In 2012, when Google+ added deep linking for iOS and Android apps was a crucial moment for the way users get inside an app. Using Google+ mobile SDKs you could add a deep – link ID for your app and by integrating Share dialog you were able to send your users to the wanted app page. Over the time deep links became a necessity for the growth of mobile apps. But let’s discover all the insights of this tool and in what manner it changed during these years.
Everybody knows what is deep linking over the web, when you use a URL address for moving from one page to another. Well, for mobile apps deep linking is a tool that allows users to access directly the content they are looking for inside an app.
Without deep linking, when a user clicks on a link which points to a special page of an app, he is sent to the main page and he needs to navigate from there to the desired content. This case is very risky since he can abandon the app on the path to the wanted screen. To remove this probability, deep links with one of its forms represent a shortcut, connecting users with the specific page.
There are three variations of the same concept and we will discuss the situations when you can use each one.
This is the simplest form of deep linking and it is useful for customers who already installed the app. By using basic deep links on the web, e-mails or social media networks users are sent to the exact page described in the link without passing through the home screen. In case they didn’t download the app before, they will land on app store page to install it. Unfortunately, after installing it, the app will show them the main page, not the page they were looking for. This type of deep links works only for those who already had the app on their device before clicking the link.
Deferred deep links solve the problem discussed above. If the person who presses the link doesn’t have the app installed, he is directed to the app store page for downloading it. When he opens the app he sees the exact page he was looking for because of a fingerprint assigned when he tapped on the link.
This term was formulated for the first time by Branch and represents a special link similar to the above types with the difference they not only add a fingerprint but they also collect a lot of information from users, like who they are, what are their preferences and the source that caused the installation of the app. This way developers and marketers can create suitable strategies according to that data.
There are different steps to be made in order to implement deep linking, according to the platform preferred.
Apple added Universal Links with the release of iOS 9. On App Search Programming Guide you can find all the details you need. Apple starts by listing the attributes that define Universal Links, like unique, secure, flexible, simple and private. After that, you have a step by step guide to implement deep linking on iOS.
There is also a useful tutorial which explains how to implement Android Links for your app on Handeling App Links. There are a few steps followed by examples.
Branch explains what URL Schemes are, along with their main advantage and disadvantage.
On Android official page you can see how you can create URI Schemes by using Intents.
Now is time to see some cases when you can’t do anything without the help of deep links.
When somebody is looking on Google something related to your app, if you indexed it, then it will be displayed on top of the results. With deep links, users will get from that list directly to your app. We have an example from Daily Mail Online.
Another situation is pitching users through email. If you discover their preferences and you send them offers they can’t refuse, than deep linking is the tool you need for connecting them with your promotion, just like the following retail app.
Social networks represent a great way to tell people about your app. Just look how a deep link sends users from a Twitter account to the app store page of Path, a social app which allows people to share moments of their life.
If you understood the main picture of what deep linking means, let’s cover the main advantages provided by this tool. We will describe the long route between an engaging preview of a product and the product’s page in an app without deep linking. So, you have a problem. Luckily you receive an email which shows you a solution for your issue inside an app. It looks promising. In the same time you discover you don’t have the app installed. You open the app store. You search for that app. Finally you find the app and click Install. You open the app and you see the main page. You look for a menu, you select a category similar to what you want, but nothing offers you the answer to your problem. You go back to the main page, and you try again. Still zero results. You are bored, lost and you wasted a lot of time. Not to mention how annoyed you are on that awful app. Sure, you will go and tell all your friends to stay away from it. Now, let’s see the same situation with deep linking. You click on the link and you see the app on the market. After downloading it, the app opens to the solution for your problem. Now, observe the conclusions.
With just a few steps you offer your users what they want; keeping them connected with everything your app can do for them is a handy solution for gaining their interest. Not to mention, how simple it is when users already have the app installed. You remember them the utility of your app and they show you their appreciation.
While deep linking enables people sharing the app, or portions of its content, it makes easy for promoting your app. This is available not only with advertising methods but, also by convincing users to spread the word about your app. This will bring other user, which will bring others and so on.
Bonding web domain with apps makes users returning to your app for valuable content or interesting products. Without implementing deep linking, it is a huge probability that users who installed your app will keep it on their devices and not using it. Eventually they will forget the reasons why they downloaded it in the first place. They will end up uninstalling it if you don’t remember them how useful it can be.
In less than a minute, users arrive from email or web to the content they were looking for. They can spend the rest of the time praising the app to all the people they know. Ultimately, deep linking represents the true value of users’ time.
Since the markets are overcrowded, it’s worth paying attention to all possible methods that bring your app closer to its users, especially such a powerful tool like deep linking. It meets a vast range of advantages and its implementation requires just a few steps. Even though the concept is not new, over time its utility evolved, converting it in a must have for all the strategies you are creating for your app.