Google announced today that it will display links to iOS apps directly within Google search on Apple's mobile Safari browser. The links will display when users search for those apps or for content found within those apps and, once tapped, will route users either to the App Store or to the downloaded app. This feature will let iPhone owners search for, say, a restaurant or "puzzle games iOS" and find a Yelp or game link as a result. In the past, this was only available while using Google's Chrome app or its general Google app. The feature already exists on Android devices, where Chrome is the default mobile browser.
"That means that you can start getting your app content into the Search results page on Safari in iOS, simply by adding Universal Links to your iOS app, then integrating with our SDK," Google wrote on its developers Google+ page. "On Android, you can still get your content into the Search results page, autocompletions, and Now on Tap by adding HTTP deep links and integrating with the App Indexing API."
Links, links everywhere
With iOS 9, Apple baked in a Siri-powered feature that surfaces app links and app content within the iPhone's Spotlight Search function. That made it even easier to find what you were looking for within an app, removing the need to rely on the mobile web. However, it also kept Google out of the loop, as presumably more users could now use Apple's software features to jump into apps and find new apps instead of relying on Google search. Today's change gives Google a way to link its search engine with Apple's app ecosystem. It's another subtle nudge from Google to promote the relevancy of the mobile web, which remains under attack by the rise of apps and the efforts of Apple and Facebook.