The Emerging Role Of SEO In App Discoverability

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It’s finally here — the  year of mobile! With the majority of Google searches now taking place on mobile rather than on desktop, SEOs have been forced to extend their efforts into the mobile space.  However, mobile optimization doesn’t stop with making websites mobile-friendly; it encompasses mobile apps now as well.

At SMX West 2015, Justin Briggs presented on structured data and provided a very insightful glimpse into the future of SEO. He explained that the knowledge that search engines must build to know about your needs and present data or act on your behalf starts with the marriage of structured data and mobile applications. We can see Google’s movement in this direction with its recent announcements of Google Now On Tap and its “micro-moments” messaging.

While not every company has a mobile site and a mobile app, a recent study by Criteo showed that conversions were higher in both the retail and travel industries on the mobile app versus the mobile website.

mobile retail conversion rates app desktop criteo

But no matter the importance mobile apps play in mobile conversion, like websites, if your app can’t be found, it can’t be downloaded or help convert. Enter the new realm of SEO: app discoverability.

The Google Play store reportedly had over 1.4 million apps as of February 2015. With so many apps out there, how can your app be discovered?

There are many ways to promote apps today: advertising, optimizing for app store algorithms, or even just promoting the mobile app via your website. But Google has also been adding some new ways for mobile apps to be discovered organically, and it’s an something that SEOs today should be considering in the holistic optimization process.

App In Google Mobile Search

While mobile apps being displayed in Google mobile search results isn’t all that new, it used to be that these app results only surfaced from apps already installed on your mobile device.

However, Google recently announced that suggestions for new apps to install will now appear in mobile organic search results for relevant search queries. That means that content previously locked away in apps can now be found through organic search just like traditional web pages, encouraging new users to download the app to engage with the content.

Google Now On Tap

In May 2015 at Google I/O, the search giant announced Google Now On Tap. Now On Tap is an expansion of Google Now on Android devices that is meant to provide assistance “in the moment,” anywhere on your smartphone, by simply tapping and holding the home button. Google illustrates this as follows:

For example, if a friend emails you about seeing the new movie Tomorrowland, you can invoke Google Now without leaving your app, to quickly see the ratings, watch a trailer, or even buy tickets — then get right back to what you were doing.

Google Now On Tap works with apps that are set up for deep linking and will launch with the Android M operating system later this year. It offers amazing opportunity for apps, both installed on the user’s device and those not yet installed, to gain greater visibility and exposure to new users. Furthermore, it helps those apps achieve discoverability outside of the traditional app store and mobile search engine results.

Making Your App More Discoverable Through App Indexing

Brands that want their app to appear within Google Now On Tap and/or mobile organic search results must implement app indexing, which allows search engine crawlers to index your app content via deep links. (Note that app indexing requires your app content to have a corresponding web page.)

App indexing is currently available for Android apps, and the company has begun testing it with a select group of iOS apps as well. (Google is aiming to make this technology publicly available as soon as possible, though iOS app developers can get a head start now.) Google Now, of course, only works on Android phones.

So if you’re an SEO and you haven’t done so already, start thinking about including app discoverability as part of your efforts. No longer is SEO restricted to websites; we now need to consider a more holistic approach for greater visibility, whether the data is in a website or a mobile app.

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