The Way We Search: Trend #5 – Apps

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To app or not to app?
  This may be a question you’ve asked yourself over the last few years given the enduring popularity of mobile apps. There are certainly benefits, but you should ask yourself if it makes sense for your business.

One benefit that I’m going to address in this edition of my series The Way We Search: Must-Know SEO Trends for Modern Marketers is how native applications are now appearing in search engine results, and why your search ranking may be affected based on whether or not you have an app.

Google, the top dog of search engines, made some changes to their mobile results that have introduced new competition for website rankings. Native mobile applications are now appearing in the top mobile search engine results, even listed before websites on some occasions. Google has called these “App Packs” because they appear to look like an app store right in Google’s search results. For example, if I type “music” into Google from my mobile phone … here’s what I get:

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You’ll notice that the top search result is Pandora’s App, but it directs you to purchase it for free in the App Store. Whereas the 2nd result is an App Pack featuring the next top-ranked music apps: Spotify, Google Play, and Amazon Music. Here you even have the option to browse more music apps without leaving Google. This increase in app visibility through web searches has impacted app discovery with a significant increase—from 3% in 2014 to 27% in 2016.

So what does this mean for you? To improve your Google search engine ranking on a mobile device, you may achieve enhanced visibility just by having a native application. Still, investing in application development in 2017 may not be a smart play for every business.

The first step in making the right decision is determining if your business or products can interact with a mobile phone’s GPS, photos, search, contacts, etc., to create a better user experience. This is the primary reason to consider developing an app.

The next step is to Google-search some of your business’ keywords on a mobile device to see if there are any existing applications competing with your website ranking. If there are applications outperforming your website, the potential for improved search results strengthens your business case for building an app. If the competition isn’t a threat, you may not need to be on high-app alert.

As an aside, if there are other websites—not apps—ranking higher than yours, you may want to review my earlier posts from this series to improve your SEO tactics. You’ll read about the benefits of mobile-optimized websites, and social, video, and curated content, which should help your search engine rankings soar.

jose_sized_2Here’s what Jose, our Digital Strategist, has to say about it: “My view at the moment is that native applications are not for everyone. A website that behaves (and for all intents and purposes is) as an app might be more well-suited for some businesses, maybe a majority of them. In addition, a website that behaves as an app is generally more cost effective, quicker to market, and easier to maintain.”

It’s ok if you’re still unsure if an app makes sense for your business. There are a lot of subjective factors that play a role in this decision. But now you have a solid place to start.

If you’d like to continue the conversation, we’d be happy to walk you through your options and guide you in the right direction. If we don’t hear from you, Happy Holidays! After some much-needed R&R, we’re going to finish our digital series strong with our last must-know SEO trend: Local SEO. Along with our previously recommended SEO tactics, you’ll be prepared to make some adjustments to your digital web presence and better position yourself to achieve your business goals in 2017.

Lauren Daly
Digital Art Director and Developer

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