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A Complete Guide & Steps To Success

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A Complete Guide & Steps To Success

With more than 1 billion active users in 2022, the phenomenon that is TikTok has captured the attention of marketers and brands.

Since its start in 2016, the social media video-sharing platform has taken the digital world by storm and expanded into over 150 markets.

Despite this stellar growth and large audience base, TikTok advertising opportunities are still something of a mystery to many.

If you’re one of those sitting on the fence wondering if you should invest in TikTok ads, you’re not alone.

This TikTok ads guide for beginners can help you learn how this advertising platform works, how to get started with TikTok Business Manager, and the steps for creating a new campaign.

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Plus, we’ve included some best practices and recommendations. Let’s get to it!

To TikTok Or Not?

Before considering running ads on TikTok, ask yourself – is my brand a good match for TikTok?

Is my target audience even on TikTok?

Screenshot from TikTok For Business, April 2022

With a very young audience, TikTok is quite different from the likes of Facebook and Instagram.

In fact, it was reported that most users are under 30 years old, and Gen Z and Millennials represent the largest age groups of people using the app.

Besides, when we consider its global footprint, TikTok certainly benefits from widespread adoption worldwide, especially in the U.S., the Middle East, and Asia.

So if your products or services resonate with younger audiences and you have international aspirations, TikTok might be the biggest yet untapped opportunity for your brand.

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That said, even if you run a smaller, local business, it’s possible to make TikTok ads work for you (more on that later), but for now, let’s look at how to get started with the advertising platform and what’s required to create your first ad campaign.

Check out this list of over 40 TikTok facts and statistics to learn more.

Step 1: Sign Up For A TikTok Business Manager Account

First, create a TikTok ad account.

Even if you already have a user account, this separate login is necessary to create ads.

When you sign up, you will need to provide some basic information about yourself and your business.

Once this is completed and your account is confirmed, you will be ready to start using the self-serve platform.

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Step 2: Create Your First Campaign

Once the above formalities are out of the way, the fun can begin!

Create your first campaign giving it a descriptive name, and choose between the objective options you are presented.

Campaign objectives in TikTok are Awareness, Consideration, and Conversions.

 TikTok Ads Manager create campaignScreenshot from TikTok Ads Manager, April 2022

As the names go, these are pretty self-explanatory.

Choose Awareness if you would like to drive as much reach and visibility to your brand as your budget allows, or narrow down your targeting

Choose Consideration if you want likes and to grow your followers for a higher engagement through website traffic, app install, or video views.

But if your marketing goal is mostly to drive conversions, choose the Corresponding campaign objective.

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With the latter, you will need to ensure you have the TikTok pixel installed and configured to properly track and measure the success of your ads.

This is a necessary step, and very much the same as installing the Facebook pixel or any other tracking code on your website.

The TikTok algorithm will also use the pixel to optimize your campaign and help you achieve your goals.

For the campaign, budget options are either a daily budget or a lifetime budget.

Note that no matter which of these two options you choose, the minimum investment required to advertise on TikTok is $50.

Step 3: Create Your Ad Group(s) And Select Your Ad Placements

At this stage, you can choose to run your ads on one or multiple properties, including the suite of apps that are part of the TikTok network such as BuzzVideo and Pangle.

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The easiest option to start with is auto-placement.

More advanced users can also choose fully manual and select the placements where they prefer to run the ads.

TikTok create ad groupScreenshot from TikTok Ads Manager, April 2022

First-time and less experienced users can get started with auto-placement and let TikTok optimize and test different combinations based on the target objectives as the algorithm learns which options work best.

Leaning further on the automation, it is then possible to select the automated creative optimization.

Again similar to other platforms (think Google or Facebook, for example), TikTok lets users upload various assets and then build ad variations to test for finding the best performing combinations.

This is a great option for businesses lacking the resources for ad creation and testing, but possibly not for those who would rather keep more control and/or have strict brand guidelines to adhere to.

Audiences

For those familiar with Facebook Ads, ad group (the equivalent of Facebook ad sets) settings define the target audience(s), and the options are very much the same: Demographics (age and gender), location, device, behavior, and interest targeting.

