Searching In An App World

Recently I read an article called "Video Apps Vs. Web Video: Apps Are Invisible To Search" where the author discusses how great apps are, especially for video, but then goes on to discuss how the content contained in these very apps is not searchable.  Interesting point and one that creates a need to rethink how we optimize our search campaigns.

On one hand, I agree with the author and his Bloomberg example where the publisher prefers to ensure their videos are indexed within Google versus being loaded within an app.  However, this misses one very key element, because this focuses on finding the video and does not address the video experience.  This is where apps usually win due to simple usability.  Lets face it; we all use apps -- and more so every day because they work.  And most work quite well.  And this isn't just about video; this is largely true about all aspects of content consumption from sports scores and politics to weather.  Even PBS and The Economist have amazing apps that are changing how I consume their content. 



The implications here are massive.  But what actually happens with search in this scenario?  I have written previously about how the act of searching is evolving where, as a consumer, I am no longer exclusively using one of the major search engines for my search needs, but rather shifting some of that to social communities like Facebook and Twitter, as well as shifting some of my other searching into apps.  Even the social searches are often happening within their mobile app and not on the .com version.  So instead of searching Google for everything, I'm fragmenting my search behavior across multiple locations, but it's app-based queries that are the most interesting to me because they create the biggest change in search behavior.  To use app-based search means the consumer must have identified their preferred app by niche content area first, and as a result are concentrating their searches vertically.  Historically, we have used a major search engine or even Facebook and Twitter for all searches horizontally.

What should marketers do?  It is this author's (not so) humble opinion that marketers should embrace apps and, as many pundits have written previously, act like a publisher.  Create great content and create a great user experience with apps.  This will require an adjusted approach to search that will involve a revising of existing KPIs.  What this means is that search now isn't about finding your content via a traditional -- if I may call them so -- search engine, but instead ensuring the target consumer can discover your app via that search engine.  Lets face it, app stores, whether they are Apple or others, are a popularity contest with a subpar search experience.  This means if you want your app discovered, one needs to create content about that app on the site and ensure that gets indexed through a combination of paid search and SEO.  Help the consumer discover your app. 

If the consumer can find your app and your app is good, you will create loyalty because the consumer will search and consume your content within your app.  This also means that part of the usability of your app must include strong search functionality.  So one needs to ensure that the content contained within the bespoke app is tagged appropriately and has a clean and simple search interface. 

So long story short, in an app-based world search will have a two-pronged approach.  On one hand, use a combination of SEM and SEO to ensure app discovery and then on the other make sure the app itself has strong search functionality to enhance the user experience.  As stated this will additionally require revised KPIs to measure success because each approach will have different definitions of success.  Using myself as a focus group of one, I can see this play out.  When done right, I find great apps and stay within those apps, but as soon as that app doesn't deliver ... meaning I cant find what I want, I'm back to Google searching for another app or provider that can.

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