While searching for relevant apps on Google, have you found yourself being surprised by the accurate result that you get! For instance, if you Google “Amazon” on the browser in your mobile phone, you will also get the link by which you can download the Amazon app—you will even have the option to open the app if you already have it.
A typical smartphone is packed with 10 to 15 or even more apps; the users look for information not only form the websites but also from the apps that they have. It is now possible to enable Google to crawl through the app content and present content and present your Android app as a destination to users through Google Search results, when that content corresponds to a webpage that you own. This functionality has been termed “App Indexing" by Google.
Several other companies, which are active in the app-ecosystem, are also offering similar services. You can enable such services for Apple, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and many others. However, the nomenclature, implementation method and user experience will differ in case of each company. Terms that are being used to describe this type of functionality include Deep Linking, App Links, Universal Links, Core Spotlight Indexing, etc.
Google is medium of choice for most users who want to enable such functionalities in their mobile. You can make it possible for Google Search to open specific content in your app by providing intent filters for your activities. Google Search app indexing complements this capability by presenting links to relevant app content alongside links to your web pages in users' search results. Users on mobile devices can then click on a link to open your app from their search results, allowing them to directly view your app's content instead of a web page.
Deep Linking – Taking it to the Next Level
If the user performing the search already has your app, you can even provide links that take them to specific locations within your app. For instance, I typed “Silence of the Lambs” into Google on my Android phone. IMDB was in the results and since I have the IMDB app, I was given the option to see the content from within the app rather than going to a webpage — that link took me directly to the Silence of the Lambs page, rather than to the front screen of the app.
More Upside and Some Downside
In addition to better onboarding and re engagement (i.e., more downloads and subsequently more usage) App Indexing can lead to more insights into how users reach your apps. Google provides you data that can be incorporated into your analytics tools giving you greater insight into the source of your app’s traffic.
There are two things that you should be aware of:
App Indexing only works if your app has content that is also on a website. This leaves many apps unable to take advantage of App Indexing. So confirm feasibility for your app before spending too much time on defining how to implement it.
Google’s iOS App Indexing functionality is currently more limited than Android. In addition to the limited functionality, one feature that might turn off some developers is that a back bar is added to your iOS app so users can get back to Google Search. This bar only appears when a user reached your app from Google Search.
How to Implement Google App Indexing
Google provides step-by-step instructions for the implementation of App Indexing for iOS and Android apps here. At a high level you need to:
For Android, associate your app to your website in your Developer Console and make some minor changes to your app, including using the App Indexing API which is now part of Google Play Services.
For iOS, make some minor changes to your app as well as to your website. It could take as little as one line of code each in your app and your website. The only website change you need is to provide an alternate URL when the page is reached from a device.
The truth is that today most users discover their apps through regular (versus the play store) search. In fact, more Google searches occur on mobile devices now than on desktop and laptops in many countries including US and Japan. Taking advantage of this free and easy tactic could set your app apart, giving your more downloads, better engagement and greater insights.
If you have an app that you want to make better or if you only have an idea and you want to make it big with a larger than life app, let us know and we will be happy to do all that is required for ensuring that your app derives maximum advantage of Google App Indexing.