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Mobile Deep Linking: What, Why, How

Native apps (also referred to as simply mobile apps) provide the best possible user experience and push businesses forward. But there is an opportunity to get even more benefits from this kind of apps — the deep linking.
What is it? Why to use it? How to get it? In this blog post, we are going to answer all these questions.

What Is Mobile Deep Linking?

We all get deep links almost every day — when a friend shows a pair of sneakers he wants to buy in an online shop or a colleague shares an interesting article on a news site. Link is called deep when it takes you directly to concrete content, not to the homepage of a website.
Mobile deep linking is just the same but instead of a specific website page, the link takes you to a particular place in the application. Here is an app deep link example: if your classmate sends you an email with a link to your teacher’s profile on Facebook, after clicking on it, it will be opened directly in the Facebook application.
There are several types of app deep linking: traditional, deferred, and contextual.

Traditional deep linking

Traditional deep linking is a type of linking working only in case the required app is already installed. Clicking on the link, you ask an app to show the content. If the app is already installed on your device, it will be opened immediately. But if you click the link without having the app, you will get an error report.

Traditional deep linking scheme

Deferred deep linking

Deferred deep linking will not give up so soon if you have not installed the app yet. In this case, you will be first taken to the app installation page on the App Store (iOS) or Google Play (Android). After installing and launching the app, the link will route you further — right to its content.

Deferred deep linking scheme

Contextual deep linking

Contextual deep linking works the same way as deferred but also contains a lot of useful data. It allows tracking the users’ OS, search request they followed, the source user came from, etc. With the help of this data, companies get useful information for further app modifications as well as receive more detailed portraits of their customers while users get more relevant content and a better experience.

Why Use App Deep Linking?

Let us now see the most significant benefits of using mobile app deep linking.

Improved user experience

The users’ way to content becomes faster, shorter, and more seamless. Searching for some goods on the web or clicking the link from your SMS, the user goes directly to the content in the app bypassing the home screen and other steps.

Better user retention and engagement

The easier it gets to reach the content, the more often people turn to it and interact. Having data about those who already use your app, you can create special offers for them (available via a deep link) as well as provide a more personalized experience to engage and stimulate them to come back to the app.

Facilitated user on-boarding

Deep app linking also allows improved on-boarding. You can make personalized offers and recommendations to new users, relying on the data provided by contextual linking.

Re-engaging users

Along with smoothing the relations with new users, the mobile deep linking also helps to re-engage those who have already installed your app but have not launched it for a long time. You can send them a deep link with a special offer or any other content that might induce them to visit the application.

Enhanced app discoverability

Since Google indexes deep links, your app’s content will be shown in search engine results together with the related web pages. This can increase your brand recognition and bring new users.

Empowering marketing

Since a contextual deep link can be placed anywhere — from social network post to SMS — it opens great opportunities for your marketing department. Gaining information about the user’s interests and preferences, you can strengthen marketing campaigns providing personalized coupons and discounts available in one click right in the app.

What can be deep linked to app

Better analytics

The app deep linking allows tracking the effectiveness of marketing campaigns, discovering more about customers and their behavior, highlighting the most clickable items and offers, etc. This all makes analytics more accurate and useful for decision-making in the future.

How to Get a Deep Link For an App?

Let us now see how to use those benefits. Even though there are a lot of similarities in adding deep links into iOS app and Android app, the approaches differ.
Previously, the URI schemes (Uniform Resource Identifier) used to be the way to add deep linking to the apps. It connects standard URL links (Uniform Resource Locator) with the required action or place within the app. Due to issues with graceful fallback, the improved alternatives were introduced.

Mobile deep linking: iOS

Apple stopped using URI schemes after presenting their own approach in iOS 9.0 — Universal Links. It implies a connection to both the app and the website. After clicking on such a link, iOS checks whether the required app is installed on a device. If installed, it opens immediately right in the place defined by the link. If not, the user is redirected to the browser and sees the same content on the website. To add the Universal Links support you need to:

  • Create a file stating the mobile application ownership and the need for intercepting all the links to your products;
  • Locate this file on your web server;
  • Prepare the mobile app for handling the Universal Links.

Check out the guide to get more information on how to create a deep link for iOS app.

Mobile deep linking: Android

Utilizing the URI schemes, Android also uses Intent Filters to support deep links. The filters you use determine the ways your app can be started: a BROWSER filter allows launching the app via a web link. The main problem with Intent Filters is the absence of the confirmation of ownership, so, any application can register your filter and capture your traffic.
Likely, that issue is successfully solved by App Links — the Android’s analog of Apple’s Universal Links that implies verification and also points to the same piece of content in both your sources: the app and the website. So, how to create a deep link for an Android app? Here are the steps to take:

  • Creating deep links using the intent filters;
  • Asking the app to request the links’ verification;
  • Putting the file verifying the ownership to your website.

Use the guide to Handling Android App Links for more detailed instructions.

Some General Tips

Now, when you learned what is a deep link to an app and how it helps to improve business, you might want to get a deep link app. If so, the following recommendations can be useful:

Make sure your application is top-notch since there is no use and sense in attracting users to a poorly designed app with weak functionality — they will delete it anyway, along with your good reputation.
Plan the deep linking structure carefully as the link should take the user directly to the required content. Prevent users from performing additional actions like logging in and ensure compliance with the app’s general logic.
Use the app install banners provided by iOS or Android to promote the app on your website and get more new users.
Avoid forcing the website visitors to install the app by restricting the basic functionality. The bad example is TripAdvisor: it allows reading only some of the reviews and asks to install its app to see more.

The Bottom Line

Mobile deep linking can be an effective tool for improving user experience, empowering marketing campaigns, and attracting new users. But in order to be helpful, it has to be well-thought and carefully implemented. At SCAND, we know exactly how to create a deep link to an app and can help your business to get better. Do not hesitate to contact us and ask any questions.

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