What is Deep Linking? – Understanding How Mobile Deep Links Work

As mobile apps reign supreme, mastering the art of deep linking has become indispensable. 

By enabling marketers to send users directly to specific pages within their mobile applications, deep linking connects users to a seamless and personalized mobile experience. As such, it offers a multitude of benefits that will subsequently impact ROI.

Let’s dive into the intricacies of deep linking, covering crucial topics such as app links, universal links, and mobile app deep linking solutions.

What is Mobile Deep Linking?

Mobile app deep linking is a technology that enables apps to funnel users directly to a predetermined location or page inside the app, bypassing the need to start at the app’s homepage. 

This capability provides a seamless and efficient navigation experience for users, as they can be directed straight to relevant content or features. By circumventing the general homepage, deep linking streamlines user pathways, potentially increasing user engagement and optimizing the overall app experience.

For example, when you search for a product on Google and click on the result from Amazon, the Amazon app will take you directly to the listing for that specific product. This means that you won’t have to start from the Amazon homepage and search for it all over again.

What are the Different Types of Mobile Deep Linking?

Let’s explore the different types of mobile deep linking so you can better understand the potential. The following are some of the most popular types of deep links used in mobile marketing:

Standard Deep Linking

Standard deep linking is the most basic form of mobile deep linking. It allows you to link directly to a specific location within a mobile app, bypassing the app’s home screen. When a user clicks on a standard deep link, it opens the app and takes them to the linked content or feature.

For example, if you have an e-commerce app and you share a deep link to a product page, clicking on the link will open the app and take the user directly to that product’s details. Standard deep linking is essential for providing a seamless user experience, especially when promoting specific products, content, or actions within an app.

Deferred Deep Linking

Deferred deep linking takes the concept of standard deep linking a step further by allowing users to access specific content or features even if they haven’t installed the app yet. It is achieved by redirecting users to the appropriate app store to download the app and then seamlessly taking them to the linked content upon installation.

Deferred deep linking is particularly useful for marketing campaigns and referral programs. When a user clicks on this type of link, they are not only directed to the app store but also provided with context about the link. It encourages them to download the app and experience the content that initially caught their interest.

Contextual Deep Linking

Contextual deep linking goes beyond simply opening a specific page or feature within an app. It takes into account the user’s context, allowing you to personalize their experience further. Contextual deep links can carry information about the user’s behavior, preferences, or location, enabling you to tailor the in-app experience accordingly.

For instance, if a user receives a contextual deep link for a restaurant app, it can not only take them to the restaurant’s menu page but also display menu items that align with their dietary preferences or offer them promotions based on their location.

Keep in mind that contextual deep links can’t exist on their own; they’re just standard or deferred deep links with additional parameters. You can use the Rebrandly platform to create mobile deep link rules and deliver highly personalized experiences for your app users.

Mobile Deep Linking Use Cases

Now that you understand the main types of mobile deep links, let’s find out how you can use them for your business. Check out these five use cases of mobile deep linking and how they can benefit you:

1. Email marketing

Email platforms track campaign performance but may not direct users effectively within apps. A user clicking an email link might end up on an app’s unrelated homepage.

With deep links, you can direct email recipients directly to pertinent app pages.

Consider Netflix, which emails updates on upcoming shows. Clicking options like “Play Trailer” or “Remind Me” in the email will direct users precisely within the app, enhancing the experience.

This approach can also be applied to other scenarios such as e-commerce promotions or flight bookings.

2. Customer retargeting

Deep linking also makes sense when retargeting existing customers and/or app users with search engine ads, display ads, and social media ads. Retargeting ads help you recapture prospects that have shown an interest in your products or content. And combining them with deep links will enhance their experience of reengaging with your brand.

For example, you could showcase ads reminding them about the items they’ve left in their cart. And if they decide to click on the ad, it sends them directly to their shopping cart. It shortens the customer journey and improves their chances of conversion.

In the case of non-app-users, you can also use deferred deep links in combination with your retargeting ads. Clicking on the ad will take them to the app installation page, which then takes them to the relevant landing page within the app after installation.

