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Google mobile search now prompts you to download apps

The company wants to make it easier for you to find things from inside mobile apps. What if you don't have certain apps on your phone? Google will ask if you want to download them.

Google search on Android phones will prompt you to download apps. Google

Google wants to get better at searching for things on your smartphone.

So when you look something up in Google's search app, the software will now show you links to download other apps -- but only when content in those apps is relevant to your search, the company said Thursday. The app-download links will appear alongside links to normal websites.

Once you download the app that appears in search results, Google will automatically bring you to the part of the app that is relevant to your search. For example, if you search for a lasagna recipe, you could be prompted to download a cooking app. When you open up the app, you'll be brought to the section of the app that shows lasagna recipes.

Some app-download links you can expect to see are from Yelp, Walmart, BuzzFeed and OpenTable. The feature for now works only with devices that run Google's Android operating system and not Apple's iPhones and iPads.

"We want to make content in apps more accessible in search," said Rajan Patel, an engineer at Google that worked on the project.

Google turned itself into one of the most powerful companies in the world by creating the Web's most popular search engine. But when it comes to smartphones and tablets, the company is not as dominant in the search market as it is on desktop computers. Google's chunk of mobile search revenue fell to 68 percent in 2014, from 82.8 percent just two years earlier, according to eMarketer. That's because mobile users tend to go to specific apps when searching for things on phones. For example, someone shopping for shoes may go directly to Amazon's app instead of Google's search app.

Tying mobile search into the world of apps is one way to modernize its search engine. Other tech giants have added app discovery to their products. Facebook and Yahoo, for example, let marketers buy ads that prompt people to download apps. Google, though, said its app-download links are part of the search experience, and not ads.

For consumers, the change will be noticeable. About 20 percent of searches will show app-download links in results, said Patel.

The company has been trying to find better ways to search within apps for years. In 2013, the company introduced its first efforts to index content in apps, and not just websites. Google now has 30 billion links that go to places specifically within apps, Patel said.