iOS App Indexing Now a Part of the Google Search Algorithm

The algorithm update dubbed “mobilegeddon” has managed to get Webmasters to finally put a focus on mobile, but what is only gaining exposure now is the fact that app indexing was also a part of this update. Before April 21 we reported here about app indexing and what you needed to know to prepare, but now that the update is out there and in full swing, there are a few more issues and new ideas surfacing that need attention.

It’s important to understand why Google pursued this idea, what it means for users and for Webmasters, and how to get around what many are calling the “app store roadblock” in order to be successful and take full advantage.

A Quick Reminder: What App Indexing Means for Search

Google created a recent blog post reminding Webmasters what app indexing means and how this differs from what you’re used to seeing in the past. In short, what this means is that now users on both Android and iOS will be able to open mobile app content straight from Google Search (in the Google App and in Chrome for signed-in users globally). Below is a screenshot from the blog post that shows how it will work:


As you can see, app indexing allows Google to index apps just as if they were websites. Again, you will only see these results on a mobile search, and this now includes Android and iOS apps (Android came first back in June of last year, 2014). Once an app is listed in the Google index, deep links to the app can appear in Search results so that users can click on the link and land on the app as opposed to a general homepage or desktop webpage.

Visit here to learn more about getting your app indexed for iOS. In short, there are only three steps you need to follow:

  1. Add deep linking support to your app
  2. Make sure you can return to Search results with one click.
  3. Provide deep link annotations on your site.

Companies Beware: Consider Users Who Have Your App Installed vs. Users Who Do Not

This new announcement is a huge step forward for apps that users have already installed on Apple devices. It frees the information held inside of apps so that users can find it easily through mobile search. As we now know, mobile searches outnumber desktop searches, so the more information you can get out there that is optimized for mobile the better. If users have your app installed, they will see the search results, click the result, and be taken right to the app.

If Users Don’t Yet Have Your iOS App Installed

This isn’t discussed much, but if a user doesn’t have the app installed in the iOS app system then you, the Webmaster, are going to have to go through a few extra steps to take advantage of this new feature.

For example, if a user searches for something and your app comes up as a result and they click that result, they will probably be prompted to download the app. Sounds great, right? This will help you increase your app downloads and help users. Unfortunately, the problem is that once they install the app, however, they aren’t directed to the product or service they were searching for in the first place. See the problem?

The solution: Developers need to make sure that mobile deep linking and install tracking is in place so that they can send the user to the app (and essentially skip around the app store). The app store unfortunately doesn’t make it easy for this to happen, so prioritizing these two things will help you essentially skip the app store so you can bring users to your app screen.

This is definitely a job for developers, so learn the details of deep linking and how to get started here. iOS app indexing will be rolled out to all users globally in the coming weeks, so it’s best to get started now. Let us know how app indexing works for you and if you saw any increased app installs or engagement in the comment section below.

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