TikTok As A Search Engine – How It Influences Gen Z’s Search Behaviour

30-Second Summary:

  • Much of Gen Z prefers using TikTok over Google for searches, utilising the platform’s video-centric, personalised content feed for everything from entertainment to educational material, significantly impacting traditional search methods.
  • Companies must adapt to TikTok’s rise by engaging with trends and creating visually appealing content that resonates with Gen Z’s values, using the platform’s interactive features to enhance visibility and community engagement.
  • As social platforms like TikTok become primary search tools, SEO strategies must adapt to maintain relevance amongst competitors.

There has been a significant shift in how people find information in recent years, with social media playing its part, especially with Gen Z users. Moving away from traditional search engines like Google, the younger generation is increasingly using platforms like TikTok to find the info they need. In fact, a recent study found that 74% of Gen Z use TikTok for search, with 51% preferring this to using Google. So, what’s happening?

This trend is reshaping not only the way information is consumed but also how businesses need to approach SEO and online visibility. As TikTok continues to captivate this vital age group by offering instant, engaging, and visually driven content, businesses need to understand the underlying dynamics of this shift. Below, we’ll look at the evolving search habits of Gen Z on TikTok, exploring what this means for businesses aiming to connect with this audience and how it is transforming conventional SEO strategies.

The Rise of TikTok as a Search Platform

Transforming from a platform for entertainment to a key player in search, TikTok has influence with 1.7 billion active users worldwide, a significant portion of whom are under 24. As of this year, the platform’s global audience is made up of 18% of women and 18.6% of men between the ages of 18 and 24. TikTok’s influence stretches far beyond mere social networking, with the platform generating $3.8 billion in consumer spending in 2023, increasing every year.

Unlike traditional search engines that rely on typed queries, TikTok’s algorithm leverages user interactions to tailor content feeds that often pre-emptively answer questions or spark new interests. Users find themselves consuming a continuous stream of videos that not only entertain but also inform, covering everything from life hacks and tutorials to product reviews and news updates. This type of content delivery capitalises on Gen Z’s preference for fast, visual, and straightforward information, making it a compelling alternative to the more text-heavy formats of older search engines.

Using the hashtag system on TikTok enhances its functionality as a search tool, allowing users to navigate and explore specific topics or trends easily. This mix of discovery and entertainment shows why TikTok is becoming a go-to search resource for a generation that values immediacy and visual learning.

Why Gen Z Uses TikTok To Search

Gen Z’s preference for TikTok is easy to see when you think about it. Raised in a digital-first environment, they value speed, efficiency, and authenticity – qualities that TikTok delivers exceptionally well through its platform.

The visual nature of TikTok aligns perfectly with Gen Z’s preference for video over text. The platform’s short, dynamic videos provide immediate answers and entertainment, making information consumption quick and effortless. It provides quick gratification and the ability to learn or discover something new in just a few seconds. TikTok videos often incorporate a personal touch too, with creators speaking directly to their audience, which adds a layer of authenticity and trustworthiness to the information being shared.

TikTok’s algorithm is also highly adept at curating content that matches users’ interests based on their past interactions. This personalised content stream effectively creates a custom search experience where users find relevant information without specifically searching for it. Around 40% of Gen Z users like that it shows content aligned to their interests too. As they scroll, they encounter a mix of entertainment, tutorials, DIY tips, and even news, all tailored to their preferences, the idea being to keep them on the platform for longer.

Additionally, the community-driven aspect of TikTok encourages collaboration and communication among users. This interactive environment creates a space where Gen Z can explore user-generated content that feels more relatable and credible than traditional media sources. Whether it’s learning a new skill, getting fashion advice, or understanding complex topics, TikTok enables users to learn from each other, with a discovery model that deeply appeals to Gen Z’s values of community and shared knowledge.

Implications for Businesses

For Gen Z, TikTok is the new search engine, so what impact does this have on businesses looking to capture this demographic’s interest? To stay relevant and visible, companies must rethink their strategies and adapt to the new dynamics of social search.

Brands need to recognise the importance of TikTok as a discovery platform. Many already do, with a Search Engine Journal study showing that over half of business owners are using TikTok to promote their companies, posting about 9 times per month. It requires content that is engaging, visually appealing, and capable of sparking immediate interest, resonating with Gen Z’s values and preferences.

The interactive nature of TikTok provides a unique opportunity for businesses to engage directly with consumers. Companies can benefit from actively participating in trends and using relevant hashtags to increase their visibility on the platform. Engagement enhances a brand’s presence and helps to build a community around its products or services. In the UK, Gen Z TikTok users are 1.2x more likely to direct message a brand after buying a product than other users on the platform, and are 1.8x more motivated to shop by community, looking for recommendations.

By aligning your marketing efforts with the habits of Gen Z, your brand can effectively tap into this lucrative market and boost online engagement significantly.

SEO in the Age of Social Search

As TikTok and other social platforms become primary search tools for Gen Z, traditional SEO is being redefined. Even Google acknowledges the rise of TikTok as a search engine, and last year were testing displaying links in TikTok search to help combat any potential lost traffic. It’s also why Google is pushing more UGC in search results through its Perspectives filter, helping users find video content more easily.

Businesses must look at how to integrate social search where relevant into their broader SEO strategies to remain competitive. This involves optimising content specifically for these platforms, where discoverability hinges not only on keywords but also on user engagement and trend participation. As we looked at previously regarding TikTok data helping to improve your SEO strategy, there’s lots businesses can learn from the data TikTok collects on users to help adapt your strategy.

Once you know how to search on TikTok just like your target demographic, you can create shareable content that uses popular and relevant hashtags, engaging captions and responds to current trends. This is all crucial for enhancing visibility on the platform. Additionally, cross-promoting this content across your social media accounts can amplify reach and drive traffic back to your website.

Gen Z TikTok Search – Look To Adapt Your Approach

If your business relies on this demographic who are increasingly using TikTok instead of search engines, you’ll need to explore ways to adapt. TikTok is reshaping how Gen Z searches for information, that much is clear, but don’t forget it is also popular with older demographics too, so businesses that want to remain relevant need to move quickly.

If you’re looking at ways to transform your approach and refresh your strategy, reach out to our digital marketing agency today. We can look at the challenges unique to you and how your brand can adapt to changing search behaviours and make the most of social search.

For further insights, please visit our blog, where you can discover how TikTok influences purchasing, and the impact of TikTok shopping trends in 2024.Top of Form


Absolute Insights in Your Inbox: Sign-up to our newsletter and get more insights delivered straight to you. Stay informed with up-to-date industry news, and more from the A-Team!

    Get A Quote

      • Service
      • Budget
      • Info
      Please provide us with your contact details. so we can fulfil your enquiry.
      SEOPPCDigital PRLink BuildingOther (Marketplaces, Paid social...) £1,000 - £5,000£5,000 - £10,000£10,000 - £20,000£20,000+ We are currently using an agencyLooking for an agency ImmediatelyWithin 1-2 monthsWithin 3-6 monthsIn 6+ months time

      Subscribe me to the latest digital marketing updates and promotional information