How Does the TikTok Algorithm
Really Work?

We analyzed every article online that talks about the mysterious enigma known simply as the “TikTok Algorithm”.

From studies organized by WSJ to information leaked by former TikTok employees…

We found out everything there is to know about the TikTok algorithm.

Now it’s time to share what we discovered.

Here is our Ultimate Guide to the TikTok Algorithm

Before we get into the exact details of our in-depth analysis of the TikTok algorithm, let’s go over the contents of this article.

Chapter 1:
TikTok Fundamentals

TikTok fundamentals

What is the TikTok Algorithm?

When TikTok first became popular, we were all in love with its For You page. This curated feed appeared to magically send us new videos that were related to our profiles, locations, interests, and hobbies.

Although our viewing options on TikTok were slim—you can either watch TikToks from people you’re following or watch your For You feed—the app still managed to keep us engaged for hours at a time, all thanks to the algorithm.

The TikTok algorithm is a tool that TikTok uses in order to recommend new videos to its users. Due to a new press release from 2020 and a handful of studies, our knowledge of the algorithm has become fairly extensive.

Why is the TikTok algorithm important?

Understanding the algorithm will give you an advantage when it comes to going viral on TikTok. Even if you only know a little bit, having practical knowledge is still better than going at it in the dark. 

Here are some more benefits of taking the time to understand the TikTok algorithm:

  • Learn why you see the content that shows up on your FYP
  • Boost your overall viewership
  • Have more people share your content
  • Understand what your audience needs and wants to see
  • Improve your engagement numbers
  • Get better at video storytelling
TikTok For You Page

How do you beat the TikTok algorithm in 2021?

In the next few sections, we’re going to go over exactly how you can beat the TikTok algorithm using hacks, tips, and best practices. 

At its most basic form, TikTok uses its algorithm to send users more content that reflects their interests. By using engagement behaviors to predict user reactions, TikTok is constantly learning and relearning the best ways to deliver content.

Chapter 2:
How the Algorithm Works

How does the TikTok algorithm work?

According to TikTok’s direct press release,

“On TikTok, the For You feed reflects preferences unique to each user. The system recommends content by ranking videos based on a combination of factors – starting from interests you express as a new user and adjusting for things you indicate you’re not interested in, too – to form your personalized For You feed.”

What factors contribute to the TikTok algorithm?

The factors that directly contribute to what shows up on the For You page include the following:

  • User Interactions
  • Video Information
  • Device and Account Settings
  • What you Explore in the Discover Tab


In addition to user factors, TikTok’s FYP also follows a handful of rules. 

  1. TikTok purposely avoids sending the user repetitive patterns – You won’t see two videos in a row with the same sound or made by the same content creator.
  2. TikTok doesn’t show you duplicate content – This includes content you’ve seen already or content that is flagged as spam.
  3. TikTok sends you diverse recommendations too – You will also receive videos that may not be immediately relevant to your interests or received a lot of likes/comments.
  4. TikTok doesn’t recommend graphic content – This is true unless you opt in to see content like medical procedures or substance use.


We’ll go over these factors with specific details and more information in the next chapter.

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Chapter 3:
In-Depth Algorithm Factors

What are all the factors that play a role in the
TikTok "For You" Page?

Although TikTok’s 2020 press release brought a few factors (such as user engagement, video information, etc.) to our attention, the algorithm can be broken down even further.

Here is a list of all the factors that play a role in what content you will see on the platform:

  • Indicators of Interest:
    • 1. Videos you like
    • 2. Videos you shared
    • 3. Videos where you leave comments
    • 4. The type of videos you create
    • 5. Videos that you watch from start to end
    • 6. Type of videos you explore in the discovery tab
    • 7. Videos created in the same country as you (weighted less)

What are the TikTok interest indicators? (INFOGRAPHIC)

Essentially, these indicators will tell TikTok the type of videos you are interested in seeing. Then, the platform ranks and shows you content based on how likely you would be to enjoy it.

What are the factors that impact your TikTok's views, likes, and shares?

If the reason you want to understand the TikTok algorithm is because you want to go viral, this article here explains the entire process in detail

These are the factors in the TikTok algorithm that can help you grow your following numbers and views:

  1. Hashtags
  2. Captions
  3. Completion Rate
  4. Viewer Engagement
  5. Trending Songs/Sounds
  6. Posting Time
  7. Video Editing
  8. Original Sounds


Now, let’s talk about each factor in depth.

1. Hashtags

Using hashtags is a great way to let TikTok know what your content is all about. Hashtags that are related to your content help the system send your videos to users who are interested in your niche. 

You can see how important hashtags are for TikTok’s algorithm because they show you how many views each hashtag gets. If you check out the Discover tab, you can see all the hashtags that are currently trending.

TikTok hashtags

If you’ve spent time on the For You page, you’ve probably seen a lot of videos that utilize the #fyp and #fypage hashtags. 

