Yeah. There was big chatter about TikTok shopping a little while ago and then it was a thing, and then it wasn't a thing. And it was a thing in the U.S., and then the U.S. banned it as they always do. And it was a whole thing, but yeah, I've really noticed a lot of ads and I've bought things from TikTok ads. I will admit.

Annie-Mai: I've bought the octopus from TikTok.

Jack: I've bought shirts and stuff. I think it's interesting to have that kind of, I don't know if you could do a specific link from a specific video to a specific product. Like specify it and have it as customised all and optimized as possible, even from an SEO perspective, just having that landing page there is going to get that much more visibility. Similar kinds of rules apply to you thinking about paid search. Having a specific landing page for that thing that you are talking about. I know we've been talking a lot about product reviews in SEO. We've just had the product reviews update the second one this year already. Do you think product reviews are worth that kind of influence on the marketing side of things and product review side of things of, Hey, we've got this new thing and you are either doing it on your own TikTok or somebody in your company is the go to face of the video.

Annie-Mai: Yeah, absolutely. If I'm going to use makeup again as an example, but if you're trying to sell a lipstick, definitely having an influencer, like you say, or someone from the company doing a video like that and then having that clickable link through to the lipstick or the landing page that you want, you can even do a little section on your website, like as seen on TikTok. Just to kind of make people recognize that, oh yeah, they've still come from TikTok. They instantly recognize it. I think they're less likely to click off the page in my opinion anyway.

And I think that's absolutely worthwhile in terms of SEO. And like I said earlier in the podcast, just optimizing your content for search, it sounds really basic. But again, because TikTok as a search engine is very new to everyone. People still don't want to admit it's a thing. Just adding keywords to your text, the caption, using relevant hashtags. I will say again with hashtags that I forgot to mention earlier, try and be a bit more niche as well as using some more broader terms because some of these hashtags have billions and billions of views. And it's very hard to get seen when you are up with that sort of thing. Billions collectively.

Jack: Don't do hashtag makeup because you’ll just get lost in a sea of stuff.

Annie-Mai: Exactly. So being able to maybe use long tail keywords would work best. So again, dog training on its own, I think has something like seven billion views in total.

Jack: I'm going to look it up right now. Live on the show.

Annie-Mai: Live on the show. You're going to fact check me now, but if you just add tips to the end, so dog training tips, I believe it narrows down to about 500 million, which you can also fact check.

Jack: I'm intrigued. Hashtag dog training, let's have a look. 7.5 billion. Well done.

Annie-Mai: Yeah. Thank you.

Jack: And dog training tips. 504. There you go. You nailed it. Yeah, absolutely nailed it.

Annie-Mai: Thank you. I'm glad that's the one factor I remember from my research earlier.

Jack: But I think going into long tail keyword research, something we bring up on the show all the time, Mark did BrightonSEO talk about it. And our tool AlsoAsked really dives into a lot of that stuff as well. I think combining tools like also asked, answer the public, all that kind of stuff that give you these questions that people are searching for, we've even now got TikTok videos showing up as short videos in Google pages as well right?

Annie-Mai: Yes. Yeah. Which is huge. That's only happened in the last like two weeks. It's incredible to see. I was doing some research, so when I first read about it, you had to kind of type in TikTok pizza recipes or something. But if you just type in pizza recipes or homemade pizza, it now comes up with TikTok videos as amongst YouTube videos as well. Are you fact checking this as well?

Jack: No, I'm intrigued now. I've never actually seen it in practice.

Annie-Mai: I've not done it on desktop. I've only done it on my phone.

Jack: See that's what I'm thinking. So I'm on desktop at the moment, there is nothing on this desktop.

Annie-Mai: There's nothing. And it's not even coming ... It's obviously got YouTube videos, but this was coming up under short videos. I'm now going to check on my phone fact check myself.

Jack: Yeah. Because I think to the credit of Google, again, I felt like I've said that a lot of this episode, which is a weird thing to say, usually we don't say that, but to the credit of Google, they don't prioritize YouTube videos specifically. There you go. Straight away short videos. That is amazing. So YouTube, YouTube, there's a Facebook one there as well.

