The App Indexing API: Bridging Mobile to the Web

by Joe on July 28, 2014 in Android, App Marketing, App Store, App Store Optimisation (ASO)

Bridging Mobile to the Web

One common criticism of walled gardens such as the Google Play Store is that they don’t fit well within the rest of the web. Applications are hard to find, and when you’ve finally gotten users to install and engage with them, their content is also yet another walled garden. Fortunately, thanks to Android’s App Indexing API, some of these walls are coming down.

As an example, say you’ve built an application for displaying local restaurants along with unique content and integrations. Before this API’s introduction, users might engage your service only a few times and, even if they appreciate the added value, keeping them coming back is nearly impossible.

One of the biggest reasons for this is that Google is a search company, and thus built a phone around that experience. Users are encouraged to use Android’s native search to find whatever they seek, and are thus driven away from apps providing custom content.

Enter app indexing. With this feature, applications can submit content to the local search index on the device. Using the search bar will not only return web results, but will also provide whatever unique content a service might offer.

App indexing draws users back by no longer requiring them to open a specific application for a given task. Indexing opens up a unique form of competition among mobile developers. Not only do businesses compete by placing listings, but developers also strive to create the richest results for each, adding unique features and engagement possibilities. Further, if results appear both from an application and a website, the API prefers those from the native experience, thus providing better functionality than can be achieved from an ordinary web presence.

There is more to the App Indexing API than local content, however. There is a large and growing tension between developing for the web, thus engaging users from any device or platform, and building a mobile application that capitalizes on device features to create a better user experience. This new API also helps developers achieve App Store Optimization (ASO), helping list their application more highly in Google Play, and ensuring that users know about the application when it is most relevant.

For instance, a user may wish to visit a store or use a service, but not be aware that a native application exists. That user first visits the web, typing in a few keywords and hopefully arriving at the desired website. But since Google is a search company, they also optimize for this case as well, helping users to arrive at the experience best suited to their current platform. Google Play listings are even returned in web results, and users might choose to install applications on mobile devices from laptops or desktops.

Again, users are encouraged to search natively first, and the standard interface presents them with listings from Google Play. ASO ensures that applications are listed more highly if their titles and descriptions include relevant keywords. Finally, Google’s Webmaster Tools can associate applications with websites, thus sharing their prominence in search results, and helping to better integrate local search results from individual sites into those performed on native devices.

One strong argument against mobile development is that it fragments the web. Instead of generating content that can be found in a single place, it is split between the web and a variety of segregated applications. Unfortunately, the web also lacks the native integration and look-and-feel of the broader platform, and the user experience of switching between web and mobile content can be jarring. Thanks to app indexing, this gap is being narrowed. Users can more easily discover native experiences, and developers can integrate their experience more deeply into search. Any app developer creating a content-heavy app would do well to integrate the App Indexing API into their project, taking advantage of the many benefits it has to offer.

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