Google announced on Thursday that it is testing app indexing with Android apps. This, the company says, will create a seamless user experience across mobile apps and websites, when it comes to search results pages. With more and more searches coming from mobile devices, the addition of app indexing is long overdue.
Do you expect Google's new app indexing to change your search strategy? Do you intend to focus more on mobile apps? Let us know in the comments.
Googlebot will now crawl and index content within Android apps, meaning that Google searches from mobile devices can point users directly to relevant content in your app, as opposed to your website, when it makes sense to do so.
“Searchers on smartphones experience many speed bumps that can slow them down,” writes product manager Lawrence Chang in a blog post. “For example, any time they need to change context from a web page to an app, or vice versa, users are likely to encounter redirects, pop-up dialogs, and extra swipes and taps. Wouldn’t it be cool if you could give your users the choice of viewing your content either on the website or via your app, both straight from Google’s search results?”
“If both the webpage and the app contents are successfully indexed, Google will then try to show deep links to your app straight in our search results when we think they’re relevant for the user’s query and if the user has the app installed,” Chang explains. “When users tap on these deep links, your app will launch and take them directly to the content they need.”
Android users in the U.S. (with the Google Search App 2.8+ and Android 4.1+) will start seeing deep links from apps in their search results in the coming weeks. App indexing is still in the testing phase, however, and Google is starting out with apps from Allthecooks, AllTrails, Beautylish, Etsy, Expedia, Flixster, Healthtap, IMDB, Moviefone, Newegg, OpenTable, and Trulia.
Still, you can get the process started to enable Google to index content from your apps. Google has a form you can fill out if you want to get in on the testing.
Google says app indexing will not impact ranking. In a Q&A, the company says, "App indexing does not impact on your website's ranking in the search results page. It does affect how a search result of your website is displayed, namely by adding a button to open the content in your app if the user has the app installed."
While it may not have a direct effect on ranking in the sense that just because you're pointing Google to app content rather than web content it will make a difference, apps are sometimes more user-friendly than web content, particularly on mobile devices, and it's hard to see Google not taking that into account when ranking results.
In other words, if you are able to provide a better user experience from your mobile app than you are from your webpage, why wouldn't Google rank it better? It's something to think about, and could lead to more businesses placing more focus on mobile apps. The industry will no doubt be watching how the results appear as Google shows more of them.
Of course, the user has to have the app installed to access its content, which is obviously a significant barrier. Some will likely have more success if they have a presence in other popular apps. It will be especially interesting for Ecommerce merchants, for example, to see how content from apps like Etsy do in search results.
"Just like crawling a website, Google uses many signals to determine the frequency at which your app is crawled," Google says in the Q&A. "As a rule of thumb, it will be a similar frequency at which your website is crawled."
Good to know.
Google also notes that like web-only sitemaps, you can have more than one sitemap for your app content.
The company is working on surfacing relevant information in Webmaster Tools about letting webmasters know if their app indexing is actually working.
To get started, you'll need to annotate app links for the pages on your site that can be opened in your app to specify how the content can be opened in the app, and add intent filters for deep linking. You can check out the documentation here.
It's going to be interesting to see if this has any substantial impact on Android app development in general, and if Google starts indexing content in apps on other platforms.
Do you think Google's new app indexing is a game changer? Let us know in the comments.