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What is mobile app deep linking?

Posted by on 09/09/2016


URLs and links have become all too common in the world of web. Find a page that you like, copy the web address, and send it to a friend via social media, email or SMS, and they can instantly point their browser to the same location and share the experience with you.

Imagine if you could do the same with the contents of a mobile app. This is something that is made possible through “deep linking,” a development technology that hasn’t been given its proper due over past years, but is fast gaining popularity both among app developers and marketers and was predicted as one of the mobile app trends to impact 2016.

In this post, you’ll learn about the basics of deep linking, the benefits and caveats.

what is deep linking?

As mobile technology becomes an increasingly common way for users to access the internet, it is important to be able to converge desktop, mobile web and mobile app versions of the same content to be able to provide users with the most seamless experience.

Mobile app deep linking offers a solution by linking views of pages of your app to a distinct URI, which can later be used to discover content within your app or to direct other users to specific pages of your app, as opposed to taking them to the homepage.

These links can be shared over social media, sent by email or SMS, and even appear on search engine results.

Deep linking has been around for a while, but its initial implementation failed to gain traction because it required the app to be installed on the target device in order to be useful to the users. But now, thanks to contextual deep linking, users can catch a personalized glimpse of app content before installing and be directly taken to the content of choice after having installed the app.

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The benefits are so obvious that you might already be having those light-bulb moments where possibilities light up in your mind. But to make sure we miss out on nothing, here are some of the principal advantages you can expect from the implementation of deep linking in your apps:

  1. Improved app discovery: One of the best benefits of deep linking is having your app’s content appear in Google’s search results. This increases the chances of new users finding your app and can drive more installs for your app.
  2. Quality acquisition: Counting downloads isn’t enough to assess the quality of your user acquisition campaign. Contextual deep linking can send personalized app installation invites to new users. Users who discover and install your app through deep linking will be directly transferred to the intended view and become directly engaged with your app from the get go. This increases acquisition quality, as was discovered by a research conducted by Branch Metrics.
  3. Enhanced user experience: Users can shortcut their way to relevant content by clicking on links. They can also share their experience with friends by posting links on social media accounts and sending them through email. This way, mobile app views become as easily accessible as web pages. The same Branch Metrics research has shown that the improved experience offered by contextual deep links doubles app user retention rate.
  4. User re-engagement: Users who haven’t been using your app for a while will have many more incentives to return to it by being sent deep links to content that might interest them. Also, by appearing in search results, deep links remind users that the content they seek can be accessed with a more personalized experience in your app.
  5. Improved campaign measurement: Since deep links can pass data, you’ll be better positioned to assess and measure your campaign success and find out which tactics and delivery methods are driving more click-through rates and conversions.
  6. Improved marketing: By linking a certain part of the app to a specific page, product, or event, companies can easily promote new products and features and provide targeted users with direct useful content.

deep linking and search engine indexing 

While having direct links to app views which you can share with friends and colleagues is a beneficial feature, deep linking manifests its real power when it allows you app’s content to appear in Google search results.

Google provides an App Indexing API which enables you to have a single URL that points to the same content in your web application, mobile web and mobile app, and will take the user to the most appropriate version based on the device they’re on and the apps they have installed.

By using the Indexing API, you can familiarize new users with your app and enable users who do have your app to directly gain access to the content in your app. In addition, there’s a likely chance that deep linking will earn apps and websites a Google ranking boost.

Once you get the hang of it, implementing App Indexing is pretty straightforward. You can read the full details here.

considerations and final thoughts

Since deep linking takes users directly to the specific page they’re looking for, it will put them on a different path than the normal flow of your app. Therefore you need to carefully plan to make sure the user doesn’t land in your app in a state of confusion.

To avoid such disruptions, make sure the user gets to the target screen seamlessly, without logins required of interstitial pages. Otherwise it will create a poor user experience.

Deep linking will bring the power of the web links to your apps and it’s starting to become an essential component of successful apps. The use cases and possibilities are many. I hope the few I shared with you will help you tap into the power of this cool app development feature.

If you’re putting deep linking to use in some other uncanny manner that releases some magical powers that weren’t mentioned here, please share with us.

Topics: App marketing