Google’s mobile search results on Android will now prompt you to install mobile apps that feature content relevant to your search query. This essentially turns Google’s mobile search results page into an app discovery service and will likely be a major boon for mobile developers.
Given the overall shift to mobile, good content now often lives inside of apps, where search engines can’t typically find it. To fix this, Google introduced App indexing in late 2013, which let the search engine index content from a select number of apps and link to it from its search results pages. In this first version, users had to have the apps already installed on their phones, though. Over time, Google will open this program to all developers; earlier this year, it started highlighting content from apps in its Google Now Cards.
Today’s update takes the concept of App indexing to its next logical step by helping users find relevant content in apps they don’t already have on their phones.
The App Indexing project now features more than 30 billion deep links — a number Google shared for the first time today, though the company wouldn’t disclose how many developers have implemented this feature in their apps.
Here is what all of this will look like in practice: say you are searching for a recipe and Google’s algorithms determine that there is an app that has just the right recipe for black forest cake for you. You will now see a carousel with relevant apps and a prominent install button right next to them. From there, you’re taken to the Google Play store to install the app. Once the app is installed, you simply click “continue” and the app will open with the content you were looking for.
This is going to be a huge deal for mobile app developers. App discovery, after all, is still very much an unsolved problem and anything that gets an install button for a relevant app in front of more people (especially if there’s no need to pay for it) is a good thing.
“The goal is for developers to continue to create great content in apps and create deep links into that content so users who have particular questions can directly access that content,” Rajan Patel, a Google principal engineer on the team responsible for this project, told me.
Patel also told me that the team is looking at how it can grow this project beyond Android, but he couldn’t share any specifics at this point.