Bing’s App-Linking Tags Advance SEO

Let’s play a quick game.

I’m going to guess at least 10 apps you probably have on your phone. If I get at least five right, you owe me a hypothetical cookie, and if I get less than five right, I owe you a hypothetical cookie. Here are my guesses, and you tell me in the comments who owes whom a cookie.

1. Facebook
2. Twitter
3. Amazon
4. Walmart
5. Spotify
6. Messenger
7. Netflix
8. Google Maps
9. YouTube
10. Instagram

How did I do?

Out of the millions of apps available in the Apple, Google and Microsoft app stores, why is it that the majority of time spent on smartphones is spread out between only a handful of apps? The answer is that people just aren’t discovering other apps, because search engines can’t really rank app content. But that is changing, and with that change comes a whole new SEO and app strategy.

Google & Bing Introduce App Linking

A few months ago I wrote about Google’s App Index API. I talked about how Google is asking developers to identify content within their app that matches content on their website so Google can display a link to the app within their search results.

Bing Logo

Now, just a few days ago, Bing revealed they too are building a “massive index of apps and app actions” to help users discover content within apps. The announcement covers two parts: app link markup and using to power app actions.

App Link Markup

The app link markup is basically a meta tag that you place in your website that contains a link to content within your app. The meta tag looks like this:
< meta property=”al:(platform):(property name)” content=(property value)” />

When a search takes place on Bing that returns a page containing the above meta tag, Bing will make the decision to show a link to the web page or the app in its results. If the app is chosen, the user will be directed to the specific part of the app that contains the content the user was searching for. In this way, Bing’s experience works very much like Google’s App Indexing API experience.

App Actions

Bing takes things a step further by incorporating “actions” into their engine using metadata from For example, if a user wants to listen to an audiobook on their drive home, they might search for “Listen to Coraline” by Neil Gaiman. If a site like added metadata to their Neil Gaiman webpage that specifies an action like “Listen” with a link to the location of Coraline within the app, Bing could send the user into the audible app to start listening to that exact book.


The metadata structure can be found on, and since is used by all the major search engines we should expect to see Google incorporate this as well.

Next Steps

Little by little we’re seeing search engines wrap their figurative heads around content within mobile apps.

We’ve still got a long way to go, but it’s conceivable to think that within the next few years, content within apps will be crawled, indexed and ranked independently of websites. When that happens, we will begin to hear cries about “the death of the web page” and companies will finally begin fully shifting their focus to app-exclusive content.

As the shift happens, we’ll start to see a change in app usage behavior. People will spend less time on the handful of apps that currently dominate our smartphones, and will begin to diversify their app usage in the same way you end up on dozens of new sites each day thanks to search engines.

The Future Resembles the Past

If you’re old enough to remember the Internet 20 years ago, there were really only two ways you found a web site. It was either a popular enough domain that you typed the URL directly into your browser, or you used a human-organized directory, like Yahoo, to look for sites by category.

Well today, the app store is basically the Internet 20 years ago. You either search for the name of an app in the store search bar, or you navigate various categories.

Just like search engines transformed the web 20 years ago-which allowed users to discover new websites based on the content within the site-search engines will again transform the Internet by allowing users to find small, unknown apps through their content.

As SEOs emerged to help businesses get their websites discovered through search, SEOs will once again be tasked to help get apps discovered. While a lot of the core principles of search optimization will be the same between web search and app search, there will be different ranking signals, strategies, tactics, tools and KPIs.

In my opinion, app search represents the single largest path forward for SEO as an industry, and one that I recommend current SEOs keep close tabs on if they want to stay relevant in the future.

Do you agree or disagree with my prediction? More important, am I getting a cookie?

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