The Essential Guide to Deep Linking for Marketers

deep linking

This post will focus on mobile deep linking so you can discover how to make the most of deep links for your mobile app. Let’s get started.

While sending traffic to your website or app homepage is all well and good, that’s not going to be enough in the long run. It makes sense to link to the homepage because it’s the page that leads to everything else and sometimes, it’s the most important page to link to. However, you could end up confining visitors to a highly limited space if you keep sending them only to the homepage. Plus, it doesn’t do much for your backlink portfolio, nor your SEO.

That’s where deep links or deep linking enters the picture. This involves linking to pages beyond the homepage of your website or app and sending visitors to the exact page you want them to visit. For example, you could send them to a product page on your app to buy something or a blog post on your website to consume the content.

Deep linking not only simplifies the customer journey, but it also shows search engines that there are pages beyond your homepage and they’re highly relevant for your visitors. On the web, deep links are already commonplace and popularly practiced. In fact, we call them “direct links” rather than deep links. In comparison, deep linking on mobile apps is a little undervalued and underused.

Types of mobile deep linking

First, let’s find out the different types of mobile deep linking so you can understand the potential.

Standard deep linking

This is the process of forwarding existing users to a specific part of the app. The problem with standard deep linking is that if someone who doesn’t already have the app clicks on the link, it will direct them to the mobile web browser version of the page rather than opening up the app.
Here’s what happens if I search for the Rebrandly Instagram page on mobile without the Instagram app installed.

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If I click on the link, it takes me straight to the mobile web version of the page.

deep linking

In some cases, however, the link might even take non-app-users to a fallback page or display an error message. So you can imagine how frustrating and annoying it must be for them.
When app users click on the link, however, they’ll be able to instantly view the relevant page using the app. Some websites also ask users to choose whether they want to open the link using the app or the browser.

deep linking

Deferred deep linking

This type of deep linking helps users reach the right page right after they install the app. In other words, it allows you to defer or delay the process until after the app has finished installing.

So rather than leaving new app users to find the destination page all over again, it takes them straight to it as soon as they complete the installation.

For instance, if someone decides to install the app while looking at a certain product, they should be able to get right back to the product page after installation instead of having to find it all over again. This significantly enhances the customer experience and also increases the likelihood of converting them.

Contextual deep linking

This type of mobile deep linking allows you to deliver a highly personalised experience tailored according to the needs, preferences, and behaviour of the user. They’re even better than deferred deep links in that they not only pass user data to the app during installation, but also collect user information themselves. This could be anything from their referral source to their choice of promo code, so they’re perfect for user onboarding.

Keep in mind that contextual deep links can’t exist on their own; they’re just standard or deferred deep links with additional parameters.

How to use mobile deep links: 5 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

Your email service provider may give you the option to track clicks and measure the performance of your email marketing campaigns. But they don’t always come with the capability to intelligently route recipients to the app or the app store.

So if someone opens the email link using the app, they might get redirected to the app homepage that has no relevance to the email subject. Similarly, someone who clicks on the email link to install the app could also land on the app homepage after installation. This doesn’t help the app user experience at all since users will have to search for the relevant page all over again.

Deep links allow you to enhance the user experience by taking email recipients directly to the relevant page on your mobile app. For instance, Netflix sends email updates about upcoming content on the platform. And it gives you the option to play the trailer or set a reminder.

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Clicking on any of these buttons will open up the app and play the trailer. And if you click on “Remind Me,” it will also automatically turn on the reminder option on the show page.

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Alternatively, you can also use the same approach for things like emails that promote performance tracking, flight bookings, and regular ecommerce as well.

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. This 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. So 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. This involves displaying a banner on your mobile webpage, inviting visitors to get the app. And 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.

deep linking

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

You can also use deep linking to provide a customised onboarding experience for new app users based on the user data you’ve collected. So you could customise the experience based on the user’s behavioural information such as the referral source from where they downloaded your app.

For instance, some users might have installed your app after seeing a promo code on social media. In this case, you’d want to auto-apply the promo code right after the installation finishes so they don’t have to find it all over again.

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 personalised 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 install 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.

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15: QR codes

Deep links also allow you to seamlessly integrate your digital marketing efforts with offline marketing through 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. And each code could lead people to a relevant “shop the look” page on your mobile app when they scan it.

Bottom line

Understanding the use cases of deep links is one thing; creating them is another. Rebrandly simplifies it for you with an intuitive deep linking feature that’s easy to use and navigate. You can also check out our guide on how to create mobile deep links on Rebrandly to learn more.

Further reading: 

This article is about:

  • How to use deep linking
  • Deep links
  • Deep linking
Angelo Rosati
Growth Marketing Manager at Rebrandly. +10 years in digital marketing, MBA, Volunteer, Team Leader.