Google’s Recommending Apps, but What’s In It for You?

Google's Recommending Apps, but What's In It for You?

Not long ago Google made a relatively unnoticed announcement: content from Android apps would get highly ranked in Google search results. As I wrote at the time, that simply doesn’t affect many people—you need to already have the app installed for its content to show up in your searches. And it’s only for Android, not iPhone.

It turns out that little-heralded event was just the first step, however. Google has now changed the rules. It’s not just content from apps you’ve installed, it’s content from any Android app that Google has indexed. If your search turns up a result from an app you don’t have, Google will recommend you install it.

A Mixed Bag

If your business already has an Android app, this certainly sweetens the deal. Users with Android phones could have your app recommended to them, at no cost to you. The reach of your app has been extended.

But it’s not such a good deal for search users. When you search for information, what you really want is an answer—not a link to an app that you have to download and install in the hopes of eventually getting an answer. By now we should all know that apps are no substitute for a good mobile website.

Ulterior Motives

So why would Google take this gamble? At first I thought they’re just betting on an expanded role for apps—that people will view them as a natural extension of the internet in the future. That’s not where we’re at today, however, and it seems odd to me that a company that focuses so publicly on providing a “good search experience” is willing to send searchers to an app download to get information.

But of course, Google isn’t just the world’s biggest search engine. It’s also the world’s definitely-not-biggest smartphone maker. The Android is a fine device, but still takes a backseat to the iPhone. How could Google change that?

One way—a very dirty way—is to make sure Google search results are better on the Android than they are on the iPhone. Remember that Google has made no effort to index content from iPhone apps and recommend it in search results to iPhone users. Apple fans are missing out.

I suspect this push for app content has to do with undermining Apple. Apple has no search engine of its own, and can’t offer a similar functionality for iPhone users. It’s sneaky.

Of course, this isn’t going to woo users. A typical Apple fan won’t lose sleep over what shows up in Android search results. But it could woo developers. Since Android apps now get far more exposure than iPhone apps, maybe app developers will focus on Android more.

Not Worth It

The smartphone wars are far from over, but thankfully they don’t affect most businesses. My advice: leverage your app if you’ve got one, but don’t make one just because of this news. We have no idea how many users will actually follow the download suggestion, and Google could cancel this feature at any time if it doesn’t performing. Instead, put your valuable information in a regular webpage where all searchers will find it, and enjoy a higher conversion rate than even the best performing apps.

Need help with doing that? EverSpark Interactive offers a free consultation. Contact us today.