For many young consumers, TikTok is not just an entertainment hub — it’s also a search engine. Based on recent reports, the app is doubling down on its effort to monetize that phenomenon.
TikTok launched search ads in beta last year. More recently, multiple ad agency operatives told Business Insider that the app is now pitching those ads more aggressively. It would seem that TikTok is ramping up its search operation as it looks to compete with one of Google’s signature products.
“TikTok is taking this seriously,” said Brendan Gahan, a partner and chief social officer at the ad agency Mekanism, in Business Insider‘s report. “They can actually generate a whole new ad revenue stream.”
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As TikTok hunts for agency partners, it has also posted job listings for search ad engineers. One open position is on a team that is tasked with “building a globally leading Search Ads monetization system.”
Over the past year, TikTok’s prowess as a search engine has come into focus. According to data released in July 2022, nearly 40% of consumers between the ages of 18 and 24 use TikTok and Instagram to access information. TikTok paid homage to that shift in a recent commercial, which prompted viewers to “search it with TikTok.”
The nascent search ads look to harness that consumer interest. When toggled on, they appear as thumbnails on the app’s results pages. Business Insider said that TikTok uses “scenery, images, voice-to-text, captions, and keywords” to figure out the ads and search terms that should be paired with one another.
As TikTok attempts to steal a slice of the search ads market from Google, the team in Mountain View has looked for ways to respond. In September 2022, Google announced that it would fill some search results pages with dynamic elements, such as images and maps. With livelier listings, Google hopes to mimic the interactive nature of TikTok searches.
There’s no question that Google is still the king of search advertising. Even so, TikTok can make a hefty fortune with just a small slice of the search business — and that’s exactly what the ByteDance-owned app is trying to do.