TikTok Algorithm: What Is It and How Does It Work?

Reading Time: 16 Minutes

GRIN also recommends this free guide:

Influencer Marketing Best Practices

Download Guide

If we were to gauge TikTok’s addictiveness on a scale of 1-10, we’d probably get an 11. 

The reason is simple: TikTok’s algorithm has mastered the art of serving only content of interest to users. There’s literally next to zero reason for people not to get hooked. 

From trending cat videos to weird dance challenges, all users have to do is interact with that content to have the algorithm recommend similar videos on their “For You” page (FYP).

As a brand using TikTok for marketing, you may wonder what it takes to beat the algorithm and have your content on the screens of over 1 billion users. Thing is, there’s no golden rule. But we’ve put together this article to help you hack the TikTok algorithm and increase your odds of success. 

Let’s dive in. 

What is TikTok’s algorithm?

The TikTok algorithm is a recommendation engine that influences and determines what shows up on your FYP feed. The algorithm changes over time, based on your behavior and interaction with content on TikTok. 

According to TikTok, the recommendation system considers your interests as a new user and adjusts the content it serves based on subsequent interactions on the platform. This makes it easy to find creators and content that you love. 

In contrast to other popular social platforms, TikTok’s FYP algorithm recommends content regardless of whether you follow the account you’re viewing.

TikTok Comment from Washington Girl

Image via TikTok

In our example above, the TikToker is interested in a documentary about “Real Families” but isn’t following the page. That’s why, they’re hoping the algorithm brings the documentary back.

This sums up how the TikTok recommendation system works. 

In other words, if you’re interested in dog training videos, for instance, the system narrows down the recommendations to fit that niche interest rather than showing you generic animal content. 

Of course, as your interest and state of mind change over time, the videos on your For You page do, too. So, it’s not uncommon to see an eyeliner tutorial video when you buy a new eyeliner online or watch more DIY videos related to makeup or beauty.

How does the TikTok algorithm work?

You must have realized that the way TikTok’s algorithm is set up, any creator or brand can quickly shoot to fame. 

Spoiler—it does involve a little more than jumping on viral song trends. 

The key to making your content go viral on relevant audiences’ For You page is understanding TikTok trends and how the TikTok algorithm works.

Before now, TikTok had kept the inner workings of its algorithm secret. That changed when they published a post that detailed how the TikTok recommendation system works.  

According to them:

Screenshot of For You page

Image via TikTok

Essentially, this means that each For You feed will be unique. TikTok ranking signals are complex, so keep the following things in mind as you ramp up your TikTok marketing efforts.

User interactions

TikTok places importance on how users interact on the platform. This information allows them to understand each user’s unique preferences better. To do this, it curates content for you based on fundamental data signals like:

  • Content you create.
  • Video shares and likes. 
  • The kind of accounts you follow.
  • Comments you’ve posted.
  • Your bookmarked or favorited videos. 
  • Videos you flag as “not interested,” “inappropriate,” or hide.
  • Videos you completed.

The TikTok algorithm analyzes these factors to align content that makes up your personalized For You feed. 

The more you engage with a creator’s content or similar videos in a niche, the more ultra-personalized your feed becomes. As a result, the algorithm can recommend videos from creators you’ve engaged with over those you follow but rarely watch.

Video information

Using the information in the video, such as caption keywords, hashtags, effects, and sounds, TikTok determines what topics interest you and ranks content recommendations based on them.

Although, based on our research, keywords and hashtags seem to carry more weight than effect and sounds in the algorithm. 

See these examples to understand what we mean:

This first video content uses a trending audio in its content, but with irrelevant hashtags and no keywords in its caption:

@oh_thats_mae #fypシ #animetok #anime #weebtiktok #sololeveling ♬ bury a friend – Billie Eilish

By contrast, here’s another piece of content in the same niche but with all the relevant video information:

@tobi__ken #anime #callofthenight #animeedit #animetiktok #tsukai #daizo_team ♬ оригинальный звук – 絶望

This shows that it’s imperative to include all the relevant information in your video content to stand a chance of landing on someone’s For You page. 

