HomeBlogHow the TikTok Algorithm Works in 2024 (+9 Ways to Go Viral)

How the TikTok Algorithm Works in 2024 (+9 Ways to Go Viral)

Author: Rob Glover
Last Updated: May 15, 2024 | TikTok

If you post videos and want more people to spend more time watching them, then you and TikTok have a common goal. That’s why I cringe a bit when I see people talking about hacking the TikTok algorithm for more likes and views.

You don’t need to trick it; you just need to know how the TikTok algorithm works. Once you understand its basic principles, you’ll know what and when to post for your best shot at TikTok virality.

But what about the potential US TikTok ban? TikTok has 148 million active users in the US. To paraphrase Samual L. Jackson’s character Nick Fury in Marvel’s Avengers, “Until such time as the world TikTok ends, we will act as though it intends to spin on.”

Let’s get into the weeds of TikTok’s algorithm, see how it suggests videos to individual users, and find ways to get your content on more viewers’ screens.


What is the TikTok algorithm?

The TikTok algorithm is a recommendation engine that decides which videos to suggest to each individual user.

On TikTok, recommended videos appear on your For You Page (FYP) when you first open the app.

Tiktok algorithm - screenshot of the TikTok FYP

Everyone’s For You feed is unique and will change over time. TikTok pays attention to the videos you watch, where you post comments, and the accounts you follow. Each interaction is another signal the algorithm uses to refine your FYP—showing videos you’ll probably like while keeping videos you won’t off your feed.

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How does the TikTok Algorithm work in 2024?

If you’ve ever sent your friend a cake recipe link because you remembered they love to bake, you get the gist of how the TikTok algorithm works.

Of course, TikTok’s proprietary algorithm is infinitely more complex than yours (no insult intended). It analyzes thousands of signals to determine which videos belong on your FYP. Let’s look at a few of the most influential ranking factors.

Factors TikTok uses to rank content

We’ll probably never know what every TikTok ranking factor is, but thanks to this post from TikTok itself, we do have an idea of a few ranking categories.

User interactions

Your behavior in the TikTok app is the most influential signal for the algorithm. Whenever you like a video or follow a particular account, TikTok uses that to understand your preferences further.

These are some of the user interaction signals TikTok will track:

  • Watching full videos
  • Following or hiding accounts
  • Liking or sharing videos
  • Commenting
  • Reporting a video as inappropriate
  • Adding videos to favorites

TikTok also uses what you say you are and aren’t interested in when you first join the app to guide its suggestions.

Other users’ interactions on a video can also determine whether you get it on your feed. If many people who share your interests watch and like a post, there’s a bigger chance you’ll see it, too.

Video information

On the flip side of the equation, TikTok reviews certain characteristics of the videos you’ve interacted with to see how they match your preferences. That’s important for creators to know since these are the things we have the most control over.

Here are a few of the video and post characteristics the algorithm looks for:

  • Hashtags
  • Sounds
  • Captions

I’ll go into how to optimize your videos for TikTok marketing using these characteristics in a bit.

Device and settings

Device and settings are also user-specific actions the algorithm uses to recommend content. If you’re registered as a US user, you’ll see a lot more content made in the USA. But unlike user interactions, these are one-time signals that don’t typically change over time.

A few device and setting signals that may nudge the TikTok algorithm include:

  • Language setting
  • Country setting
  • Device type

TikTok factor weighting

TikTok’s algorithm weights ranking factors based on how directly they indicate viewer preferences. Direct user actions, like watching a full video, carry much more influence than geographic location.

This means that while it’s good to be aware of all the ranking factors, your focus should be on posting content that your audience will want to watch and share.

Factors that don’t help (and could hurt) your content ranking

In its post, TikTok says it won’t give creators a boost based on past performance. Someone with a high follower count and previously viral videos won’t get preferential rankings over a smaller account with more relevant content.

Additionally, there are some types of content that TikTok will de-rank (show less or not at all) in your FYP. These include:

  • Videos you’ve already seen
  • Content that’s considered spam
  • Duplicated content (like a second post of the same video)
  • Videos with restricted content (like graphic medical procedures)

To be clear, some of this content will still be available if you search for it. It just won’t pop on your FYP.

