How Do You Go Viral On TikTok? What Are The Ranking Factors On The TikTok App?

Many are searching for the formula to become TikTok famous, or how to get featured on the ForYouPage. This article is a live investigation into ranking factors and testing of TikTok variations to document what works and what doesn’t.

How To Become TikTok FamousI had heard about and briefly glanced at TikTok for over a year now, but it wasn’t until November of 2019 that I jumped in! I caved! I downloaded the app and began scrolling mini video after mini video until I just had to try it myself. This wasn’t my first “dance” (this pun will make sense later) as I had been an avid Vine user in the past when Vine was all the rage.  TikTok is like Vine on steroids.  If you have no idea what I am talking about,  stay tuned Boomer, I am going to fill you in.  First with a brief history of the app, and some stats, and then a breakdown of how the algorithm works and some actual testing on viral video strategies.

As a newer user without “clout” and a small following (as I am writing this under 200 followers), my experimentation will show what generic users can do and tricks that may help gain progress.

– – TikTok Factors Listed Below the Video —

As an SEO Specialist, I am attempting to SEO TikTok by learning what makes the content rank and go viral, testing some optimized content, and working towards viral gold.  I have dubbed this TTEO or TikTok Engine Optimization.

15 min Video Breakdown – TikTok SEO – TTEO


List of TikTok Factors Discovered, Inferred, and Suggested by the Online Community

Let me start this section by saying there is some merit to the assertion that young, attractive, and talented early adopters have been a juggernaut for fame on TikTok. But I think that view is surface-level cynicism that does not really address changes that have happened on the app over the years and months. TikTok is not that simple anymore.

  1. Volume and Frequency of TikTok Posts:
    • No one can deny that posting videos that are interesting and entertaining, as often as possible even multiple times a day can really build momentum on your account. Views breed views and in an interesting discovery with one of my latest videos, posts that gain good initial traction can kick other videos into a resurrection cycle as discussed in the video and in the TikTok algorithm diagram below. The result was 3 videos cycling on the for you page, the original post, and 2 others that had previous good visibility.
  2. Hashtag Usage:
    • Many People spam the #foryoupage and #fyp hashtags with their videos thinking that this will make a difference on whether they get on the For You Page or not. At some point this may have been true, but it is not anymore. However, participation in trending hashtags does appear to get your TikTok into a subset group of initial viewers. Some have gone viral without any hashtags.
  3. Description Usage:
    • Descriptions are seen in a minimum of two places. On the ForYouPage (while the video is being watched), and also in the notifications that your followers can receive on their mobile phones.TikTok Notifications
  4. Thumbnail Selection:
  5. Trending Sounds:
  6. Visible Text Headlines:
  7. Challenge Participation:
  8. Dance or Musical Videos: 
    • Musicly was a very musical app before it became TikTok and therefore dance and music talent are the top viewed and fan-producing video types on the app.
  9. Time Of Day:
    • TikTok analytics can show you when your videos tend to get the most views. Post at these times to maximize views. TikTok Analytics
  10. Length of TikTok Videos and the Loop Factor:
    • No one can deny that the more you post good content, or interesting/entertaining content, the more you get views and engagement. This is listed as the number one factor. An interesting note was discovered in one of my recent tests when one good video that gained good initial views and engagement actually boosted two other previous videos. They began gaining likes and views from different people from the video that triggered it.
  11. Early Mass Views on New Accounts:
    • Many are reporting that TikTok gives people clout when they first setup their account and upload a few videos, and then things seem to tank after that. This Reddit user sums it up:Drop in TikTok views
    • This thread went on with others chiming in, and one claiming that TikTok does this to all new accounts. Indeed it was my experience as well, but it is not conclusive.
  12. Collaborations, Duets, or Reaction Videos:
    • These could be split into separate factors, and I will likely do that in the near future. The concept is the same for each, you produce a video that is linked to another TikTok personality, preferably someone who has clout on TikTok.
  13. Likes, Comments, Shares:
    • Engagement on videos is one of the top factors that helps TikTok gauge how desirable a video is. It is not clear what multiplier is used to increase views based on likes, shares, and comments.
  14. Your Own Profile Page:
    • The profile page has a minor affect on views. Your thumbnail animations show for each video which is a separate factor, but part of the profile. Having an eye-catching quality profile pic, links to your social media/YouTube channel, and an interesting description can help people make the decision to follow you and watch more.
  15. Wikipedia Links?: 
    • TikTok offers an option to link to Wikipedia when adding your hashtags. I am not sure what this does or why. Are outbound links to an authority site beneficial? I am testing this out.
  16. Location:
    • The TikTok app uses location settings, and GPS location reporting that influences the videos you see and also who sees your video. I have noticed most of the videos I see are Canadian, and also noticed one of my recent videos was only seen by a Canadian audience. I had my location set as Canada in the preferences and I have since changed that to United States to see how the app and algorithm react to that.
  17. Demographics:
    • As a Gen X’er I see many #over30 and #over40 posts in my feed. Is this because TikTok has profiled me and deemed that this is my target audience? Does this affect my posts as well? Though I can’t tell for sure, yet, it seems that many of my likes and follows come from a large mix of age groups. Lots of young people.

One of the TTEO recent attempts for the Fortnite emote contest with the TikTok hashtag #emoteroyalecontest



@d_rock_tiktok#emoteroyalecontest TTEO 2 please have Ripley do this in the emote samples 🙂♬ Zany – Fortnite

A Diagram of my breakdown of the TikTok Algorithm

TikTok Algorithm Diagram

As mentioned in the video above, the TikTok algorithm appears to follow this format of Video uploads entering the TikTok public stage to a sample audience of For You Page and Followers.  (TikTokers with clout and a large following will experience immediate thousands of views.) Most others will begin a loop or stop based on engagement from the sample group. If there are 100% or greater views (people watching the full video at least once), likes, comments, shares, the video will loop back onto another sampling group.  This will keep cycling depending on the response, and number of videos entering the stage. It will either grow or stop.

There is also a resurrection factor when dead TikToks seem to cycle back into the world again.  They enter the For You Page and begin cycling again.

TTEO tests to track progress and find successful factors.