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Marketing Brand Strategy Google

Google and TikTok: Could a partnership between the two ‘search engines’ benefit both?

By Helena Taylor | Paid social lead

Space & Time

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October 26, 2023 | 7 min read

It’s all scuttlebutt and experimentation for now, but rumors about a TikTok/Google partnership are gaining credibility. Could a collab benefit both? Space & Time’s Helena Taylor investigates.

The TikTok logo, lit by a ring light

Could a mooted TikTok x Google collab benefit both parties? / Solen Feyissa via Unsplash

TikTok’s growth began in earnest back in 2018, when it first surpassed Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube in US App Store downloads. It then became the fourth most downloaded non-gaming app in the world the following year.

Despite the misconception that the app is only used by the under-18 demographic, data has shown that in the UK over 40% of the audience are aged between 18-24 and over 31% of users fall into the 25-55+ age group. This provides a combined total of over 16 million active users for businesses to reach, making it a key channel to include in marketing strategies.

TikTok is primarily a discovery platform, where users can find creators, discover places to visit, explore new passions, or catch up on trending news. It’s also, increasingly, being used as a search engine, with users being twice as likely compared with users of other channels to recommend something they have found on the platform.

A new partnership?

Last year, Google’s SVP of search, Prabhakar Raghavan, said that “something like almost 40 percent of young people, when they are looking for a place for lunch, they don’t go to Google Maps or Search, they go to TikTok or Instagram.”

Google is still arguably better for real-time insights and has the search engine design to ensure that the top search results come from credible sources, whereas TikTok is based more on view counts and key search terms. But where TikTok is seemingly besting Google is in quick recommendations.

Trust in TikTok as a source of information and a channel of discovery is significantly increasing. Users are also becoming advocates of the platform and its short-form, sharable content. Perhaps, then, a partnership with search engine giant Google would be a logical next step for the channel.

Indeed, Business Insider recently reported that TikTok and Google are exploring a partnership to integrate Google search prompts and TikTok’s own search function with outreach links to Google search queries. According to that report, “A TikTok spokesperson has confirmed that the company is experimenting with third-party integrations within the TikTok app, including a test with Google. The feature, which is being trialled globally across several different markets, is not an ad unit, the spokesperson said. A Google spokesperson said the company had nothing further to share and declined to comment on whether there was a financial agreement between the two companies as part of the partnership.”

What does this change mean for people in the marketing sphere?

This partnership could lead traffic away from TikTok, so why would it be mutually beneficial?

On TikTok, if a user discovers a new place to visit or a news story that sparks interest, they might naturally go to validate the place’s location or read reviews on Google. They might also go and validate that the story has been reported on by a credible source. This integration would make that process quicker and easier, making the platform more user-friendly.

But TikTok should perhaps be wary: could this decrease the amount of time spent on the platform and direct users Google, away from the site altogether?

This Beta test is reportedly already soft-launching with app researcher Radu Oncescu – who has tested functionality where the Google search icon will appear when users type in the TikTok search bar.

Only time will tell whether and when this integration will be rolled out for all users. As for the insights on the benefits of the partnership for both partners – we’ll surely know more soon.

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Space & Time

Space & Time is a growth marketing agency, enabling clients to secure optimal value from every part of the customer experience and their marketing investment. We form long-term partnerships with clients through our business empathy and commercial alignment, working within fully managed, hybrid or in-house models to deliver best-in-class expertise across media, technology, performance creative and training, driving market-beating long-term growth outcomes.

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