Gboard - what brands need to know about Google’s keyboard app

Michail Apokoroniotakis

SEO Analyst

It’s been more than a year since Google released its third-party keyboard with integrated search functionality. Counting approximately 1,545,000 Android users, they managed to flip the world of mobile search results – not upside down, but vertically. These vertical search results look very different to regular mobile search listings and allow users to search directly in their keyboards.

What is Gboard?

Gboard is the new keyboard app for mobile phones released by Google in May 2016. It has an integrated search functionality and is compatible with both iOS and Android devices. When it first came out, it had all the features you’d expect from a modern keyboard – GIFs, Emoji, slide typing and, of course, built-in Google search (including voice search). These features meant that Google search was available directly in users’ text messages, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, WhatsApp and news apps. Impressive, right?

Since then, Google’s continued to develop the app. The company rolled out innovative ways for users to get their messages across by releasing various updates. Gboard can now support a wealth of languages and provide multiple search results, as well as new, fancy features such as Bitmoji & Stickers stamps, predictive text, translation, YouTube and Google Maps support.

How does Google Gboard work?

How many times have you had to leave a group conversation on WhatsApp to find and copy a URL for your best friend’s birthday present? In my experience: a lot. Searching and sending on your phone shouldn’t be that difficult when we’re moving towards the mobile-first index era.

Users who download the keyboard app and allow full access to their device can search everything from restaurants or news articles to images or GIFs without having to leave their keyboard. With Gboard, users simply tap the Google button, type in their search, tap a result and the information is automatically pasted into their message. So quick, so easy. This process enhances the user’s search experience – and it’s something brands really need to be aware of.

Will it affect the future of mobile search?

The number of mobile users who spend more time in apps than browsers is growing, according to studies. With this in mind, it’s easy to see how Gboard will influence the future of mobile search – and how it will change the current mobile usage habits of consumers.

The two main reasons mobile users still use browser apps are for search queries and the access to content. Rather than attempting to entice users to return to browsers, Google has brought the browser to them instead.

What are the differences between Gboard and mobile search results?

Gboard uses a slightly different algorithm for ranking pages:

  • It prioritises new listings. Since one of Gboard’s most essential functions is in user sharing activity, Google assumes that the latest information (such as news stories) may be more useful.

  • Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) are not displayed in Gboard search, and they are replaced with the regular HTML versions.

  • The Gboard app collects limited user search data, which means less personalised search results. However, Google is currently testing a new way to train their machine learning algorithms on it.

  • Ads or any other type of paid content do not appear (for the moment, at least).

Gboard optimisation: what brands need to know

Because Gboard focuses on shareable information and content, the app can impact brands’ discoverability. That’s why brands should…

  • Update their Google My Business profile (Local SEO)

One of the most important features of Gboard is the ability to send local business information. Brands should keep updated and accurate information (name, address, phone number) for all their store locations, so that users can easily search and share at their locations.

  • Create branded Knowledge Graphs

Knowledge Graphs are defined as snippets of content that are likely to be shared in a text or message. Using these snippets, Google feels they can fulfil the intent of the searcher’s request without the user having to leave the search results page.

  • Invest in video optimisation

Google seems to favour video content in Gboard results. Google is always rewarding video content in every set of search results, especially in Gboard.

  • Create news-oriented content

Brands should focus on creating news-related articles, blog posts and other content that provides consumers with motivation to share. It’s likely that type of content will remain highly favoured in Gboard with the idea that mobile users want quick, relevant information without having to drill too far into the page.

  • Create fresh and shareable content

Brands should ensure that the content on their websites is recent and shareable, as users can access Gboard while texting, tweeting or creating a Facebook post . This would give them a better chance of appearing in the Gboard results based on the context of the search query.

How to track and measure Gboard traffic?

The results of testing on different devices showed that Gboard traffic is considered direct. In other words, if somebody performs a Gboard search and sends the link across and that person taps the link, it’s counted as direct traffic. Depending on how fast Gboard grows, Google may well add Gboard as a referral traffic source.

The future of Gboard

Google Gboard is a fantastically interesting keyboard app which has the potential to change mobile search in the near future. Placing ads and product listings in Gboard’s results carousel, as well as more personalised search results, seems like the logical next step. Forward-thinking businesses should take advantage of the Google’s updated algorithm, optimise their sites and stay ahead of the competition.  

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