Mobile apps deep linking is the new frontier in pushing products and services sales exponentially. It can be likened to clickable links in the internet web pages only that in this case, it links the users to specific pages within mobile apps. This technology interconnects mobile applications instantly allowing users direct access to services as opposed to just opening a mobile app and having to navigate to a specific page within it. Currently, mobile apps technology doesn’t allow for seamless navigation and interaction among multiple apps. Deep linking offers a solution by reducing the friction of navigating users to specific landing pages in the app.

Technical requirements for mobile app deep linking

Depending on the operating system (iOS or Android), custom URL schemes are created and registered with it. This is followed by the mapping out of routes, destinations and/or activities in the mobile app; it is similar to the mapping of URLs in web pages. For expert developers, it’s pretty easy to set up deep linking in either of the operating systems. The iOS operates on the basis of initiating an open URL of the AppDelegate whenever the user deep-links into the application. For the Android operating system, the developer’s documentation will specify how intent filters will be added to configured map routes to achieve the same goal.

Once the mobile app is designed for deep linking, its structure has to be presented publicly as this allows for third parties to drive traffic to the app; these include social media, paid advertising, and email platforms. This having been achieved, the mobile app developer is at liberty to send out the links which direct users of the app or mobile websites (for those who don’t have the app).

How app marketing is impacted by deep linking

Prior to deep linking, app marketers had limited options to work with:

  • Sending links which lead app users to standard landing pages. From here, they could either download of install the apps
  • Entice users who had already installed the apps to a link which only opened the app’s homepage.

By failing to link users to specific landing pages, marketers were unable to connect potential users to significant content that would have otherwise appeared their immediate needs; with deep linking, all this is possible. A mobile app marketer’s prime goal is to navigate clients via conversion channels while keeping them engaged with the aim of convincing them to convert. What better tool to achieve all these than deep linking? It brings users to specified conversion pages within the app and delivers instantly.

This experience feels designed for the customer and he/she won’t hesitate to review the service or product and act on it. It essentially takes away the hassle of having to look tirelessly for the service or product as the push notification directs them to what they are looking for. With deep linking, the conversion rate should be well over 50%; it definitely worth a shot!

App indexing

The growth of web and mobile apps is irrefutable. This growth has, however until recently, been as separate entities and meant for entirely different audiences. People commonly use mobile apps and the web in different situations to meet equally diverse ends. For instance, people had been accustomed to using the native web for making purchases as opposed to mobile apps, a trend that has radically shifted as a result of apps offering unparalleled convenience. Owing to this, Google has streamlined this by introducing its App Indexing SDK. It caters for app developers with a website alternative with the aim of driving up sales in both fronts.

Essentially, app indexing allows your app content to be displayed on Google search results. It is appropriately ranked alongside all other native web information and depending on its quality, has the potential of appearing on top searches in the relevant category. On iOS, this works well too. However, leaning more towards Android devices, there are even more functionality provided by Google like:

  • Deferred deep linking – the Google platform will display search results for mobile apps even when the user hasn’t installed these apps. Like a push notification, this gives the user an opportunity to download the app and get access to the information in it.
  • Expounding on the app – if the user has already installed the app, a simple Google search auto-completes other important information about the app such as the app’s icon as well as other information whose relevance with the search can be associated.

For iOS devices, Google searches only rank the searches in instances where the user has already downloaded and installed the application. Auto-complete results will still be viewable to the user who is already familiar with the app but purely for a better user experience. In contrast, this feature will not promote relevant potential apps that the user may be interested in. Apple is however on the fast track to implementing their take with regards to app indexing by introducing Spotlight Search in their iOS 9 version. This will enable iOS users to search app and web content in spotlight search. Once realized, deferred deep linking and provision of more app information will be possible.

Improving usability and increasing discoverability through mobile apps deep linking

Implementation of deep linking in both Android and iOS is a 3 step approach:

  • The support of HTTP deep-links should be achieved
  • The implementation of Google App Indexing (API) for the Android operating system and the implementation of Google’s App Indexing (SDK) for the iOS
  • The mapping of web pages, routes, and activities to the corresponding mobile app screens in the XML sitemaps

Testing is crucial in all app development as it is the only sure way to get raw feedback from your app before placing it on the market. For the iOS, the procedure would be to paste on your phone a universal link which is supported by your app to test whether it takes you to the desired page within the app. Google offers two tools for testing namely:

  • Fetch As Google in Search Console – enables you to view what Google would view after crawling your app
  • Android Debug Bridge – from a command line, this allows you to test the authenticity of the deep linking

With time, people will grow comfortable with your app and see it more than just a content consumption tool. After discovering the app, they will remain engaged in it as a transactional behavior. With more app-based content surfacing in both Google and Apple searches, there has never been a better time to ensure that your mobile app is rightly crawled and indexed to improve usability and increase discoverability.

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