For those of you who are chronically online, you’re no stranger to the autofilled search bar at the bottom of TikTok videos. You can be mindlessly scrolling and then a video will have a search bar related to drama with that creator, leading you down a rabbit hole of influencer tea. (It’s OK, I’ve been there.) Though this TikTok feature might seem a little unhinged, it actually relies on what users are searching up.
From dislike buttons to TikTok profile views, the app continues to roll out features to adapt to its users’ growing needs. Features have taken inspiration from other apps in the past, such as Stories inspired by Instagram. However, TikTok is starting to revolutionize the way social media is being used, especially when it comes to news.
With Gen Z turning to TikTok for news and advice, it makes sense that the app would help them in their search efforts. The autofilled search bar at the bottom of videos is TikTok’s latest feature to connect users with related content — here’s how you can use it for all your search engine needs. Is TikTok the new Google?
How does TikTok’s search bar work?
Though the search bar might seem random and messy at times, the search results are a product of users’ decisions on the app. The TikTok search bar is the app’s version of SEO. TikTok categorizes your videos based on the keywords you highlight in the text of the video or in the caption. The search bar then creates a clickable link of these keywords for users to view content related to the topics of that video. This can be as simple as a “get ready with me” video having a search bar that says “get ready with me for school.” TikTok is reading content and drawing out key topics to make creators’ videos more visible. It also allows for a more user-friendly experience by quickly connecting you to videos that are similar.
TikTok first started playing around with this keyword search feature in their comments in October 2022. If users would make a comment that had keywords mentioned in the video, TikTok would hyperlink those keywords to a discovery page with similar videos. Now instead of scrolling through comments, you can access related content right at the bottom of the video.
For those who turn to TikTok for news, this new search bar acts as a search engine for current events. If a video resembles or mentions any news or hot happenings, the search bar will mention that topic, taking users to related content to gain more information. This can be seen in a recent video of Alix Earle at a University of Miami basketball Final Four game. The algorithm knew it had to do with the University of Miami, so the search bar said, “UConn vs UMiami.” This was a trending topic due to the March Madness tournament.
The search bar also looks at what other users are looking up in relation to that video or creator. This is where things can get messy. For instance, on a video of Monet McMichael talking about her lowkey relationship, the search bar read “Monet and Jalen spotted.” The app draws on data that showed fans were looking up that in relation to McMichael. Much like how Google brings up related articles when you search for a topic, TikTok brings you to related videos that might be of interest to you. This SEO aspect is making TikTok the new Gossip Girl and I kind of love it.
The search bar doesn’t always stay the same on videos. This reflects the fast-paced circulation of social media. What was trending yesterday might be out today, and the search bars change to account for this ever-changing environment. Though social media is fast-paced, creators can profit from this search bar feature to bring in traffic.
How does it help creators?
SEO has largely been associated with visibility online, and this doesn’t stop with TikTok’s search engines. Taking what we know about how the search bar gets its content, creators can actually take advantage of this. Since the search bar takes both keywords from verbal content and written content, you can strategically place keywords in your video to categorize your content in specific categories. If you want your videos to be connected to trending topics, include those keywords in your caption, text, and even closed captioning. By intentionally including keywords, you have a greater chance of TikTok categorizing your video to gain traction.
The search bar has created endless communities of content on the app from users looking for the recent dirt on their favorite TikTok couple to learning about the latest news stories. TikTok proves time and time again that social media is more than just a means of connecting for Gen Z.