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TikTok Ads Manager demographicScreenshot from TikTok Ads Manager, April 2022

Some would argue that interests can be quite loose and broad and therefore not as precise (or refined) as what you have on Facebook, or that the list of interest categories to choose from is short and limited.

However, we are sure that as TikTok’s advertising will keep evolving; options will increase and provide more value.

Customer Lists

Using customer lists, it’s possible (and often advisable) to create lookalike audiences for prospecting campaigns, while leveraging website traffic and engagement to set up custom audiences. Having the TikTok pixel installed and working is required.

Like any other form of push advertising, the time and effort you put into carefully crafting laser-targeted audiences and effective ads will pay off with better and more rewarding results.

So let’s look at what the options are when it comes to the creative.

Step 4: Choosing the Right Ad Type and Building Effective Ads

TikTok offers a range of ad options, but not all are affordable to all advertisers; some are rather expensive and more suitable for larger brands.

In-feed Ads

These are the ads that will show within the feed on the user’s “For You Page” and natively integrate with it making them look more organic and less intrusive compared to some of the other formats.

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Additionally, users can interact with these ads as they can like, share and leave comments.

TikTok For BusinessScreenshot from TikTok For Business, April 2022

Brand Takeover Ads

Suited for brands looking to make an impression and with a budget that allows it, this ad is visually effective and memorable.

A Brand Takeover ad will show as soon as the user opens the app and visits a category with a short full-screen video for three to five seconds.

TikTok only allows one takeover per day per user to maximize the impact.

As mentioned, this comes at a cost. You will have to budget a minimum of $50,000 for it.

TopView Ads

Similar to a Brand Takeover ad, TopView ads will also show at the top of the user feed and are the first video users see when they open the app.

They also show on full-screen. However, they can be up to 60 seconds long.

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According to TikTok, TopView ads boost brand awareness and trigger interactions, with 72% of users saying they prefer TopView.

TikTok For Business Balenciaga adScreenshot from TikTok For Business, April 2022

Hashtag Challenge

Branded hashtag challenges are ad formats that promote awareness and engagement, and encourage users to create content aligned with the brand’s products, services, and values.

Hashtag ads are shown at the top of the discovery page and lead to a landing page on TikTok showcasing a collection of other videos from the challenge.

TikTok For Business Photosi adScreenshot from TikTok For Business, April 2022

Branded Effects

Similar to other platforms, TikTok Branded Effects allow brands to create their very own stickers, lenses, and general effects that users can share and engage with the business using TikTok’s AR.

Branded Effects can last up to 10 days.

TikTok For Business slide featureScreenshot from TikTok For Business, April 2022

Spark Ads

Spark ads are a native format that leverages existing posts and turns them into ads.

Brands can use their own organic posts, or posts made by creators, and all views, comments, shares, likes, and follows are attributed to the organic post.

Search Ads

As of the previous week, TikTok has started testing search ads – video ads with a ‘sponsored’ label displayed within the users’ search results.

Once you start running ads in search results, you may retrieve the search terms for the ads that converted and utilize those terms with high click-through rates as titles for your best-performing TikToks, to add value to your video advertisements.

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While it is unclear if search ads are only for managed accounts, we do know this is an excellent opportunity to get in front of your target audience with high purchase intent.

Final Considerations

Now that we have quickly seen which ad formats are available to advertisers on TikTok let’s discuss what it takes to build a good and effective ad.

We have seen that TikTok is quite a different platform from other social media networks, and as such, content creation and distribution must take those differences into account.

First, there is a strong sense of community within TikTok.

This is likely because a large majority of its users are part of a young generation that strongly resonates with authentic content.

These users want to engage with brands that are also authentic and share common values.

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With that in mind, it is pivotal that the content advertised is natural and adds value to TikTok users.

Boosted organic posts, UGC, or sponsored creators’ content are all good options for businesses that treat the platform as a long-term investment and are willing to get started with TikTok ads.

With these TikTok ad basics, best practices, and recommendations under your belt, you’ll have a good leg up on the competition in TikTok advertising.

