App-Only Content is Now Listed in Google SERPs

December 4, 2015 - 2 minutes read

As of November 18th, developers of mobile-only apps can breathe a sigh of relief; after years of indexing in-app content but not surfacing the data in search results, Google has officially begun rolling out app-only content in Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs).

For now the change is only directly affecting participating mobile apps, with a small group of companies that volunteered to participate at Google I/O, the Google developer conference. Among those mobile apps are Hotel Tonight, Weather, My Horoscope, and New York Subway, to name a few.

Previously the search giant only surfaced results for apps like Airbnb that have robust web-app versions, giving a strong preference to the norm — particularly in the US — for apps that have content duplicated across mobile and web versions. In an increasingly mobile-centric Internet, however, even New York iPhone app developers are releasing more apps every year that are completely independent of the desktop web experience, making the need for a more comprehensive search process clear. Even Google has to stay up on the trends, after all, in order to stay relevant.
Google has taken an inventive route to delivering those in-app contents to users once clicked; streaming the apps via a virtual machine from the cloud, allowing end users to access the data in-app almost as if it were installed natively on their smartphone. To that end Google is implementing technology from the Agawi, which they acquired in 2014, working closely with Agawi technologists and mobile app developers to streamline the technology to where they can safely make it public-facing.

While statements from Google and press attention indicate that the move is experimental and subject to radical change or removal, the increasing dominance of iPhone and Android-specific apps in the tech market is sure to continue driving innovation as desktop services adapt to a mobile-centric environment.

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