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The wait for search advertising on Tiktok continues

Many advertisers have been awaiting this unconventional methodology for search advertising from Tiktok, but it appears we’re waiting a little longer.

A woman sitting at a table looking up search advertising on her smart phone with a foamy coffee next to her in a cafe with various greenery.

The anticipation for search advertising on TikTok continues with no clear end in sight

While the platform is currently testing search ads, it seems that TikTok isn’t entirely satisfied with the results so far. As a result, the development of fully-fledged ad products specifically for search advertising on TikTok remains uncertain. 

Unlike platforms like Google, where advertisers can bid on specific keywords and phrases, TikTok’s search advertising works differently. Advertisers have the option to purchase ad inventory that appears alongside searches, but they can’t bid on specific keywords. Instead, they can create a blocklist of keywords they want to avoid, and TikTok’s algorithm uses video descriptions and content to match ads with relevant audience searches. This approach allows for ad targeting based on “contextual relevance” rather than keyword bidding. 

In a nutshell, search advertising on TikTok is a somewhat unconventional idea that emerged as a natural progression in user behavior on the platform. While TikTok is renowned for its entertaining viral content and comedic skits, it has also become a search engine of sorts for younger users. 

By leveraging the app’s algorithm, which tailors video recommendations based on individual viewing habits, users are able to discover information aligned with their interests and preferences. As a result, the concept of search advertising on TikTok has emerged as an organic extension of this user behavior. 

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During Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech event last year, Prabhakar Raghavan, Google’s Senior Vice President, revealed an intriguing statistic. According to Google’s internal data, approximately 40% of younger people rely on TikTok and Instagram as their primary search platforms, surpassing the usage of Google itself. This indicates a significant shift in search behavior, with younger users gravitating towards these social media platforms for their information and discovery needs. 

Also, according to a report from Morning Consult published in February, an interesting trend emerged regarding the use of TikTok for news research. The data reveals that 14% of Gen Z specifically rely on TikTok as a source for researching major news events. In contrast, only 1% of other generations utilize TikTok in a similar manner. This finding highlights the distinctive preference of Gen Z for obtaining news information through the popular video-sharing platform. 

Capitalizing on the revenue potential of search-based advertising has proven to be profitable, as shown by Google’s success over the years. Given this, it comes as absolutely no surprise that TikTok would be inclined to explore this avenue and test its own capabilities in the realm of search advertising. 

Unfortunately, TikTok appears to have some room for improvement in its search product before it can bring in that advertising coin. Right now, marketers are still divided on leveraging the platform for search purposes in its current state. This leaves a lot of lingering unknown.

TikTok’s desire to establish an advertising business that appeals to marketers during all stages of the marketing funnel is definitely clear. 

But, without attracting a significant share of ad spending, TikTok’s growth potential could be limited, hindering its ability to gain platform status. In contrast to advertising ecosystems created by industry giants like Google, Meta, and Amazon, TikTok has a long way to go. Will they ever get there? Time will surely tell. 

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Macie LaCau is a passionate writer, herbal educator, and dog enthusiast. She spends most of her time overthinking and watering her tiny tomatoes.


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