Apple Introduces New Search API that Indexes Content Buried Deep Within Apps

By Jillean Kearney on July 07, 2015

What is Apple Indexing & Why is it Important to Your App & SEO Strategies?Until very recently, any content buried deep within an app was invisible to search engines.

Crawlers were only able to index app titles and descriptions from app stores – but both Apple and Google announced methods for indexing content buried deep within apps.  

Apple's brand new Search API iOS 9 is a major foray into search engineering for the brand  and if your organization has apps, it will directly impact your app and SEO strategy. 

What Exactly Is Apple Search?

Apple Search is a search engine that indexes and organizes sets of app screens that can be ranked in search results. Once indexed, app screens are pulled into Siri or Spotlight search results – or through a Spotlight Suggest result, which appears as a user types a search query into Safari's address bar.

As a result, a user can search for content within Safari and end up within an app's deep-linked content without ever having to use or visit Google. This works because of Apple's introduction of public and private indexing, and the three different methods available to iOS developers to get their app screens indexed for Apple Search.

The NSUserActivity Indexing method relies on user activity history to rank app content rankings.

The second method, CoreSpotlight Indexing, is an API that Apple has used to pull components (like the Calendar app) into Spotlight search results. Now, it has been opened up to all apps within Apple's App Store. For this method, developers have to submit an index file (an iOS-specific code) along with the application manifest.

The final method is Web Markup Indexing which enables Applebot, Apple's new search crawler, to index app content from marketing and/or support URLs that submitted with the application manifest. 

For more, watch Apple's explainer video of its new Search APIs. 

Why is this important to SEOs and marketing teams?

"Apple’s ability to mine iOS user engagement metrics allows them to make engagement a central part of the ranking algorithm, putting less emphasis on traditional ranking factors like titles and descriptions. This is a notable evolution from how Apple currently handles search in the iOS App Store, which relies heavily on titles and keywords to determine app ranking," Emily Grossman concluded over at Search Engine Land

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July 07, 2015

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