Notice the difference? The first video barely had any engagements, but the second video went viral. You can also see that TikTok puts the relevant keyword in the search bar to make it easy for users to search for similar content.

Device and account settings

TikTok also considers account and device settings, such as a user’s language preference, country, and mobile device type, when curating videos. But since these factors are based on one-time settings for new users, the platform uses them to optimize performance rather than influence FYP recommendation.

TikTok clarifies that these data points are given lower weight when compared with video information and user interaction. Why? Because people do not explicitly state them as preferences. 

That means the TikTok algorithm places a stronger interest indicator on behavioral signals, like when someone completes a longer video, compared to a weaker indicator, like whether the content creator and viewer are in the same country. 

Afterward, the system ranks each video based on the likelihood that it’ll interest a user and therefore delivered to their For You page. 

Followers

You’ll likely get more views if you’ve built a large following since your followers will also likely see your content. 

The recommendation system will, however, distribute your content to a relevant audience if your content speaks directly to your target audience, regardless of the number of followers you have or whether you have had trending videos in the past.

That said, TikTok will not recommend the following types of content to users:

  • Content they’ve already seen
  • Duplicate/repetitive content; for example, your FYP feed won’t show two videos with the same sound or creator consecutively. 
  • Spam content
  • Potentially disturbing content. That’s why TikTok provides examples such as (“graphic medical procedures” and “legal consumption of regulated goods”).

For this reason, it’s crucial to vary content types to ensure you reach various segments of your target audience. 

Here are four best practices to help you make a break in the TikTok space.

4 best practices to beat the TikTok algorithm

Before anything else, you must consider several things when opening a TikTok account for your business. Will you be operating it yourself, or will you outsource its management?

By now, you should know TikTok’s algorithm is complex. Meaning, your TikTok manager must know the ins and outs of TikTok, as well as your own industry social trends to be successful.

So, using a recruitment marketing strategy in the hiring phase will ensure potential hires know what is expected of them and what is obtainable with the role. It’ll also allow you to get the right-fit candidate that’ll hone into best TikTok practices and develop the best content to secure your business goals. 

Now let’s go back to our main question: What are those best practices you should follow to beat the TikTok algorithm? 

1. Get a Pro account on Tiktok

Although getting a Pro account doesn’t guarantee more eyes on your content, it is necessary to hack the algorithm. The TikTok platform offers two types of pro accounts depending on if you’re a business or a creator. 

TikTok Pro does waaay more than a regular account. It provides analytics that gives you metrics and insights into content performance, viewer engagements, and a general feel of what’s working, guiding your TikTok strategy. 

Going Pro also allows you to run ads to improve your organic and paid strategy. This allows you to employ different types of content for your product or brand marketing. 

@tiktokforbusiness Paid + organic TikTok content = a match made in heaven for your #smallbusines. Head to our link in bio to get started! #tiktokmarketing #tiktoktips ♬ original sound – TikTok for Business

Making the switch to TikTok Pro is easy. Tap the three dots on the top right corner of your profile page; click manage account; select “Switch to Business Account,” and choose the best category. 

2. Focus on a specific niche.

Streamlining your content to cater to a specific niche audience is the next best thing you can do to secure wins on TikTok. 

As mentioned earlier, TikTok’s recommendation system will push your content to a relevant niche audience, whether you’re a popular creator or not. But to do this, you’ll have to understand your customer persona and the kind of content they engage with on TikTok. 

Are they beauty or fashion enthusiasts that like tutorials? Or perhaps they’re geeks who love tech trends, anime culture, and gaming short clips? There are diverse niches and interests; if you search hard enough, you’d even find an audience interested in window-style comedy. 

@crazywindowladyofficial #stitch with @Keishorne Scott #hellodarlingitsjustmecrazywindowlady #sorryaboutthat #ukcomedy #britishhumour #cwl #fyp #hangingoutthewindow #planb #marriage ♬ original sound – CRAZY WINDOW LADY

The bottom line is that you can leverage several niches and sub-niches. Discover what types of content work best for your preferred community and let that shape your next TikTok content strategy.

For example, you might enjoy gardening as well as healthy eating and cleaning. These niches may seem unrelated but might have overlapping audiences. You should, therefore, narrow down your content to include a mix of all three.

