How to Optimise for Social Search: The Future of Paid Search

The Future of Paid Search

The diversification of the search landscape can feel intimidating. We’re at a pivot point of changing user habits and emerging tech that will revolutionise how we search. In this blog post we will highlight some strategies that marketers can adopt to take advantage of the changes in social search. 

Unsiloing Search and Social

The preference for social search – with a spotlight on TikTok – may seem like a massive shift in user behaviour, but from a marketing perspective, we would argue that we can adapt pretty easily.

“The search landscape may have shifted into social, but the psychology of how we seek information online hasn’t changed.”

To understand this, we need to wind back to the fundamentals of search marketing. At the dawn of the search engine, marketers had a revelation: they didn’t have to identify the right message, find the right audience and engage them while in a buying mindset like they did offline. Instead, the buyer would show up when they wanted something, type in exactly what they needed and all marketers had to do was be found by them. The key to knowing what their audience wanted and making sure that their brand was visible to them was keyword research.

Understanding User Intent

Serving user intent on multiple platforms

The process to do social search optimisation is very similar to SEO: carry out keyword research, categorise the data based on search intent, but then consider where your audience is most likely to be entering those queries online.

In all likelihood, your website will still be important for navigational and transactional phrases. Traditional SEO techniques such as onsite optimisation, link building and optimising your Google My Business profile and Google Shopping feed are essential for maintaining visibility online.

You also need to consider discovery platforms such as YouTube, TikTok and Instagram. Crafting tailored content for these channels ensures a broader reach. If you are an e-commerce brand, leveraging Amazon becomes pivotal for tapping into transactional searches outside the Google ecosystem.

For your informational and explorational phrases, a strategic shift is necessary. Visual content on social platforms should be prioritised, aligning with the evolving preferences of users. Moreover, optimising content for AI search is imperative, especially with the growing influence of ChatGPT, Bard and SGE in the informational and explorational search landscape. As these technologies become intrinsic to the search experience, adapting your content strategy to align with their functionalities ensures relevance and visibility in a dynamic online environment.

TikTok Search Ads

What are TikTok search ads?

In October 2023, TikTok announced the launch of Search Ads Toggle, where brands can serve ads on search results on TikTok. These ads pull in existing in-feed ad creative to serve ads alongside organic results in a TikTok SERP. These are labelled as ‘Sponsored’ and can appear in various positions on the page based on relevancy, user intent and other user behaviour. By default, any brand running TikTok ads will opt-in to appear on Search Ads Toggle.

How does this compare to Google Ads?

As running TikTok search ads is default when running any paid TikTok activity, the comparison becomes how TikTok ads compare to Google Ads. The targeting options on TikTok are quite comprehensive, but there are some differences when compared to Google. Check out the table below, to find out more.

A key difference to point out is that the main purpose of advertising on TikTok is to reach your audience through engaging video formats, whereas Google‘s main ad format (excluding YouTube from the conversation) remains text- or image-based. This being said, we can expect more video to be pulled through in ads in the future, but if your ad content is heavily video-based, TikTok should be a lead channel. There isn‘t a keyword targeting functionality on TikTok ads currently, instead, TikTok will analyse the content of your video and ad copy to determine which keyword/search term to serve your ad for.

Table 1

Looking at the objectives available on both platforms, we can also see a difference. For more on this, check out Table 2 below. With Google, there appears to be more control over campaign objectives despite moving more and more towards letting the machine optimise toward the right goals. There are more goal types to use in Google, but this may be because of the maturity of the platform.

Table 2

The key to marketing across both channels is to ensure that you have a bespoke strategy and campaign for each. Even though there are similarities, the audience, the mindset of the audience and the intent of the audience is different on both platforms, so to be successful across both requires independent strategies.

Don’t be intimidated by the shift toward social search. Remember, the core principles of understanding user intent and crafting targeted content remain constant. Adapt your strategies to leverage the strengths of each platform, whether it’s the in-depth exploration of Google or the engaging video-driven experience of TikTok.

Get in touch with us if you’re unsure where to start or have any questions, we can help you ensure your brand is visible exactly where your customers are searching. We have the expertise to help you future-proof your brand and Imagine Better.