How Apps Are Changing Search Rankings


At SEER, we believe in being as close to the cutting edge as possible as it relates to the web. Fortunately, one of our own, Nico Miceli, attended Google I/O. One of the things he brought back (other than his fancy watch) was an example of how Apps are changing the mobile search rankings display -- and maybe rankings positions someday.

What is it? / What happened?

Google is going to be integrating apps into search results in 4 ways:

  1. Creating “app only” search results
  2. Allowing app developers the ability to index app pages so they can show up like a search result if you have that app installed
  3. Auto suggest API that will allow users to skip Google search altogether if an app search engine was previously used for the query
  4. Showing app actions in the knowledge graph. (For example, “Play a song.”) Also, actions will be reordered based on user preference


Currently, all four of these Search features are live. Android mobile device users are now able to use these features on their smartphones and tablets.

During the presentation, Google acknowledged that they have many users who have iOS-based devices. Although these feature updates do not presently apply to iOS devices, Google will keep us all posted with information on this market segment as updates materialize.

Why does it matter to my business?

Traffic Impact

This matters because you may see more or less traffic from Google as this becomes more prominent.  Your #4 ranking might be a #5 or #6 if Google decided that app install is a strong indication of content preference and you don’t encourage app installs yourself.

Installing an App is a Quality Barrier

We are protective of the apps we put on our mobile devices, and as such, it is another quality barrier that Google can use to determine your preferences. If you have an app, and allow it to push notify you (which Google can see) you are telling the app and thus google, that you really want this information, and you find it valuable.  So if it ranks #10 in a “regular search” why not make it 1 in a personalized search.

This Is the Future

Personalized search experiences are exactly why trying to predict Click-Throughs from Rankings is a highly flawed model - the search experience is likely going to get more personalized, not less.

This Stuff is Integrated

We believe that, in certain verticals, if you are NOT focusing on app installs and keeping your app installed, you may see hits in your “SEO.”  Waiting too late to address this could have you on the wrong side of this change. Imagine waking up tomorrow morning. You check your rankings and see that all is fine...but then you discover that your mobile traffic took a BIG hit.   Why?  Your competitors’ mobile apps are now displacing your top ranking. What dog do you have in this fight?

What kind of companies will be impacted?

Publishers may be among the first to feel the impact of app indexing, however, location-based info (such as Fandango) or review services (like Yelp, Open Table, Zagat, and others) may also be affected to an extent, too. Think about it.  If I have Huffington Post installed on my phone and I do a search for something related to Obama, might it be better for Google to increase the ranking and highlight the apps I’ve installed in the search results?

We think so.

Brand as Publisher

Our friends at Huge did a great piece on how brands have to become publishers... and we believe them.  Long term, we could see that if a brand, PNC for instance, does great content marketing AND has an app installed, their content will show higher to their customers.

What is SEER doing about it?

We invest in innovation and learning continually—whether it's sending 15 people to MozCon last week or covering the cost for Nico to go to Google I/O. Innovation is an expectation at SEER. And if we expect innovation, we have to fund it.

As our teams work on more holistic strategies, we may start to nudge you to consider looking at app install and uninstall rates.  We may even begin the process of recommending you do more app promotion via paid channels and newsletters as a way to protect your SEO investment.

Check out our open positions!

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Wil Reynolds
Wil Reynolds
CEO & Vice President