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SEO—as always—is changing, which translates to exciting times for app developers vying to get their handiwork noticed in the marketplace. On this shifting playing field, how can you make sure it is your app that gets noticed by potential customers via search engines?
Take a look at our top tips and make app indexing work for you.
First and foremost, you need to ensure that your app meets the index criteria, and is fully optimised for online search. Here’s how:
1. Mobile optimise your website
As yet, search engines are unable to index content directly from an application, so this content must be hosted via a website. Make sure that this website is optimised for mobile device usage to get the best results for your app.
2. Use header tags
The same principles apply to app indexing as to standard SEO, so you still need to send signal to search engines regarding the content you want to index. Use header tags and description tags within the content to accomplish this. For more information header tag and description tag best practices, check out this blog post from Moz.
3. Manifest, links, and entitlements
Once the hosted content is up and running, you need to take care of some technical housekeeping within your app’s files. First, ensure that your app’s Manifest.xml file is configured to allow search engine crawling.
Part of your manifest file.
Next, you need to configure Universal Links to allow your app to be opened directly from a browser. You can do this via the Associated Domains files within your app. Remember to alter the Domain settings to ensure that your domain trusts the app.
Finally, if your app requires special permissions to run on devices, you need to make sure that your app’s Entitlements.plist file is correctly configured to support this.
4. Tie up the loose ends
5. Make sure your app’s content is worth it
Another area in which the lines become blurred between standard SEO and app indexing is content quality. Deploying an app is simply not enough; the app must contain content that people want or need to access. Ultimately, if the content doesn’t stand up, neither will your app.
Indexing Specific Content
Getting your app indexed on Google is great, but what about specific pieces of content within your app? To fully optimise your app for search, there are a few points you need to consider:
6. Set up deep links
To get specific page’s app content indexed on Google, you need to link to this section of your app from within the HTML markup of the appropriate webpage. In the section of the webpage, add the selected URL using a tag. A quick example of a deep link is as follows:
An example deep link in your page’s HTML markup.
7. Configure deep links via your sitemap
Alternatively, you can add deep links directly to app pages via your website’s sitemap file. Using the tag will enable you to associate content within your app to similar content on the site, ready for indexing.
Another example, this time from the Sitemap file.
8. Ensure full crawling is enabled
There’s no point in having great content on the associated website if the search engines can’t find it. Don’t forget to make sure the content is made available to search engine crawlers; it sounds obvious, but it’s still a common error we have to cover here :)
Anyone who has had even the briefest of encounters with SEO will know that nothing is forever. Things change, goalposts shift, and what worked one day might not necessarily work the next. To stay ahead of the curve, you need to future proof your indexing strategies. Here are a few places to start:
9. Prepare for change
Right now, the capabilities of search engines are pretty limited in terms of app searching and indexing, but don’t expect it to be this way for ever. For example, don’t bet against being required to submit app-specific meta-data directly via your API in the near future, and make sure you are ready to do so when the times comes.
10. Develop your app across a wide range of metrics
The leading app publishers treat their products as constant works in progress, and continue to tinker with and provide updates for their apps long after the programs themselves have launched. You should do the same; Once search engine indexing for apps really takes off, we can only guess what sorts of ranking criteria search engines will apply to apps, so be prepared!
For additional references, check out the following pieces of content: