What’s App Indexing and Why it Matters

This week Google announced the new App Indexing API. More to the point, Google announced that mobile apps implementing the new API will get a ranking boost. This is in addition to the ranking boost apps get when Google deep-indexes their content for mobile search.  The App Indexing API allows Google to gather more app engagement data, information that Google values enough to reward app publishers with better search rankings.

What’s app indexing and what does it mean for marketing teams? Here are some concepts and terminology around this topic.

In April 2015, Google made mobile-friendliness a highly significant factor in the way it ranks websites. This shouldn’t have taken anyone by surprise, as Google has been moving steadily in this direction with its Panda and Penguin updates.

For the ultimate in mobile-friendly, it’s apps. Companies that upgrade websites to be mobile-friendly have three options. In ascending order of cost, difficulty, and mobile-friendliness they are: a website that implements responsive design, a dedicated mobile website, and mobile apps.

Deep indexing improves the search experience. Deep indexing by search engines means users can get ‘deep links’ in search results. Deep links are just URLs to a site’s interior pages, where relevant content lives. It’s the difference between clicking on a URL to Jurassic Park instead of just IMDB’s home page. In mobile search, deep links matter even more because they allow users to bypass home pages which can be graphics-heavy or filled with ads.

App indexing is deep indexing for mobile apps - and more.  In October 2013, Google announced app indexing. Google bots began indexing app content as well as web page content, crawling to index deep links. This means now when you search using a mobile device, search results will include both web content and relevant app content. This improves the mobile search experience, especially since users with installed apps have the option to launch the app and go directly to app content from within Google mobile search results.

In the example below, a search for real estate in the city of Mountain View brings up a listing from the Trulia website. Trulia offers a mobile app, so if your device had their app installed, you would be able to click the ‘Open with app’ button and view the content optimally via the app.

Why App Indexing Matters for Marketing Teams

The percentage of users who access the Web via mobile devices has exceeded those who access it via desktop computers. Consequently, many companies have built mobile apps to differentiate from their competitors by providing a slicker, more convenient mobile experience.

App indexing matters because:

  • It gives app content equal search status as web pages. If you have an app, your app content will show up in mobile search, just like regular web content.

  • It improves visibility and engagement for your app. By including app content in search results, Google not only improves discoverability for your app by putting your app and content in front of new users, it also helps drive usage of your app with existing users.

  • It improves your mobile search rankings. Google won’t penalize you for not including your app in their app index, but if your app is indexed, you will see a small boost in personalized search results for logged in users. In competitive markets, especially verticals, every small advantage helps.

  • It improves your website search rankings. Google has stated that indexed deep links for apps will have a positive ranking effect on their associated Web pages.

There are some issues to consider when it comes to apps and app indexing.

  • You’ll want to review your website’s call-to-action. Your primary CTA right now might be to fill in a contact form or download a white paper. Your new one might be getting users to download your app.

  • App indexing is only relevant for apps with corresponding content online. Google calls this ‘web parity’. If users can access the same content online and through an app, your app is a candidate. Standalone apps that are available only on mobile devices won’t work right now.

  • Google’s move to index app content is a double-edged sword for SEO. If you don’t have an app, or if you’re trying to improve SEO for your regular website, you’ll be competing with a new swathe of search results from apps.

If you have an app, make sure your app is included in Google’s app index and implement app indexing. Feel free to get in touch if you have questions about app indexing or making your website mobile-friendly.