App Indexing is Google’s answer to the conundrums facing all appreneurs: declining user retention, engagement, and overall loyalty rates.
The buzz surrounding App Indexing lately is, in our opinion, warranted. Essentially, Google’s refined search engine will also include a thumbnail alongside all appropriate results that, when opened, will redirect the browsing user to a pre-designated screen on your app. If the user does not own your app, then they will instead be redirected onto the app’s installation page through the Play Store.
Indexing was exclusively available for the Android community until May 2015 when, under the pressure of increasing demand, Google’s team developed and released an API for the iOS platform. Google’s product manager even acknowledged the apparent advantages inherent in App Indexing in a post on Google’s official blog.
“With the addition of these install links, we are starting to use App Indexing as a ranking signal for all users on Android, regardless of whether they have your app installed or not” — Product Manager at Google, Lawrence Chang.
Even though App Indexing has been free and available for both platform developers for over a year, only 30% of top-ranking websites with an Android app and 19% with an iOS have made use of its benefits. By indexing your app with Google, you’ll be ahead of the marketing curve and better-equipped to contend with some of the highest ranking apps out there. Use App Indexing to your advantage while you still can!
The Discovery of Deep Linking
Standard hyperlinks contain URLs that direct a user to a site’s homepage. Deep links, however, are hyperlinks containing URLs that redirect the user to a particular location or piece of content on a website. The recent development of hyperlinking with apps, however, has allowed developers to redirect users straight to their apps from their websites. By deep-linking a user to a specific screen on their app, developers bypass the normal amount of input required by users to visit particular content on their app. Taking deep linking to another level, Google hybridized its search engine with app deep linking for the sake of re-engaging users with the previously installed yet forgotten apps on their devices.
Here’s the kicker: if a mobile user inserted a query into Google’s search engine and does not own the app yet clicks on its thumbnail anyway, a deep link to the Google Play store will send them to the app’s particular installation page through the Play Store/App Store instead. This is called deferred deep linking, and it’s extremely useful in that it helps both developers and Google by improving the Play Store’s traffic and increasing the amount of exposure that indexed apps receive. With another type of redirecting called contextual deep linking, developers can mine information about their users, including where they’re coming from and how they were ultimately converted from a potential user into an actual consumer. Developers use this to re-evaluate their marketing strategy and to essentially get the most bang for their marketing buck.
How to index your app with Google Search
Getting an app indexed requires implementations into your app’s source code and your app’s own dedicated website for Google Search to reference. The process to acquire an index for your app is slightly complex; luckily, Firebase offers detailed instructions, and different SDKs such as CocoaPods and Branch equip developers with necessary tools for free.
Create support for App Indexing inside the app itself
Acquired by Google, Firebase is a data and service provider that specializes in app development, analytics, and indexing.
The process will be much more tedious relative to that of iOS source coding; Google provides the API through their Google Play services, so it’s just a matter of implementation. The steps are broken down into fine detail here.
Firebase suggests that interested developers install the SDK CocoaPods to help attach the necessary index dependencies into the app’s Xcode project. Again, the process for iOS is much more straightforward compared to android’s; more details about debugging and installation are also covered on Firebase’s website here.
Test for App Indexing functionality
Follow the steps provided here by Google.
Observe the impact that App Indexing has on your app’s growth
Google provides an optimization service through their Search Console, which has its function rooted in app analytics:
“Analytics typically focuses on how the user is behaving after they click; what are they clicking on, how often they click, and so forth. Google’s Search Console focuses on how what happens before someone enters your app. Specifically, if you’ve implemented app indexing, the Search Console will provide you with a ton of data about how users are searching for, finding, and navigating to the content inside your app” – Mariya Moeva, Google’s Webmaster Trends Analyst
Unfortunately, the Google Search Console is not available for iOS apps.
You can still, however, measure the impact that app indexing has on an iOS app through various methods of analytics: you can start by comparing and contrasting your pre-index user count against your post-index user count.
Another indexing service, Branch also offers their own open-source SDK. What’s unique about Branch is their original API, which allows Branch’s own development team to monitor and safeguard your app’s indexing on a daily basis – app indexes need to always be up to code with Google’s requirements.