What is Deep Linking & how do you use it?

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Michael Dehoyos
What is Deep Linking & how do you use it?

Table of Content:

  1. What Is Deep Linking?
    • What is deep linking in android?
    • What is deep linking in iOS?
  2. why is deep linking important?
  3. How does deep linking work?
  4. How to implement deferred deep linking
  5. What are contextual links?
  6. the technical side of deep links
  7. To Conclude

With the massive elevation in the convenience of shopping through the internet, companies are looking to maximize their sales by boosting the efficiency of their online sales models. Scooping up as many potential customers as possible has led to the abundance of all sorts of tools and methods, from PPC advertising and social media marketing to ASO and SEO techniques.

One of the most fascinating techniques to come out of this search for improvements in online business experiences is Mobile Deep Linking. The influence that the advancement of smartphone technology has had on e-commerce and all other internet-based business elements cannot be understated. Several forecasts predict that in the next two years, it will account for over 50% of online purchases. 

Just as efforts were poured into internet-based business exploration when its potential was discovered, so too have efforts been directed towards mobile development and finding new ways to unlock its potential for the benefit of businesses.

What Is Deep Linking?

So, what is deep linking for mobile and where does it fit within the ever-growing labyrinth of an e-commerce strategy for mobile? Well, let’s take a look at all you need to know to begin to get to grips with mobile deep linking and the effects it can have on your business’ approach.

What is deep linking in android?

On the Android platform, deep linking entails a user triggering a specific action within your app by clicking a URL. However, the action may not be successful and your user may see an “Open with…” dialog, asking them which app to open the link with. To combat this, Android App Links exist, so that when a URL that is verified to belong to your app’s website is opened, your app will be guaranteed to open.

Android app links example
In the above image, the appropriate app is already installed, but the user is asked whether they’d like to open the link in the browser.

What is deep linking in iOS?

On iOS, a user can also be directed to matching in-app content from your app’s website or your app’s ad. Even if the user does not have your app installed, the App Store will appear, and, after the user installs your app, the relevant content will appear when the app is opened. These types of links, where the content appears successfully after app installation are called Deferred Deep Links (more on these below).

Mobile deep linking example
In the above example, the app in the ad isn’t installed, so upon interaction, the user is linked to the App Store to download the app, where the corresponding linked content appears immediately when the app is opened.

why is deep linking important?

Linking is at the backbone of most internet-oriented marketing strategies. You use it when you run even the most basic of internet ads, or social media releases. It makes sense, of course. Ultimately, your goal is to take your potential customers somewhere that they wouldn’t necessarily end up otherwise. In the case of most marketing efforts, this means linking them to your website and the places you want them to go to (sales pages, registration, etc).

There are times where you might be more interested in cultivating a relationship with potential customers rather than simply securing the single sale as quickly as possible. In this case, you might instead be linking your audience through to content pages, blog posts, free .pdf downloads, a longer promotional video, you name it. This might be so that you can try and get email addresses for email marketing, or to try and slip onto their radar rather than bursting in and pointing to the checkout button. Whatever your approach, links are at its foundations.

Having links across the internet is not only going to be a necessary and fundamental element to your marketing schemes, but it’s also an important part of running a successful website, from an SEO (Search Engine Optimization) viewpoint. Having links to your site on other people’s sites, also known as backlinks, boosts your SEO health in a way that can actually really improve your ranking on your search engine of choice. Backlink building helps spread the area of influence of your website, which plays very well with search engines looking to offer their users the best possible results that they can.

So, links are important. And, they seem pretty straightforward, right? Well, yes in some ways, but it’s easy to run into problems. Particularly when it comes to mobile apps. “The way that lining works when where you want your potential customers to head is an app, is a lot less straightforward than other sorts of links that you might want. Mobile deep linking is an attempt at a solution of the problem of linking to an app”, explains Usman Afzal, website admin at BritStudent and WriteMyx.

Mobile deep linking is a method of directing your users into a customizable level of your app structure. Thus, the word ‘deep’, since you can direct your user ‘deep’ within your app. To achieve this task you use a ‘uniform resource identifier’ (a URI), which isn’t so dissimilar from a URL.

The basic principle is that it all enables mobile application developers to drive towards a specific area of an application, rather than simply to the application in general. It’s the same principle as the previous linking that we’ve looked at. If you run an advert on Facebook for a pair of shoes and your users clicked the link and landed on your home page, they’d think the link was broken. They’d leave the site assuming that the offer had ended or the shoes had sold out. Mobile deep linking is the solution to the problem that mobile apps have presented for a long time. By facilitating the journey you, in turn, receive a greater level of control over your user’s flow and you make their lives easier by showing them precisely what it is that they have clicked on.

So, all you have to do is to use a weird version of a URL to get users to certain pages in your app. Simple right? Well, there’s a little bit more to it than that, so let’s look at the different forms in which mobile deep linking can occur and the possible applications that each of them can present to a user.

How does deep linking work?

Let’s start at the beginning.

Standard deep linking is the most straightforward method of deep linking. It’s known sometimes as universal linking and its basic nature is connected to the fact that it is only effective if the customer already has your app installed on their mobile device. 

