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App Indexing: What Is It & How Will It Help?

Written by Jess Lepore | 07-Apr-2016 07:05:00

If your company owns an app, this useful feature could
increase your visibility within Google Search results, get more app users, and bring people back to your app. Sounds good, right?

So What Is App Indexing?

App Indexing means you can now search within mobile apps via Google search.

App owners define which content within their app can be indexed (searchable), then your users can open pages within your app straight from Google.

App Indexing Examples:

Things you do in an app are ranked highly within search:

Pictured: looking at holidays in Airbnb, searching later via Google, clicking an autocomplete link to a previously-viewed listing within the Airbnb app.

If an app mirrors website content and you have the app installed, results in Google search will allow you to open a listing within the app.

IMDb results – open in app (if installed) or go straight to the website. Courtesy of Google.

App Indexing also works on iOS and Android.

What are the Benefits of App Indexing?

Research from Google found that
1 in 4 app users discover apps through search engines. This is particularly the case for tech, travel and local apps, so if your app is in one of these categories, optimising your app for search is essential for gaining new users.

In the same report, Google noted that people abandon apps almost immediately after a download. Primarily this was because users lost interest (34% abandoned apps because of this); secondly,
29% of users stop using apps because they “no longer need it”.

Being in search is about getting in front of users “Just in Time” when they need you the most.

This is important - when a user
needs something, it’s likely that they’ll run a Google search to find the answer. If your app has the answer, you’ll be right there in Google search to solve their problem – and you won’t need to rely on hoping your users understand when they need your app. Being in search is about getting in front of users “Just in Time” when they need you the most.

For app owners who take the dive and set up support within their app for App Indexing, they can benefit from:

  • Potential increase in new users searchable apps with quality content may be recommended to people who haven’t installed the app yet
  • Very high rankings in search from existing users if the app has content relevant to what they’re searching for or have searched for in the past. Actions you take within an app are a strong ranking signal for future searches.

This is about re-engaging people who’ve already installed your app

Primarily, it looks as though this is about re-engaging people who’ve already installed your app. Google say that 25% of apps are never used at all and App Indexing is an amazing step towards solving the use-the-app-once-and-never-again problem.

Are there alternatives?

Well I’ve only been talking about App Indexing via Google search.

Apple allows you to make your apps searchable
within Search for iOS9, which means iOS users will be better-able to find apps with the in-built function – it’s accessible via Siri too.

Bing have set up
app linking for Windows on mobile devices too, but hey, it’s Bing, so it’s only worth doing if you’ve got a Windows app and a large Bing audience.

Setting up App Indexing

This will take a bit of development time – it consists of
updating your app by:

  1. Adding support for HTTP URLs so your app can handle links pointed towards it
  2. Adding the App Indexing API (or SDK if it’s on iOS) so actions on your app can provide the backbone for autocompleted searches, richer search results and enhanced rankings
  3. Testing and Debugging as always
  4. Analysing through Search Console so you can find ways to make further improvements

To get this set up properly check out
this Moz post which goes into the nitty gritty.

By bringing SEO to apps, Google are showing that they’re breaking down traditional SEO boundaries and working to solve real usability problems.