The digital world is built upon a shared idea of connectivity. A lot of our major platforms work primarily because they connect a wide range of people.
From our bank account to grocery orders, everything is connected to smartphones. The idea of a centralized point to control so many aspects of life is so ubiquitous now that people take it for granted.
Ask yourself: how many times do you stop and marvel at the kind of things you can control with a swipe of your fingers?
Mobile deep linking is one such idea of connectivity.
It may sound a highly technical term, but deep linking represents one of the basic functions of an app. We see deep linking examples almost every single day using mobile apps on a smartphone.
This piece will help readers get answers to the following questions –
- What is deep linking?
- How to create deep links for Android and iOS apps?
- How to create deep links without programming?
- Why are deep links important?
What is deep linking?
Let’s say you’re reading a blog online. You find something interesting and immediately share the link with a friend. The friend can directly access the blog through the link.
Now imagine you’re reading something on a mobile app. You again find something interesting. However, it is not as easy to share app content as it is to share a web URL.
Even if the app offers the option to share the content, your friend will first have to download the app to view the content.
It is slightly more complicated to share app content. This is where deep linking fills a significant hole in the typical experience of an app user.
What is deep linking?
Mobile deep linking is the practice of creating links that direct users to a specific part of the app.
For example, let’s say you find a great product on Amazon and share its link with your friend. Your friend will be able to see the product directly on the Amazon app on clicking the link you shared. This is because you basically shared a deep link of the product with your friend.
Creating deep links enables your users to share and access app content with greater ease. It is important to make the experience of your app much more intuitive.
The following sections provide more comprehensive detail about the type of deep links apps generally have these days.
Types of deep links
There are three kinds of deep links developers generally create for mobile apps. They are covered in the following sections.
#1- Basic deep linking
Basic deep links only work for users who already have the app installed. If a link directs you to a section of an app on your mobile device, it is a basic (or standard) deep link.
There are many advantages of basic deep linking. One obvious advantage is optimizing user retention. The people who already have your app installed on their device can keep coming back to the app with basic deep links.
App marketers can use these links to market certain parts of the app to existing users. These links can be pushed through various marketing channels such as email, social media, and even push notifications.
Deferred deep links are built for users who do not have the app on their mobile device. Let’s say you run a social media campaign trying to promote a new product on your ecommerce app built with an app creator online. You provide a link to a deep link pointing to the specific section of your app.
People who click on the link would first be directed to their app store in case they don’t have the app on their device. After downloading the app, they will be directed to the specific section instantly.
Such a link that guides visitors to an app store landing page first and then to the destination is called a deferred deep link.
This can be a very powerful tool for app marketing. Even people who don’t have the app can enter a process through which they are taken to the app content directly.
App marketers must make it a point to ask developers to create the facility for deferred links. It alone can guarantee a major shift upwards in app downloads.
Contextual deep links allow apps to direct users to different onboarding and landing screens depending on where they come from.
For instance, let’s say a person discovers an app through a Facebook ad. A contextual deep link will allow the person to land on a different onboarding screen compared to someone who arrives from another platform.
This is ideal for app marketers and analysts who want to know how people from each platform behave. This helps a great deal later when app marketers strategize on creating campaigns.
Contextual deep links are helpful because they provide a lot of user data other links do not. This can prove vital in an app marketing push where every bit of info can help make the campaign more personalized and conversion oriented.
What are URI schemes?
The secret sauce behind deep links are URI schemes. Developers create them while building the app. Their format goes something like this-
The URI paths when triggered direct users to a specific location on the app. Creating URI schemes is a technical task and brings the role of developers into the frame.
How do apps go about creating deep links?
There are essentially two ways to create deep links.
#1- Direct development
Direct development involves developers creating the needed URI schemes during the development itself. Developers have to work on the AndroidManifest.xml file to create deep links.
For iOS, developers have to first let search engines know that an app is connected to a given website. This process is called Associated Domain Entitlement. Once this is done, developers have to add an association file to their website. This basically verifies the connection between your website and app.
This is a highly technical process and not something non developers can generally perform. If you used a free online app maker to go from WordPress to app, such a process is not viable.
This is where the second option becomes interesting.
#2- Third-party tools
There are several third party tools that handle the process of deep link creation on their end. They are mostly mobile app analytics tools. Appsflyer and Firebase are examples of third party tools that provide deep linking services.
There are a few things to keep in mind here. If your app came from a free online app maker, you probably cannot access its source code. In such a case you have to turn to a third party tool for deep lining.
The biggest advantage of using third party tools for deep linking is that you can track these links through various attribution channels. It is extremely difficult to set up a separate analytics dashboard for deep links through direct development.
Third party tools have their own platform where analysts can carefully study data related to the deep links.
How does deep linking help?
#1- App marketing
App marketers generally have a tough task on their hand. Making people download an app is a much greater task compared to taking them to a website. It requires a greater level of planning and the chances of underwhelming performance are ever present.
Why? People don’t just download apps. They have to be wooed until finally they are convinced.
Deep links can help in this regard. If the app content is interesting enough to capture the attention of the target audience, a deep link establishes a clear path to take them there.
Without deep links, users are left stranded when they download the app. Navigating to content they were previously going to becomes a challenge. Eventually, they uninstall the app simply due to discovery problems.
App marketers today specifically make room in their budget for deep linking.
For content based websites going from WordPress to app with an app creator online, deep linking can help improve the discoverability of the content. The same is true for those working on ecommerce apps and trying to promote their products.
#2- Powerful push notifications
Push notifications are essential for optimizing key app metrics like user retention and churn rate. They help make users aware about the app on their device and trigger them to return regularly.
Deep linking can help take push notifications to the next level. Let’s say you use a free online app maker to go from WordPress to app. How can you now continually update your users about the new content on your app? Sending notifications makes sense, but will your app users be able to find the content on your app?
Linking notifications to a specific section of your app helps solve this problem. You can directly bring users to a designated part of your app. This is done with the help of deep links.
Link your notifications to a specific part of your app. This will allow users to arrive at a specific part of your app through the notification.
Every big name in the app world links notifications with the help of deep linking. You can do the same and significantly improve user retention.
#3- Funnel targeting
App marketers tend to rely on marketing funnels to boost various kinds of app monetization efforts. Deep links help in funnel targeting as they drive specific users to a particular part of the app.
For instance, a user is the upper part of a funnel can be exposed to the product the app is offering. With the help of quality content and CTA tactics, that person is slowly pushed down the funnel.
In the next interaction, the person can be directed to another app screen where marketers try to build the trust of the visitor. This is done through several trust validation tactics.
Funnel targeting is an age-old practice, but it becomes uniquely powerful with the help of deep linking.
#4- User experience
App users are generally impatient. They want to reach a particular part of the app as soon as possible. Deep links can help them achieve this task.
Many apps today allow users to be directed to a specific app section with deep links. Payment apps use this technique widely, as do messaging apps. This is very helpful in improving the overall experience of an average user.
A fast and intuitive experience is always more likely to make users come back to the app. Thus, deep linking can help in this regard as well.
Deep links help analysts and marketers know exactly where their users are coming from. This is very useful in the larger context of driving app downloads and a range of other app marketing campaigns.
Mobile app analytics is essential to the sustained growth of modern-day apps. User behaviour and experience dictates exactly what an must do to bring more downloads. Deep links can help provide significantly more accurate insights on mobile app analytics.
This piece provides a complete insight into deep linking and its impact on crucial app metrics. It helps readers understand the inner workings of deep links, how they are created, and why developers and marketers must work together to create them.