Mobile app discovery is still incredibly challenging. This is finally changing as Google, Twitter, Facebook and startups are using deep links to index the information inside mobile apps. Soon, we'll have new tools to discover apps and engage directly with ones we've already chosen to download.
However, to take advantage of free traffic into your app, developers need to prepare their apps to be indexed. These four steps will show you how to enable third parties to understand the content inside your app and link to it at the appropriate time.
1. Enable Deep Linking to Your Mobile App
This is the only way to enable external traffic to be directed inside your app. Search engines like Google are starting to add deep link content to their search results. As new mobile discovery tools are developed, this is the only way they can direct relevant traffic into your app. Deep links also enable you to set up cross promotion partnerships with other apps. More info and links to documentation can be found here.
2. Add Tags on Your Website Exposing Your Deep Links
After adding deep links, you need to share your URL structure so that other computers or end users can find the appropriate link. This is done by marking up your website with meta tags indicating what the app deep link is for each given page of web content. Google, Facebook, and Twitter each have markup tags that shares your deep links with their platforms. This blog post contains additional information on deep link standards.
3. Create Web Pages for Equivalent Screens in Your App
Crawling and indexing mobile apps directly is technically challenging. Instead, search companies index apps by crawling metadata on web pages associated with the deep link. However, there may be screens in your app for which there is no equivalent web page, and so that content will not be indexed or discoverable. We recommend creating pages for this content to help search engines better make sense of the structure of your app and content.
4. Add Structured Data to Your Site
Structured data is a way of telling web crawlers explicitly about data points related to a given page. This could include information such as price, date, geolocation, related images, title, description, and types of actions users can take on your site, ratings/reviews, and much more. Not only do search engines use this meta data when determining relevancy, new contextual experiences like Google Now use the data to provide detailed answers to questions. Exposing this data allows developers to build richer integrations with your own app, which ultimately results in more traffic. Visit Google support for a good summary on why and how to add structured data.
SEO is a critically important task for any website today, and it will be for app developers in the near future. Developers who implement these four steps today will be the first to take advantage of the new mobile discovery tools being built today.
About the Author
James Turner is co-founder and chief developer evangelist for URX, the first app search engine for developers. He's a startup veteran who loves teaching dogs to communicate and computers to make art. James graduated from UCLA with a degree in Design Media Arts.
This article was contributed by URX.com for exclusive publication on Developer.com.