TikTok Series: Understanding the TikTok Algorithm

Learn about the two main factors that affect the TikTok algorithm to help you understand how to create viral content below!

Navy blue TikTok graphic that says: I heard someone say there's something called an "algorithm" on TikTok? Seem complicated and I'm not a big fan of math problems.

When entering the weird and confusing world of TikTok, one of the most misunderstood aspects is the algorithm. If you are wondering what is standing between you and TikTok fame, you have come to the right place. We are breaking down the two main factors that affect the TikTok algorithm: your authority score and the For You Page review process.

Before you read any further, make sure you’ve read our Intro to TikTok blog and another blog about how to add TikTok to your brand’s social media strategy.

Quick disclaimer: Researching the algorithm is only a small step towards viral content. The only way to achieve success is to create quality content that resonates with your audience. No amount of knowledge or hacks will help if your videos don’t make a connection with viewers. However, understanding the algorithm will help you optimize your content to perform to its best ability. Let’s get started!

Authority Score

An authority score is TikTok’s ranking system that determines if an account is an influencer in their respective content category. As your authority score increases, your relationship with the TikTok algorithm improves. As this happens, your videos are more likely to appear on the For You Page. There are a variety of factors that impact your authority score. 

New Accounts

Similar to how the first few ride ratings heavily impact a new Uber account, a TikTok account is heavily impacted by the performance and quality of its first videos. Every video you post contributes to your authority score. 


Next, the TikTok algorithm wants you to create content that is in the same category, or “vertical.” This allows the platform to understand what type of content you produce and recommend your content to the proper audience. TikTok determines your account vertical based on the content of your first five videos. Verticals include comedy, dance, memes, challenges, dogs, nature, travel, DIY and more.


Once you determine a vertical, the TikTok algorithm wants you to stay within that category. Content that varies or does not fall into your vertical typically does not perform well. If you decide to pursue a new vertical, it is similar to completely starting over because you do not have “authority” within that category. 



Also, Hashtags play a large role in determining your vertical and presenting your content to the proper target audience. Make sure you are utilizing hashtags that are relevant to your video and your audience.

Viewing Completion

Finally, your viewing completion rate helps the algorithm understand if your video is interesting to the audience and holds their attention. Your video must be viewed from start to finish to count as a view. Views are one of the main metrics provided by TikTok. It is important to consider this when creating content. Four factors improve completion rate:

  1. Short videos – Although TikTok allows for videos up to 60 seconds, we recommend that videos be 10-15 seconds.
  2. Looping videos – If a user watches a video multiple times in a row, the completion rate will be over 100%. Creating seamless videos that loop will cause viewers to continue watching past completion and positive affect your completion rate. 
  3. Format – Many TikTok trends, jokes, and challenges include a punchline at the end that viewers are expecting. This causes them to watch the entire video.
  4. Music – Audio plays an important role in content creation and viewing completion. Using the correct audio will cause users to be more interested because they know what to expect. 

For You Page Review Process

After understanding how you can impact your authority score, you can create a plan for your account vertical. Once you post a video, there are three steps that determine how your video will perform. 

Authority-based automatic distribution

Based on your authority score, TikTok distributes your video to a geo-local network of approximately 200-500 viewers. This is why it is common to see content on your For You Page created by people in your area that have not received many views yet. At this point, the TikTok algorithm has not conducted any quality checks on your content.

Integrity-based AI review

After the initial geo-local distribution, artificial intelligence steps in. AI analyzes content frame-by-frame for copyright issues, inappropriate content, poor quality and more. Based on this analysis, AI assigns videos an integrity rating, which determines if the video will be distributed again to a wider audience.

Human review

If a video is distributed again and resonates with the target audience, the video will be reviewed by a human. This person will look at the authority and integrity scores and determine if the video has the potential to go viral. They will also double-check for copyright violations or any content that goes against general expectations. 

To be fully distributed to the For You Page, the video must fulfill TikTok’s understanding of what is popular, relevant, and acceptable in that larger geo-location.

Various types of content that are not typically approved include strong political opinions (with the exceptions of political comedy) and violations of social norms of that region. This also offers insight into why TikTok encourages users to copy popular trends instead of creating original content.


Ready to move on? Read the next blog in our TikTok series to learn how to create a Tiktok strategy for your brand!