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

By Passion Digital
06 Feb 2024

The search landscape is evolving rapidly, driven by changing user habits and emerging technologies. Social platforms like TikTok are increasingly popular for information discovery, presenting both challenges and exciting opportunities for marketers. This post explores how you can adapt your existing search strategies to thrive in this dynamic environment.

From Siloed Strategies to Unified Intent

While the social search surge might seem like a seismic shift, the core principles of search marketing remain the same. 

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

Remember the golden age of SEO? Marketers didn’t need to chase audiences, they simply optimised for keywords and waited for users to find them. Today, while technical SEO remains crucial for navigational and transactional searches (website optimisation, link building, Google My Business, etc.), we must adapt to the evolving “where” of user intent.

To grasp this, let’s rewind to the fundamentals of search marketing. In the nascent stages of search engines, marketers had an epiphany: they no longer needed to meticulously craft messages, pinpoint the right audience, and engage them in a buying mindset, akin to offline strategies. Instead, the consumer would arrive precisely when in need, input their query and marketers merely had to ensure visibility. Keyword research emerged as the linchpin, enabling marketers to decipher user intent and align their brand accordingly.

Deciphering User Intent 

Addressing user intent across diverse platforms

The process of optimising for social search mirrors SEO practices: conduct keyword research, segment data based on intent, but then pivot to where your audience is likely initiating these queries online.

Chances are, your website remains pivotal for navigational and transactional queries. Traditional SEO tactics such as on-site optimisation, link building and enhancing your Google My Business profile and Google Shopping feed are indispensable for maintaining online visibility.

Additionally, factor in discovery platforms like YouTube, TikTok and Instagram. Tailoring content for these channels expands your reach. For e-commerce businesses, leveraging Amazon becomes paramount for tapping into transactional searches beyond the Google realm.

For informational and exploratory queries, a strategic pivot is imperative. Prioritise visual content on social platforms, aligning with evolving user preferences. Furthermore, optimising content for AI-driven searches is key, especially given the rising influence of ChatGPT, Bard and SGE in the informational and exploratory search arena. As these technologies integrate seamlessly into the search experience, aligning your content strategy with their functionalities ensures relevance and visibility in an ever-evolving digital landscape.

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?

A notable distinction lies in the primary objective of TikTok advertising, which centres on engaging video formats, whereas Google’s primary ad formats (excluding YouTube) predominantly feature text- or image-based content. Presently, TikTok lacks keyword targeting functionality. Instead, it analyses video content and ad copy to determine ad placement.

The crux of marketing across both platforms lies in crafting bespoke strategies tailored to each. Despite similarities, differences in audience demographics, mindset and intent necessitate independent approaches for success. Embrace the evolution towards social search without trepidation. Remember, core principles such as understanding user intent and crafting targeted content remain steadfast. Adapt your strategies to capitalise on the unique strengths of each platform, whether it’s the comprehensive exploration of Google or the immersive, video-driven experience of TikTok.

Reach out to us if you’re uncertain where to begin or have queries. We’re here to guide you in ensuring your brand stands out precisely where your customers are searching. With our expertise, we’ll help future-proof your brand and Imagine Better.


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