By Mike Levin & Nyambura Mbugua
Google App Indexing allows users to click listings in Google Search results and to be dropped directly into an app sub-location on iOS and Android devices if the app is present on the user’s phone. If the app is not present, normal web results are presented, sometimes with links to the app’s page within the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.
Just like webpage deep links, we expect to see direct deep links in the search results to app sub-pages. A good example would be the app-based social platform Instagram. When a user searches for a term/Instagram caption based on a user’s public profile, for example “Good Marnieing” in the mobile search results bo below, the Instagram application to the public profile appears. Google SERPs show that depending on how relevant the Instagram caption/search term is the app window box will appear with the most related posts from the user’s profile.
If a user does not have the specified app (in this case, Instagram) from where the content is derived, Google will show the “Marnie The Dog on Instagram” app button and a button to download the Instagram app on Google Play will appear in the search results.
This all lends credibility to Google’s assertion “App Indexing plays a key role as a ranking signal for how your app appears, both when the user has your app installed and when the user doesn’t. This helps you increase your install base and keeps your users coming back.”
So, does this app method work for less popular content from 6 months ago and prior? Our tests found that guaranteed uniqueness of an author’s Instagram caption did not always correlate to presence in the Google search results. Instead, Google favored serving the Web-version of the Instagram page, or no page at all for the unique term.
So is there a Google-preference for one type of content or the other (Web vs. in-app)? Will it tend to show in-app mobile content when available? If the answer becomes “Yes” then we have to start adjusting our content strategies, giving more thought to the primary place we imagine our content to reside. In-app may no longer be a second-class citizen, as far as visibility to general Web-search is concerned.
Now that app indexing plays a key role as a ranking signal and how your content appears in search results, marketers must re-evaluate their decisions about which platforms are worth being present on, and why. Previously isolated “island communities” may now suddenly find their hidden content suddenly much less hidden and their in-app communities potentially of much more interest to marketers.
And finally, app indexing may also impact a marketer’s own app-development priorities, opening the possibility of baking natural-search optimization strategies into their own app products.