Augmented mobile SEO for native Android and iOS applications

Posted by Savvas Constantinides

Both Google and Apple have recently made steps to get your application featured on web searches, allowing users to deep link into the application if it’s installed on the phone, or download it if it’s not. By increasing interactions with your application, you drive rankings and increase visibility.

In this post we’ll give you a quick technical overview on how this works in practice on both platforms.

Google App Indexing

Google App Indexing requires your application to implement deep linking to specific content. Your website has to offer the same content online and associate specific pages to that content in your app. This is possible using a few different methods, such as defining each association per page, using a sitemap or schema markup. Finally, Google needs to recognise your application, so you must connect it to your website through the Google Play Console and Google Search Console.

To increase re-engagement Google also provides an App Indexing API. The API lets you annotate user actions taken in your applications and provide them as auto-completion options as users search for the same content in the Google App to increase re-engagement.

Google App Indexing works well for content based apps and can be used to get more users to download your application and help with re-engagement. It currently has limited support for iOS.

Apple Search

With the introduction of iOS 9, Apple gives users the ability to access info from your application even if it’s not installed. Similar to Google, you can decide the content that gets indexed and where to direct the user when tapping results from your app or website.

Unlike Google, Apple allows developers to populate both a private on–device and server side index. The private index is never shared with other devices, or Apple servers, and is available only to the user; while the server side index stores publically available information and is available even when your app isn’t installed.

Apple makes this possible with the use of different methods such as Core Spotlight, NSUserActivity and web markup. The first helps make items searchable on the private on-device index, the second either indexes while the last one makes items searchable on the server side index.

NSUserActivity has been predominately used for Handoff, the ability of your app to work across Apple devices seamlessly, by saving the application state so it can be restored later on the same, or other, device. It can now be used to create searchable content for users when they perform on-device searches or searches in Safari.

Core Spotlight allows users to deep link to content in the application and is designed to work with persistent data.

Finally, you can use web markup in your website to connect content to your application. Using web markup lets you index your content in Apple’s server-side index, which makes it available to all iOS users in Spotlight and Safari search results. With the use of universal links, Apple further enhances the user experience by opening your native app when users tap a search result supplied by your website (if your app isn’t installed, tapping the result opens Safari).


Both Google and Apple have provided ways to help content based applications on mobile and web rank better and increase engagement, and re-engagement, by becoming searchable. Apple takes this a step further by providing an on-device private index to allow further search capabilities using Spotlight, Handoff and Siri reminders.

So regardless of the platform, make sure your app content is searchable and get noticed!

Want to discuss mobile SEO for your Android or iOS applications? Feel free to get in touch, we’d love to help!

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