The most important do's and don'ts of app indexing

Are you ready to start indexing your app, or deep linking it, but you’re afraid you’ll screw something up?

Have you realized the next step in marketing your app is app indexing, but you just don’t know where to begin?

That’s what we’re talking about today: app indexing, or deep linking. Chances are, you’ve already looked into what this is, and maybe even installed the Google API for Android and the SDK for iOS. So, we’re going to skip the top-level “This is what app indexing is,” and delve straight into some things you should do and things you shouldn’t do when indexing your app. Let’s get started!

Top 5 things you should not do with app indexing

We’ll start with the list of “don’t do this” items, since it helps understand what you need to do. These may seem like common sense, but trust me: they’re not.

1. Don’t develop an app just for an SEO advantage

Yes, Google does say that app indexing affects mobile search rankings, but don’t rush into the costly and demanding process of building an app just to have one. You want to make sure that any app you build is worth the time and investment, not only for you, but your user.

2. Don’t use different content between your app and your website

You want to make sure the content in your app is the same as what the users can find on your Web page(s). The app content can be shorter than your Web version, since Google can still recognize it’s the same, but the more your app content corresponds with your Web content, the easier it will be to get your app indexing properly validated.

3. Don’t put users through pay walls, pop-ups, or commercials

Just like the main page of your website, you want the first click to be free. When the user clicks (or taps) on your link in the search engine results page, you want them to land on the content they were searching for, not some pay wall or commercial.

4. Don’t count on Google automatically crawling your app

Make use of the App Indexing API (only available for Android apps, unfortunately) to send the page title and description to Google. This prevents Google from having to crawl the entire page with Web annotations, and makes the entire process go much faster. It still may take several days or weeks for your deep links to make their way to the top of the search engine results pages, but it will happen much faster if you help Google along.

5. Avoid the use of app interstitials after you’ve deep-linked your app

It’s tempting, isn’t it, to promote your app as hard as you can, now that there are SEO benefits to app indexing? However, you should do away with those app install interstitials, because they get in the way of your Web content. Even worse, sites that hide too much content with app interstitials lose their “mobile-friendly” tag, which can end up hurting you in the long run.

Things you should be doing

Now, let’s talk about what things you definitely should do related to app indexing / deep linking. We’ll once again keep things short and simple, with just five tips.

1. Deep link both Android and iOS versions of your app

While app indexing on Google is, for obvious reasons, easier for Android apps, that doesn’t mean you should leave out iOS. With Google’s SDK for iOS 9, you can incorporate app indexing into your iPhone and iPad apps, too. And you should, because the more times the content can appear in search engine results from your sources, the better.

2. Use direct content links to your app

When you set up your deep linking, make sure you are using nothing but direct content links. If you link to ads or other page types, you’ll get dinged in the search rankings. After all, when users search for something your app can provide them with, they want the content from your app, not its advertisements.

3. Unlock the backend APIs

The app indexing APIs have to be unlocked in your Robots.txt file, otherwise Google can’t crawl the content in your app. If Google can’t crawl the content in your app, it won’t be able to tell the content is the same on the app page and Web page. That means all of your time and effort in deep linking your app is done in vain, until you unlock those APIs.

4. Remember, not every mobile device uses ARM architectures

Your deep-linking annotations should be free of anything that executes native ARM code. If your deep link annotations contain native ARM executable code, the app deep linking might not work across all platforms.

5. Use the NoIndex.xml file to your advantage

Just like you would noindex a Web page with a robots noindex tag, you should utilize a NoIndex.xml page to specify pages that you don’t want included in your app’s deep links. Remember, though, that you can only exclude using an exact URI (like uri="http://my-app.com/mystuff/hidden_uri") or a beginning phrase (like uriPrefix="my-app://hidden_prefix").

Summary

There you go, a total of 10 tips to help you make the most of your app indexing. You can certainly reap some real benefits from deep linking, but you have to make sure you do it right.

This post was originally featured on AppSee.