Ever since webmasters began optimising websites for search engines in the mid-1990s, search engine optimisation (SEO) has always been about improving the ranking positions of web pages; however, due to the growth of mobile search it’s now about app discoverability and app indexing too.

The Importance of App Discoverability

On 5 May 2015, Google officially announced that there are now more searches performed on mobile devices than on desktop computers: “More Google searches take place on mobile devices than on computers in 10 countries including the US and Japan”, confirmed a Google spokesperson. Due to the growth of mobile search, SEOs are now forced to extend their efforts into the mobile space. However, mobile optimisation is not just about making websites mobile-friendly; it means improving app discoverability and visibility too.

A recent study into mobile commerce revealed that conversions were higher in both the retail and travel industries on mobile apps than on mobile websites. Although only a few online retailers have made their app experience a priority, those that do typically generate almost 50% of their mobile transactions from their apps. This is because well-designed mobile apps often deliver a more intuitive, engaging and focussed user experience.

“Build it and they will come” may have worked for Kevin Costner’s character in Field of Dreams, but it’s certainly not the case for mobile apps. Regardless of the importance they play in mobile conversion, mobile apps are no different to websites in that if nobody can find your app, it cannot be downloaded or convert visitors into customers. And with over 1.4 million apps in the Google Play Store as of February 2015, getting eyeballs on your app is now harder than ever before.

App Store Optimisation

There are now many ways to promote a mobile app: advertising, social media marketing, optimising for app store search algorithms or even just promoting the mobile app via your website. But Google has also been busy introducing new ways for mobile apps to be discovered organically, and it’s something that SEOs should be considering as part of the overall search engine optimisation process.

As far as app store optimisation goes it’s worth firstly noting the ways new apps are discovered (in order):

  1. General browsing in app store;
  2. Recommendation;
  3. Browing “top rated” or “most popular” app lists in app store;
  4. Application already installed on phone;
  5. Social networking site;
  6. General browsing on the internet

What this highlights is that the majority of mobile app discovery is as a result of searching; in fact, it has been suggested that as much as 63% of apps are discovered through app store searches. Consequently, the higher the app ranks in the app store’s search results, the more customers are likely to see it and download it. The process of optimising your app to rank highly in app store searches requires an understanding of the keywords your potential customers will be using to try and find apps similar to yours.

Ranking Factors

Some of the key ranking factors that influence where a mobile app appears in the search results include:

  • Title: The primary keyword should be placed in the app title, and this should be the most popular search term people will be using to find your app or apps similar to yours. A recent study showed that an app with the primary keyword in the title ranked 10.3% higher than those without.
  • Ratings and Reviews: The more user reviews your app obtains, the higher it is likely to rank in app store searches. Therefore, by encouraging users to leave reviews – or offering them incentives to do so – could have an effect on the discoverability of your app.

Apps & Google Mobile Search

Although mobile apps have been displayed in Google mobile search results for some time now, it used to be that these app results were only displayed by apps already installed on your mobile device. Now, suggestions for new apps to install appear in mobile organic search results for relevant search queries. This means that content previously hidden away in mobile apps can now be discovered through organic search in the same way as traditional web pages, which should encourage users to download the app in order to engage with the content. Although this could provide app owners with increased traffic and more opportunities to engage with customers, it also places greater emphasis on app optimisation and discoverability.

Increased App Discoverability Through App Indexing

For apps to appear within the new Google Now on Tap and/or mobile organic search results, app indexing must be implemented. Google App Indexing aids app discoverability by allowing search engines to index app content via deep links – providing the app content has a corresponding web page. Basically, whether you’re searching for a movie, book, recipe or even a job, you can now go directly to the relevant content contained within the app itself.

Although app indexing technology has been around since 2013, there have been several major developments in app indexing capabilities since it was first introduced. Google App Indexing is currently available for Android apps, although it will soon be available for iOS mobile apps as well.

App discoverability is an increasingly important aspect of the search engine optimisation process for many businesses, so if you’re an SEO and you haven’t done so already, it’s time to start thinking about including app discoverability as part of your digital marketing efforts. SEO is no longer restricted to websites; we now need to consider a more holistic approach to achieve greater mobile visibility and app discoverability – whether the data is contained in a website or mobile app.



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