Google is getting help from an unlikely source. Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) decided to use the Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) company's app-indexing tool to help improve Google search results on Android devices. App indexing allows Google to link to content within apps, so now when a Page or profile from Facebook shows up in Google's search results, users will be redirected to the Facebook app. This mechanism offers a much better user experience than Google's current solution of opening a mobile web page.
Facebook's decision to index its app comes at a time when the company is moving deeper into Search to compete with Google. The social network recently revamped its search engine to index all of its 2 trillion posts, and it's working on M -- a virtual assistant that lives within Messenger. So, will app indexing help Facebook more than it helps Google?
A win-win situation
The news that Facebook has decided to index its app is certainly a big win for Google -- now it's able to use Facebook's participation in app indexing as a selling point to other app publishers.
Google has been trying to sign up app publishers to use app-indexing since 2014 after testing a pilot program in 2013. The problem is that it's not as easy as pushing a button. Making an app index-friendly can increase the time it takes to develop it by 5%, so the payoff needs to be clear to developers.
Facebook's decision to work with Google is a signal to other publishers that it is worth the time. An app with as much content as Facebook is likely on the high end of the time demands. Facebook is betting that the effort will pay off in higher search rankings and more engagement in its app.
Google cites the results of Etsy (NASDAQ:ETSY) as a reason publishers should index their apps. Etsy saw an 11.6% increase in traffic from Google referrals after indexing its app. What's more, after a series of product improvements, Etsy was able to leverage that increased exposure into a 254.7% increase in page impressions. Facebook probably won't see results as robust, but the potential for improvement is there.
Facebook's own search ambitions
As Facebook continues to expand on its own search products, drawing in more traffic from Google could help boost the number of searches its users perform. Since users will already be searching for content, Facebook could direct users coming from Google to use the in-app search engine to find more information about a topic.
Facebook already sees 1.5 billion queries on its search engine every day, and hardly anyone would consider it a real alternative to Google or other web crawlers. For reference, Google said it saw 3.3 billion searches per day in 2012, but it hasn't updated that number since. Mark Zuckerberg has plans to create a real product around search that could eventually compete with Google for search queries and ad revenue.
M on Messenger has the potential to accomplish a lot of what Google is trying to do with Google Now. Facebook is also testing a revamped notifications section to show more information -- like trending news, movie times, and nearby restaurants -- in the same style as Google Now cards. Indeed, Facebook is becoming more and more like Google as it expands its capabilities to find information on just about anything.
So, Facebook stands to greatly benefit by getting users to open its app more than its mobile web page. App indexing offers an opportunity to drive more traffic to its mobile app, where Facebook can entice users with all of its other features and monetize its users even better with better targeted advertisements. While Facebook becoming part of Google's app indexing efforts is a feather in the search giant's cap, Facebook might have gotten the better part of the deal.
Adam Levy has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Alphabet (A and C shares) and Facebook. The Motley Fool owns shares of Etsy. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.