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Apps and SEO – Will iOS 9 Change the Game?

Apps and SEO – Will iOS 9 Change the Game?

by Jessica Jones

When you hear the term SEO, you probably think about websites. Websites and their ability to be found easily have been the core of SEO for … well, as long as the term SEO has existed. While it’s unlikely that websites will cease to be the main focus of SEO in the near future, it’s entirely possible that they’ll have to start sharing the spotlight with apps.

Apple, Apple Search and apps - are they about to change the rules of SEO?
Apple, Apple Search and apps – are they about to change the rules of SEO?

App indexing has been a part of Google for almost two years now, although they’ve rolled it out in gradual phases. It allows apps to show up in mobile search results, where users can jump straight to the Play store and download them. This isn’t a brand new concept, so how is iOS 9 going to shake things up?

First off, by bypassing Google. Apple Search may very well be gunning for Google – I’d say it’s very likely that you’ll see more about it on this blog in the future! Google has been the biggest big dog in the search engine world for so long that a real contender would definitely be a shakeup for SEO. Maybe people won’t start Apple Searching things instead of Googling them, but even if Apple doesn’t take over the browser search front, their search engine will be an integral part of Apple’s own software, such as Spotlight, Siri and Safari. This means that iOS users may become less reliant on Google simply by using the tools built in to their device.

The other new development is “deep linking,” which allows developers to set up the content within their apps to be accessible through Apple Search. For example, as illustrated by this Search Engine Land article, a user could search for “potato” and their results might include recipes from within a cooking app – even if that app isn’t installed on their phone. Tapping on the results would, of course, give them the opportunity to install it.

Now does your business need an app?

Earlier this year I wrote a post posing the question of whether your business needs its own app. Though the power of a great app to engage your users can’t be denied, my conclusion was that many businesses, particularly small businesses, simply don’t need an app of their own. Many businesses just don’t have the content or the resources necessary to develop an app that would be popular enough to actually benefit them.

So has my answer changed? If Apple’s new app indexing features – and the growing trend towards app indexing in general – are going to mean that apps are more likely to turn up in search results, and give you a new set of potential SEO opportunities, now does every business need an app?

Absolutely not. I’ve always maintained that the quality/functionality of your site is actually more important than SEO itself – the best SEO in the world won’t help if a potential customer finds you in search results but can’t find what they’re looking for on your site, or is turned off by the poor quality of your site and goes elsewhere. The same is not only true of apps, but the requirements for an app to be worthwhile are far more rigorous.

An example: if you own a retail location, a customer searching for you might be looking for something simple, such as your location or hours. Your website may be fairly simple, but if it provides them with this basic but crucial information, it’s succeeded. No one downloads an app to learn a business’s location or hours. If you want them to download your app, they need to feel as though that app is going to benefit them. An app that’s been thrown together just for the purposes of having an app, and that doesn’t offer unique functionality to the user, is going to give customers a negative impression of your business just like a poorly designed website or an abandoned social media account. It’s better not to have one than to have a bad one.

Yes, you should have an app. If you can have a good one.

Don’t get me wrong – having an app would be excellent. Excellent for your brand, for your users, and, more and more as things progress, for your SEO. If your app is a quality product. If you just don’t have the content or the resources necessary to put out an app that your users will love, your marketing efforts and budget will be far better spent focused on your website.