So far now, Google Play had always been the place to look up to, whenever there was a requirement for an app to help us out with a particular purpose. We would browse through the Google Play store in search of that one app or probably even look up for the name on Google’s search engine. But not anymore! That’s because on 26th April, 2015, Google had announced its plan to expand the app indexing ranking programme for Android device users. The first reference to app indexing comes with Google’s announcement on the need to go mobile search friendly starting 21st April. Time for the second round of that algorithmic update where app indexing could bring your app closer within the audience reach. It seems that Google’s decision to expand app indexing ranking signal has brought about a significant implication.
Since the month of December, 2013, Google has been conducting tests with displaying apps on search engines that can be viewed by users who have already installed specific apps. But now, with app indexing, Google can show app deep links if all the contents of the app and webpage have been indexed. This latest update is available to every Android user, irrespective of the fact whether she/he had installed an app or not. There are over 30 billion links all of which point directly to the content within the app. In addition, there is a whole lot to benefit from this mobile algorithm, since Google has started to use app indexing as a ranking signal.
Here’s How App Indexing Can Help You Reach More Target Audience
Suppose someone is trying to make a cup of tea for the first time. This is what he/she would type down on the Google’s search engine, “ how to make the perfect cup of tea? ” and proceed to search. Google will turn up with a series of relevant content, all of which contain instructions for preparing the perfect cup of tea. Next, the browser notices a unique content that talks about some essential golden rules to make a cup of tea that is always delightful to taste. He/She finds it interesting and decides to check it out. The reader likes it and finds out that there are other relevant topics related to tea preparations. But to view that, the reader will have to install the app. He/She finds the app useful and decides to install it.
Understanding Google’s Decision To Go App Indexing
With the rise in the number of smartphone users, almost 80% of the Internet search is conducted from smartphone devices. It seems to be a logical step for Google to have introduced the app indexing, since addition of direct links to applications contribute to a positive user experience.
Here’s What You Need To Know When Adding Deep Links To Your App
#1- To make Google index your app content and to allow users access your app from Google search results, first specify the intent filters present within your app manifest.
Steps to start specifying a deep link to the app content –
Add the <intent filter> elements to the Android manifest file for launching of activities on Google’s search results.
Add the <action> tag to specify the intent action for ACTION_VIEW.
In order to declare the deep link format, add a <data> tag for every URI format accepted by the activity.
Now add a <category> tag for the DEFAULT and BROWSABLE intent categories. BROWSABLE makes the intent easy to execute from the web browser. This is because, without it, the browser will not be able to resolve a link to your app when someone clicks on it. Instead, only the current web browser would be responding to the URL. A DEFAULT category is needed to make an Android app respond to any links present on other web pages that point to the main website.
Once you are done, it is now time to test the deep links. You can test the deep links with App Indexing for Google Search tool (https://developers.google.com/app-indexing/webmasters/test ), which will help you to understand the behavior of your app with the deep links. You can alternatively test the behavior of your app in the browser, using an HTML page with the ‘intent://’ link in it.
You can also restrict Google from indexing some parts of your app. The noindex.xml file will indicate Google which deep links in the Android app need not be indexed.
You may remove the splash screens, paywall, login screens and other popups blocking the content after the first click.
#2 – Google needs to understand the relation between an accompanying app and a website
Therefore, your website and the app needs to be with Google Webmaster Tools and Google Play Console. Doing this will show the app as an associate account in Google’s WMT. Google automatically starts to index the deep links directly after verification, once the deeplink configuration is complete.
#3 – There are three ways to help Google look for specific webpage deeplinks –
By using the <link> element in a page’s <head> section
Specifying a page with the help of an <xhtml:link> element in the Sitemap <url>
Using the Schema.org JSON-LD markup for ViewAction potential action
Do not forget to deep link your website’s home page with the app, and add deep links of only those pages that you are sure has a relevant content.
# 4 – You can use specific API to direct the deep links to Google. There are two reasons why API is used-
For specifying the deep links and engage with Google’s Auto complete function. Once the API gets enabled, your app will appear in the auto suggest box of Google.
The API would probably be used for the creation of new functions that would lead to having specific app related ranking factors to be used for SEO.
So, this is how you can start app indexing with Google. However, even Bing does not seem to be far behind. Google has only started this with Android, while carrying out further experimentation on iOS and Windows 10 platforms. Bing is reported to have started with building index for Android, iOS and Windows native apps for discover ability and search purpose. However, in the mean time, Bing has launched mark-up tools namely the Applinks Markup Tester (for helping with the markup) and applinks.org (for building native mark-ups for Android and iOS).