Google starts crawling ‘deep links’ in Android mobile apps
Google has said it will start returning search results from inside apps, even if users don’t have those apps installed on their smartphones.
The world’s leading search engine company has been indexing ‘deep links’ in mobile apps for some time, but app content has previously needed to be associated with a web page for it to show up in search results.
Now, Google has partnered with a small group of app providers to stream relevant content when users run a search on their phone or tablet.
This will mean that content from sources such as the last minute hotel reservations app, Hotel Tonight, and Chimani’s series of National Parks apps will be available in mobile search regardless of whether or not you have downloaded those apps.
Searching for the best mobile friendly experience
The move comes as Google continues to look for ways to strengthen its core search business on mobile devices. An increasingly large share of online time is now spent on smartphones and tablets, which means Google is often judged on the mobile experience it offers its users.
Previously Google has championed mobile-friendly websites, adjusting its mobile search algorithm to favour sites that are easier to use on smaller devices. The company also provides free resources to website owners to help them fix their sites if they fail the mobile-friendly test.
The aim is to ensure mobile users still turn to Google when they have a question, need directions or want suggestions on where to eat. It wouldn’t matter how clever Google made its search algorithm if the sites it sent people to were ugly, difficult to navigate and had some of the core functionality missing or not working properly.
Peaking inside the walled garden of smartphone apps
But as well as spending more time on our phones than our desktops, we’re also spending an increasingly large amount of our online time using apps rather than browsing the open web.
This presents a particularly tough challenge for Google as most of what happens inside an app is off limits to its crawlers.
Google partnering up with this small group of app providers is an attempt to get at this potentially high-value content that would otherwise be missing from its search results.
The partnership will only include apps on Google’s Android platform, but it is expected to be extended to more apps if the initial pilot is a success. There are nine apps taking part in the first phase, none of which has its own mobile site, meaning its content will be available in Google’s mobile search for the first time.
“We want to make sure users are engaging with this app-only content” Google’s mobile search director, Rajan Patel, told VentureBeat, a well-regarded tech blog. “If users enjoy it, and we see they’re using it, we will expand the scope.”
Useful apps can really benefit your bottom line
Apps partnering up with Google to share some of their content will be hoping that the increased exposure through mobile search results will lead to more downloads. It certainly offers a new means of using quality content inside your app to help promote it to new users.
Getting more people using your app is of course the reason for building it in the first place and apps can be have a noticeable and positive impact on your bottom line even if they don’t have e-commerce functionality.
A recent study suggested that a genuinely useful smartphone app could help brands increase sales by up to 48 per cent just by building and maintaining a relationship with the right audience.