Brands missing out by not letting mobile app content appear in Google searches, finds new study

Many brands are failing to let content from their apps show up in Google's organic search results according to new research from Searchmetrics. These firms are potentially missing out on valuable app traffic, engagement and conversions.

In its study of the 100 most visible websites in Google US searches¹, Searchmetrics found that 84% offer an Android App, however only 30% of these had implemented support for Google's App Indexing (also known as deep linking) facility which lets Google index and show relevant pages from their apps in its mobile search results. Of the 88% of sites in the Searchmetrics analysis that offer an iOS app, even fewer – just 19% – were found to be supporting deep linking.

Once an app owner has enabled Google app indexing, a phone or tablet user who has installed that app can be shown pages from it (alongside traditional web results) if Google considers the app content relevant to the search query. For example, if the user is searching for information about a specific product, then app indexing lets Google display a link to the product landing page from the app instead of the landing page on the company website. This lets phone or tablet users jump directly from the search results to their apps, providing an important engagement opportunity for app marketers.

App owners who have enabled deep linking for their app can also potentially attract new installs through search. For instance, if a searcher has not installed an app, it could still feature in Google's search results as a suggested app they should consider installing via the Google play store if it is felt to have content relevant to their query.

"Many companies have invested heavily in apps, yet on average 20% of the apps a person installs on their device are only ever opened once," said Marcus Tober, CTO and founder of Searchmetrics. "App indexing is a fantastic opportunity to maximize the investment in your app – by helping to drive more traffic and interaction and potentially even conversions. On top of this, if your app supports app indexing, Google has indicated that it could potentially appear more prominently in searches."

"Despite all these benefits, our data indicates that probably fewer than a third of app owners are making use of app indexing – even though Google has provided full instructions on how to get your app to enable it. Anyone that offers an app, should get on to this quickly while there is still a competitive advantage."

The Searchmetrics analysis also looked at which industry sectors were most likely to allow deep linking to their mobile apps, revealing that online apparel retailers come top. Among apparel retail sites that offer an iOS app, 32% have enabled app indexing, while for Android apps this is 31%. Over and above this, most companies in this sector were found to offer some type of app, with just 5% of apparel sites not offering an iOS app and 9% not offering an Android app.

¹To determine the list of top 100 most visible sites that appear in Google US searches, Searchmetrics used its SEO Visibility score – a metric the company has developed to measure and track online search performance of websites. Searchmetrics tracks the organic search results of millions of keywords which it uses to calculate the 'SEO Visibility' score. The SEO visibility score for a web domain is based on:

  • The number of times a domain appears in the search engine results pages (SERPs) across the keyword set
  • Its prominence within those SERPs (a higher ranking equates to a higher visibility score)
  • The competitiveness of the keyword (higher search volumes equate to a higher visibility score)

While SEO Visibility can relate to a website's real traffic, it is important to remember that traffic can come from many different places online. SEO Visibility is only an indicator of visibility that comes from a website's organic search channel.

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