Young Folks

Does Gen Z’s love affair with TikTok mean Google search is dumped?

A major shift is happening in the ever-changing world of online behaviour, and TikTok’s undeniable allure drives it. What started as a simple video-sharing app has transcended into something much bigger—it’s now a growing search engine contender among Gen Z. 40% of Gen Zers have decided to ghost Google and are now opting for a new romance with TikTok or Instagram when they’re in search of a lunch spot.

As a result of this surge, businesses are exploring ways to leverage TikTok’s search functionalities to enhance their marketing strategies and connect more effectively with their target audience. In fact, over 53% of businesses intend to boost their investment in TikTok marketing in 2025. 

What’s driving this digital divorce? And how can brands adapt their omnichannel marketing strategies to capitalise on TikTok’s addictive algorithm?

A feed just for you

Ever wonder why you can’t stop scrolling on TikTok? It’s not magic or just smart data usage making it so addictive. Like many social media platforms, TikTok’s algorithm also incorporates psychological tactics similar to slot machines or pokies. Have you ever noticed the pull-to-refresh and infinite ability to scroll the For You feed unnervingly similar to a slot machine? These tactics are so potent that they can trigger similar responses in the brain as cocaine, generating psychological cravings. These tactics, coupled with signature a blend of familiar and new content, plus using user signals like likes and comments to personalise your For You page, have an undeniable appeal especially for content-hungry Gen Zers.

In contrast, Google’s algorithm is designed to prioritise the most relevant results for a search query. However, while it delivers accurate information, the presentation often lacks the engaging and captivating appeal found on TikTok. After all, content discovery on Google requires planning, thought and effort from the user where on TikTok the algorithm dishes up the goods with no effort required.  

Imagine you want to search for the best bottomless brunch in Melbourne, you’ll get a completely different user experience on Google compared to TikTok. Google typically yields standard articles listing the top spots, while on TikTok you can immerse yourself in videos showcasing bottomless brunch experiences in Melbourne. 

TikTok offers a more dynamic and immersive exploration, allowing users to truly visualise what they’re in for. This approach has resonated strongly with discerning Gen Zers who crave quick, engaging, and tailored content experiences.

TikTok’s rise as a new budding romance in digital discovery

A recent study conducted by Adobe revealed that TikTok isn’t just about entertainment anymore. It’s fast becoming the new frontier for online search. Interestingly, nearly 1 in 10 Gen Zers now turn to TikTok over Google when seeking information. This trend mirrors a growing sentiment of dissatisfaction with Google’s search results. 

So, what’s the allure that sets TikTok apart from traditional search engines like Google? The study conducted by Adobe revealed:

44% of consumers found the short-form video format more informative and digestible. 

34% of participants expressed their enjoyment of the storytelling aspect of TikTok videos.

31% felt that the content on TikTok was personalised to their interests, enhancing their browsing experience with a unique touch.

The short of it: TikTok is revolutionising how we search and discover information online. From uncovering hidden gems for those who are #FoodTok obsessed, skincare hacks, learning new recipes, or finding off-the-grid hiking trails, TikTok has become Gen Z’s go-to source for everything cool and trendy. And it’s done it all through bite-sized, visually engaging content, and a cant-get-enough algorithm. 

Does this mean Gen Z is breaking up with traditional search engines?

Though TikTok hasn’t overtaken Google, as some sources might suggest, its influence on the changing landscape of online search is undeniable. Gen Z users are 1.2 times more likely to engage with a brand on TikTok than other social apps/platforms when shopping online. Additionally, 46% of Gen Z TikTok users have purchased a product they saw on the platform in the past year, with one in three weekly Gen Z TikTok users expressing interest in buying from TikTok LIVE due to the opportunity to see the product firsthand.

So what’s Google doing to try and revamp its romance with Gen Z?

As TikTok continues redefining content discovery and recommendation, traditional search engines like Google must evolve and introduce updates to win back Gen Z. Let’s take a look at some of Google’s recent updates geared towards catering to the preferences of Gen Z:

Multi-search expansion: Google’s announcement at the ‘Search On 22’ event revealed plans to expand multi-search capabilities to 70 new languages. This feature lets users search using images and text simultaneously, enhancing the search experience.

Enhanced iOS app features: Google’s iOS app has introduced shortcuts under the search bar, showcasing powerful search capabilities such as text translation using the camera and song identification.

From digital divorce to happily ever after

Staying ahead of the curve is vital for businesses and marketers—especially when it comes to ever-changing online behaviour. Here’s a set of insights and recommendations to help you do just that:

If your target audience includes Gen Z, it’s essential to embrace TikTok: Ignoring this platform won’t make it disappear, and it’s crucial to adapt your marketing strategies to meet the changing landscape of consumer search behaviour. Utilise the skills of team members knowledgeable about TikTok to effectively enhance your marketing efforts.

Create authentic top-of-funnel TikTok content: Given TikTok’s role as a key discovery platform for Gen Zers, prioritise creating content that captures maximum attention. Rather than adopting a sales-focused approach, concentrate on creating top-of-the-funnel content. Consider what your target audience is searching for and connect with them authentically and in a manner that aligns with the platform’s native style. 

Adapt your approach to match online search behaviours: Instead of relying solely on text-based content and search results, engage users more effectively with visually captivating videos and images.

Monitor emerging trends and technologies: Stay informed about the latest trends and technologies influencing search behaviour. It’s like keeping tabs on your ex, but in this scenario, your ex is Google and the tall drink of water you’re sussing is TikTok.

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket: Make sure you’re establishing a presence on the key social media platforms your target audience is on. The more awareness, the more people will be searching for you on Google and TikTok!

Want to up your game on TikTok and maximise your online search presence?

As we peer into the future of online search, can Google evolve to win over Gen Z, or will it continue trailing behind platforms like TikTok?

If you’re keen to build your online search presence we have a team of SEO experts and TikTok-obsessed marketers. Reach out to us for support with your SEO needs, including utilising the power of TikTok to enhance your online visibility.

Our Melbourne and Mornington Peninsula studios are open 9am – 5pm Monday to Friday. If you’re a brand in the business of doing good, we’d love to hear from you.

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