Skip to content
Close UpTikTok App

How Does the TikTok Algorithm Work?

If you’re looking to “crack the code” of the TikTok algorithm and be seen by many of the platform’s 1.06 billion active users, you’re in the right place. Understanding the way that TikTok delivers content is the starting point of exponentially successful organic reach initiatives, and is critical for creators to do as they work to establish and grow their brand. 

We’ve seen countless success stories of creators who have leveraged the algorithm to their advantage, routinely creating viral and productive content. Examples of this include:

Read on to learn more about the “TikTok algorithm explained,” and how you can achieve similar results on your TikTok account; using nothing but strategic organic growth techniques specifically designed for the TikTok algorithm. 

TikTok Algorithm Explained: What Is It?

How does the TikTok algorithm work? To properly answer the question, we have to first define what the algorithm is. The TikTok algorithm is the automated set of calculations and sequences that TikTok uses to deliver tailored content to viewers. It is done via complex computer systems and proprietary technology, and is able to be leveraged by creators to drive organic growth. 

While the official algorithm hasn’t been released to the public, TikTok has invited select creators and guests to learn about it via sessions at the Los Angeles TikTok Transparency Center. Information has since been gleaned by public marketing experts and other larger-scale creators, and can be successfully leveraged by amateur and expert creators alike. 

Certain elements to consider as you strategize your content include: 

  • Engagement: Engagement should be organic, driven by tailored content delivery to your follower base. It takes time to build, but the payoff is worth it. 
  • Trending topics or audio: When creators create content that incorporates trending topics or audio, there is a higher chance of the algorithm promoting said content under the respective hashtags, audio tags and areas. 
  • Verification: Many creators believe that verification of the TikTok account (along with regular use) encourages favorable positioning and promotion via the TikTok algorithm.

  • Ready to start driving organic growth? Here’s our guide that outlines how to get verified on TikTok in 2023. 

    How Does the TikTok Algorithm Work For the FYP?

    There are many factors that play into how TikTok recommends videos on viewers’ #ForYou pages: 

    1. TikTok user actions
    2. Video creation details
    3. Type of device and TikTok settings
    4. Keyword integration
    5. TikTok SEO and Google
    6. Using trending sounds and effects

    Read on to learn how to leverage each element into your organic marketing strategy, and finally answer the question of “how does TikTok’s algorithm work?” 

    1. TikTok User Actions

    There are many user actions that impact the reach and success of created content. For content to show up on a viewer’s #ForYou page, the viewer generally has been interacting with similar content across related niches. Interactions in this context can vary; generally including user actions like:  

  • Account follows: TikTok recommends similar accounts to those that are already on a viewer’s Following list. 
  • Comments they’ve posted: User comments can play a role in tailoring someone’s #ForYou page, as the algorithm picks up on keywords that indicate likes and preferences. 
  • Creators or sounds that have been hidden: User actions can have a negative effect here, restricting content that may incorporate hidden creators or sounds. 
  • Videos they’ve liked or shared on the app: The algorithm generally tries to “match” viewers with content that aligns with their interests, indicated by what they’ve liked or shared on their page. 
  • Videos they’ve added to their favorites: The algorithm may try to optimize content based on videos that viewers have added to their favorites; perhaps for later reference. 
  • Video completion rate (watching until the end): The algorithm reviews how long viewers consume certain types of content, promoting similar content based on perceived interest. 
  • Content created on their account: Viewers are matched to content that aligns with topics or interests that are reflected in what they post. 
  • Organic interactions and ad clicks: Ad clicks can affect what’s suggested on the #ForYou page, especially in areas such as TikTok Shop recommendations. 
  • 2. Video Creation Details

    Video creation elements have a role to play in TikTok’s algorithm. For example: TikTok generally favors content that is organically created rather than reposted from another app, as this can indicate content originality and quality. 

    Other elements, such as accessibility (shown via quality in-video captions done natively or with a video caption app) and below-video caption information are thought to be considered as well; containing keyword-rich descriptions that indicate viewer likes, and interests. 

