What developers need to know about Google’s new app indexing methods
Google recently announced interesting news that affects developers. First, Google is ranking an application using just content from the application. Second, Google is providing a Streaming app player that can provide data from the content on your app—even if the app is not installed. This is really significant and let me explain why.
First, as most SEO aficionados are aware, Google consistently updates its search algorithms. Over time, the quality of content has become more and more relevant. That is, past tricks like cross-linking or keywords have been less important—while those sites with great content that best meet the searchers intent do better. This is how it should work.
One limit for application developers is that Google did not index apps. To get searched, app developers would have to build a companion website. This is no longer needed. While this is probably not a huge deal for big apps that likely build companion sites, this is hugely beneficial for smaller developers—particularly those with unique, niche content.
Additionally, most developers already likely create apps for both Android and iOS, but if you are a new developer initially creating an app for one platform, it certainly makes more sense to start with Android. Android developers will need to add the Google App Indexing API (or provide access to Googlebot). When developers annotate the content on an app with API, Google will provide the length and title for the search results. As is the case with most of their APIs, the Google developer site provides clear guidance. The developer only needs to add Google Play services to their project (by updating the manifest and build.gradle in the configuration), and then modify their activities that support deep links.
Alternatively, to allow the Googlebot, the dev will need to have robots.txt and then configure this to allow access to Google (by adding Googlebot as user-agent). As a developer, I would just connect to the Google App Indexing API, it is not that difficult.
What really makes this impactful is the introduction of this Streaming app player. If a user is performing a search and Google recommends the content in the application, the user does not need to install the app—instead this player streams the app information to the device (hopefully this could lead to an app download). This becomes even that much more useful as more and more businesses or hobbyists continue to build apps. Discoverability will remain a big issue, but at least there is better hope for differentiated content.