3. Web-to-app banners

One of the most popular uses of deep linking is when promoting your mobile app through your mobile site. It involves displaying a banner on your mobile web page, inviting visitors to get the app. After they install the app, users will land on the exact same page they were on, so there’s no disruption in the conversion flow or browsing experience.

Quora does a great job of this. First, it displays a banner to “open in app” for mobile visitors.

When someone clicks on the link, it takes them to the App Store or Play Store to install the Quora app. Once the app finishes installing and the user opens it, they quickly get redirected to the same page they were viewing on the mobile browser.

4. Custom onboarding

Deep linking allows tailored onboarding experiences based on user data. If a user installs an app after seeing a promo code on social media, deep linking can automatically apply that code post-installation, eliminating manual searches.

Or you might notice that new app users coming from social media typically want to find out how your service works. You could greet them with an onboarding screen that takes them through the different steps of how your service functions.

In the case of new app users coming from personalized invitations, you could even greet them with pre-populated forms for a seamless signup experience. For 8tracks, deep linking helped them set up a custom onboarding process that allowed mobile site visitors to seamlessly continue listening to the same playlist when they installed the app.

This resulted in users spending 197% more time on the app compared to users who installed the app and had to search for the playlist all over again. They were also 89% more likely to come back the next day.

5. QR codes

Deep links also allow you to seamlessly integrate your digital marketing efforts with offline marketing using an online QR code generator to create QR codes. Many marketing campaigns make use of QR codes on packaging, posters, flyers, gift cards, and more. Combine this with deep linking so that you can instantly direct users to the relevant campaign page within your app.

For instance, you could add QR codes to posters that display outfits from your latest collection. Each code could lead people to a relevant “Shop the Look” page on your mobile app when they scan it.

Delivering Impact with Mobile Deep Linking

Once you have a clear understanding of how mobile deep linking works, you can get an idea of how it can add value to your campaigns and marketing efforts. Make the most of the different types of deep linking highlighted above to deliver a bigger impact. Check out how you can use Rebrandly to create contextual deep links and personalize the experience for your app users.

Deep Linking FAQs

Here are some frequently asked questions to help you better understand the concept of Mobile deep linking:

What is a deep link in mobile?

A deep link in mobile is a URL that directs users to specific content or a particular location within a mobile app rather than just launching the app’s homepage. A deep linking solution enables developers to add deep links to their apps, improving user experience by allowing seamless navigation to specific app pages or features. Some deep links are universal. A universal link works across both iOS and Android, providing a consistent user experience across different mobile platforms.

What are Android deep links?

Deep links in Android are URLs that are configured to open specific content or pages within a mobile app rather than simply launching the app’s home screen. They enable users to directly access and interact with app features, improving user experience and app engagement.

Are deep links safe?

The safety of deep links depends on how they are implemented and used. If used maliciously, they could potentially pose security risks, such as phishing attacks or directing users to harmful content. It’s crucial for app developers and users to be cautious and verify the source of deep links to ensure their safety.

What is the difference between a deep link and an app link?

Deep links are URLs that can open specific content or pages within a mobile app, enhancing user experience. In contrast, app links (universal links on iOS) are a specific type of deep link that not only opens app content but also has a web fallback, allowing the same link to function on the web and within the app, ensuring a consistent experience across platforms.

What is an API deep link?

An API deep link is a URL or link that uses an application programming interface (API) to access and interact with specific features or data within a mobile app. It enables external services or applications to trigger actions or retrieve information from the app, enhancing integration and functionality across different software systems.

How do deep links work?

Deep links work by associating specific URLs with specific content or actions within a mobile app. When a user clicks on a deep link, it triggers the app to open directly to the linked content, bypassing the app’s homepage. Developers configure their apps to recognize these deep links, mapping them to the relevant in-app locations or functions, ensuring a smoother and more targeted user experience. It is typically done using a custom URL scheme or through platform-specific solutions like iOS universal links.

How to ensure a seamless transition between a web page and an app with deep linking?

When users have an app installed, mobile app developers can utilize deep linking to redirect them straight to a specific section or feature within the app from a web page, bypassing the need to navigate from the app’s homepage. If the app isn’t installed, the deep link can guide the user to download the app or take them to an equivalent web page with the relevant content. Properly implementing this ensures a consistent and user-friendly experience, bridging the gap between websites and mobile applications.



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