More resources: 


Featured Image: maridart/Shutterstock




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Measuring Content Impact Across The Customer Journey

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Measuring Content Impact Across The Customer Journey

Understanding the impact of your content at every touchpoint of the customer journey is essential – but that’s easier said than done. From attracting potential leads to nurturing them into loyal customers, there are many touchpoints to look into.

So how do you identify and take advantage of these opportunities for growth?

Watch this on-demand webinar and learn a comprehensive approach for measuring the value of your content initiatives, so you can optimize resource allocation for maximum impact.

You’ll learn:

  • Fresh methods for measuring your content’s impact.
  • Fascinating insights using first-touch attribution, and how it differs from the usual last-touch perspective.
  • Ways to persuade decision-makers to invest in more content by showcasing its value convincingly.

With Bill Franklin and Oliver Tani of DAC Group, we unravel the nuances of attribution modeling, emphasizing the significance of layering first-touch and last-touch attribution within your measurement strategy. 

Check out these insights to help you craft compelling content tailored to each stage, using an approach rooted in first-hand experience to ensure your content resonates.

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Whether you’re a seasoned marketer or new to content measurement, this webinar promises valuable insights and actionable tactics to elevate your SEO game and optimize your content initiatives for success. 

View the slides below or check out the full webinar for all the details.

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How to Find and Use Competitor Keywords

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How to Find and Use Competitor Keywords

Competitor keywords are the keywords your rivals rank for in Google’s search results. They may rank organically or pay for Google Ads to rank in the paid results.

Knowing your competitors’ keywords is the easiest form of keyword research. If your competitors rank for or target particular keywords, it might be worth it for you to target them, too.

There is no way to see your competitors’ keywords without a tool like Ahrefs, which has a database of keywords and the sites that rank for them. As far as we know, Ahrefs has the biggest database of these keywords.

How to find all the keywords your competitor ranks for

  1. Go to Ahrefs’ Site Explorer
  2. Enter your competitor’s domain
  3. Go to the Organic keywords report

The report is sorted by traffic to show you the keywords sending your competitor the most visits. For example, Mailchimp gets most of its organic traffic from the keyword “mailchimp.”

Mailchimp gets most of its organic traffic from the keyword, “mailchimp”.Mailchimp gets most of its organic traffic from the keyword, “mailchimp”.

Since you’re unlikely to rank for your competitor’s brand, you might want to exclude branded keywords from the report. You can do this by adding a Keyword > Doesn’t contain filter. In this example, we’ll filter out keywords containing “mailchimp” or any potential misspellings:

Filtering out branded keywords in Organic keywords reportFiltering out branded keywords in Organic keywords report

If you’re a new brand competing with one that’s established, you might also want to look for popular low-difficulty keywords. You can do this by setting the Volume filter to a minimum of 500 and the KD filter to a maximum of 10.

Finding popular, low-difficulty keywords in Organic keywordsFinding popular, low-difficulty keywords in Organic keywords

How to find keywords your competitor ranks for, but you don’t

  1. Go to Competitive Analysis
  2. Enter your domain in the This target doesn’t rank for section
  3. Enter your competitor’s domain in the But these competitors do section
Competitive analysis reportCompetitive analysis report

Hit “Show keyword opportunities,” and you’ll see all the keywords your competitor ranks for, but you don’t.

Content gap reportContent gap report

You can also add a Volume and KD filter to find popular, low-difficulty keywords in this report.

Volume and KD filter in Content gapVolume and KD filter in Content gap

How to find keywords multiple competitors rank for, but you don’t

  1. Go to Competitive Analysis
  2. Enter your domain in the This target doesn’t rank for section
  3. Enter the domains of multiple competitors in the But these competitors do section
Competitive analysis report with multiple competitorsCompetitive analysis report with multiple competitors

You’ll see all the keywords that at least one of these competitors ranks for, but you don’t.