    3. User Device & TikTok Settings For Location and Language

    This is a pretty basic feature that partially answers the question of “how does the TikTok algorithm work?” In short, TikTok wants to promote content that will be consumed by the viewer. This means that localized and optimized content is more algorithmically competitive than not. TikTok determines which video content fits this description by evaluating key demographic factors, including: 

    • The creator and viewer’s location 
    • The language of both parties 

    While cross-language content sharing still happens depending on the other variable factors of the content’s “score” in the algorithm, these factors do still play a significant role in determining how content is promoted or shared globally. 

    Now, to address whether or not device type matters when it comes to dominating the algorithm. In short? It doesn’t. All evidence to the claim appears to be anecdotal. 

    While some creators have come forward stating that uploading via desktop got them better performance compared to other methods, nothing formal has been published from authority-based sites or TikTok themselves. 

    4. Trending Keywords and Hashtags

    Incorporating strategic keywords into your captions and hashtags is a critical step that helps your content be seen by many; and it’s also a strategy that compounds in value over time. 

    TikTok rewards content that is considered “authoritative” and has longevity behind it, meaning that you have the chance for exponential and ongoing growth over time; even if a piece of content is only growing marginally for that specific term. It does this by specific related hashtags that incorporate keywords, much like you’d expect to see in an SEO strategy. 

    Targeted hashtags also allow you to interact with niche groups of viewers, allowing creators to grow quickly and directly connect with their ideal audience(s). TikTok captions cannot be modified after your video is posted; so inserting proper keywords to your caption and list of hashtags is key if you’re trying to amplify your content. 

    5. TikTok SEO and Google

    The “link” between TikTok and Google goes far beyond that platform’s similar use of search engine optimization techniques. Google now indexes TikTok videos across its vast library of searches, connecting additional billions of eyes to your created content via its own organic search network. 

    Videos are indexed for both short- and long-tail keywords, suggesting that creators should implement both in their content creation and optimization process. Taking the time to refine your keyword research strategy and implementation steps help your content to compete directly with high-quality, popular content on YouTube** that is also being indexed. 

    **Social growth can be time consuming. If you want to determine where and how would be the most valuable, be sure to check out our Platform Battles: YouTube Shorts vs. TikTok resource.  

    6. Trending Sounds and Effects

    TikTok trends change on a daily (and at times, hourly) basis. The algorithm takes this into account, promoting content that aligns with current trending sounds and effects to help promote the trend itself. Corporate accounts and creators often leverage this in their strategy, putting their own niche-specific spin on the trends for maximum visibility. 

    What’s Not Taken Into Account With The TikTok Algorithm?

    With so much mystery surrounding the TikTok algorithm and false-exposé style content that details “the TikTok algorithm explained,” there has been some misinformation going around about what is (and is not) taken into account as TikTok curates users’ #ForYou page. 

    The algorithm does not monitor certain metrics or elements of peoples’ accounts, including:  

  • Follower count: That is, unless you buy followers. “Fake” followers can harm your engagement scores and can be flagged quickly as spam. 
  • Previous high-performing videos: Every piece of content is “scored” independently and has its own potential for organic reach. 
  • Duplicate content and content already viewed: If a piece of content has already been viewed by the person, it generally won’t show up again on a viewer’s #ForYou page. Instead, the viewer might be recommended similar content from the same creator (or from a creator in that specific niche). 
  • Videos restricted for content (i.e. medical procedures): While there is still much mystery around what TikTok “does” with restricted video content, this type of content may be less productive due to the required user involvement to view the content. For example: TikTok often flags medical content for blood or other possibly disturbing images, requiring a viewer to click to continue on with the video. As this can interrupt the experience of an endless scroll, viewers might just as easily scroll off the video rather than stay and watch it. 
  • Content labeled as spam by the algorithm: TikTok can choose to “ignore” video content that has been marked as spam, possibly limiting a video’s potential for reach and engagement. 

  • Creator Resources and Guides for TikTok

    Looking to further grow and establish your brand on TikTok? Take a look at our other resources, designed specifically for creators like you: 

    Previous article How to Get Verified on TikTok in 2023
    Next article How To Grow a Video Challenge