Annie-Mai: And I do wonder if perhaps it comes up mobile.

Jack: That's all YouTube.

Annie-Mai: Because these videos may be more mobile first. I don't know if these are YouTube shorts perhaps, and that's where they're coming up and that's why they wouldn't show on desktop.

Jack: Which also means they're portrait, which means they're not.

Annie-Mai: They are. That would make sense then.

Jack: So that's the element of YouTube shorts coming in there as well. Which is very clearly YouTube trying to compete with TikTok again.

Annie-Mai: TikTokification of social media.

Jack: Yeah. I think that's really something to keep an eye on. This is going to continue to grow, right?

Annie-Mai: Yeah, absolutely.

Jack: And I think we're going to see more of TikTok because the domain as a whole, TikTok.com, is so huge and has so much authority behind it now. So much visibility behind it. It's going to start ranking for short videos and answering questions and things like that. Whether we want it to or not, it is built up such a ... As much as it is kind of like a word of mouth kind of thing. It is very much building that authority from an SEO perspective as well. Being the most visited site in the world in an entire year is going to make people trust that site a bit more I think, and make it grow in terms of ranking.

Annie-Mai: Absolutely. And the fact that if your videos can now be seen in Google SERPs, you're not only being visible on TikTok, but if you are, for some reason making a homemade pizza, and you're trying to sell a kit perhaps to be very specific, and you can hear in Google search results for your TikTok video. That's huge. And I think that is really going to push some of the SEOs that don't want to admit that it's becoming a search engine to kind of take it seriously or at least, least keep an eye on it because I think we're not going to stop hearing about it. And it's only going to grow.

Jack: I think we are getting that kind of cross pollination between those different elements. Like, oh, if my users aren't on TikTok, then why would I bother to make a TikTok thing? Well, now it's showing up on Google maybe your users are using Google as their primary search engine. So you know your target audience is more of a Google focused kind of audience than a TikTok focused audience. There's still value in making TikToks because they're starting to rank on Google.

Annie-Mai: Yeah, exactly.

Jack: It's mad. It's mad. Crazy how this kind of growth starts off, like, oh yeah, if you're not on TikTok, you don't see TikTok. And now it's kind of crossing over, obviously combined with YouTube shorts as we've just kind of demonstrated with the homemade pizza side things. But I think that is a huge factor a lot of people are underestimating. And like you said, why it kind of shook the SEO world a little bit mean like, by the way, it's on Google now and everybody, whoa, wait, what? Because as we know in SEO, if something happens on Google, it's going to happen everywhere else. If it happens on Google, it's probably going to carry over to Bing. It's going to carry over to ... But carry over to all the other search engines as well. So no matter where your audience is going to be searching, it seems like TikToks are going to be creeping in there and growing there reaching various different ways as well.

Annie-Mai: Yeah. It's here to stay, unfortunately.

Jack: Well, thank you for joining me anyway.

Annie-Mai: Thank you for having me. It's been a pleasure. It's been really fun.

Jack: Glad you enjoyed it. This is your first ever podcast.

Annie-Mai: It was. Yeah. So I hoped everyone enjoyed it.

Jack: Well done on your first podcast.

Annie-Mai: Thank you.

Jack: How can our listeners find you across social media? The internet?

Annie-Mai: LinkedIn is probably your best bet. Yeah. I'm posting on there a lot. And if you're an SEOer, if you're a marketer, I'll connect with you. Just send me a message. Yeah. It would be really awesome to connect with other people. So that's your best way of finding me.

Jack: Awesome. Go on LinkedIn. Follow Annie-Mai, TikTok knowledge, LinkedIn knowledge, all kinds of stuff.

Annie-Mai: If you don't want to hear about TikTok, don't connect with me. Because it's all I'm talking about at the moment.

Jack: You probably gave up about an hour ago on this.

Annie-Mai: Oh yeah. Yeah. If you made it this far, I think it's safe to say you might want to connect with me.

Jack: Brilliant. Well, that is all we have time for this week. I'll be back next week, probably talking more SEO and PPC news with my co host Mark, but in the meantime, have a lovely week and thank you very much for listening.

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