At first glance, they seem totally unrelated: search engine optimization (SEO) is the practice of creating content, establishing links, and structuring pages such that your website ranks highly in search engines for the given keywords, while mobile apps are utilities that users download to their phones and use without going through a normal web browser.
However, these two aspects of digital marketing are actually connected. The use of a mobile app for marketing purposes actually can play a part in your overall SEO strategy.
One advantage of having a custom-built mobile app for your business is that it drives engagement to your social media profiles by serving as a hub that connects and promotes all of them. However, the influence of social signals on SEO is a matter of debate.
Search engines like Google and Bing do not release their algorithms to the public, so SEO professionals are mostly engaging in reverse-engineering and guesswork when they talk about the weight that various ranking factors carry. Even when the search engine bigwigs make statements about certain aspects of their algorithms, SEOs will often accuse them of lying – and even provide evidence to the contrary.
Officially, Bing has said that it does use some social signals, though not all. For example, a link from a highly influential Twitter account will improve your ranking in Bing. Google, on the other hand, says that it does not take any social signals into consideration. However, SEO professionals often doubt the veracity of statements such as this because they know that they are actually competitors with the likes of Google and that Google does not face any consequences for being less than forthright about such things. In truth, Google benefits significantly when it keeps SEO professionals guessing. So the debate continues.
What is clear is that there is a very strong correlation between social media activity and search ranking. Numerous studies have shown this to be true. One obvious reason for this is the fact that social media activity tends to lead to backlinks, and backlinks, so long as they are from a reputable source, do affect search engine ranking. That being the case, when you encourage app users to engage with your brand through social media, this can only help with your SEO efforts, even if it helps in an indirect way.
In the same way that your business’s mobile app serves as a hub through which to drive activity for your social media accounts, it can also drive activity on your online review profiles. While Google’s reliance on social signals has been rolled back, the effect of review signals is still evident and strong. There are numerous online portals through which customers can review your business, but here are some of the most important ones:
Google My Business
Better Business Bureau
Just as with social media profiles, your app can serve as a hub connecting your app users to your online review profiles. You can drive traffic and reviews by simply having prominent links to the profiles in the app. You can also use your push notifications to make people aware of these profiles, probably by sharing any five-star reviews that you receive.
Some business owners are leery about encouraging online reviews. They say: “But what if they give me poor reviews?” The truth of the matter is that, so long as you provide good service, by increasing the total number of reviews, statistical probabilities will be on your side, and you will have a good overall score. It is when you ignore your review scores and only have a few of them that one angry reviewer can do damage to your business. On top of that, remember where these reviews will be coming from. These reviews will be coming from people who have your app installed on their phones! Why would they have your app on your phone if they did not like your business already? That being the case, this user base will be biased in your favor, so you absolutely want them to be the ones writing reviews!
While Google does not say just how much weight review scores carry, SEOs have come to estimate that online reviews amount to about 10% of search ranking factors. There are three main aspects that are taken into account, and those are the average review score, the total number of reviews, and the reputability of the review source.
In conclusion, while SEO is not the primary reason for getting a mobile app for your business and using it to interact with your customers, a mobile app will have a beneficial effect on your search engine ranking, both directly and indirectly.