App content indexing is going to be big. For a long time now, the app ecosystem and the mobile web have been growing and developing. Unfortunately, the links between these two growing ecosystems could be described as tenuous at best. While sites focused on their search engine optimisation to increase discoverability on an ever-improving Google, apps essentially remained mysterious entities, often with only a one-page App Store listing to shed light on the vast wealth of content hiding within.
It was arguably only a matter of time before these two neighbouring worlds became more connected. As you may have guessed (or experienced), a number of changes have taken place recently that mark a drastic shift. The all-powerful Apple and Google have both implemented methods which aim to surface the content of apps and break down the barriers between the two streams of content.
Apple’s app content indexing
Let’s take a look at Apple: with the release of iOS 9 came an opportunity for app developers and marketers everywhere – rejoice! Content within apps can now be marked as indexable, known as app content indexing. This content is then tracked by Apple, who measure the amount of engagement with pieces of content from existing users. Popular and relevant content is then suggested to users who search on Siri, Safari or Spotlight, whether they have the app in question installed or not. While there is speculation as to how much engagement a piece of content must receive in order to be recommended, there is no question that it is a step in the right direction.
So, the changes we have mentioned will make app content more discoverable to the user. But wasn’t I talking about the ties between app and web? Fortunately, Apple have also considered this. Not only are apps indexable, but so are their corresponding websites. In these cases, there are chances to rank in the recommendations for both. Interestingly, it seems that web pages are more likely to rank than app content. While there are mechanisms that can be put in place to drive the user to the app, this process does seem to favour apps which have corresponding web content, possibly positioning others at a disadvantage. Having said that, there is no doubt that these changes enable not only more avenues for discoverability, but also tighter control on the user journey, allowing you to optimise and streamline the user path.
Google’s app content indexing
On Google, the content is used to return app results which include an install button on Google search: this opens up vast possibilities over both Android and iOS (although there are more limitations to the iOS side of things). Beginning app content indexing within Google search truly signifies a merging of the worlds, and perhaps a reduction on the reliance of discoverability through the App Store.
There is no sign of this shift relenting, as shown by a very recent Google announcement outlining an experiment where apps can be streamed through Google searches. It’s a completely new concept, unfortunately meaning there are some serious limitations to the experiment: streaming can only occur over strong Wi-Fi, and there are reports of some lag (which is to be expected considering the user engagement has to be transmitted back to the Google servers before the video stream can be updated). Only time will tell whether it’s successful.
What is interesting to note is that Apple’s changes tend to favour apps with corresponding web content in a variety of ways, whereas Google seems to be attempting a genuine merging of the ecosystems, where standalone apps can rank. With changes from both app ecosystem giants, it is likely that this is only the beginning. In the rapidly-changing landscape, who knows what’ll be next?
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