What is App Search Optimisation (ASO) and why is it important?

In the busy and competitive arena of search marketing, it has never been more important to ensure your content is discoverable across a plethora of platforms; and if that is through an IOS mobile app, things may have just got a whole load easier.

2015 has seen extensive and often exhaustive conversation surrounding the importance of a seamless search experience for mobile users, and with mobile for the first time accounting for more searches than desktop, Google remains focussed on mobile search.

What is App Search Optimisation?

Not to be confused, App Store Optimisation and App Search Optimisation are two different things. The first has been a tactic in use for many years, since the inception of mobile apps in fact. The latter, App Search Optimisation however is not just a way for people to find your app but a facet to be included in search optimisation.

If Google understands the content housed within an app, users can now find your app content through search results. This means that you can encourage users to not only download your app but also remind repeat customers they can find what they are looking for within it, already installed on their device. For example, if someone is searching for a recipe, and it is already indexed as content on your mobile app, they could be directed straight back to it, if searching on a mobile device.

To summarise, app owners and developers can add a mark-up to mobile apps, submit app sitemaps and also verify apps to raise the profile in search results. Initially, iOS users will see applicable apps showing in their search results both in the Google App and Chrome App.

“Google introduces mobile app indexing support for iOS.”

App Indexing is nothing new. It has been available since October 2013, but only recently has it been announced that Google is to be supporting iOS with the App Indexing protocol.

App Indexing is a mark-up that allows people to click from Google’s search results directly into apps on their smartphones and tablets. Why is it significant now? Because what was previously restricted to Android devices has now been extended to Apple devices too.

Following the aptly named ‘Mobilegeddon’, which is the backlash of a mobile friendly algorithm update promising a tougher ranking for mobile sites, Google has continued to improve search in this area.

Mobile users demand a better search experience

Following this update, the fight to appear in mobile search results is set to become even more competitive. Recent updates have proven that there is more opportunity to be visible than ever before, but also more competition for SERP space. When optimising for mobile, you’ll have to perform well for localised and map results, consider social media posts appearing in search results and now also content from indexed mobile apps. There are a lot more layers to mobile search results.

Although initially we are led to believe that brand-based search queries will not be impacted by the April 2015 mobile update, the way users discover mobile content could be, and Google’s latest update proves why mobile accessibility is important, especially if it contributes to your conversions.

A mobile conversion path may differ dramatically than on other platforms so what Google expects is for a user to find what they are looking for on multiple platforms. Not to mention, apps will eventually become a part of auto-completion in the Google Chrome app, so to achieve more success, this is key.

What difference does ASO have to search behaviour?

The more granular mobile optimisation techniques require a more-dimensional analysis. A combination of many key search improvements will ultimately contribute to changes in user behaviour. For example, organisational mark up may see a reduction in click-through rate as you can get directions, opening hours and even contact details without visiting a site. Analytics however allows for in-app analytics so you can track key performance metrics.

Indexing may mean users go directly to the app, potentially bypassing the site. Whilst you may see reduced visits to your site, be mindful this may not be a drop in search demand or performance, just a change in which platform is used to access your content.

Google’s mobile search focus surges on…what’s new?

Continuing where they left off, the latest move from the search giants is still mobile-orientated. Besides the recent introduction of iOS indexing, it is no coincidence that webmasters have already seen improved mobile app functionalities in Google’s Search Console (formally Webmaster Tools). Mobile-specific improvements include the ability to fetch as Google and associating your app with its corresponding site. You’ll also be able to ensure Google understands the content of your App via crawl errors.

Here’s the official word on what App Search Optimisation means from the Google Webmaster Central Blog:

  • Get more users for your app – App Indexing helps you get your app found in Google Search. Once your app is indexed, mobile users who search for content related to your app can see an install button to your Android app in Search results. This helps you increase your install base.
  • Keep your users coming back – App Indexing also helps you keep your users coming back. When mobile users with your app installed search for something relevant to your app content, Search results can link directly to the relevant content in your app. This keeps your customer base engaged.

Will Google show my app if it is indexed?

As it currently stands, Google is only testing a select batch of apps, and you cannot get your iOS app included at this stage, however, it looks as though it will be rolled out on a larger scale soon, and here is how you can be ahead of the game by best preparing for the full launch…

Preparing your app for iOS App Indexing with Google:

  1. Add deep linking support to your iOS app.
  2. Make sure it’s possible to return to Search results with one click.
  3. Provide deep link annotations on your site.
  4. Let Google know you’re interested.

Remember, Google uses app indexing as part of their mobile ranking factor, so there is potentially a lot to gain by adding this mark-up.

For more information and the official word on App Indexing from Google, visit the Google Developers site.