App indexing! Whoa. Most of the people will get it wrong the first time. Let’s get started – App Indexing helps us to connect pages from your website with specific content within your smartphone app. Let me simplify this further. While surfing the web you come across content for some URL’s which you have corresponding apps on your smart phone. App indexing plays a vital role in linking your app to the search results in order to give you a better mobile experience. One of the biggest advantages, if your app is indexed is the part where the smart phone user can directly access the specific pages of your site on that app on the smartphone. Since July 2014 Google has officially announced that it will be indexing more mobile app content in its search results giving a clear indication that Mobile is going to be a key area of focus. It simply means that those who have apps installed on their mobile devices will be seeing more relevant app content for their search queries.
Let’s take an example so that we can understand the term and its impact in a better way. In most of the cases you type a search query on your smart phone app and click on one of the results (now there can be two ways how this link will open) Chances are there is a mobile website or an app installed on your phone based on the popularity of the service you are trying to avail.
E.g. If at all you have the Bookmyshow app installed on the smartphone the book ticket page will directly open up on the app and it will be an easy sail from there. The same example can be applicable for an E commerce website where in we replace the example with Flipkart & Myntra and the relevancy of the example will remain the same and the changes search query will be ‘buy designer shoes’. In the below example we can see the results page is giving an option to open the search result in an installed app.
This was not the case a while back when there was no connect between the apps installed on the phone & the URL’s on the SERP’s. When apps weren’t indexed the search result and the corresponding click through to a mobile website was a potentially suboptimal experience. With in-app indexing Google can deliver an overall better user experience which is the aim Google is trying to inch closer with each deployment and updates which challenges the online marketers.
App Indexing – Overview
In order to experience App Indexing look out for the call to action button that you can see on the right hand of your search results ’OPEN IN APP’ if you have the App installed you can directly open the page via the App directly. It can dive in directly to the specific links on the website that can be opened with the App when the search is done via the mobile device. App Indexing is not just about making the URL’s appear directly on your installed app on your phone. App Indexing also allows the freedom to the users to decide –
- When you want the users to use the Mobile App
This can be done by addingfilters for deep linking in application architecture to specify how to reach to a specific URL
- When you want to promote the website
In order to get this done each page has to be Annotatedfor app links that can be opened in the mobile application.
Correctly configuring the Android App and the website in this way helps to define the indexing relationship between the app and the webpage. This also helps the Google algorithms identify content and link it to the specific pages on the app as well as the option when you want to the see the open in app button on the SERP’s.
In order for Google to index the content & users to enter the app from the search results there are ‘Intent Filters’ that define how to reach to specific pages on the app.
App Indexing allows control to a great extent This helps the content of your site makes the content engaging and discoverable & accessible to users directly from the search results page.
App Indexing – Technical Details
As we used the term ‘Intent filter’ in the introduction let us understand how to define an Intent Filter that can be further used in the app manifest to reach specific content inside the android app.
In your Android manifest file, add one or more
- Add a tag for each data URI format the activity accepts. This is the primary mechanism to declare the format for your deep links
- Add a
for both BROWSABLE and DEFAULT intent categories
Note:In order for app indexing to work, your app’s minSdkVersion must be 17 or lower. This is one of the properties of the
For example, the following activity allows users to enter the app using intent to view information about gizmos. The intent filter declares that the activity responds to VIEW action intents containing URIs that begin with http://example.com/gizmos:
In this example, your app would respond to deep links such as
Connect Your App
Obvious question that must have crossed your mind by now must be how to connect your app so that Google can identify and recognize the associated app as the official android application for your website. It can be done simply by logging into https://play.google.com/apps/publish/ Once you have logged in you have to take care about a few easy steps.
The next step of connecting your app after you have published will take you to Webmaster Tools. Make sure you have the “Owner” permission as only with level of access you will be able to approve the website. To cross check whether have you done it the right way you can even look at the ‘Associates’ tab by clicking on the settings in webmaster tools.
As per the steps tabulated above along with the line of code we have added linking to the official application which has also been verified as the official android application for your website with the help of Webmaster Tools. Moving further as per the introduction we saw that the URL on the SERP’s can be opened in two ways one is via android app that we have already seen now let’s figure out how should we go ahead and add deep links on the website.
Add Deep Links on the Website
- Using a element in the the section of a page
- Using an
- Using Schema.org markup for the ViewAction potential action
- Using the App Indexing API
Let us understand how does the deep linking changes the app uri with the table below –
Apps using deep links have 2.5x higher engagement than apps without deep links, as measured by daily minutes per user.
App Indexing Checklist
Before you go ahead and get your app indexed with the discussed techniques in the article. Make sure you have a team that has a good experence over the Server & Android App files which need to be altered so that the content can be made available by the android app seamlessly.
Following guidelines should come in handly as an App Indexing Checklist –
Website & Server
- Deep link annotations have been added to sitemaps or to web pages
- None of the domains or subdomains the app needs resources from have robots.txt that blocks Googlebot from those resources
- Official website(s) for your app have been verified in your app’s Play Console
- Ensure the app supports deep linking and the manifest file describes an intent filter with the action android.intent.action
- App deep link implementation has been tested by using the deep link test tool with a fresh install on an adroid device
- Tapping the BACK button after opening a deep link leads you back to the previous screen
- App supports a deep link that opens the home screen
App Indexing in the coming months definitely offers a lot of promise not just for the online marketers but also for the brands who can provide contentin a much better way and make it accessible for the upwardly mobile audience who would like to finish of there tasks and consume information on the go.