It's happened to all of us. You have an app which you are already logged into, and you receive an email or push notification with a link to a specific service or deal in the app. But upon clicking the link, it opens in the mobile website, forcing you to log in and proving difficult to find this same location in the app.
Wouldn't it be great if this link opened in the app instead? The app that you already took the effort to install and log into? Well, this is possible and the answer is Deep Linking.
Why does this happen?
In the beginning, apps were not thought to be primarily accessing web content. Apps were primarily used for functional or entertainment purposes, but not to be intertwined with the web. Because of this, the web standards HTML links / HTTP URL don’t work in the apps universe.
The technical ability to open an app to a dedicated section (called URL Scheme) has always existed, it just has never been compatible with the standards (HTTP links).
So, what is mobile deep linking?
Deep linking allows you to reunify the two separate worlds of apps and the web. Say you want to send users a push notification reminding them of a special offer going on in your app. Without a deep link, your users would be relocated to the website or the app's homepage upon clicking the link. From there, they would have to locate the deal within the app manually, which somewhat defeats the purpose of sending a link to begin with. With deep linking however, the user could click this link and be taken directly to the deal within the app.
Deep linking can be used to connect users directly to app content through the following interactions:
- Website to app
- App to app
- Social Media to app
- Search Result to App
- Mobile Phone Search to App
- Ad to App
- E-mail to App
- SMS to App
You probably see where this is going, but in case you need more convincing, here are some ways your app can benefit from deep linking:
Why implement Deep Linking?
Deep linking can improve the your app and make a big difference in customer retention and acquisition. It does this through:
- Enhancing user experience: Deep links allow users to more easily access content within the app, and reduces the time and effort needed to locate specific pages, products or info in the app.
- Improving user retention and engagement: Deep linking has been shown to improve valuable usage metrics. It has proven to produce double the activation rate, double the retention rate, and twice as frequent app visits for users with deep linking versus those without.
- Helping to re-engage users: Deep linking can be particularly effective in push notification and email marketing to target inactive users with special offers or reminders. Directing these users right to the content they are looking for will vastly improve their chances of becoming a more active user.
- Improving the effectiveness of marketing: Similarly, deep linking can be used to enhance your app's marketing by taking any user directly to the page of the app which you are advertising. It can do this from your social media, an ad, email, or push notification.
- Improving app discoverability: Google indexes mobile app deep links, meaning that app content can show up in search engine results pages as a website would. This increases the chances of new users finding your app through search.
How does it work?
Both iOS and Android provide good APIs for deep linking. You can implement deep linking on both platforms at the same time and a lot of the work overlaps. There are a few different ways to do deep linking:
- Deferred Deep Links: These take users directly to the content they are looking for in the app. If, however the user does not yet have the app, it will take you to the app's location in the app store, allow you to download it, and then direct you to the place in the app you originally wanted to go.
- Contextual Deep Links: Contextual deep linking can transport information about who a user is, where the user is coming from, which ad campaign they clicked, which friend referred them or which promotion code they are using. With contextual deep linking, developers can give users the most personalized and targeted app experience possible, especially during the on-boarding process.
- Apple iOS Universal Links: Apple introduced Universal Links in iOS 9 as a more streamlined solution to deep linking. This works as a standard web link which points to both a web page and specific content within the app. When a user clicks the link, iOS checks to see if the app is already downloaded. If so, it takes the user to the content the link points to, and if not it will open the link in Safari or simply redirect to the App Store.
- Android App Links: Google built App Links as the Android equivalent to iOS Universal Links It functions in nearly exactly the same way as Apple's Universal Links.
Deep linking has become essential in having a seamless, user-friendly app. The potential to enhance the user experience, improve app discoverability, increase downloads and retention, and even drive revenue make mobile deep linking valuable from both a developer and user standpoint.
Need help updating your app with deep links? Contact us!