Despite all of the marketing hype, app indexing is very simple. It’s a method to turn your website link into a link that points to your native app page. It’s a simple metatag that you can add to your site which Google can scrape and index for search. Here’s an example:
<link rel=”alternate” href='myapp://open/to/recipe1234'/>
Basically, when the Googlebot hits your website and crawls through the headers, you can indicate to Google what the corresponding, one-to-one mapping of the app link is. They use this to change your website link into an app link.
If you’ve enabled Google App Indexing on your site, when someone searches for recipe1234 on Google on Android or iOS, instead of showing the web page search result, they’ll show an app page search result. It’s basically the same thing except it has an ‘Open in app’ call to action button. Google now provides tools and guidance for indexing contents of apps directly into Google search.
Apple also provides exposure to in-app contents through direct Spotlight Search (tech documentation), allowing developers to index content of their apps to be shown within search results.
Deep linking is a technical requirement for app indexing to work, so it’s no surprise that platforms that the ease of deep linking for you will also help with app indexing. These platforms facilitate implementation and integration of both mechanics, but more importantly, solve fragmentation. Branch deep linking created a nice out-of-the-box approach that eases the whole app indexing process dramatically.
Functionally, if the user has the app installed, and you’ve configured it for deep linking, the user will open to the exact page in the native app. If not, it will load the page in the browser.
While there hasn’t been much discussion about this, as far as we can tell, rankings and relevancy are entirely based on your actual web link, as there’s no such thing as SEO for app pages yet. Pagerank won’t work when applied to other apps because there’s no way to determine complex link backs on pure app links.
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