3. Post at the right time.

As with other social media platforms, posting at an optimal time is still valuable. You want to post your content at a time when TikTokers will actively engage with your content. 

Why? Active engagements are important ranking signals in the TikTok algorithm. Look at your TikTok analytics to learn when your audience is most active to generate engagement faster. 

Although TikTok recommends posting content 1-4 times a day to test how your audience engages with your content, it’s best also to consider your major audience timezone and their behaviors. 

Post your content on other platforms, such as your website, too. Although this doesn’t really help your content visibility on TikTok, it does help your content visibility, period. After all, the more platforms you post your content on, the more views you can get. Just make sure you organize your website content into topic clusters to ensure good SEO.

4. Choose the right hashtags.

TikTok hashtags make it easier for users to find and categorize their content. If you’ve chosen a community to create content for, stick to their relevant subculture hashtags, so your content gets amplified to the right people. 

For example, this TikTok creator creates content for people who might be diabetic or interested in reducing their blood sugar. 

@insulinresistant1 Food order and my blood sugar. This is test number two. Test number one is here @@Justin / Stop Spiking Sugar #bloodsugar##insulinresistance##prediabetes##foodorder##insulinresistant1 ♬ original sound – Justin / Stop Spiking Sugar

Notice how he uses relevant hashtags to his niche? These hashtags speak to his target audience in his community with higher chances of attracting new audiences who might be interested in this kind of content.

But community hashtags aside, other relevant hashtags can also boost your content in the TikTok algorithm.

Trending hashtags do more or less the same thing as trending audio and effects. They’re hashtags related to trending challenges and are often a way to jump on a TikTok trend and create new content related to them. 

If you’re looking for inspiration, search for hashtags by region in the TikTok Creative Center or via the “Trends” section in the “Discover” tab at the top of the screen. 

TikTok SEO hashtags, also known as search-optimized hashtags, enable you to create content for hashtags people are already searching for. One easy way to do this is to search for relevant keywords in your niche on TikTok and take note of the suggestions the TikTok search populates. 

Screenshot of TikTok Search results

Check out the content ranking for those keywords and see if you can make something better. When you do, use the keywords as hashtags in the video caption and in your video so the algorithm picks up on it as well. 

The great thing about this tactic is, just like SEO, it helps your Google rankings as you proactively create content for search intent. 

Crush the TikTok Game

TikTok puts the user experience front and center of its algorithm. If you’re looking for ways to hack the algorithm and secure massive wins, follow the tips in this article.

Create content for a specific niche and post at optimal times when your audience is most active. Jumping on trending hashtags, audio and effects is also an effective way to gain visibility. Pay special attention to your insights and metrics, too.

Let these tips guide your TikTok campaigns and you’ll reap the best results.

Discover your next viral collaboration with GRIN’s innovative TikTok creator search function. Try it and watch your brand soar on TikTok. Book a demo today!

Updated: September 2023

Was this article helpful? Give it a share!

Want to be the first to know what’s new in the creator economy?

Our team keeps a finger on the pulse, so you’re always working with the latest information.

Get the GRIN newsletter for all the trends and insights you need to grow your business.

Written by David Pagotto

David Pagotto is the Founder and Managing Director of SIXGUN, a digital marketing agency based in Melbourne. He has been involved in digital marketing for over 10 years, helping organizations get more customers, more reach, and more impact.

All-in-one creator management platform helping ecommerce companies build more valuable brands through the power of creator partnerships.

© Grin Technologies Inc. 2022. All rights reserved.

Introducing
GRIN's Discovery Suite

Discover

Supercharge Your
Influencer Discovery Efforts

GRIN favicon
Get started

GRIN's NEW
Discovery Suite

Supercharge Your Influencer Discovery Efforts

GRIN's NEW
Discovery Suite

Introducing

GRIN's

Discovery Suite

Compare the Time of a Manual Process vs. GRIN

Compare the Time of a Manual Process vs. GRIN

GRIN favicon

GRIN + Uber Case Study

How did one person build Uber's robust TikTok community from scratch?

Find out here

+

Uber logo

Introducing GRIN
Professional Services

Our team of experts is ready to drive the results you need.

Learn more