25th August 2023

POV: Search Ads Coming to TikTok


This week TikTok introduced Search Ads which will give brands the option to have ads displayed alongside organic content that appears within the app's search results.

Details and Implications:

Following previous limited testing, TikTok has now made the Search Ads Toggle available to all advertisers. This is the first time TikTok has made ad placements available to target users who are actively searching for topics relevant to a brand's business.

When a user types in a search query, the ads will appear among the search results. Once a user clicks on a search ad, the ad mirrors the in-feed TikTok experience, with users able to continue scrolling through the search results in the order they appear on the page.

Ray (Jiayi) Cao, TikTok’s global head of Monetization Product Solution & Operation said in a statement: “The Search Ads Toggle gives advertisers a new ad placement where qualified, high-intent users are searching for content relevant to their business, allowing advertisers to further connect with the TikTok community in authentic and engaging ways.”

The new search ads are not a stand-alone product, but an extension of a TikTok video ad buy. TikTok said this new feature: “leverages advertisers’ existing In-Feed Ad creative to serve ads alongside organic video search results from relevant user queries”.

The search ads are automated and brands can opt of out of appearing in search results by switching off a toggle (which is set to be on by default) in TikTok Ads Manager. Brands can also apply ‘negative keywords’ to prevent their campaigns showing up in searches that don’t align with their brand’s message.

TikTok search ads will have a ‘Sponsored’ label and the TikTok Search Ads delivery system considers many factors, such as ad relevancy to the search query, metadata, budgets, competition and more, before determining the ad to serve for a specific search query. TikTok Ads Manager reporting will provide insights into search terms alongside Search Ads metrics such as cost and impressions.

TikTok claims that based on internal tests conducted in July, approximately 70% of ad groups with the Search Ads Toggle switched on experienced reduced cost per action (CPA) due to more effective conversions from this ad placement. Clinique and DIBS Beauty were among the initial testers and according to TikTok, Clinique saw a 441% increase in conversation rates, a 51% increase in click-through rates and a 7.4% lift in ad recall. DIBS reported an 8% increase in conversion volume, a 6x higher conversion rate and a 22% decrease in CPA compared to their non-search ads.


Gen Z users are increasingly using TikTok to search for product recommendations, restaurants, shows to watch and much more, instead of using search engines like Google. TikTok is monetising this behaviour with the launch of its Search Ads Toggle. As with all new ad features, a test and learn approach is important.

Further Reading:

AdAge | MediaPost | Search Engine Journal | TechCrunch | TikTok Announcement

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