I started my first company, Blue Gecko Web Design, in the spring of 2002. It was me and a buddy from college. He would go around to local store owners trying to sell them a new website whereas I’d be back at the apartment building the sites.
I distinctly remember going on a sales round with him when we visited a local Chinese buffet that we frequently ate. We asked to speak to the manager and the conversation went like this:
Us: Hey, I noticed you don’t have a website.
Manager: We don’t need a website. All our customers see our sign and come in.
Us: Ok. Thanks for your time.
I admit, we were really bad salesmen, but sure enough today they have a website up. No surprise there. Every company has a website. In 2002, not every company thought it needed one! In 2012, not every company thought it needed a Facebook page. And in 2012, not every company thinks it needs a mobile app, but they all do, and they will all create one…eventually.
By now, businesses should realize that the world is going mobile. As people move from PCs to mobile devices, mobile SEO is becoming increasingly important.
Apple sold more tablets than any of the top PC makers sold computers last year, and this was even before the iPad mini.
Responsive websites are great, but as Facebook has learned, they are no replacement for native apps. Native apps are simply the best way to consume content on a mobile device. Like it or not, every company that has a website needs a native app.
How does one power a native app?
Some apps, like games, have most of the content stored right within the app itself. Other apps, like Twitter’s or Facebook’s, pull content directly from the Internet through APIs.
APIs are kind of like a special way of requesting information from a database. Instead of writing a complicated piece of code to look up special values in the database, you simply tell the API, “Give me this user’s profile information” and the API converts that request into a complicated code that looks for special values in the database.
These APIs make it easy for external folks, like outside developers, to use your content and data. That’s why Facebook and Twitter have so many apps built on top of their platforms. Their APIs are open to the public and easy to use. Letting developers easily access Facebook and Twitter data in the same way Facebook’s and Twitter’s own mobile applications do will make accessing your native app’s content easier for external developers, as well as search engines.
Search engines are great at crawling web pages, but they’re really bad at crawling apps. Even if Coca-Cola decides to announce the reveal its secret formula on its iPhone app, Google would never be able to see that information.
We know that users prefer to consume content on native mobile apps. Because of this, companies will need to ensure that their content is available through their native apps. However, we also know that search engines are not able to crawl content on those native apps. What’s a search engine to do?
Simple. Request the content through an API.
If a company wants search engines to continue crawling their site content, they’ll need to open its native app’s API to search engines. Believe me, it won’t be long until search engines come up with a standardized way to do so, just like they did with Schema.org.
The key to beating the search engines is always to skate to where the puck is going. In this case, it’s APIs. Here is a recap of the steps you need to take to get ready.
- Create a native mobile app for both Android and iOS.
- Deliver content to your app through a private API.
- Be ready to open parts of your API to search engines when they are ready.
Sure, you can wait until everyone else does it first, but do you really want to be like the Chinese Buffet in our example, waiting until the competition forces your company to get a website? If you know what the future holds, why not be the first to market?
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