This week, we’re having the pleasure to collaborate with WooRank, the equivalent of AppTweak but for websites and SEO. In this article, Sam, Head of Marketing at WooRank, introduces us to App Indexing and App Packs. Learn everything you need to know to improve your app’s SEO and boost your visibility on Search Engines.
Apps have played a significant role in the mobile revolution that saw mobile internet usage become the leading digital platform, overtaking desktop usage back in 2014. Recent data from Statista shows the number of mobile app downloads worldwide is expected to grow by 20% to 268.69 billion, which follows a growth of over 25% this year and 30% in 2015. As Google moved to indexing deep app content and displaying it in the search results, the door was opened to not only optimize apps for the app stores using ASO, but also optimize for the search engines using SEO, giving apps the possibility to enjoy a huge advantage with exposure to a much larger audience.
As of June 2016, Android users had access to 2.2 million apps via Google Play, while Apple’s App Store offered 2 million. This number is constantly growing, which makes promoting your app a must if you wish to succeed.
What Are the Benefits of App Promotion in Search?
If you make your money from your app, then the benefits of app pages ranking highly are obvious. While Google doesn’t give any data on App Pack performance, these listings do tend to appear at the top of the search results, which has shown big benefits for web pages that get into Answer Box featured snippets.
App indexing also benefits your website’s SEO: indexed app links are a positive ranking signal for equivalent web pages. Studies have shown that web pages see an average increase in site-wide positions of 0.29 when they are associated with app pages.
Indexed apps will also get a big benefit from Google’s Now on Tap, which is a deeper integration of Google Now into Android devices. Now on Tap will scan text on an Android screen, interpret that text to infer related queries and then display mobile apps that will help users with those queries.
For example, if you’re reading a text conversation about seeing a movie, Google can suggest app links to your cinema app, Google Maps and IMDB. This will only work for indexed apps, but has the potential to drive huge engagement and downloads.
There are two main ways for your App to rank in mobile search results:
What is App Indexing and How Does It Work?
App indexing is similar to website indexing: Google can now crawl and index content found in mobile apps, much like pages in a website. These pages can then appear in the mobile search results if Google sees them as relevant based on the user’s search query. If a user already has your app installed, it will appear in Google’s autocomplete results as well as in the standard results. Clicking on the search result will automatically launch the app. Users that don’t have the app installed yet will see an install card in the SERP. When a searcher has already visited an app page, Google often shows that page in search autocomplete options so users can go directly back into the app to complete a conversion. The example below shows how apps that have already been installed on a device (in this case Orbital Control) appear in Google’s autocomplete results.
[use alt attribute ‘installed apps in Google autosuggest’]
App indexing works for iOS and Android apps that support HTTP URLs, which are crawlable by Google.
How Do I Get My App Indexed?
Both iOS and Android apps support HTTP URLs and allow developers to associate their app with their website. This can be done by updating the app to parse and handle URLs that match links to the associated website. You can also use Google Search Console to associate the two.
It’s also important to make sure your website has been optimised for search engines. WooRank is a similar tool to AppTweak, but for your website SEO. Like AppTweak, WooRank provides an audit of your website to help understand where you have issues and how you can improve your site’s SEO.
The Android App Indexing API allows user actions to be indexed in your app. For example, allowing users to see the app pages they previously visited in the autocomplete results.
Once Google has crawled and indexed your pages, they will be eligible to appear in relevant search results, including your app install card next to your website card. Crawling takes a matter of days (usually 24 hours at least), so don’t panic if your app doesn’t show up in the search results instantly.
Test your URLs and App Indexing API integration to make sure everything is working correctly. You will receive a message in Google Search Console when your app receives its first impression, so you’ll know everything is up and running, and you can use the the Crawl Status report to see how many pages have been indexed by Google.
How Do I Get My App To Rank Better In Search Results?
One of the most important app link ranking factors is, unfortunately, out of your control: installation status. Google gives preference to app links when the searcher has the app installed and is logged in.
Another very important ranking factor is proper technical implementation. App pages with technical implementation errors may fail to be indexed at all. Use The Crawl Status report in Google Search Console to find crawl errors that Googlebot encountered when crawling your mobile app. The report provides details of where the errors were found, along with suggestions for fixing them.
Google considers the web version to be the canonical page, so having high quality, well-optimized content on those pages is required. However, Google will not index app pages that are significantly different from their web counterparts. The text does not need to be identical, but the topic should be the same and users should be able to accomplish the same goal on each page. Check for content mismatch errors in Crawl Errors in Google Search Console. Common causes of content mismatch include incorrect web-to-app mapping and when robots.txt blocks resources on the app page, causing it to render differently. Avoid using interstitials as these provide a poor user experience by making content less accessible and are another usual suspect that cause web and app pages to appear differently.
Finally, traditional on page SEO is necessary to rank well. Use AppTweak to carry out keyword research, which will help you to understand which keywords you should target to help drive relevant traffic to your app. Titles tags and meta descriptions placed in the
<head> of the associated web pages are likely to be ranking factors for deep page and are used to form the the search snippet, along with your star review rating and the number of reviews.
Use Google Search Console to track your app’s performance via the Search Analytics report (You need to verify that you own the app first) and the Search Appearance filter to see how your app links and app install buttons perform in the search results.
[Use alt attribute ‘Google Search Console Search Analytics for apps’]
What are App Packs?
Google has been linking to apps in mobile search results for a while now. However, they were previously displayed as the traditional blue link search snippets linking to the app download page on your website. Google saw more and more search queries with app intent, so they introduced the App Packs in mobile search results, with direct links to the app store landing page.
[use alt attribute ‘App Packs in mobile search results’]
App packs are made up of one, three or six apps, plus the expansion arrow which can offer up to 12 apps. Results in the App Pack send users to the app’s page in the appropriate app store. They are OS and device-specific, so you will never see apps that are not compatible with your device.
App Packs are triggered by searches specifically for apps, or when Google decides you are trying to complete a task that can be done via app. Some common app head terms are game and tool-related phrases. Unfortunately Google doesn’t currently share any data on App Pack performance (impressions, clicks, CTR, positions).
How Do I Rank in App Packs?
Ranking in the App Packs can be the difference between being seen and disappearing out of view. You may rank in position one for the traditional mobile results, but much like the rich snippets known by SEOs, these results push you up to position zero, which often drives the rest of the results below the fold and out of view. There are many similarities between optimizing for the App Packs and generic ASO. While apps that rank well in App Packs often also rank well in the app stores, Google doesn’t use app store rankings as part of their App Pack ranking algorithm.
App Pack ranking factors include optimizing app titles (similar to title tags for SEO) and app descriptions (like on page content for SEO). It’s important to include your target keywords in each of these, remembering that keywords appearing earlier on are given more weight. While including words like “app” or “Android” normally wouldn’t do for ASO (people don’t use “app” or the OS when they’re searching in the app store), they can help rank in App Packs, as these are commonly used in Google.
Star ratings and reviews are also very important - a highly-rated app with a less relevant title/description can outrank a lower-rated app with a more relevant title/description. While you won’t have any influence over the keywords used in reviews, it’s thought that these too can affect rankings, so including your keywords frequently will influence the terms people use when referring to your app.
Wrapping it all up
As mobile Internet usage continues to grow, app promotion in search results will become even more important for app makers, particularly as the app marketplace becomes increasingly crowded. Fortunately, you can use ASO and SEO hand in hand to help you to improve your visibility in both the app stores and the search engines, giving you the upper hand to show your app to the world.
Do you promote your app in search results via app indexing and/or App Packs? What successes have you seen from these methods? What challenges have you solved?