Content gap report with multiple competitorsContent gap report with multiple competitors

You can also narrow the list down to keywords that all competitors rank for. Click on the Competitors’ positions filter and choose All 3 competitors:

Selecting all 3 competitors to see keywords all 3 competitors rank forSelecting all 3 competitors to see keywords all 3 competitors rank for
  1. Go to Ahrefs’ Site Explorer
  2. Enter your competitor’s domain
  3. Go to the Paid keywords report
Paid keywords reportPaid keywords report

This report shows you the keywords your competitors are targeting via Google Ads.

Since your competitor is paying for traffic from these keywords, it may indicate that they’re profitable for them—and could be for you, too.

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You know what keywords your competitors are ranking for or bidding on. But what do you do with them? There are basically three options.

1. Create pages to target these keywords

You can only rank for keywords if you have content about them. So, the most straightforward thing you can do for competitors’ keywords you want to rank for is to create pages to target them.

However, before you do this, it’s worth clustering your competitor’s keywords by Parent Topic. This will group keywords that mean the same or similar things so you can target them all with one page.

Here’s how to do that:

  1. Export your competitor’s keywords, either from the Organic Keywords or Content Gap report
  2. Paste them into Keywords Explorer
  3. Click the “Clusters by Parent Topic” tab
Clustering keywords by Parent TopicClustering keywords by Parent Topic

For example, MailChimp ranks for keywords like “what is digital marketing” and “digital marketing definition.” These and many others get clustered under the Parent Topic of “digital marketing” because people searching for them are all looking for the same thing: a definition of digital marketing. You only need to create one page to potentially rank for all these keywords.

Keywords under the cluster of "digital marketing"Keywords under the cluster of "digital marketing"

2. Optimize existing content by filling subtopics

You don’t always need to create new content to rank for competitors’ keywords. Sometimes, you can optimize the content you already have to rank for them.

How do you know which keywords you can do this for? Try this:

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  1. Export your competitor’s keywords
  2. Paste them into Keywords Explorer
  3. Click the “Clusters by Parent Topic” tab
  4. Look for Parent Topics you already have content about

For example, if we analyze our competitor, we can see that seven keywords they rank for fall under the Parent Topic of “press release template.”

Our competitor ranks for seven keywords that fall under the "press release template" clusterOur competitor ranks for seven keywords that fall under the "press release template" cluster

If we search our site, we see that we already have a page about this topic.

Site search finds that we already have a blog post on press release templatesSite search finds that we already have a blog post on press release templates

If we click the caret and check the keywords in the cluster, we see keywords like “press release example” and “press release format.”

Keywords under the cluster of "press release template"Keywords under the cluster of "press release template"

To rank for the keywords in the cluster, we can probably optimize the page we already have by adding sections about the subtopics of “press release examples” and “press release format.”

3. Target these keywords with Google Ads

Paid keywords are the simplest—look through the report and see if there are any relevant keywords you might want to target, too.

For example, Mailchimp is bidding for the keyword “how to create a newsletter.”

Mailchimp is bidding for the keyword “how to create a newsletter”Mailchimp is bidding for the keyword “how to create a newsletter”

If you’re ConvertKit, you may also want to target this keyword since it’s relevant.

If you decide to target the same keyword via Google Ads, you can hover over the magnifying glass to see the ads your competitor is using.

Mailchimp's Google Ad for the keyword “how to create a newsletter”Mailchimp's Google Ad for the keyword “how to create a newsletter”

You can also see the landing page your competitor directs ad traffic to under the URL column.

The landing page Mailchimp is directing traffic to for “how to create a newsletter”The landing page Mailchimp is directing traffic to for “how to create a newsletter”

Learn more

Check out more tutorials on how to do competitor keyword analysis:

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Google Confirms Links Are Not That Important

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Google confirms that links are not that important anymore

Google’s Gary Illyes confirmed at a recent search marketing conference that Google needs very few links, adding to the growing body of evidence that publishers need to focus on other factors. Gary tweeted confirmation that he indeed say those words.

Background Of Links For Ranking

Links were discovered in the late 1990’s to be a good signal for search engines to use for validating how authoritative a website is and then Google discovered soon after that anchor text could be used to provide semantic signals about what a webpage was about.

