Back to Basics: App optimization and Firebase indexation

Back to Basics: App optimization and Firebase indexation

Let’s just set the record – app indexation and app optimization are two different things. OK, maybe not totally different so let me summarize what they each do:

  • App store optimization (ASO) – The process of improving the visibility of an app within the app store.
  • Firebase app indexation (FAI) – The process of making the content on your app available within Google’s search listings.

Considering the mobile-first consumer trends across the majority of industries, and a booming number of apps available, ASO and FAI is growing more and more imperative in your marketing strategy. While your SEO strategy may contain worthwhile activities such as optimizing site speed, it’s important to get on the bandwagon. Before getting into the basics of firebase indexation, it’s better to understand precisely what ASO is, and how it works.

App store optimization

As we’ve established, this is the process of improving the visibility of an app within the app store. This is crucial to getting your app seen, and improving the number of downloads, as well as brand awareness and loyalty. This is usually focused on Apple’s app store and android’s Google Play. Consider app store optimization as the basic “front-end” optimization in SEO, much like meta title optimization for example. You’re given a word limit and a clear set criteria of how you can set up your app, and you optimize based on keyword research and CRO.

The process is straightforward to plan, provide recommendations and implement. Like any robust SEO strategy, you start with keyword research and build your copy to incorporate those keywords without intensive stuffing (unless black hat is your thing) and testing along the way. There are different tools and platforms available to provide you with the appropriate keyword research for app store optimization.

Similar to SERP optimization, you need to ensure that each feature fits the word limit, and is relevant to the user. You have a lot more opportunity to optimize your listing considering the long word limit, images, reviews and more – a catchy logo doesn’t hurt either. Say you complete all these, what’s next?

A lot of this comes down to testing, especially A/B testing. Maybe tweak some copy here or there and see how it goes. It would also be good to optimize your images as well to see what works. It’s that simple; you don’t have an excuse not to start optimizing now.

Firebase app indexation

This is the process of making the content on your app available within Google’s search listings. It is important to improving the number of downloads, engagement, sales and more. An example of firebase indexing would be if you’re searching for a particular twitter account on Google. You click what you are searching for, and you’re automatically taken to the app. It’s a seamless user experience which encourages user engagement and retention as they are already on your app so less likely to click away.

There is a clearly defined process on how to implement this, which you can find in excruciating (but very helpful) detail here. You must implement and monitor through Firebase Console (Search Console for apps). It’s a bit more complicated to set up and requires an app developer to make the changes if you don’t have full access to the development platform. It took me FOREVER to decipher the web development guides considering I’m not a developer, but I got there in the end:

  1. Set up Universal Links
  2. Build Index (android only)
  3. Log User Actions (android only)
  4. Test Implementation
  5. Measure Impact

To implement firebase indexing, you must set up universal links for your android and apple app. Universal links enable apps to process HTML URLs. The process of setting up these links between an app and website differs for each app store, and takes a few more steps for android devices:

  • For iOS devices, you upload this piece of code called the “Associated Domains Entitlement” in Xcode (a program that manages your app) which lists the domains you want to associate with the app. Then you upload the “app-to-site association JSON file” to each of these domains. The app should then be connected to the website and vice versa.
  • For android devices, the concept is the same. Connect the app to firebase using Firebase Assistant in android studio, and add the app indexing library to the project. Then, the structure of the app needs to be defined and corresponding app screens need to be created matching HTTP URLs. Finally, add android app links to your app.

Setting up universal links is essential for firebase indexing while building an index if you want to go the extra mile. Building an index for android devices means you can refine public content indexing (a bit like a robots.txt file using the disallow parameter). You can also enable personal content indexing, which means some information is only shown on the user’s device and not shared with Google Servers.

Again, this is only available for android. Naturally, this is more time consuming to implement depending on how complex your website is. If you have the budget, it can be excellent for user experience and customer retention.

If you are a Google Tag Manager freak like I am, then you will like logging user actions. It works similarly, you can track how users interact with your app and do whatever you need to with that information whether it be testing or updating features available.

Once you’ve put in the hard effort to implement whatever changes apply to your business, then it’s time to measure the impact of changes made. You can use search console and firebase console to monitor the effects and feel like a boss.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

About The Author

Serena Pearson is SEO Manager at Kaizen, focusing on technical SEO in particular. Has managed to survive in the search industry thus far through cake bribery and a keen interest in analytics and excel (winning combo). Responsible for directing SEO strategy. Known for intensive appreciation of formatting and reporting.

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