The TikTok SEO Opportunity
Short-form video search could be marketing's next frontier
Happy Friday! Turner back again with The Split.
On Wednesday I tweeted about TikTok increasing the length of video descriptions to 2,200 characters. Two thousand "words" was a typo, but it may be the case soon, and it highlights the coming opportunity in TikTok SEO. I promised to expand on it here.
I'm also taking a few days off for an anniversary trip this weekend. See you on Thursday!
The TikTok SEO Opportunity
TikTok just announced its expanding the length of video descriptions from 300 to 2,200 characters. This may seem small, but its significant in the context of how the product is evolving.
For as long as I've been following TikTok, its parent company Bytedance has always hinted at competing with Google in search. Initially on TikTok, this started with 15 second videos. They were originally dances, lip syncs, and ironic comedy. It felt like it picked up where Vine left off. A far cry from a search engine, as passively scrolling is the polar opposite of actively seeking out information.
Eventually, other content emerged like how to's, art, vlogs, and broader lifestyle categories. It also increased the video length to 60 seconds. Then three minutes. And most recently, 10 minutes. Somewhere along the way, we reached a point where any information you might want to find online was on TikTok.
As videos got longer, they got more interactive. TikTok's Duet feature split the screen with two videos playing at the same time (one a response to the other), and you could tap an icon in the description to watch the original video. Multiple duets could be strung together (Sea Shanty's anyone?). And TikTok added the ability to reply to a comment with a video and reply with video to another video itself, both as independent videos with tappable descriptions that showed up in its scrollable feed, the For You Page. TikTok's interactivity has of course always extended outside video descriptions, with camera filters, "Shop Now" buttons, and its trademark "explore other videos with this sound".
If you're familiar with web SEO, all this cross-referencing between videos might start sounding like backlinking (note that I have no idea if TikTok SEO will actually prioritize these). Captions and hashtags have always been important for discovery on TikTok and social media more broadly. As its content becomes richer, it all becomes more important in search indexing.
As TikTok has trained everyone to interact with videos, don't be surprised to see links to other sites or to purchase products, all within a video description or the content more broadly (and this isn't much different from YouTube descriptions today). It won't feel exactly like a blog post, but a video could monetize and drive business like one. Or like an Amazon product listing. Or a hotel booking or restaurant review page. Here's a great primer on how this evolved in China from Connie Chen at a16z.
You've probably seen this by now, but Google estimates "almost 40% of young people don't use Google Maps or Search when looking for a place for lunch. They use TikTok or Instagram". Its tough to nail down exactly why, but younger people seem to prefer more visual formats, especially on mobile. And today, Google's search product is entirely text-based. We should expect them to change this soon...
We've seen companies like Canva, Airbnb, and Zapier supercharge their business with strong SEO strategies. And many brands leveraged SEO for success on Amazon. It won't look exactly the same on TikTok, but the stage is set for a similar opportunity in video search. And it won't be just on TikTok. There will likely be opportunities across every other short-form video product.
On TikTok, SEO may also rank content high in its feed, and as of today, TikTok's show up in Google search results. Optimizing for a high TikTok ranking could possibly double dip and rank in Google (with the disclosure that I haven't played around with this enough to know how true this is). I doubt this cross-pollination lasts for long, as YouTube likely has a similar roadmap as TikTok, and you should expect it to inevitably prioritize its own products in search.
And for its own business, this means TikTok can monetize a) passive feed scrolls, b) in-app transactions, and c) search. As it continues stealing share of time spent on our phones, its setting up to be a very valuable company.
Was this email forwarded to you?
Charts & Links
Land is now 47% of US home values: Up from 38% in 2012, and 20% in the 1960's. More from the WSJ.
The disappearance of the $300k American starter home: h/t CalculatedRisk
Remote work drove more than 60% of house price surge: The SF Fed found each 1% increase in remote work results in a 0.9% increase in both housing prices and rent. It believes the permanent shift to remote work will continue impacting the path of real estate prices and inflation. More from Bloomberg.
Non-performing loan ratio for China's property sector estimated at 29.1%: This includes 14.8% for state-owned developers and 47.8% for privately owned (estimated by Citi). While analysts think its manageable and likely to get better as China emerges from its latest COVID lockdown, something to keep an eye on. More from Bloomberg.
US manufacturing jobs are now above pre-pandemic levels: My hunch is continued onshoring and improving efficiency of US production (at least relatively) drives this higher. More from the St. Louis Fed.
Crazy story: in the early days of debit cards, overdraft fees were initially instated to replace the lost revenue from bounced check fees. They became so profitable that the Fed had to step in. h/t Brigitte Tondreau for sharing.
Early apps are rolling in for Banana Talent Drop #4. Join as a candidate here alongside employees and executives from Snap, Amazon, and Google to get in front of hiring managers for startup roles across the Banana portfolio and broader network.
If you're looking for something new, check out the full job board with 50+ open roles here.