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The importance of App Indexing

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 content they’re searching for [...]

March 22, 2019

8 min reading time

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 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.

Example of App Indexing for Slack App on Android 9.0
Example of App Indexing for Slack App on Android 9.0

Key capabilities of App Indexing (according to Firebase)

  • Search Results

App Indexing surfaces links to app content on Google Search. For Android, this includes an install button for your app as well as personal content results in the Google app.

  • Installs

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.

  • Autocompletions

App Indexing on Android lets your users see app content directly from suggested results in the Google app.

  • Assistant

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).

5-step guide for implementing App Indexing:

1. Set up your links

Associate your app with your website, and update your app to parse and handle HTTP URLs that match links to your website.

2. Build an index

Enable an on-device index of personal content to promote search results in the Google app on Android.

3. 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.

4. Test your implementation

Tests will insure that deep links are working as they should be.

5. Measure 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 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. 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.

How App Indexing works for apps you don't have installed on your phone.
How App Indexing works.

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.

Example of App Indexing for AliExpress.
Example of App Indexing for AliExpress.

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 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.

Example of App Indexing for DailyMail.
Example of App Indexing for DailyMail.

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. User who find article through search usually spend 2.4 minutes per article vs. 1.1 minute 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 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.

App Indexing case study results by smashingmagazine.com
Source: smashingmagazine.com

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 are left completely unused.

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.

When Google was starting in 1998, the goal was to index the web to make it easily accessible to users everywhere. Nowadays, through App Indexing, content is shifted to mobile users. That way, relevant content, and services are brought to users at the moment they’re searching for it.

About Udonis:

We are an award-winning marketing agency specialized in mobile apps & games. We help scale products that people love, keeping the attention on data and results. Have questions, need help? 🤗 Email us at hello@udonis.co!

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Slavica Grgić

I'm Slavica, Social Marketing Manager at Udonis. If I'm not writing new blog posts, I'm making sure that everything is picture perfect.


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