Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Beyond The Web: Why App Deep Linking Is The Next Big Thing

Beyond The Web: Why App Deep Linking Is The Next Big Thing was originally published on, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

If you have an app, app indexing should be more than on your radar – it should be a practice, according to the speakers of this lively SMX East session. Mariya Moeva, Emily Grossman, and Igal Stolpner all take the stage to offer convincing anecdotes and facts for why you should be implementing app indexing now. They also provide tips on how to do it.

Moderator: Barry Schwartz, News Editor, Search Engine Land, RustyBrick (@rustybrick)


  • Mariya Moeva, Webmaster Trends Analyst, Google
  • Emily Grossman, Mobile Marketing Specialist, MobileMoxie (@goutaste)
  • Igal Stolpner, Head of Growth & Marketing, (@igalst)

Mariya: Get Your App Indexed with This One Weird Trick!

App indexing best practices. Practical, specific advice for people with apps.

Where are we with apps? The progress is like where websites were in 1999. There are no set standards with apps as we have today, like with HTML and CSS, and we’re learning as we go. Google currently supports deep app links for signed in and signed out users on Android. Soon (October, says Mariya) they will support iOS 9 universal links and then you’ll see app deep linking in Google Search for iPhones in Safari as well.

Google has indexed more than 50 billion app links and the number is growing every day.

25% of searches on Android return app deep links.

Visit to see featured case studies. You can read these to ask yourself: does this makes sense to you? Have some accurate KPIs that you can measure so you can see if you’re getting what you want out of it.

Tips for implementation:

 Use http scheme instead of a custom scheme.

  1. Associate your site with your app. You can do this from either Search Console or Developer Console.
  2. Publish your deep links. She recommends using the app indexing API to do this. Send a title and description of the page and Google maps on their end. It’s a simpler implementation and comes with a ranking boost.

Monitoring what’s going on:

Add your app to Search Console. You can see clicks and impression for your content as well as queries. There’s also going tell installs of your app and you can be part of their beta test.



Fetch as Google for Apps. See how your app looks to the Google crawler.

You will be able to test changes to your app without pushing it live to Google Play.

Fetch as Google for API info:


Google updated its infrastructure so that it can do deep linking for iOS. A year from now, she hopes for a shared standard that we can talk about that gets app content in front of users in the same way we have for websites.

Emily: App Store Model Versus Search Engine Model

App Store model: meta data provides a preview of the type of content in the app. Google wasn’t previously able to get inside of the app and understand what’s inside it. That’s a problem if your goal is to index all the world’s data.

Now rather than an app store model we’re looking at a search engine model and it’s powered by deep linking. A specific URL is assigned to an app screen.

HTTP scheme

Android API

If you do custom scheme URLs you have to do web markup. Here’s the deep link URL format:

anatomy of links

Sync with Google Play Developer Console or Search Console.

iOS was added to the developer documentation as of last night. This is very different documentation than any documentation Google’s released.



Get your app ready:

Modify your application delegate.

Adopt an entitlement in Xcode that lists each domain associated with your app.

Get your server ready:

Create an apple-app-site-association file for each associated domain with the content your app supports and host it at the root level.

Association file must be hosted on an HTTPS domain.

CocoaPods is the dependency layer that allows for functionality between the app and search. iOS 9 gets rid of the need for this but CocoaPod syncing is still required:


Apple Search

Apple is invested in getting users into apps because Apple’s made $9 billion on the App Store. Apple Search works with a public and private index. Results in Apple Search pull from both.


With NSUserActivity, Google won’t put content in the public index just because you say it’s public. They’ll start it in the private index and test it until they feel confident adding it to the public index. Web Markup is the only option for directly getting it into public index.

App Search API Validation Tool – you’ll see how Apple sees your app and how it will show up in search results.

Igal: App Indexing Case Studies and Why You Should Invest in Deep Linking Too

Igal says he learned from Mariya just now that you can soon test an SDK before going live and that’s a very big thing.

Apps and app indexing aren’t for everyone. Apps do a better job for his industry (finance) because:


Apps vs. Mobile Site

They offer the same content and found more pages per session and more monthly visits per user on apps.

Since implementing in early 2014, drop of non-daily users from 15% to 8%.

Why aim for app indexing?

Competition isn’t there yet.

Increases CTR.

Brings new installs.

Improves rankings.

In Google search results an indexed app appears with its logo. This grabs attention and increases the CTR up 40%.

Google drives new installs directly from search results. This isn’t at the expense of traffic to the mobile site.


 Coordinating the work between different teams.

Apps are released in versions – everything is slower!

Adjusting the App for Google Search

App’s back button

First click free experience

Slow loading


Some results: Android

Users coming to the app from Google search view 20% more screens in a session and spend longer in the app. If a user has the app installed they’re getting higher rankings.


Question for Mariya: Can you explain the ranking boost again?

If you have web content corresponding with an app page, you get a ranking boost.

When you let Google index content using the API, you let Google see what pages of your content users like the most and for those there’s an additionally ranking boost.

Is the ranking boost given regardless or just for high engagement?

There aren’t many apps using the API now and those that are all high quality, high engagement. As more apps join, they’ll tune and adjust.

Search Console shows you everything that happened before a click and the click. Analytics is everything after the click. Together you see the full picture.

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