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Is TikTok the New Google?: How the App is Being Used as a Search Engine

Written by Lily Billingsley, Account Executive


Between Google, Bing, Yahoo, and the dozens of other niche search engines that can be found on laptops across the world, there is no shortage of places to find information online. Youtube offers video tutorials on everything from changing a tire to DIY dresses and Google Maps shows users the nearest restaurants and gas stations. It’s no secret that Gen Z is reliant on the internet for information — but now we’re getting less patient.


Google’s Vice President Prabhakar Raghavan shared at the Fortune Live Media Conference that the company has found more than 40 percent of Gen Z uses TikTok as a search engine, whether they’re finding where to eat for dinner or looking for the best tourist attractions in their next travel destination.


As an avid TikTok user myself — I ashamedly dedicate at least an hour of my time a day to scrolling — this information was something I had never heard of or even thought about. Google is used for searching, Maps for my directions and TikTok for mindless entertainment. But the more I looked into this rapidly-increasing use for the app, it started to seem more and more practical.


Looking for a grilled chicken recipe? TikTok walks you through it and shows you how the finished product really looks. Searching for reviews on your most recent purchase? See it on a real person in video form instead of a blurry picture hundreds of posts down a website. Even if you’re in desperate need of a tire–changing tutorial, chances are a 60-second tik tok will get to the point faster than a 15 minute video.


Not only does TikTok deliver information to the public quickly, the algorithm gives the searcher information that is directly relevant to their needs.


What does this mean for advertising? When clicking on an article on Google, chances are there’s at least two advertisements that you need to scroll through before reaching the information that the article is about in the first place. On TikTok, these advertisements are all but eliminated, except for the rare occasion where a video is sponsored.


Although this may sound like a bleak future for the advertising industry, TikTok offers other options for ads to reach their target audience. According to Forbes, the app has recently launched the concept of search ads. This means that companies can advertise directly through the search function of TikTok, appearing when something related to their product is searched. Not only does this help the advertiser specifically tailor their advertisements, it also gives the consumer videos on products they may be genuinely interested in.


So is TikTok really the new Google? As of right now, it seems like Larry Page doesn’t have too much to be worried about. Chances are that Google isn’t going anywhere, but TikTok is offering a unique new way to search for specifically tailored content.


It may sound like a gimmick or another classic news article about Gen Z and their obsession with TikTok, but between its new advertising opportunities and the sheer amount of teenagers already using it for this purpose, TikTok might be on its way to joining the list of top search engines.



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