App Indexing and Deep Linking - What You Need to Know

Ryan Clutter
by Ryan Clutter 16 Apr, 2015

As Google rolls out their new mobile algorithm ranking factors, business owners know that their website will need to read "Mobile Friendly" in order to see positive results from mobile users.


This comes at a time where mobile usage is increasing tenfold. For example, 60 percent of U.S. adults typically choose smartphones or tablets over PCs to find information before purchasing products and services online, and the majority of the time spent on mobile devices is spent in apps


To meet mobile demands, Google has begun indexing apps through Google App Indexing and is rewarding indexed apps from the Google Play Store and on Android devices with higher rankings in mobile search. As mobile becomes a prominent aspect in search, business owners, webmasters and other marketers are going to shift their focus to apps.


That's not to say that all apps need to be indexed. When your app is being indexed, Google will read its content like your website, and drive more engagement from mobile users who are searching on Google.  


If a user has downloaded your app but hasn't opened it in a while, one of the most difficult things for marketers is to get that user to open your app again (to which Google has responded with new retargeting options).


If you show them push notifications or announce a new feature on their Facebook or Twitter feed, take them to that new page that is deep linked within your app, not just your apps home screen. The one thing to keep in mind is that the user has to be signed into their Google account. For many marketers and webmasters, the questions surround how deep linking is going to work.


When deep linking is enabled, users will be taken from a Google results page to a relevant page within an app if Google thinks they will see the best possible experience (this is expecially true for social media apps, see below). In order for this to work properly, webmasters must specify how to reach content within an app, and provide deep links in your website's sitemap for each page that has a corresponding link.



How will this improve your experience?


Deep links inside an app will take you to the content you're interested in without any disruptions. You won't see splash screens, login screens, ads, prompts, or other pages that get in the way of immediately showing the content. If further action is taken, an ad or prompt can be issued, but you will experience a First Click Free experience. 


If you land on the deep link within the app and want to return to search, simply pressing the 'back' button will lead you there. Best practice for webmasters is not to prompt users to buy or click on a product they're not interested in. 


How will deep linking within apps benefit businesses? 


Indexing the app and adding deep links will benefit those looking for a particular product. Those in the retail business, music, or news will see the most benefit. The ability for these industries to send users to a specific product without any further navigation will lead to greater conversion rates and revenues. If you're in the hotel or travel industry, fitness or music, you'll see more engagement with your app and more traffic to your website. 


From a marketing standpoint, you will see a much cleaner read in your analytics campaign. You'll avoid the bounce rate deflation you're used to seeing, and a more accurate conversion rate with a better understanding of your user's journey through the app. Making your app deep linkable will route traffic from social media platforms into your app, as well as increase engagement through email and push notifications. 


What is an example of deep linking working properly?


Say your business provides hotel and travel information, and a user has installed your app on their Android device. When that consumer conducts a search for "best hotels NYC," you want to direct them to the most relevant page inside your app. TripAdvisor has a list of reviewed hotels and helps users find what they're looking for through deep linking. 


In the screenshots below, you can see a query for "best hotels NYC" displayed the TripAdvisor app immediately following the local pack, and directed me to a page that was directly correlated with my search.


The query gave me the option of opening, but the main result was the app. If you're a business that has deep linked apps, Android users that have your app installed will see it displayed prominently for relevant queries. If deep linking wasn't enabled, and I was directed to the home screen of the app (the third picture), there would be much more work for me to find what I'm looking for. 





If you want to exclude deep links from the Google index, you should use a noindex.xml file for specific pages in your Android app. Your app is expected to provide additional benefits that are not included on your website.




A deep linked app has become a positive ranking signal, and business owners or retailers that utilize the trend will see an increase in engagement with the app, as well as conversions through products or services that are offered. Point users directly where you want them to go, and provide a unique experience that keeps the consumer coming back to your app.


If you are designing an app, or making some adjustments, make the app deep linkable and experience paid dividends.