How TikTok is quietly working to beat Google at its own game

How TikTok is quietly working to beat Google at its own game

TikTok is taking steps to refine its search experience.

Most recently, the company quietly partnered with Wikipedia on an integration to include Wikipedia search results into TikTok search results as a way to provide users with more relevant information directly in-app.

Earlier this year, TikTok launched a similar feature in partnership with Amazon-owned IMDb to also include IMDb search results in TikTok search results. The partnership also includes a feature that allows users to link up to five movie and TV titles within videos that direct users to an in-app page that showcases other videos and data about the referenced movie or TV show.

The moves come as the company last month added ads to its search, giving advertisers a new way to reach TikTok audiences using the platform for that purpose.

Analysis: Keeping users in-app and eating Google’s lunch

Young users have increasingly begun turning to the short-form video platform as a Google alternative, and so it’s no surprise TikTok has looked to take advantage by improving its search function.

Google has previously admitted TikTok, as well as Instagram, poses a threat to their search dominance for young users. This comes as Google, like many other internet and social media companies, has been criticised in recent years for a declining user experience filled with too many ads and SEO-riddled results.

Ironically, the increased competition from TikTok over search could be helpful to Google as it faces a major antitrust case in the US this fall.

For TikTok, improving search is not just about selling additional ad inventory (though that’s a likely bonus); it also appears to be about keeping young users on the app rather than exiting to go elsewhere, such as when they have a query. By incorporating Wikipedia and IMDb into the app (two of the most popular sites for searches), users would be less likely, in some instances, to feel the need to open a web browser when they have a question.

The focus on retaining in-app engagement appears to be partially behind the strategy to partner with such sites. Alongside recently reported news that the company is hiring more developers to work on improving private messaging features, TikTok is looking to situate itself, if not as an ‘everything app,’ certainly as a ‘as-many-things-as-possible app.’

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