The New Google: Why Gen Z is Ditching the Search Engine for TikTok

The New Google: Why Gen Z is Ditching the Search Engine for TikTok

Approaching TikTok with a Search mindset can boost ROAS for your campaign, find out more.

When you want to find something on the internet, your first stop is usually Google — though this may no longer be the default answer within the next few years. We asked 1,000 U.S.-based TikTok users about their search habits to find out their go-to method for discovery. It turns out many are not using Google — they’re using TikTok.

Gen Z, in particular, could leave the search engine behind, setting the stage for a seismic shift in how people use the internet — and how marketers can reach them. Read on to learn how to leverage this shift for your TikTok performance marketing campaigns.

TikTok as a search engine

If Gen Z is looking for more information about a subject, want to find a way to make their lives easier, or merely want to amuse themselves, they’re not turning to Google or other social media platforms — they’re going to TikTok. Of respondents between ages 16-24:

  • 62% say they’re most likely to use TikTok to seek out new things.
  • 16% say they are most likely to use other social media platforms to seek out new things instead of TikTok.
  • Only 8% say they are most likely to use Google or another search engine for discovery.

So what are they searching for? As it turns out, many of the same things people search for on Google or YouTube — though funny or entertaining content is far and away the most popular topic. Here’s a breakdown of popular search topics Gen Z looks for on TikTok:

  • 67% of Gen Z respondents search for funny or entertaining clips.
  • 57% search for new music recommendations.
  • 47% search for lifestyle tips.
  • 44% look up the latest beauty or fashion trends.
  • 44% search for recipe ideas.
  • 37% look for cleaning or organization tips.

Other popular topics include home improvement ideas, parenting tips, restaurant reviews, and suggestions for hot travel destinations.
Discover how Gen Z, Millennials, and more are shaping the future of social media marketing through TikTok by downloading our free report, What TikTok users want, the Essential Guide for Performance Marketers.

TikTokers trust other TikTokers

People we surveyed seem to generally find the information they receive on TikTok to be trustworthy. 87% of Gen Z respondents trust the information they search for. That’s not to say that trust is blindly given — 41% of respondents say they will do their own research to confirm their findings. Here’s how much Gen Z trusts the topics they’re searching for: 

  • 67% trust the beauty or fashion trends they find on TikTok.
  • 65% trust lifestyle and organization hacks.
  • 62% trust the travel advice they see.
  • 52% trust financial advice on the platform.

Much of this trust likely comes down to the authenticity of the content creators who make TikTok their home. While other social media platforms are known for encouraging users to project an idealized version of themselves, TikTok has a far more down-to-earth vibe. It’s messier, less produced, and more in the moment. People record videos without a lot of setup, often just sitting in their bedrooms, talking off the cuff into the camera about something they’re interested in or a hack that makes something in their lives easier.

It’s that desire to share information with the rest of the world that people find captivating.

 “TikTok is made up of real people using products and sharing their findings with others,” says Jennifer Sudo, Managing Partner at M&C Saatchi Performance. “It’s a community of people wanting to help others.”

The most effective ads on the platform lean into this more natural, authentic approach to content creation. They use trusted creators who know how to make content that resonates with TikTok’s user base, and they’re based on topics people are actually interested in watching.

Approach your TikTok ad campaign with a Search mindset

While most TikTok users spend their time browsing the “For You” Page, TikTok has put in work to prioritize and improve the search features on its platform. That way, users can search for videos using keywords that match hashtags, audio, captions, and other text that creators incorporate into their content, which will filter down into future visits to the “For You” Page.

“Whatever you can find on Google will find its way onto TikTok eventually,” Jennifer says. “And creators are going to find a way to create their presence around the types of topics that people would be interested in.”

That means performance marketers will need to approach their TikTok campaigns with a mindset toward search engine optimization (SEO) just like they would with advertising on Google. 

“I think the likes of SEO, paid search, and how we migrate some of our best practices from those disciplines onto TikTok is an area that marketers will need to dial up their skill set in and understand more deeply in the months and years to come,” says Dane Buchanon, Director of Data and Analytics at M&C Saatchi Performance. 

Success will take more than stuffing a few keywords into a post and calling it a day. Marketers must research and examine how users engage with content, figure out what hashtags people are searching for, and then craft meaningful, authentic content around those keywords.

Putting in the effort to make native, TikTok-first ads will pay dividends. Gen Z audiences are very receptive to ads that fit the platform, and 59% of these respondents said they’d purchased something they saw promoted on TikTok. Even if they haven’t yet, 34% are open to buying something they see in a TikTok ad — making 93% of all Gen Z respondents purchase-ready.

Discover how people are really using TikTok

TikTok’s position as one of the most effective content delivery platforms on the market makes it useful for finding out what’s going on in the world around you. It also makes it a brilliant place for performance marketers to connect directly with their audience. If you’re not advertising on TikTok now, it’s time to start before you get left behind.

The best way to begin developing your TikTok ad campaign is to investigate the ways people use the platform. To help, we’ve compiled all of our findings in a new report; What TikTok users want, the Essential Guide for Performance Marketers. Inside, you’ll discover how TikTok users are getting their news, engaging with ad content, and more. Plus, you’ll learn practical steps for making your first TikTok campaign successful. Download the report today.