During the Apple’s WWDC conference that was held last week, a range of new features to their customers and developers was announced. Being an app developer I was eager to know what would be introduced as part of iOS9.

Some of the features that were introduced include;

1. Transit Directions was added in the Apple Maps

2. An Apple News App

3. An iPad Split View that allows one to use two apps at the same time by splitting the screen

4. A new Health app that helps one to keep track of fitness activities from workouts to amount of water one drinks

While all these are impressive enhancement from the previous operating system, they are nothing compared to the introduction of the Search API and Deep Linking features.

The aim of any developer is to generate more revenue. This can be achieved through strong downloads brought about by discoverability. Discoverability profoundly depends on the marketing and location of the app in the app store. It can be top ranked or pop first upon typing particular keywords but all these will depend on the store profile.

RhapsodyBeatsOther features like Icon, screenshots, ratings and description only tell a portion of the whole story. How to know what is actually in the app, what ads one can buy with a given budget, whether the ads are relevant to the users, and if the timing of the ads is relevant are some of the queries you need to find out.

In addition, it’s important that you retain your existing users. Most users after downloading the app use them for a few times and later forget them. The only options right now for the app developers to keep users re-engaged are push notifications and/or emails which work decently but very hard to time them to avoid annoying the users.

 

This is the reason why iSO9’s new Search API and Deep Linking is a major development. The Search API brings to surface apps rich in content making the result more relevant while Deep Linking takes the user direct to specific place in the app. This will result in less friction and increase engagement. Most importantly, your app can appear as a search result for users who don’t even have your app, which will lead to more downloads. This will make your app more accessible to potential users as soon as they express intent. This leads to higher conversions than any other type of marketing and it’s free!

Here are some examples from the WWDC presentation:

If a user searches for the Northern Lights festival, spotlight will suggest the Eventbrite website, once he or she clicks the link, the Eventbrite app is brought on the top along with the event details.

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Another example from the WWDC presentation is when a user types in sprained ankle, the spotlight suggest a few apps from the app store along with the Sprained Ankle page on Wikipedia.

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Upon clicking on the first link, the user will be brought to the app page to download the app and then they can go straight to the sprained ankle page on the Mayo Clinic app.

The Search API is actually 3 APIS:

  1. NSUserActivity,
  2. CoreSpotlight and
  3. Web Markup

i. NSUserActivity

This is an extension of the handoff API from iOS8. Handoff allowed you to start something on your iPad and pick it up on your iPhone from where you left it off. In addition to that it does the following;

Saves your activities on the app, (e.g.: your favorite actions and searches)

These activities become indexable with metadata. Some of these activities can be tagged as public so that certain actions that are popular can be displayed to all users who search it and not only to the app’s unique user.

ii. CoreSpotlight

This API indexes any app content. It is currently used by Messages, Mail, Calendar and Notes. You will be able to see the results from third party apps the same way you can see from the built-in apple apps.

iii. Web Markup

This is the most interesting API. For apps that reflect content on the web, the content is indexed for search. Let’s say you have a news app that also mirrors the articles on the app website, the content in the articles will be searchable via this Search API.

In order for this to work, app developers must make their content discoverable and here are the steps;

  1. Make sure Apple can find and index your website.
  2. Make sure your app’s website contains deep linking markup (e.g. smart app banners and universal links).
  3. Make sure you enable deep link handling for your app.
  4. Make sure you add markup for structured data (images and rich text results).

As iOS9’s launching approaches, make sure your account for these new features is in order to drive and maintain your app audience.

With this new functionality, Apple will give its users another way to avoid using Google Search to find what they want.