Google's mobile search results are evolving rapidly these days. The latest step sees the search engine going from providing direct answers in search results (which often prevent users from having to click through to websites) to also showing actual in-app content right from the results page.
Are you a fan of the direction Google continues to take its search results in? Let us know in the comments.
"When Google got started, Search meant sitting at your desktop and finding the best information on websites," says Google's Jennifer Lin. "Today, you’re more likely to be searching on your mobile device, and the best answers may be buried in an app ... perhaps one that you don’t even have installed yet. Finding information in apps is still too hard."
In fact, more people are now searching from their mobile devices than from desktop these days, and Google has even updated its search quality rater guidelines to reflect that. Google also updated its Google Shopping results this week to cater to the mobile experience.
But the big thing is that Google is giving mobile users access to some "app-first" content right in search results. Google is utilizing app indexing to show content from apps in search results to users who don't even have to download the apps first.
Earlier this year, in addition to mobile-friendliness of websites, Google added app indexing as a ranking signal in mobile search results. At first it was just for Android, but was recently expanded to iOS. The new feature is clearly taking this a massive step further.
Users will be able to "stream" some apps from search if they're on good WiFi. There will be "stream" buttons next to some results from apps that let the users take advantage of this functionality. In other words, you don't have to go the app at all or even have it downloaded, which is kind of incredible if you really think about it.
Google says it's using a new cloud-based technology it's experimenting with to accomplish this.
"We started indexing the content of apps two years ago, so that when people search on Google, they can find the best results whether they’re in an app or on the web," says Lin. "We now have over 100 billion deep links into apps in our index — including some popular apps like Facebook, Instagram, Airbnb or Pinterest — and 40% of searches people do on Android surface app content."
As a matter of fact, Facebook only recently climbed aboard the Google app indexing train even as it has its own separate initiative in creating a web for apps with App Links. It partnered with Bing on that over the summer, by the way.
"But up until now, Google has only been able to show information from apps that have matching web content," Lin adds. "Because we recognize that there’s a lot of great content that lives only in apps, starting today, we’ll be able to show some 'app-first' content in Search as well. For example, if you need a hotel for your spur-of-the-moment trip to Chicago, search results will now include results from the HotelTonight app. Or if you’re thinking about visiting Arches National Park, you will now find details about the 18-mile scenic drive from the Chimani app."
Initial partners for the feature include HotelTonight, Chimani, Daily Horoscope, and New York Subway. The company says it will be expanding.
It's going to be interesting to see how far Google pushes this initiative - in particular the app streaming aspect. It may be very limited right now, but could this eventually be opened up to a wide variety of apps?
The feature will also no doubt have an effect on the likelihood users will click competing results.
Either way, Google is clearly placing more and more focus on mobile apps making it all the more evident that businesses who don't have one should at least consider the possibility. Watching this video is a good place to start.
2015 has been a very interesting year in the evolution of mobile search, and I expect that will continue into next year. SEO has always been in a constant state of change, but perhaps never quite this much.
What do you make of Google's streaming of app content in search results? Good idea? Share your thoughts.
Images via Google