How Does Video Search Work on TikTok & YouTube?

January 6, 2023

How Does Video Search on TikTok and YouTube Work?

Video search is the most popular way to find videos online, but it works a bit differently on TikTok and YouTube compared to other video sites. Even so, understanding video SEO, knowing how to find relevant videos, and making your own brand more discoverable is key to long-term video marketing success.

In this blog post we’ll explore how video search on TikTok and YouTube work, including tips to maximize your video marketing efforts. Keep reading for more information about how video search functions, what these two platforms evaluate when generating search results, and how to get seen by your ideal customers. 

What is Video Search on TikTok and YouTube?

TikTok and YouTube video search is the functionality on these social media platforms that lets you find videos, particularly those based on your interests and preferences. Being able to search for a video within the platform itself increases the odds that you’ll find the exact kind of content you’re looking for. At the very least, you’re likely to find videos closely related to your search query. 

Video search functionality is useful on platforms like TikTok in particular, where more than 2 billion users have downloaded the app. Such a large volume of users invariably means there are millions of videos to sift through. 

Since TikTok is a relatively new platform, its video search capabilities are still developing. That being said, its recent massive influx of new users has prompted the company to improve its search result strength rapidly. 

YouTube—which is part of Google—already has a more granular algorithm, which leads to much more specific results. You can type in anything and YouTube will bring up exactly what you’re looking for or the closest video it thinks matches. 

So how do the two platforms work? What should you know about both? Let’s dive into both of these questions in the next section. 

How Does Video Search on TikTok and YouTube Work?

Learning how both YouTube and TikTok video search work is advantageous to your own discoverability needs. The more you know how people are looking for content on two of the world’s biggest video platforms, the better you can position yourself to be found by them. 

YouTube Search 

Ever since Google bought YouTube, the YouTube video search experience has felt similar to a normal Google search. These are the primary factors YouTube analyzes when you’re looking for a video on the platform: 

  • Relevance: First and foremost, YouTube wants to give you what’s most relevant to your search. For example, while “apple laptop” and “apple pie” are 50% similar from a words perspective, the intent behind these queries varies widely. As such, YouTube will fetch the best video based on its understanding of what you’re looking for. 
  • Expertise: Authoritativeness or expertise is related to Google’s own EAT guidelines, or expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. This benchmark trifecta is designed to show the most reliable content, not just content that is recent. The more reliable a result is, the happier a user is, which benefits the platform, creator, and advertisers. 
  • Quality or trustworthiness: The other main factor YouTube includes in video search results is how high quality the video is. If the video has received lengthy watch time, lots of likes, or plenty of comments (especially in the first 24 hours of the video), YouTube knows its worth serving up. 

TikTok Search

Video search on TikTok isn’t drastically different from YouTube, but it has some characteristics you should know about. Here are the main components of TikTok video search:

  • Video engagement levels: The number of video views, likes, and shares is a key determinant of the videos TikTok displays in search results. Similarly to YouTube, TikTok won’t disqualify a lower-engaged video from search results, but they’re less likely to show up.
  • Audio used in video (if any): A fact not everyone knows about TikTok is that it merged with another popular social media platform — It’s easy to add music to your TikTok videos. When someone’s looking for a particular video, TikTok looks at whether or not the audio in the video may be relevant to the user’s query. 
  • Hashtags: Just like YouTube and Instagram, TikTok’s algorithm looks at the hashtags someone puts in their video. The right hashtags can make the difference between a video only getting a few views versus steady views even months later. 

Differences Between YouTube and TikTok Video Search

One of the most important differences between YouTube and TikTok video search is which platform has the better video search results. In general, YouTube's search results tend to be more precise, with searchers almost always seeing exactly what they want. While TikTok’s granularity is growing fast, it’s not as accurate as Google’s finely tuned algorithm. 

TikTok also tends to show videos and ads that may be completely different from a viewer's weekly preferences, compared to YouTube, which pays close attention to a viewer's preferred channels. A user’s personal YouTube homepage updates slowly and rarely shows something different, whereas users can expect something completely new on TikTok every time they open the app. 

Tips for Getting Found More Easily on TikTok and YouTube

Video marketing is a significant investment, so you shouldn’t start posting without knowing how to contextualize your efforts. TikTok and YouTube are both fantastic platforms to build your brand and sell products but your approach should differ a little based on the audiences for both apps.  

Here are our powerhouse tips for improving your visibility on YouTube and TikTok: 

TikTok Discoverability Tips

  • Post frequently. Video marketing professionals recommend posting at least one to four times per day on TikTok. Not only are videos shorter on TikTok (so your audience can watch more of them in the same amount of time), the algorithm needs more videos to see what kind of content your audience likes most. Whether your audience prefers user-generated content or videos from your brand, the TikTok algo’ will show you fairly quickly.
  • Keep it lighthearted. Videos that show your vulnerable side or toe the line of cheesy do the best on TikTok. This platform is like Vine, which originally did well for people who made super short, hilarious videos. You don’t need to make every TikTok video comedic, but showing your real personality goes a long way.
  • Don’t forget audio. TikTok rose to fame quickly in part because it’s easy to add audio tracks to your videos. You can do this without fear of legal repercussion because the app only lets you use clips of others’ work under a fair use license. A little pizzazz sets you apart from 90% of the other businesses in your niche. 

YouTube Discoverability Tips

  • Focus on quality over quantity. The average length of a video watched on YouTube is almost 12 minutes compared to just 30 seconds on TikTok. So it’s crucial to give your viewers plenty to chew on. Plus, YouTube viewers are loyal. If they love the first video of yours they’ve seen, they’re much likelier to continue watching. 
  • Don’t skimp on your video descriptions. Similar to a blog post, YouTube video descriptions are a contributing factor to the relevance of your video. If two brands make quality videos on the same subject and have a similar audience size, the video with a thorough description (including relevant links) is usually going to win. 
  • Your thumbnail is everything. YouTube began taking off for small businesses and creators when people put more effort into their thumbnails. The thumbnail is the static image people see when browsing their feed or search results. An amazing thumbnail is to credit for most people clicking on your video, especially if they’ve never heard of you before. 


The Bottom Line

Video search is one of the most powerful ways you and your brand can get discovered online. The average consumer spends two and a half hours watching online videos every day. Why not make yours one of the next ones they find?

Vyrill makes it easier than ever to find mentions of your brand in videos. It’s easy to think about ‘In-Video’ search like the Googlificiation of video.

Our AI-powered ‘In-Video’ search scans the content of large volumes of videos for various factors, including sentiment, trending topics, demographics, and more. The tool also collects geolocation and engagement data (views, likes, comments), offering a comprehensive overview of a video’s performance and potential impact.

Brands get powerful insights, valuable competitor information, and video reviews from customers as they happen. Gathering this information helps you understand your target audience,adjust your marketing strategy, and make decisions more quickly. 

Book a demo today to see our features firsthand or try our platform free for 14 days. Give your customers the searchable video experience they deserve!


About the Author

Katy boasts two decades in B2B technology & services, spearheading growth and brand evolution. A former Adobe marketing maven for 9 years, she’s since built growth teams for 5 tech startups that have all been acquired. With a stellar record in operational excellence and creating demand, she excels at leading successful cross-functional initiatives that enable companies to scale up.

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