How to reset the TikTok algorithm

TikTok’s algorithm finds the type of content you’ll love based mainly on what you’ve enjoyed in the past. Sometimes, the recommendations don’t keep up with your changing preferences, and your feed gets stale.

TikTok has built a way for you to scrub its algorithm so it starts from scratch. Then, your interactions moving forward will influence the content you get on your personal FYP.

Here are the steps to refresh your FYP:

  1. Open the TikTok app and tap “Profile”
  2. Go to the menu at the top and choose “Settings and privacy”
  3. Tap “Content preferences”
  4. Tap “Refresh your For You feed”
  5. Tap “Continue” and “Continue” again

Tiktok algorithm - TikTok refresh screen.

You can’t go back once you finish the process. But only your FYP will be affected. Your “Following” feed and profile won’t change.

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9 ways to use the TikTok algorithm to your advantage

Knowing how the TikTok algorithm works is half the battle. The other half is publishing engaging content that makes it easy for TikTok to find, categorize, and suggest your posts.

1. Hook viewers quickly

You have a fleeting second or two to grab a viewer’s attention and convince them to watch your video. Keep their thumbs from scrolling by adding an attention-grabbing hook that’s relevant to your audience.

Tiktok algorithm - Tiktok with a hook in the video cover.

A great hook should give the viewer just enough information to make them want more. Try these tactics for your video hooks:

  • Make a bold claim
  • Ask a question
  • Share a surprising fact
  • Hint at a secret

Make sure each hook is relevant to your audience, and use emotional words to catch their attention.

2. Create niche content

It’s hard to gain footing with very popular topics on TikTok since many creators are already fighting for precious FYP placement. However, you can use the algorithm to your benefit by finding niche topics to post about.

For example, cooking is a super popular topic on TikTok. There are plenty of accounts dedicated to whipping up the best dishes. But Bobby Hicks of @theretrorecipekitchen uses his account to trial dishes from days of old. Many of the recipes he tests look tasty, while others look like…a veggie gelatin stack?

Tiktok algorithm - Screenshot of a TikTok recipe video.

It may seem a little odd, but by focusing on one corner of a popular topic, Hicks has grown his account to over 150k followers.

Review the topics you’d like to use, and if they seem a little crowded, find a subtopic your audience would appreciate. That’ll leave you with fewer competitors in the race for the FYP. It’ll also make your content more relevant to a specific audience, which the algorithm loves.

3. Use TikTok SEO

Search engine optimization isn’t just for Google. Pretty much any time there’s a search function, you can optimize your content for it, and TikTok is no exception. Plus, even Google admits that TikTok is becoming a popular search engine in its own right.

In addition to the other tips in this guide, you’ll want to use keyword research to boost your TikTok SEO. Like on search engines, people use specific words and phrases in the search bar to find content on the app. Your job is to figure out what those words are.

Keyword research is easy on TikTok. Make a list of things your audience might search for that are relevant to your business. If you’re an esthetician, “skin care” might be one of them. Then, enter those words into the TikTok search bar and see what it auto-fills.

Tiktok algorithm - TikTok search bar with autofill.

You’ll see options like “skin care for men” and “skin care routine.” Once you’ve gathered a list of keywords, plan out your content calendar to cover each term. Don’t forget to add keywords to your TikTok bio, too.

4. Tailor content to the platform

It’s smart to repurpose content for multiple platforms. But when it’s time to post it on TikTok, make sure it fits the app’s best practices.

First, produce and edit full-screen, vertical videos with a 9:16 ratio. That will fill the entire mobile screen while matching how most people view TikTok content.

Second, keep most of your videos short. While there’s no ideal duration for every video, in 2021, TikTok suggested that the optimal length should be 24 to 31 seconds. The platform has pushed for longer content, but many viewers find videos longer than one minute to be stressful, so it’s safer to keep them under 60 seconds.

Finally, for the best chance of your TikTok videos going viral, keep them positive in tone. Semrush evaluated a large collection of viral TikTok videos and found that those with a positive, funny, or happy vibe did best.

Follow these best practices to get more early engagement, which the algorithm will use as a signal that your video belongs on more FYPs.

5. Post at the right time and frequency

The TikTok algorithm doesn’t really care what time or how often you post—at least not directly. But it does look at how much engagement an individual video gets. Knowing when and how frequently to post can give your videos a little engagement boost.

