A Beginner’s Guide to Mobile App Indexing

Matt Crowley - February 9, 2015

In an effort to offer a better mobile experience to their customers, many companies have built mobile apps with rich, mobile-only experiences. This is terrific and can provide companies with a real competitive advantage in the ever-growing mobile space. However, you must still be able to drive users to your app, and this can be difficult for some companies. Luckily, search engines provide a path to help you accomplish this.

A relatively new initiative by search engines called “app indexing” provides a way to help users find and interact with your app more easily. Currently, app indexing is only supported with Android (Google) and Windows (Bing) apps and the user must have your app installed. In this post, we’ll provide an overview of app indexing and discuss when, and how, you should implement app indexing for your content.

Understanding the Problem

When the search engines crawl your website, they are generally able to see and understand your content. But the search engines don’t readily have access to mobile apps, and do not have any way to associate them with your website content. This disconnect can make it difficult for search engines to return mobile app results to users within Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). So, while you may have a page on your mobile app that offers a superior mobile experience to your desktop or mobile site, the search engines may not be aware of it and are unlikely to link to it from the SERPs.

App indexing changes this.

How App Indexing Works

“App indexing,” called “app linking” in Bing-speak, allows the search engines to index relevant content on your mobile app and provide users with an option to open the app directly from the SERPs. You can have this implemented by adding code to your website, and relevant app pages, that indicates that there is similar content available between your mobile app and web pages. Then, users who find one of your “linked” pages in the SERPs have the opportunity to open it in the app, as long as they already have the app installed.

Consider, for example, if you searched for a chicken noodle soup recipe on your mobile phone, and instead of being directed to a mobile site (or worse, the desktop version) you were offered the opportunity to view the recipe content in the website’s mobile app.

This offers users a seamless experience from search to app.

Thinking Strategically About App Indexing

App indexing should be used for pages for which you have a relevant “match” or mobile app equivalent content. So, the first step in app indexing is to identify the pages for which you offer an equivalent (or better) mobile experience via your app, and then add app indexing code for those pages only.

When implemented strategically, app indexing can help you provide a better mobile experience.

Implementing App Indexing Code

Once you’re ready to implement app indexing code, you should engage a developer who is extremely familiar with app development. This is because the code will need to be added to both your webpages and your mobile app. To get the code, visit Google’s app indexing page for webmasters (or Bing’s equivalent page). Then, your developer can add the code to your relevant app website pages, verify your app with Google and Bing, and then test whether the search engines were able to index them.

A Few Caveats

App indexing is relatively new. As such, it is not available through all search engines, or for all devices. As you might expect, Google offers the app indexing functionality for Android users only. Bing offers it for users of Window phones.

But this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t implement app indexing for your content. It just means that, at this point, app indexing will likely evolve over time. Ultimately, it can be a way to stay ahead of the competition and help improve your users’ mobile experience.

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