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How to use TikTok for SEO keyword research

Author: Abby Gleason

an image of author abby gleason, accompanied by search-related iconography, including a search bar, a key icon, and a search volume chart

TikTok is where pop culture begins.


The social media platform has invented its own language. “BookTok,” “cottagecore,” “hair theory”—the list goes on. None of these terms existed before TikTok emerged, but they now have a huge impact on how people search across platforms.


Yes, I am saying that the unique terms you see on TikTok have ripple effects on Google Search, advertising, and across other social media. They are keywords, and should be seen as such.


Want an example? Let’s refer back to “BookTok,” a term that references the reading community on TikTok. This is a word that did not exist prior to TikTok’s arrival in 2016, but since then has become a pop culture phenomenon, impacting Google Search, Instagram, Twitter and more:


Google Trends data showing the popularity over time for the search term “BookTok”. Starting in 2016, the term shows increasing popularity starting in 2021 and peak popularity in 2023.

The hashtag #booktok on Instagram shows 3,047,009 posts using that hashtag, indicating its popularity.

Put simply, if you aren’t using TikTok for keyword research, you’re missing out on major opportunities. This platform is one of the best places to find emerging keywords in your niche—an SEO tactic that has become especially important since traditional keyword research tools do not do a great job of surfacing trending terms (like ChatGPT).



In this article, I’ll show you exactly how TikTok and SEO intersect, and how you can take advantage of that overlap to attract more visitors to your site.


Table of contents:


What does TikTok have to do with SEO?


TikTok is where you can find high volume, low competition search trends that very few are writing about for SEO.


I am suggesting that search marketers should view TikTok keywords as viable, valuable search terms that they can target to rank in Google.

The logic goes as follows: If a topic like “BookTok” has 135 billion views on TikTok, one can assume that some of that interest carries over to Google Search. As you can see from the Google Trends results I shared earlier, that search interest has grown exponentially and has brought websites targeting BookTok a lot of SEO traffic.


It may help to think about TikTok trends somewhat akin to cultural phenomena, like the Super Bowl. The event creates waves of search demand for everything from tourism in the host city to buffalo dip recipes. (Just for fun, check out search spikes for “buffalo dip recipes” in the past five years. Recognize a pattern?)


What’s trending in the world—which is essentially culture—is a driving force in search demand. Traditional SEO keyword research tools don’t do a great job of staying up to date with emerging or seasonal keywords, so you need to equip yourself with other methods to find them.


While there are many ways to find trending keywords, I want to hyperfocus on TikTok because it’s a cultural epicenter, and therefore a topic idea gold mine that few search marketers seem to be taking advantage of. I ran a poll in early 2023 asking who used TikTok for keyword research, and 83% (of the 150 respondents) said no.


LinkedIn post by Abby Gleason that says “I don’t do polls here often but I’m curious: Do you use TikTok for keyword research?” 17% of the 150 respondents said yes, and 83% said no.

If you target trending topics as they’re happening, you’ll have the first-mover advantage for driving SEO traffic, and the added benefit of showing your audience your brand has its finger on the pulse. Relevance + awesome content = brand loyalty.


Examples of SEO content that leverage TikTok trends


While targeting TikTok trends in your SEO content might not be mainstream yet, there are plenty of brands that have used this tactic successfully:



Architectural Digest writes about the TikTok design trend “cluttercore,” which refers to the joy of cluttering your space with items that make you happy—the antithesis of minimalism. The brand shared an editorial perspective on this trend and it’s been rewarded in search results.


This page currently ranks No.1 in Google for the term cluttercore, which drives 53,000 searches per year, with a 0/100 keyword difficulty (according to Keywords Everywhere).



In another example, Glamour covers one of TikTok’s latest beauty philosophies: “hair theory,” which sets out to prove that your hairstyle can transform your entire appearance and the way you’re perceived. The article defines the term “hair theory,” recognizing that the audience might see this term on TikTok or hear about it in conversation, and want to understand what it means.


This page currently ranks No.2 in Google for the term hair theory, which drives 29,000 searches per year, with a 0/100 keyword difficulty, according to Keywords Everywhere.


I could share dozens more examples, but you get the point: TikTok trends are often low-hanging fruit, and brands are earning SEO traffic by sharing their perspectives on them.


But, what if my audience isn’t on TikTok?


I hear you. Depending on your business, your audience might very well be completely inactive on TikTok. I’m certainly not suggesting your brand invest resources in creating your own TikTok trend-related content if it doesn’t make sense to.


The idea isn't necessarily that your audience has TikTok accounts and is actively engaged on the platform, but that TikTok is still a valid place to identify cultural trends in your industry.

For instance, Chia Pets have been one of TikTok’s many obsessions.



If you're a garden center, you may not think your audience is impacted by TikTok. However, you may see Chia Pet sales rise as your customer base expands as a result of this trend.


Your results with this strategy will depend on your industry, your brand, and your creativity. So, keep an open mind and do a bit of research on TikTok to see if this process could work to attract more web traffic to your site.


How to conduct keyword research on TikTok


While finding relevant topic ideas on TikTok may initially seem like finding a needle in a haystack, it’s actually fairly straightforward.


01. Start with audience research

Before you start with keyword research, you have to know your audience. What are they interested in? What questions do they have about your product or industry?


To understand your customer base, conduct user interviews, talk to customer-facing teams, or use tools like Sparktoro to get a sense for where your audience spends time online.


For instance, if you sell young adult clothing, and your audience research reveals that your potential customers also spend time watching Netflix, that can give you more ideas for topics to dig into.


