Google Doubles Down On Deep Links For App Discovery

Google is finally getting deep into deep links. Starting this week, the search giant will add mobile-app links to its search results on Android phones. Specifically, the results will prompt Android users to install relevant apps that contain information related to their queries.

It’s a major step for Google, which has long faced a business quandary on mobile. Its primary advertising business is desktop-based and hasn’t translated readily to smaller smartphone and tablet screens. Meanwhile, its search engine—also based on the open Web—has offered limited visibility into information locked away inside mobile apps.

See also: Google Has New Targeted Ads That Encourage You To Dive Into Apps

The search-result changes are Google’s latest push to build out a mobile Web of “deep links” that take users to pages within apps, whether or not they’re currently installed. They turns Google into an app discovery index, one that highlights content deep inside an app and might in turn inspire users to download it.

This could obviously benefits for anyone using Google search, as it can turn up app-based information you might otherwise have missed in a Web-only search. (It might also irritate some users by cluttering their results with app-install prompts.)

Developers, Index Your Apps

But it’s much more a play for the hearts and minds of app developers. App-install links in Google search results could offer a huge incentive for developers to use Google’s technology, which it calls App Indexing, to create those deep links to pages, photos, videos and other information inside their apps. 

See also: Google Search Extends Deep Into Apps With Android 4.4 KitKat

(Just in case you didn’t get the picture, Google’s blog post on the subject is titled, “Drive app installs through App indexing.”)

App Indexing has been part of Android for more than a year, and already helps point users to relevant apps. For example, if you’re looking for a movie review and already have the Flixster app installed, the search result would present you a deep link to the app. But it wouldn’t work if you didn’t already have the app installed on your phone.

Now Google will highlight apps in search results whether or not the apps are installed, and then prompt you to install if not. The feature will include all apps whose developers have registered them in Google’s App Indexing program, which currently contains more than 30 billion deep links.

Lead photo by Roy Luck; animated GIF via Google

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