The company announced today that advertisers will be able to place ads alongside organic content that appears when searching in the app. When a user clicks on an ad, they can continue scrolling to view search results in a feed-like format. Ads are pulled from other videos that the brand is running on the platform.
Ads will appear next to organic content that’s served when a user searches on TikTok, with a semitransparent “sponsored” label on the video thumbnail. Ads already appear as videos between organic content in users’ For You feeds with the same “sponsored” label. Search ads are set to “on” by default for advertisers.
TikTok’s decision to serve ads in search results was inevitable. Earlier this year, Instagram did the same, placing sponsored content related to a user’s search. Instagram search ads appear when a user clicks on a post and begins to scroll through other content.
Ads taking over TikTok’s search pages could suggest that it’s valuable placement for advertisers. Young people are increasingly using TikTok as a Google replacement to look for product recommendations, restaurants, or shows to watch. (It works better than expected.)
But TikTok search isn’t as developed as Google Search, and keyword queries and hashtags are often pretty useless, at least in my experience. In the past, TikTok has also struggled with moderating content that appeared prominently in search results — last year, the platform pulled several videos that promoted the use of prescription drugs as weight loss ads after researchers found TikTok was surfacing them in search.