Google has recently overcome one of the big challenges for search engines - the ability to see and index content contained only within apps which have no web counterpart.
Google started indexing the content from apps two years ago and now have over 100 billion deep links into apps in their index, including popular apps like Facebook, Instagram, Airbnb and Pinterest. Google report that 40% of searches that people complete on Android devices surface app content.
The ability to present mobile app specific content becomes increasingly important for retailers like Indian based Flipkart who recently announced plans to remove the capability to purchase from their website and moved to an app only model. In line with the new functionality, Google provided an example of finding accommodation options in search results from the HotelTonight app.
To provide the ability to search app content, Google creates a virtual instance of the app, completes a real time search and returns relevant results to the user. In addition, users will also have the option to stream some apps that they don't have installed. For example, by clicking ‘Stream’ next to the HotelTonight app result, you’ll get a web based version of the app, so that you can quickly and easily find what you need and complete a booking, in just the same way as if you were in the app itself. The option to install the app is also prevalently featured.
Strategically, this is important for Google to continue to build their relevance as the mobile web evolves and ultimately benefits users by linking them to the most relevant information. It will be interesting to see how they continue to expand the list of supported apps including retail apps.
See the app results in action: