Can Google Index Your Apps? Google has recently added functionality to allow the content of apps to be readily visible within their mobile search results. This is great news for developers and publishers of apps who are looking to increase the number of people downloading their app, and also encourages existing users to keep returning to utilise it.
How Does It Work?
When a mobile user conducts a search for a particular key phrase, those apps that are set to notify Google of their content can appear in the relevant search results. The app will either have an ‘Install’ button next to it, or it will simply display the content contained within the app if the user already has it installed.
The Technology Behind The Indexing
Google have developed a Mobile App Indexing API. An API is an application programming interface, which is a set of programming instructions that are used to access apps. Google’s usual method of making changes to its index involves crawling hyperlinks. However, apps don’t use hyperlinks in the same way that web pages do, so an API is a better solution for providing the most relevant content to users.
App developers are required to notify Google regarding where the content lies within the app and also provide a corresponding URL to their website. Google then chooses whether to send users to the URL or the app. However, those who have created an app without an equivalent website can choose to fill out an app-only interest form for Google’s consideration.
What Do App Developers Need To Do?
If you wish your app content to be visible in Google’s search results you need to do the following:
- Support deep links in your mobile app
- Publish them
- Test them
In order to support deep links, you need to create some intent filters and activity logic.
Intent filters are expressions in an app’s manifest file that stipulate the type of ‘intent’ or activity that the app would like to receive. They allow Google the option of giving users either the content within the app or the connected website when using Google Search, Now On Tap, and when providing query auto-completion results.
It would be wise when structuring your intent filters to ensure that as new pages are added that they will automatically be deep linked without requiring manual modification of the filters. There is also the option of restricting content if you would like parts of your app to be uncrawlable.
After you’ve created your intent filters, you should verify the deep link syntax to check for any errors, then add logic to the filters using the getData() and getAction() commands to retrieve data and actions associated with the incoming intent.
The next step is to publish your deep links either by using Google Play Services or by allowing GoogleBot to crawl your app. Finally, host your HTTP or custom deep links, which you can set up through the Developer Console and then test your implementation.
How Will These Changes Affect The World Of Search?
As yet, Google is still largely reliant on the content of a corresponding web page to deliver information about the relevancy of an app in the search results. However, this is likely to change, so app developers may at some point in the future look to optimize their apps for SEO in a bid to ensure that they are visible at the top of Google’s app rankings.
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Karen Harding is the marketing manager at Objective IT, one of the South East’s leading web and software development companies.