App Indexing lets Google index apps just like websites. Deep links to your website appear in Google Search results. That means your users can quickly discover the content they’re searching for, landing on the right content in the app.
Indexing of apps isn’t new. Google introduced App Indexing in October of 2013. Actually, App Indexing is an important step of App Store Optimization (ASO), the process of optimizing the app page as well as search results to rank higher in the app store search results and get more users. It is also a way to attract new users without spending (a lot of) money.
Did you know that 1 in 4 app users discovers an app through search?
In practice, if you make a Google search on a mobile device, the results will include relevant content that’s within an app, not just websites. By supporting HTTP URLs in your app and adding the App Indexing SDK, you allow Google to crawl and index your app the same way he would with a web page.
That way you enable users to install or access your app from search results when they search using relevant keywords.
Key Capabilities of App Indexing on Google (According to Firebase)
- Search Results
App Indexing surfaces links to app content on Google Search. If the app is already installed, it will launch directly from search results. If not, it includes an install button for your app as well as personal content results in the Google app.
The install button for your app appears next to your homepage search result, giving users an easy path to installing your app to view content.
If the developer builds this API into their code, then Google offers better results for existing app users. More precisely, they get to see app-relater temrs directly from suggested results in the Google app.
App Indexing powers public content results for screen search on Android and Google Assistant.
- Ad targeting
If you use AdMob to monetize your app, App Indexing and AdMob will work together to improve the quality of targeted ads for public content in your app.
The most obvious features are enhancements to public content indexing. Depending on how your users use your app, there are options for personal content indexing and log user actions (but only on Android).
A 6-Step Guide for Implementing App Indexing:
1. Set up your links
Deep linking is the first thing you need to do when indexing your app. Associate your app with your website, and update your app to parse and handle HTTP URLs that match links to your website. This is done with the help of intent filters. Their purpose is to help the user access the links within the app, but also identify how the app handles an action.
2. Build an index
Enable an on-device index of personal content to promote search results in the Google app on Android.
3. Use API for app indexing
Implementing the API will improve your app’s search result rankings. It will import meta titles, descriptions and other relevant SEO identifiers. Other than that, the API will provide you with information on user activity on your in-app deep links.
4. Log user actions
Track user actions and paths within the app. That way you’ll be able to show relevant content from your app in search results
5. Test your implementation
Tests will ensure that deep links are working as they should be. This can be done with tools like Android Debug Bridge.
6. Measure the impact
Analyze the impact and improvements you’ve made. Many apps had great success in increasing impressions and sessions after implementing app indexing.
Why Use Deep Links in Apps?
The structure of the content in apps is different than the structure of content on the web. Apps don’t have the same explicit path structure as websites and they exist natively on a user’s device.
Deep links are here to create a seamless user experience that increases the possibility of an install. The purpose of deep linking is to push users directly to your app’s most important features. This way, you reduce the number of steps it takes to get there.
If your app isn’t indexed, Google is unable to crawl through the content in the app and display the relevant content within the app in the search results.
The user can go directly to the app content if deep links exist in the app for the following interactions:
- Website to App
- App to App
- Social Media to App
- Search Result to App
- Mobile Phone Search to App
- Ad to App
- E-mail to App
- SMS to App
AliExpress – Case Study
AliExpress is a global online retailer designed for shoppers around the world. It is part of Alibaba Group.
The goal of implementing App Indexing was to funnel search traffic into their app to drive re-engagement with users who have the app installed. According to a Firebase case study, AliExpress has seen an average 80-90% increase in search impressions and a 30-40% increase in clicks for eligible searches.
Compared to mobile website users, users who enter the app via deep links are twice as likely to place an order and their average transaction value is more than 200% higher. Organic search results were linked directly to their app.
DailyMail – Case Study
DailyMail is one of the biggest newspaper websites in the world with 225 million readers globally. After the implementation of deep links in the app, they noticed a 22.2% increase in total mobile search impressions for app users.
DailyMail also discovered that mobile application indexing delivers higher-value users, users who are spending more time on content and share articles more often.
Users who visited the app pages through deep links in Google Search were much more engaged than general app users, spending on average 20% more time per visit. Users who find an article through search usually spend 2.4 minutes per article vs. 1.1 minutes for general app users.
It Is Not a Universal Solution
If your resources are limited and you’re wondering if indexing of app would deliver enough traffic to justify the effort, think carefully. Smashing Magazine published a case study for Vivid Seats app where they revealed how App Indexing brought more traffic from Google search, but that was still so little traffic compared to a web search. The initial effort was almost not worth it in the end. In the table, you can see the percentage of total traffic in comparison to app queries.
For VividSeats, traffic from app indexing grew by 919%, but web content still brought 99.8% of the total traffic from search to website.
So, Should You Implement App Indexing?
It all depends on your app and your users. Firebase listed case studies of different webshops and newspaper website that had great success with App Indexing. They re-engaged their users and boosted impressions as well as sales. Apps are very important in the lives of mobile consumers, but only one-quarter of installed apps are used daily while one quarter is left completely unused.
Benefits of App Indexing
There is no doubt app indexing plays an important role in app marketing and user acquisition. Here are some of the reasons to apply it for your app as well:
It boosts app downloads, users, and reviews
Since app indexing makes the app present across search engines, the app stores are not the only source of downloads and new users.
Increasing organic installs
Organic installs are the most valuable type of installs. Why? When users actually search for similar apps, they will probably end up having a higher lifetime value.
Helps you re-engage with existing app users
Whenever the user is actively searching for you or features you have within the app, it will launch the app instead of the web browser.
Affects app visibility
Why is it necessary for an app to be visible on search engines? Well, search engines are the place where 48% of consumers will begin their mobile research, according to Smart Insights. This goes for any product or service, including apps.
Boosts your search ranking value
If you’re using deep links, this can be a push for your search rankings. For Google, using app indexing is a signal of engaging users. Since your website and app bring different content, Google will find both of them more valuable. In fact, some businesses are building apps for the very purpose of getting better search rankings.
It can help your app marketing strategy
When you gain insight into how search engine visibility affects the app’s growth, it can help you optimize your app marketing strategy.
Better app engagement
Many businesses struggle to actually get the users to use their apps. Even if they get them to download apps, a lot of their useful features go unnoticed. With deep linking, the users will be redirected to the exact place in the app they are looking for.
More traffic and better retention rates
Obviously, app indexing helps you bring new prospects to your app store page. However, it can also boost your retention rates, reminding your users to come back to the app.
Providing a seamless UX on mobile
When mobile users are searching for something, they will be led straight to mobile-first content that gives them what they are looking for. This way, they will avoid things they often see on not-so-mobile-friendly websites. For example login screens, web advertisements, different prompts, etc.
Summing up on App Indexing
Since 1 in 4 apps are already discovered through search, application indexing is a relatively simple and free method for acquiring new users. Considering the results for App Indexing can vary greatly, you should consider do you have enough resources. If you only have an app to index and you have enough resources on your team, then App Indexing brings traffic that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to get.
With the App Indexing API, previously visited app pages will appear in Google Search auto-completions. Imagine that a user searches for a recipe, something he would like to cook that day. He already has the recipe app on their phone. So when a user discovers a recipe he likes, he can jump back in the app and continue reading it there.