Google has announced that it can now index and rank app-only content within Android, content that only exists within the app itself and which has no web counterpart. In addition, Google will now “stream” the content from those apps without requiring searchers to download the actual app.
Finding App-Only Content
When Google first began surfacing apps within Google’s mobile results in October 2013, Google only supported content within apps that also had a directly related web version.
For example, if you had an app that listed various restaurants, the only way Google would link to particular restaurant listings within that app would be if there was also a corresponding web page. Now, as part of a test project, Google is beginning to index app-only content, content that has no such corresponding web pages.
Google has currently launched this only with nine selected apps, for English US results that run on Android, which are:
- Daily Horoscope
- Hotel Tonight
- My Horoscope
- New York Subway
- Useful Knots
- Visual Anatomy Free
- Weather Channel
Google has not announced plans to expand this further. Rather, it’s a test to see the impact it makes with mobile searchers.
App Streaming Simulator
If you have one of the apps above installed, Google will jump you from its search results on Android into them. If you don’t, you won’t see the results in Chrome. You will see them if you’re using the Google app, because of a new “App Streaming” feature that Google is also testing.
Yes, you can actually run the app fully, even book reservations in the Hotel Tonight app, via the streaming feature. Google told us this is a beta and that it might not work flawlessly.
The requirements are Android 5 “Lollipop” or 6 “Marshmallow” or higher and to be on a strong wifi connection. If you are not on that, you won’t see the app-only links with streaming option (but you will get app-only links without streaming, if you have the app installed).
The streaming option will actually launch the Google Play app and run the app through that app, not in Chrome. You will see this option if you see a “Stream” button next to app results.
Here is a screen shot showing the stream button in the Google Search App in our tests this morning:
This is what it looks like in Chrome browser on Android:
When you click the stream button you get this nice disclaimer:
Here is an animated GIF showing off how it works:
If you want, you can click on the Google stream banner on the bottom of the stream player and it will collapse to a single G:
Then it will show you options to install the app, learn more about app streaming (which is over here or close it out to go back into stream mode:
Finally, if you have a weak Wifi connection, Google will show you this notice:
How About iOS?
While Apple supports app only content discovery as well through Universal Search and Universal Links, Google currently has no plans on when they may show the same level of functionality for iOS apps. This is only a feature being tested with Android apps, not with apps designed for iOS.
How Do I Get My App Included?
Right now, you can’t, it is limited to those nine app publishers only. But if and when Google releases this more widely, Google tells me you won’t have to do anything. Just use the App Indexing API, like you do already and Google will take care of the rest.
Again, all of this is a test Google is experimenting with right now and if the results come back positive, Google may decide to expand this to more Android apps and potentially even iOS apps.
Tell Me More
For a deeper look at the streaming aspect and how it plus app-only links combines as part of a new move by Google to make the world of apps more like the web, see our story at Marketing Land: Google App Streaming: An Big Move In Building “The Web Of Apps.”