For more than a decade, when companies talked about search engine optimization (SEO), by default they were talking about Google. With the rise of digital juggernauts in the e-commerce and social media spaces—including the buy-anything platform Amazon and video-sharing apps like TikTok—online searches for products, entertainment, and information have begun to migrate elsewhere.
At a recent conference in Aspen, Prabhakar Raghavan, senior vice president of Google Knowledge and Information disclosed that a large portion of younger people aged 18 to 24 sidestep Google in favor of social media searches when seeking information.
“In our studies, something like almost 40% of young people, when they’re looking for a place for lunch, they don’t go to Google Maps or Search—they go to TikTok or Instagram,” he said. “We keep learning, over and over again, that new internet users don’t have the expectations and the mindset that we have become accustomed to. The queries they ask are completely different.”
Google search attrition is hardly a new trend: An oft-cited 2016 study published by big-data tech company BloomReach revealed that 55% of consumer product searches originate on Amazon.com. It’s a number that has likely grown since then. And, as tech companies continue to launch new web products, platforms, and apps, search options will dilute Google’s market share even further.
For content creators and brand marketers, this means that, right now, in addition to relying on mysterious algorithms, learning social media SEO for TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn is vital in order to surface the right content to new audiences. Best practices vary by platform but, for most, implementing a smart strategy around keywords and hashtags will go a long way toward boosting discovery.
On TikTok, there’s now an entire genre of content around helping creators improve SEO and get found on the app. Creators such as Mike Rama, who runs a platform connecting UGC makers and brands, have started publishing free, informative posts doubling down on the importance of using the best possible search terms as well as providing helpful tips—including demos of how to use TikTok’s search bar to find the most popular autofill search phrases based on seed words, then creating posts about each of the most-searched topics.
Unlike flash-in-the-pan meme- and trend-driven tropes, search-optimized content gains traction over time as people intentionally seek out information and posts rack up clicks, argues Yvonne Dekoning, a former social media manager at Saks Fifth Avenue who now provides social media coaching to brands and corporate execs. Her TikTok content focuses on tutorials.
Meanwhile, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn have all expanded their product offerings—most notably, LinkedIn with its just-launched suite of creator tools—providing easy ways for users to populate existing platforms with robust, searchable multimedia and other content. Anyone with an internet connection, keyboard, and camera can feed the beast—the more content, the merrier, it seems–or at least the more opportunities there are to surface in search, on Google and beyond, and bring audiences and eyeballs to tech platforms everywhere.