Will the upcoming TikTok Search Ads be worth it?

User Acquisition Campaigns

March 21, 2023

TikTok’s rapid rise to fame made it an advertisers’ dream recently. The short video platform has been growing its ad offer to create a bridge between advertisers and its 1.8 billion users. The app has been downloaded over 3 billion times, and with time spent on the app growing steadily, it’s a great place to advertise your app or your mobile game. Especially with the new ad placement they’re working on. 

TikTok as a search engine

TikTok started as a lip sync app (back when it was still called Musical.ly), then it became known worldwide as the video app where people filmed themselves trying trending dances. Now, it’s challenging Google as a search engine. 

Twitter used to be the chosen social media to get news and stay up to speed about current events. However, ever since Elon Musk’s acquisition and the algorithmic reorganization of the social media platform, the platform’s spot as a news place has been questioned by users.

TikTok is now emerging as a source of information, with a growing user base, young users are using it more and more to stay informed. 40% of US Gen-Z (between 18 and 24 years old) prefer to make web searches via Instagram or TikTok instead of Google. Actually, 26% of US adults under 30 regularly get their news on TikTok.

In the UK, TikTok is considered the fastest-growing source of news for adults. And recent events have been covered intensively on the short video platform (like the Johnny Depp v. Amber Heard trial for example).

TikTok is truly aiming for a more global positioning as a Search engine. They’re changed their UX to showcase search options, now the most searched keywords are shown above the comments of videos. They even launched a new marketing campaign called Search it with TikTok

This positioning is becoming more prominent lately. The Chinese app is clearly banking on the organic interest in its Search function and building a marketing strategy to push it further. This is why it makes sense that their upcoming ad product is focused on search. 

TikTok Search Ads are coming

For a few months now TikTok has been beta testing a new ad placement in search results. Only available to selected advertisers so far, the beta allows them to place a video ad as the first result. This is what it looks like:

source: Social Media Today

Just like other ads on the platform, this new placement fits seamlessly in the app. The ad barely stands out from organic search results, which will definitely boost its efficiency. TikTok ads work so well because they look like organic content, this creates trust among users. After all, ever since the video app started hosting ads they rallied around the slogan “Make TikToks not ads”.

According to Business Insider, TikTok is using “scenery, images, voice-to-text, captions, and keywords” to pair ads and search terms. They also add that three sources have received heightened pitching for this product and offered to participate in case studies, which leads some experts to believe that it should come out of beta soon. 

TikTok hasn’t shared much information on this new placement, what we know so far is that selected advertisers can activate search ads through a toggle on their existing TikTok campaigns, but they can’t choose where they will appear. The platform will decide how to place them according to the targeted audience. This means that TikTok is hoping advertisers will trust their algorithm and platform to choose the best keywords and platforms for them. However, advertisers can set a list of negative keywords they do not want their ads to appear next to. 

For experts, TikTok’s targeting is more personalized to individual users’ interests, because it takes into account the actual content of the video instead of relying on textual metadata (title, description, and tags) like more traditional search engines. 

Will it be worth it?

TikTok has proven itself as a useful marketing tool. It helped brands find their audience and strengthen their image with improved visibility. Now that advertisers are becoming more comfortable with using the platform, it makes sense for TikTok to open new doors.

This placement is a great choice because it follows a natural evolution, the search tool inside the social media platform has taken more and more space, so much so that its use now feels natural to users. 

Placing ads in search results makes sense, it takes advantage of organic user paths to feed personalized ads to a specific audience. In general, search ads are an efficient placement because they rely on a connection between the ad content and what users are looking for. 

Showing your product to people who are looking for it (or more exactly for the solution you’re offering) is the best way to increase conversions and unlock long-term users. 

More than that, TikTok’s user base is younger than other social media platforms which give them privileged access to this audience, it also allows them to cement their position by gaining ground on Google. It’s a unique opportunity to target a very specific audience, one that is especially relevant in mobile because they are hard to reach through more traditional advertising channels. This new placement will offer an effective way to reach valuable demographics, and allow TikTok to tap a market valued at $112 billion this year, according to Insider Intelligence.

The only hitch with this is that, like every TikTok ad placement, creatives must be TikTok-specific. Unlike other ad platforms where one creative can be used in several spots, TikTok ads work best when they look like organic content, which is very platform-specific. The social media’s appeal is all about authenticity and relevance, positioning video ads as the answers to users’ questions will make for a great tool that takes advantage of the platform’s strengths.  

TikTok has managed to establish a very efficient algorithm relying on first-party data, this also means that through TikTok Search Ads, your ad content will be relying heavily on TikTok’s data for precise and efficient targeting. And if the video platform follows its path on prices, it may be cheaper than the competition. 

All in all, TikTok is clearly positioning itself as a strong advertising platform, with both competitive prices and ROI as well as efficient targeting, which is becoming rarer post-ATT. And with Meta and Twitter facing challenging situations ad-wise, TikTok appears like a natural solution. 

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