One of the most important research papers was Authoritative Sources in a Hyperlinked Environment by Jon M. Kleinberg, published around 1998 (link to research paper at the end of the article). The main discovery of this research paper is that there is too many web pages and there was no objective way to filter search results for quality in order to rank web pages for a subjective idea of relevance.

The author of the research paper discovered that links could be used as an objective filter for authoritativeness.

Kleinberg wrote:

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“To provide effective search methods under these conditions, one needs a way to filter, from among a huge collection of relevant pages, a small set of the most “authoritative” or ‘definitive’ ones.”

This is the most influential research paper on links because it kick-started more research on ways to use links beyond as an authority metric but as a subjective metric for relevance.

Objective is something factual. Subjective is something that’s closer to an opinion. The founders of Google discovered how to use the subjective opinions of the Internet as a relevance metric for what to rank in the search results.

What Larry Page and Sergey Brin discovered and shared in their research paper (The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine – link at end of this article) was that it was possible to harness the power of anchor text to determine the subjective opinion of relevance from actual humans. It was essentially crowdsourcing the opinions of millions of website expressed through the link structure between each webpage.

What Did Gary Illyes Say About Links In 2024?

At a recent search conference in Bulgaria, Google’s Gary Illyes made a comment about how Google doesn’t really need that many links and how Google has made links less important.

Patrick Stox tweeted about what he heard at the search conference:

” ‘We need very few links to rank pages… Over the years we’ve made links less important.’ @methode #serpconf2024″

Google’s Gary Illyes tweeted a confirmation of that statement:

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“I shouldn’t have said that… I definitely shouldn’t have said that”

Why Links Matter Less

The initial state of anchor text when Google first used links for ranking purposes was absolutely non-spammy, which is why it was so useful. Hyperlinks were primarily used as a way to send traffic from one website to another website.

But by 2004 or 2005 Google was using statistical analysis to detect manipulated links, then around 2004 “powered-by” links in website footers stopped passing anchor text value, and by 2006 links close to the words “advertising” stopped passing link value, links from directories stopped passing ranking value and by 2012 Google deployed a massive link algorithm called Penguin that destroyed the rankings of likely millions of websites, many of which were using guest posting.

The link signal eventually became so bad that Google decided in 2019 to selectively use nofollow links for ranking purposes. Google’s Gary Illyes confirmed that the change to nofollow was made because of the link signal.

Google Explicitly Confirms That Links Matter Less

In 2023 Google’s Gary Illyes shared at a PubCon Austin that links were not even in the top 3 of ranking factors. Then in March 2024, coinciding with the March 2024 Core Algorithm Update, Google updated their spam policies documentation to downplay the importance of links for ranking purposes.

Google March 2024 Core Update: 4 Changes To Link Signal

The documentation previously said:

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“Google uses links as an important factor in determining the relevancy of web pages.”

The update to the documentation that mentioned links was updated to remove the word important.

Links are not just listed as just another factor:

“Google uses links as a factor in determining the relevancy of web pages.”

At the beginning of April Google’s John Mueller advised that there are more useful SEO activities to engage on than links.

Mueller explained:

“There are more important things for websites nowadays, and over-focusing on links will often result in you wasting your time doing things that don’t make your website better overall”

Finally, Gary Illyes explicitly said that Google needs very few links to rank webpages and confirmed it.

Why Google Doesn’t Need Links

The reason why Google doesn’t need many links is likely because of the extent of AI and natural language undertanding that Google uses in their algorithms. Google must be highly confident in its algorithm to be able to explicitly say that they don’t need it.

Way back when Google implemented the nofollow into the algorithm there were many link builders who sold comment spam links who continued to lie that comment spam still worked. As someone who started link building at the very beginning of modern SEO (I was the moderator of the link building forum at the #1 SEO forum of that time), I can say with confidence that links have stopped playing much of a role in rankings beginning several years ago, which is why I stopped about five or six years ago.

Read the research papers

Authoritative Sources in a Hyperlinked Environment – Jon M. Kleinberg (PDF)

The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine

Featured Image by Shutterstock/RYO Alexandre

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