App Indexing Heats Up: How Search Results Are Helping Mobile Apps Get More Attention
- App Linking
A key challenge of mobile apps is getting users who download an app to keep using it. Sure, it’s great that someone downloaded a mobile app you created, but wouldn’t it be even better if they used it? This is particularly true for content-heavy apps. Often cases these free mobile apps are loaded with useful information. If the mobile app is monetized by ads then it’s important to have people return to use the app.
That’s not the only obstacle, in a world with millions of mobile apps how can you get people to discover your app. Search is a big part of the puzzle and it’s clear that search engines can lend a hand. This first became evident last October when Google published App Indexing guidelines for developers to provide deep links directly from its search results page to the corresponding Android app installed on a mobile device. In this implementation, App Indexing is working to help users engage more with apps on their devices.
Recently, Bing has also provided developers with a way to get more engagement and to help make their apps more discoverable. Bing’s version is called App Linking and takes App Indexing one-step further. In addition to providing links to mobile apps already installed on a mobile device in relevant search results, it also includes links to download the app if it isn’t already installed – increasing mobile app discoverability.
App Indexing Installation
The idea behind App Indexing is using search results to provide a way for people to re-connect with the mobile apps they already have on their device. For example, say you do a search for Robert Downey Jr. movies on your phone. The search engine will still return results, but if you have an app on your phone such as IMDB that has more information a link to the app will appear in the results via app deep links (See the sample provided by Google below):
When Google first released App Indexing the company also announced it was trying it out with an initial group of developers. Google has steadily been adding more apps to its App Indexing program. The current list of almost 40 Android apps that have the App Indexing feature enabled are as follows: 500px, All the Cooks, AllTrails, AOL, BeautyLish, BigOven, Bleacher Report, Booking.com, Etsy, Eventbrite, Expedia, Flixster, Glassdoor, Goodreads, Health, Huffington Post, IMDB, Merriam-Webster, Moviefone, NewEgg, OpenTable, Pinterest, Realtor.com, Seeking Alpha, TalkAndroid, TheFreeDictionary, The Journal, TripAdvisor, Trulia, Tumblr, Urbanspoon, Wattpad, YP, Zagat, Zappos and Zillow.
How To Get Involved in App Indexing
The real question for developers is “How do you get Google to show deep links to the content in your mobile app?” According to the Android developer site, app indexing is currently only available for the program’s early adopters. That doesn’t mean you can’t throw your hat in the ring.
If you want to have your app ready when Google opens up the program to more developers there are some things you can do now. First, update your app so that it supports deep linking. Google has provided information on adding deep link support to Android apps on its site. Once that’s been implemented on your app, you need to add the deep links to your website and let Google know your app is ready. Here’s a handy App Indexing checklist you can use to make sure you didn’t miss anything in the process.
Bing Brings Indexing to Windows Phones
With all the potential App Indexing has to help drive people back to the apps that are already on their mobile devices its no surprise that the other big search engine is making a move in that direction. That’s right Microsoft’s Developer Network has information for Bing App Linking. The concept is similar to Google’s App Indexing, however, it’s designed for Windows Phone apps and if the app isn’t installed on the phone already a link is provided to the user so they can install it.
In addition to App Linking, there’s also support for deep linking – so instead of just providing a link to the app it will also provide a link to the page on the mobile app where the relevant content resides. Bing’s App Linking feature is supported in Windows 8.1 SmartSearch and Windows Phone Search for Windows Phone 7.1 and higher. The deep linking feature will work on Windows Phone 8.1 search and apps on Windows Phone 7.1 running on Windows Phone 8.1 devices. You can learn more about how to link your Windows Phone mobile app to Bing results here.
Another Version of App Links Hits The Market
Of course, App Indexing shouldn’t be confused with the recently announced App Links, which also deals with linking content and mobile apps. The idea behind the open, cross-platform is for app-to-app linking based on content. Essentially, developers can use App Links to expose deep links in an app or link out to other apps. Once you create App Link metadata by adding a few lines to the <head> tag in the HTML for your content, apps can use that metadata to link into your app. The App Links site has a lot of helpful information for developers such as navigation protocol, metadata examples, and UX guidelines.
What do you think of driving users to your app through search? Is this something you want to implement in your apps? Let us know in the comments below.