The right time

The best time to post on TikTok depends on when most of your audience will be on the app. The goal is to publish content a little before the peak potential viewing time to get them indexed and ready for your followers.

You can find that information in your TikTok analytics.

Tiktok algorithm - Graph shown when an audience is on TikTok.

The right frequency

Consistency is essential for success on any social media platform. You don’t want followers to forget about you, and you want more chances to reach new viewers. But how do you quantify “consistency?”

Just like timing, learning how often you should post on TikTok will take some trial and error. TikTok says you should post up to four times per day (of course they do). More realistically, most brands post content to TikTok around two to four times per week (depending on which study you follow).

Here are a few tips to find your perfect TikTok schedule:

  • Consider your creative capacity: Posting more often is great, but not at the expense of quality.
  • Review other creators: Spy on your competition to see how often successful accounts in your niche post content.
  • Watch your analytics: Vary your posting frequency over several weeks and see how it affects your views and engagement.

6. Incorporate hashtags

    Using hashtags on TikTok can help you succeed in two ways. First, hashtags help the TikTok algorithm understand your content so it can better match it to user preferences.

    Second, TikTok users use hashtags to search for content, so when your video is tagged, it may show up in their search. As we know, when more people see your content, the algorithm will show it to more people with similar interests.

    You can find which hashtags are trending in TikTok’s Creative Center.

    TikTok algorithm - TikTok's Creative Center.

    Here are a few tips for using hashtags on TikTok:

    • Don’t use too many: One to four hashtags will usually do the trick without making your post look spammy.
    • Use different types: Combine branded, topical, popular, and niche hashtags for the best mix of reach and relevance.
    • Include seasonal and holiday hashtags: Adding seasonal hashtags like #hellospring and #Holloweenscares lets you ride the wave of attention during peak times of the year.

    7. Add popular audio clips

      Audio clips work similarly to hashtags on TikTok. If an audio clip gets popular, and you like videos that use that clip, there’s a greater chance you’ll get more videos with that audio in your FYP.

      Head back to the Creative Center to find trending songs.

      TikTok algorithem - TikTok's Creative Center.

      Look in the Popular tab to see which tunes are already getting a lot of play. Then, check out the Breakout tab to catch the next audio wave early.

      8. Add captions

      Many people don’t watch videos with the sound on. Adding captions to your posts lets those people follow along. But captions don’t just help you appeal to a broader audience. TikTok’s algorithm can learn more about your videos from the text of its caption.

      TikTok makes it easy to add captions. Tap the Captions icon, and the app will automatically generate them.

      TikTok algorithem - TikTok's caption manager.

      Make sure you use the keywords you dug up in your video script. The algorithm will read those in the captions and know who should see your videos.

      9. Jump on trends

      One of the best ways to leverage the algorithm to get views is by following TikTok trends. A trend is a theme, idea, or trait of a video that already has mass appeal. That might be a common song or a dance.

      Trends can also be challenges, like this one where one person holds another so they look like they’re in the iconic scene from the movie Titanic.

      TikTok algorithem - Screenshot of a TikTok video showing the Titanic trend.

      When viewers get hooked on a trend, TikTok sends them more videos to view. If you’ve jumped on the trend, the algorithm will put your video in that mix.

      Work with the TikTok algorithm to go viral

      The trick to social media marketing is remembering that social platforms want you to succeed. If people love the content you post, they’ll spend more time on the app—which is a win-win for everyone.

      The key is learning how the TikTok algorithm works to make it your partner in success. Instead of fighting against the algorithm, find ways to leverage it, and you’ll leap-frog ahead of all the accounts trying to trick or hack it.

      Here’s a recap of nine ways you can use TikTok’s algorithm to your advantage:

      1. Hook viewers quickly
      2. Create niche content
      3. Use TikTok SEO
      4. Tailor content to the platform
      5. Post at the right time and frequency
      6. Incorporate hashtags
      7. Add popular audio clips
      8. Add captions
      9. Jump on trends

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      Meet The Author

      Rob Glover

      Rob is a Senior Copywriter for LocaliQ and WordStream where he uses his content marketing experience to write about all manner of advertising, sales, and adtech topics. When not turning phrases, Rob loves to travel, cook, and spend time outdoors (especially hiking and mountain biking) with his wife and dog.


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