Is TikTok search a threat to Google search?
Google’s had many threats in the past. Many have tried and failed to overtake Google in their dominance in the search space.
However, TikTok is different.
TikTok is a fast rising brand, that has many new generation web users already using the app as their preferred search engine.
Not only do young web users stay on TikTok for their search but TikTok are actively prompting their users to, indeed, search on the app.
So, is TikTok search a threat to Google search? A legit threat?
I’m leaning towards ‘yes’ on this one.
I think TikTok search is a legit threat to Google search.
But, I don’t think TikTok will overtake Google in their search dominance.
I think they can break apart Google’s dominance but I don’t think they’ll have the biggest market share – I think Google will still own this title.
Here’s why I say this…
Search has changed over the years.
In the beginning, the market share of search was well spread out across several companies.
Google later came to dominate and have remained the number one search engine in the world – bar, two or three markets.
In Russia, in China, Google isn’t number one. But in the other main markets they have a presence in, they dominate, and they certainly do so, globally.
For years, searchers have turned to Google as their default search engine.
We’re now at a point, in search, where people search for what they seek, using what they have.
What do I mean by this…?
We’re at a point in web browsing where the primary engine that people use to search is the engine that they are on.
Now, I use the term ‘web browsing’ but of course this includes apps, which have heavily influenced the way people search.
Think of Twitter. If you’re on the app, is it not more convenient to search for something on the app, rather than exiting to use another app for your search?
Think of Amazon. If you’re browsing on the app and seek to search for a product, would you primarily leave the app, or would you use their search functionality on the app?
You would, of course, stay on the app, wouldn’t you? It’s more convenient.
As long as you get the set of results you want, it’s better to use the search functionality of the app that you are on, isn’t it?
Why would you use another app for your search? To get a better set of results?
Well, what if the app you’re using improves their set of results? What if they improve their search engine on the app?
Isn’t this what Instagram seeks to do?
Isn’t this what Amazon seeks to do?
Isn’t this what TikTok is seeking to do?
If all of these companies are doing this, wouldn’t this take away from the use of Google as the default search engine?
Yes. Yes, it would.
I can see this ‘less-usage’ of Google search happening.
The companies I’ve mentioned, Amazon, Twitter, Insta-, they haven’t been able to do so because, for one, their search engines have not even come close to being as good as Google’s.
However, with TikTok, it’s different.
TikTok could be the biggest blow to Google’s search dominance.
Because they have the new generation of web users. Not only do they have the new generation of web users but they are the closest to the future generation of web users.
Gen Z, generation Alpha, and the generation after are more likely to use TikTok than they are to use Google.
And if TikTok are working on their search engine, which they are, and are prompting people to search on the app, which they are, they are influencing their users to stay on the app rather than to exit to use another app for their search.
At best, they’re going to own these web users – as opposed to Google owning them.
At worse, they’re going to influence the spread of the market share of search.
This is what I think is more likely to happen.
Now, Google is already taking action to fend off TikTok’s threat.
They have already started indexing TikTok content.
We’re very likely to see TikTok results akin to the way we see Twitter results in Google search results for certain keywords.
But I don’t think this defensive move by Google will be enough.
I think the way people search is at the core of this threat to Google, and I think this is what’s changing.
People will still use Google, absolutely.
But for the sake of convenience, people aren’t going to be switching over to Google for their search when the app they’re using is able to provide results to their queries.
Only if and when they are not satisfied with the results will they head over to Google for a better set of results.
We could reach a point where we have multi-app browsing.
Just like people use multi-browsers for their search, and this is increasing in popularity (I presume), we could see people multi-app browsing.
This is going to expand search like we’ve never seen.
Not only will the way people search change, but people’s awareness of search will further evolve.
I can see brand recognition being even more important.
Brand recognition as well as identity.
Oh, TikTok could shake up the world of search.
Just imagine where this could lead SEOs…
Rather than focusing on Google, we could have more and more SEOs focusing on multiple search engines.
We could see SEOs focusing on multiple devices.
We could see SEOs focusing on multiple platforms.
TikTok, as a search engine, could be what triggers the expansion of the universe of search.
And I, for one, am all for it.