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December 24, 2013

A Complete Guide to Mobile App Indexing and Ranking

Image courtesy of (KROMKRATHOG) / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of (KROMKRATHOG) / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Mobile app indexing is a new feature by Google that enables Smartphone users to open a contextually relevant app from mobile search results itself. This is a revolutionary enhancement made by Google in order to feed the demands of an increasing number of Android app users. Sites that already offer specific apps for their audiences can expect an increase in the number of users using their apps because Google would be sending direct visits to site-specific apps from the search engine result pages itself. This feature is currently available on Google search app version 2.8+ for Android 4.1+ and also in Android specific mobile browsers.

What’s exactly changed?

Google is now planning to index the contents of the app, something it has not done before. This will change the search results a little bit and include links to apps along with the regular search snippet that Google already displays. However, these deep links to apps from within the search results would be displayed only on Google search results on Android. Here is a screenshot of how the results would be displayed:

Current Partners

Google has partnered with some websites and apps and currently app indexing has been enabled for this group of websites. Under this group brands like Expedia, Flixster, Moviefone, Estsy, Trulia, Opentable etc. are included. Google will surely extend this functionality in the coming year, so you can sign up here  for app indexing provided that your brand has a website and also an app on Google Play.

An Example of App Ranking

If you are searching for “recipe for chocolate pudding” in your Android-enabled device then Google will return a set of search results, containing deep links to the app. These links are known as “Open in App” deep links. Google will automatically identify and list only those apps that are already installed in your Smartphone. Also, only sites that have app indexing and app deep links enabled would be shown in the search results.

If you want to let Google index the contents in your app and display it in the search results just below the search snippet of your site, follow these steps:

Step 1 — Add Deep Link Support to Your App

Add app deep links from each page on your site.  The procedure for doing this is given below:

Use link element in the head section of your site.

Syntax of link element- 

android-app://{package_id}/{scheme}/{host_path}

Where:

  • package_id: (Android play store application id)
  • scheme : (custom Scheme to be passed to application)
  • host_path: (Complete host path which identifies the specific content)

Addition of the Link Element in the Head Section

An example of link element in the head section is given below: 

<html>

<head>

<link rel=”alternate” href=”android-app://com.example.android/example/gizmos” />

</head>

<body> … </body>

 

Here:

Com.example.android is the package id and http://www.example.com/gizmos is the host path.

The link rel=alternate will tell Google regarding how the page’s content will be opened in the app.

Alternative Method of Adding Deep Links

You may also specify the deep links with the help of the sitemap. The sitemap should annotate the relationship between a page and how to open it in your app. An example is given below:

<?xml version=”1.0″ encoding=”UTF-8″ ?>

<urlset xmlns=”http://www.sitemaps.org/schemas/sitemap/0.9″

xmlns:xhtml=”http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml”>

<url>

<loc>http://www.example.com/gizmos</loc>

<xhtml:link rel=”alternate” href=”android-app://com.example.android/gizmos” />

</url>

</urlset>

Step 2 — Add Intent Filters

You must specify intent filters in your Android manifest file to launch your app from the Google search itself. Additionally, an action tag, a data tag and a proper category for the intent filter should be specified. More help regarding app indexing and addition of intent filters can be found here.

That’s it! Just with these two simple steps you would enable Google to display app links in the search results.

App Ranking Factors

With every new feature that Google adds into its search results, factors working behind that technology become the most debated question. In a few months, when app ranking will be a common feature for Google, webmasters would be finding solutions to optimize their app so that Google starts displaying its apps along with its site snippets. So, here are some important factors for app ranking in Google search results:

  • Your app should be indexable and should have deep link support.
  • Your app should be listed on Google Play.
  • Your app should have good user reviews.
  • Your app should have support for a variety of devices.

Almost all the current partners that Google has for app indexing  have an average user rating of more than four out of five, which is a good signal for Google to display the app along with the regular search results.

The above factors are just some essentials, not a comprehensive list. Any app that Google thinks relevant might get displayed in the search results.

Please Note: Adding app indexing support will not affect your site’s current Google rankings. Website ranking factors are completely different than app links display. It will only affect the way your site is presented in the search results, as after deep link support of your app, Google will display app deep links allowing the user to view the contents of your app.


avatar

Joydeep Bhattacharya is an internet marketer and owner of the SEO blog, SEO Sandwitch. He has been associated with SEO, SMO, PPC, ORM and other activities related to online marketing for the past 5 years.

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