Example: After the hit TV show Wednesday aired on Netflix, searches for Wednesday clothes skyrocketed. If your young adult clothing brand created a “Wednesday” category page, you can imagine how the traffic might start flooding in.


Everywhere trend data for “wednesday clothes”. Popularity spiked in late 2022, when Wednesday aired on Netflix.

02. Check out TikTok’s Creative Center

Want to find topic ideas on TikTok? An excellent place to start is TikTok’s free Creative Center. This is one of the most efficient ways to browse what’s trending in your country for a variety of industries and topics.


I like to look through top hashtags and videos to see what topics come up. Keep a spreadsheet handy, and get ready to jot down ideas.


Screenshot of TikTok’s Creative Center, which showcases popular hashtags, songs, creators and TikTok videos for a variety of industries.

Note: The popular hashtags shared here can be a bit broad. For instance, looking up “Home Improvement” trends takes me to topics like # gardening and # PlantTok (a community for plant parents on TikTok).


Clicking into a hashtag gives you more specific information about each topic. For instance, # PlantTok shows me trends over time, top videos, and audience insights (like age range and related interests). This may have been how I discovered Chia Pets were back in style…


03. Browse specific topics on TikTok

The Creative Center can provide some quick wins, but to get the widest breadth of topic ideas, you’ll need to roll up your sleeves and dig into some videos.


Do a TikTok search for your industry or product and look for themes. For example, check out the interior design hashtag on TikTok. In five minutes of searching, I identified that top videos included topics like:


  • NYC thrifting

  • How to furnish a 7x7 foot room

  • Material combinations


The videos in each hashtag are sorted by popularity, and many videos boast millions of views. One can assume that topics that drive that much engagement on one platform might also perform well in search.


04. Search Google for “[industry] TikTok trends”

It may seem deceptively simple, but searching Google for TikTok roundups can quickly clue you into what people are most interested in about your industry on the platform.


For example, a search for interior design TikTok trends gave me ideas like:


  • Cottagecore

  • Grandmillennial

  • Maximalism

  • Boho decor

  • Monochrome


These are topics that may not easily be found through more traditional keyword research methods, as many are relatively new terms, like “cottagecore” or “grandmillennial.”


05. Follow creators in your industry

A great way to stay on top of TikTok trends is to simply be active on TikTok. Follow creators and hashtags to stay up-to-date on the latest trending topics, and track them for your keyword research efforts.


And if you simply can’t dedicate time to monitoring another marketing channel, see if top creators on TikTok are active on other platforms you use. Maybe they’re also active on Instagram, or perhaps they have a weekly newsletter summarizing their content.


By keeping an eye on creators in your industry, you’ll stay up to date with the latest trends and can create content that ranks based on it.


How to write about TikTok topics for SEO


You’ve got your list of topics—now what? Depending on the topic, there are several effective ways to target each keyword. Here are a few ideas to get you started:


01. Define the term/trend

Terms like “hair theory” or “cottagecore” do not refer to obvious or mainstream trends.


People who hear about these trends in conversation or see them pop up on social media might naturally look for a definition. For example, they might search What is cottagecore? (It’s an aesthetic that celebrates a rural lifestyle, but it’s impossible to know that without context).


You can seize this opportunity by creating content that clearly defines the term and the context behind it:


  • What does it mean?

  • How did it become popular?

  • What are some examples of this concept?


You may even go a step further and share how it’s impacting an industry (like yours) or culture (like your audience’s).


Tip: Google your term and see what the autocomplete and People Also Ask features reveal. This can clue you into popular questions about your topic or give you even more topic ideas to run with.


The "others want to know" section of the google search results, showing dropdown features for the questions "what is the opposite of cottagecore?" "what is grandmacore?" "what is the dark version of cottagecore?" and "is cottagecore still a thing?"
“Grandmacore,” interesting. Now you’ve got a whole new topic to research…

02. Explain how to lean into the trend

Your brand may be in a unique position to explain how readers can incorporate the trend into their lifestyle.


For example, “How to embrace the cottagecore aesthetic in your home” could be an effective angle. This content will be especially compelling if your brand has authority on the topic and solutions to fit the need. If you’re a home goods retailer, this content could even drive users to your product pages as a way to embrace the trend.


03. Roundups

Another approach is to create roundups related to each topic. Sticking with the “cottagecore” example, this could include:


  • Homes that are embracing the “cottagecore” trend

  • Our favorite “cottagecore” influencers on Instagram

  • Most affordable “cottagecore” brands


To get ideas for roundup topics, you could do a Google search for best [topic] and see what autocomplete comes up with.


Google autocomplete results for “best cottagecore”. Examples include: “best cottagecore brands”, “best cottagecore movies” and “best cottagecore books”.

04. Product-focused content

TikTok trends might even influence your product offerings. You can tweak your positioning to capitalize on a popular trend and reap the benefits in search.


Consider showcasing your product(s) which reflect a popular trend. Going back to the home goods retailer example, this may involve creating an entire category dedicated to “cottagecore” and featuring it on your homepage or linking to it from your blog.


Culture = keywords


New search terms are created on TikTok constantly, and if you want to keep up, you have to be there. This may involve spending one hour on TikTok each month to gather new content ideas, or it may mean regularly checking in with top creators to see what’s trending.


Regardless of the frequency, incorporate this platform into your keyword research process and you’ll almost certainly find emerging, low competition topics to target. Or at the very least, you may get some new interior design ideas for your home.


 

Abby Gleason

Abby Gleason is a content-focused SEO with 6+ years experience leading successful organic search strategies for SaaS and eCommerce brands. She loves to share her learnings and has been published on Moz, Semrush, Search Engine Land and more. Twitter | Linkedin

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