Although these do show up (sometimes) on viral videos, it is not the end-all, be-all.

Putting irrelevant or overused hashtags can actually result in your video getting penalized as spam in the TikTok algorithm. Your best bet is to use niche relevant and trending hashtags for your videos.

2. Captions

Captions are a vital factor of how TikTok ranks your video for viewers. 

In general, you should not treat TikTok captions like Instagram or Facebook captions. Instead of writing long, descriptive captions, you should keep your captions short, relevant, and simple. 

The best captions are jokes, short questions, calls to action, and mysterious call outs. It’s also smart to include relevant hashtags.

3. Completion Rate

TikTok is similar to Instagram because it sends users posts that they tend to interact with. Video completion rate is the strongest ranking indicator when it comes to user interaction.

So if people are watching your TikTok from beginning to end, your video has a better chance of reaching a larger audience and going viral.

4. Viewer Engagement

Viewer engagement encapsulates factors like completion rate, likes, comments, and shares. 

Basically, the algorithm looks at how often viewers engage with your new content before sending it to other For You pages. It also interprets the percentage (how many people skip / how many people engage) of engagement to see if your TikTok deserves to reach a larger audience. 

5. Trending Songs/Sounds

Incorporating trending sounds and songs into your TikToks can help the algorithm disperse your content.

If you want to discover what sounds are currently trending, go to the video editor and click on “Sounds”. This will show you a scrolling bar of trending songs.

You should also check out Tokboard—a billboard website that ranks the top-ranking sounds of the week.

6. Posting Time

Although posting time isn’t as vital as it is for Instagram stories and Twitter posts, you can maximize your TikTok views by posting videos when your audience is the most active.

How to Check Your TikTok Analytics

Go to your profile settings and head to the “Business Suite” tab.

TikTok business suite settings

Next, click on “Analytics”.

This will take you to a page where you can see various insights on your content. 

TikTok Analytics

Look at the times and territories where your viewers are the most active. As you know, your location is a ranking factor in the TikTok algorithm.

Posting at the right times can also help your content get discovered organically. 

7. Video Editing

If you read my guide on how to go viral on TikTok, you know that editing a perfect loop can result in a well-performing video. Having people watch videos two or three times over is a big indication to the algorithm that your video is shareable.

Craft out a solid content plan with well-edited videos and you could find yourself beating the TikTok algorithm in no time. I’m a CoSchedule customer because their software actually makes content planning kinda fun. And it helps me stay on top of my social media goals.   

8. Original Sounds

Using original sounds that you record yourself can help the TikTok algorithm discover your niche and send your content to relevant audiences.

If you find yourself using popular songs for most—if not all—of your TikToks, consider recording original sounds. This could help you perform better and get more viewer engagement. 

Chapter 4:
How to Hack the TikTok Algorithm

How to Hack the TikTok Algorithm

In this section, you will learn the tips and tricks it takes to unravel TikTok’s complicated algorithm.


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Chapter 5:
What the Experts Have Said

Wall Street Journal's Study on the TikTok Algorithm

On July 21, 2021, the Wall Street Journal revealed the results of a massive study they conducted on the TikTok algorithm.

The study went like this:

First, they created a bunch of automated accounts that viewed thousands of videos and collected valuable data.

These bot accounts were assigned specific “interests”. They were programmed to pause or replay any TikToks that contained images or hashtags that were related to those interests.

What were the results of the bot experiment?

The main conclusion from this study was how quickly users can be thrown into “rabbit holes” of irrelevant content. According to the Journal, TikTok’s algorithm was able to identify some of the bot’s interests in less than 40 minutes. Out of these bots, one of them was sent into a rabbit hole of depression-related content. 

What is a "Rabbit Hole"?

When you accidentally linger on a video that isn’t relevant to your interests, TikTok could flag it as something you enjoy watching. Then, the algorithm might send you a string of videos that are related to this niche. 

The content that is shown in these rabbit holes tend to be less moderated and less popular. 

Basically, if you hesitate on a video that you don’t actually enjoy, the TikTok algorithm doesn’t know how to differentiate that hesitation from a positive reaction.

Watch the Entire Study of the TikTok Algorithm by WSJ

The entire study contained lots of other interesting findings too. You can watch the whole video right here.

Concluding Thoughts

I hope this guide gave you a deeper understanding of the TikTok algorithm.

Now, I’d like to turn it over to you, the content creators.

What is one tip you can use to help yourself create great TikTok content?

Do you have any other tips that can help other creators grow?

Or maybe you have a question about something you read in this course.

Either way, leave a comment below so we can all see it.

Want my Free Course: 7 Steps to Viral Social Media Growth?

Enter your name and email address and you’ll get instant access to my free course as soon as it releases—how to build and grow your viral social media presence (using content creation strategies).

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