ThinkApps is partnering with Branch Metrics on an in-depth series on deep linking. This first post provides a beginner’s guide to mobile deep links.

Deep links are a hot topic in the mobile industry today. But it turns out most of us use deep links every day without realizing it.

A deep link is a hyperlink that takes you directly to a specific website (such as this article) rather than a generic homepage.

Deep linking is completely ingrained in how we use the web. But deep linking for mobile apps is much more complex.

Mobile Deep Linking Basics

Mobile Deep Linking Basics

Standard Deep Links

Unlike the web, apps lack a standardized document structure.

To bring someone clicking a link to the content they desire, you would need to tell the phone which app to download and then which page in the app to open. This is problematic when a user clicks a link expecting a specific piece of content and then arrives in the app and doesn’t see it.

No matter how cool that content is, most users are not going to spend the time to find it. This leads to poor retention of users and low download and sign-up rates.

Deferred Deep Links

Companies like Branch have solved this problem. Developers only need to add a few lines of code and then their apps will be ready to connect users with specific content regardless of whether they have the app, what device they are using, or any other edge case.

Connecting users to the content they want becomes possible with deferred deep links. When a user clicks a link, their device is fingerprinted and remembered.

Once the user completes the install, their device is fingerprinted again. When the user originates from a deferred deep link, there will be a positive match, and they can be served with relevant content.

Contextual Deep Links

This brings us to the next type of deep linking: contextual deep links. These links use the fingerprinting process of deferred deep links to pass data through the install process.

Once you are passing data through install, the possibilities are endless. Current uses include deep linked ads, content sharing, Deepviews, rewarded referrals, smart banners, text-me-the-app pages, and personal onboarding.

The awesome thing about contextual deep links is that they give you the power to implement whatever creative features you can think of.

Mobile Deep Linking Platforms

Mobile Deep Linking Platforms

Services like Branch are highly useful because they work across a variety of platforms and are updated constantly to meet changes in the deep linking industry.

Apple Universal Links

Apple recently announced the release of Universal Links, which react to a user clicking a link on mobile web.

First, developers must connect the domain of their mobile website with their app. Then, when a user clicks a link, Safari will check if users have the app installed.

If the user has the app, the user will be directed straight to this relevant content in the app. Otherwise, the user will see the content in mobile web.

Google App Links

Google’s App Links are quite similar to Apple’s Universal Links, only built for the Android operating system.

Previously, when a user clicked a link they would see a popup window asking them whether they wanted the link to be opened in the web browser or another application. With the release of App Links, users will now be directly routed to in-app content (if they have the app installed) or taken to the mobile web page (if they do not have the app yet).

Facebook App Links

Another platform in the deep linking space is Facebook, which has also created a product called App LinksThese links are designed to ease the transition from shares on Facebook to either native apps or webview fallbacks.

Rather than connecting websites and apps on Facebook, App Links add metadata to your website. When a link is clicked, Facebook looks for the metadata and either reroutes the user to the app if it is present or to the mobile fallback if it is not.

Twitter App Cards

By adding a few tags accessible by Twitter to your website, deep linking is available on Twitter, as well.

App Cards allow you to promote an app with a tweet. The card shows the app’s name, icon, price, description, and rating, along with a tweet. When the accompanied link is clicked, the user is either taken to the appropriate app store or to specific content within the app.

Integrating Across All Platforms

The biggest companies in technology are recognizing the need for deep linking in the app ecosystem. Unfortunately, they are all unleashing their own products to solve the problem.

By integrating a service like Branch, your app will be capable of deep linking across all of these platforms without any extra work on your part to add in the metadata, tags, or whatever Apple, Google, Facebook, and Twitter require.

You also don’t need to worry about updating your deep linking capabilities because Branch dynamically adjusts and builds upon changes in the ecosystem.

Why Mobile Deep Linking Works

The best teams in mobile are using deep linking — and for good reason.

Case studies reveal that deep linking leads to more users downloading, installing, signing up for, and continuing to use apps.

Case Study: Gogobot

Mobile Deep Linking - Gogobot

Gogobot uses deep links to welcome users who were shared the app by a friend. When they arrive at the app, they are immediately greeted by a picture of the person who referred them and a tagline for the content that was shared with them.

Because they are reminded that they are going to see the list they are looking for right after signing up, these new users continue through the sign-up process. 

As a result, Gogobot has seen a 78% increase in converting new users to sign up with this personalized onboarding approach.

Case Study: Hotel Tonight

Mobile Deep Linking - Hotel Tonight

Hotel Tonight uses deep links with their ads, immediately directing those who click their ads to relevant hotels for their location.

They have seen a 94% increase in bookings, 80% increase in app installs, and 99% increase in revenue since incorporating deep links.

Concluding Thoughts

Mobile deep links are becoming standard practice in the app ecosystem because they are an effective method to scale an app.

With all of the various platforms to deep link on, services like Branch can be very helpful because they manage all edge cases and update when new platforms and changes in the ecosystem occur.

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