For example, if you Google search on your mobile phone for an Instagram page, the link you next click will either directly open someone’s Instagram page through your app or it will give you an error and show you a fall-back page of some sort. 

This is the essence of basic deep linking and a big reason why for a lot of companies that operate apps, it just isn’t a good enough option for their purposes. It’s not that it isn’t clean in the cases when it works, it actually is very effective, particularly when complemented by well-designed applications. It’s more that there are so many cases in which it simply won’t work. And in those cases, the damage to your marketing efforts can be critical. If you’ve gotten involved with standard deep linking and it doesn’t seem to be delivering results, you at least now know where you might be falling short. But what might be the solution?

How to implement deferred deep linking 

Deferred deep linking is a workaround for the problems involved with basic deep linking. It feels clunkier in an annoying way, but it also has a lot of benefits and is consequently one of the most popular options for companies looking to drive their users towards pages within their applications.

In truth, applications for companies aren’t all that easy to market to users. Apps take up space on their phone and if they aren’t getting used very much, they are very easy to delete and forget about. This means that it’s as much of a victory for a company to persuade a user to click a link that takes them deep within the mobile application as it is for them to persuade a user to download the app at all. This is where deferred deep linking really comes into its own.

Deferred deep linking works in much the same way as universal linking or standard deep linking does. If you click the link and you have the app, then it’ll open right up on demand to exactly where you were intending to go; so far so standard. But, if you don’t have the app, instead of getting an error or being given some sort of fall-back image or page, you are redirected straight to your OS application store on your mobile, where you can download the app with a single click. 

This is a good solution for companies because it’s also an indirect way of marketing your app. When a user has your app on their device it’s a constant reminder of the existence of your company which is extremely good for marketing purposes.

Once the app is downloaded, which is what you hope the user will do, they will then be redirected to the page that they initially wanted to visit. This is a difficult maneuver that can sometimes get stuck, but if the user returns to the link it should always take them to a page deep within the app. So, it’s imperfect but surprisingly effective and it has a range of other benefits to it that make deferred deep linking a really valuable method for deep linking to within your app.

Deferred deep linking will get your users, provided they are willing to play ball on the download element, into the position you want them in. It’s not an entirely uncomplicated process but it has its benefits. However, you could still be missing a trick. And this is where contextual deep linking comes in. “Whenever a user chooses to interact with your site, one of your ads or your mobile app, that is a clear cut opportunity for you as a company to start building a profile on that individual. 

Contextual deep linking is a deep linking process with an emphasis on data gathering, with an eye to long-term customization of a user’s experience of your app”, says Eleanor Graham, tech blogger at Australia2Write and NextCoursework.

Contextual deep linking, sometimes known as onboarding, is a method of deep linking where you gather information about the people using your link as a way to inform how you should approach them with the maximum chance of making a sale or otherwise advancing your company. 

You can think about it a bit like Deferred Deep Linking Pro. Data that is collected includes user demographics, like location, age or sex and anything else readily available to you. More subtle pieces of information are also accessible, like how the user ended up downloading your application. 

Was it from the Apple Store or the Android Play Store? Did they come through a social media advert or did they find it in the store itself? These sorts of questions can really help you come to some early conclusions about the nature of your viewer and what it is that they will ultimately respond to best in terms of whatever marketing you might continue to use on them.

This onboarding process of customization extends to what it is that the viewer even experiences as your app. This idea is referred to as a deep view. In most cases with standard deep linking the app is set up how it is regardless of the user. But with a deep view, a mobile app can shift its skin to appear a certain way to certain people. 

This means that whatever landing page that people want to head to within your app, you can always find a way to present it in a manner that best suits them, given where they are coming from. This tailored experience is really valued by users and is a smart way to get them on-board (no pun intended) with your company, something which might ultimately lead to a sale.

 the technical side of deep links

Ok, so we’ve gone about as deep as you can go with deep linking. Now there’s something more of a practical understanding that’s needed to be able to make everything work how it should. 

Deep linking is made possible by what is commonly referred to as ‘URI schemes’, or ‘uniform resource identifier schemes’. The description of a URI as a fancy URL may seem quite rudimentary, but the truth is that it’s not too far off the mark as a way of looking at and understand the URI. In fact, not only is it an instruction that directs a user towards a specific page in an app, just like a URL is an instruction that directs a user towards a specific page on a website, they even look very similar to one another.

Whilst URI schemes are still in truth the business of actual developers, they’re not in any way out of the realms of comprehension for people who aren’t necessarily trained in whatever elements that are needed to create them. And for people who are trained as app developers, they’re extremely simple to set up. In fact, they’re so basic in some forms these days that app creation tools will sometimes generate them by default, giving developers the chance to redirect their users in whatever direction it is that they so choose.

To Conclude

So, from the most basic of basic mobile deep linking all the way to the very intriguing world of data-oriented contextual URI schemes, you should now have a pretty comprehensive overview of what mobile deep linking is and why it is important for you and your company. Making use of these clever, fine details is absolutely vital in digital business, to stay ahead of the trends and maximize your sales.

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