In May, Google began allowing iOS developers to implement App Indexing so signed-in users can open content surfaced from mobile apps directly in Google Search (via the main Google app and via Chrome, or even installing iOS apps if they don’t have them). These indexed links were made available to “a small group of test partners initially,” and now the company is expanding that by making the feature compatible with HTTP deep link standards for iOS 9. Google expects iOS users will start seeing app content in Safari by the end of October.
This means developers can now get app content into the search results page on Safari for iOS by adding universal links to their iOS 9 app, and then integrating with Google’s SDK. Because this is now much simpler, Google is dropping app indexing support on iOS 7 and iOS 8.
In short, the Google app for iOS, Chrome for iPhone and iPad, and Safari for iOS now support Google’s app indexing. You can find new iOS apps by searching for things like “word games” and install them directly from the results page, or find in-app content directly in the search results (as you can see below, searching for “cascal” will show you the bar on Yelp).
Google has been experimenting with various levels of app indexing for years, with features showing up as early as December 2013. The majority were focused on Android, but this year Google has been expanding the functionality to iOS.
On Android, nothing is changing today. Developers can still get their apps into search results, autocompletions, and Marshmallow’s Now on Tap by adding HTTP deep links and integrating with the App Indexing API.
With both Android and iOS, Google Search is indexing content from the two biggest mobile app platforms. This is the company’s strategy to bring the web and mobile closer together: promote apps for developers, offer users content only available in apps, and gather data about where and how users are accessing information.