How deep linking works: 5 key benefits and best practices for optimal results

James Haslam

Apr 18, 2019

Deep linking is a versatile method of improving key metrics such as retention rates and engagements. By enabling users to move from the web to app (and back again), deep links optimize the user journey, making the process as user-friendly as possible. Our deep linking documentation and breakdown of how to deep link into an app cover the topic’s critical questions, but if you’re in the early stages of implementation, here you’ll find how to maximize the benefits of using deep links with best practices to consider before setting up.

What are the benefits of using deep links?

There are so many reasons deep links are an essential part of a mobile marketer’s arsenal. These can be highlighted by the five key advantages of using deep links below, each contributing to one of the industry’s most powerful engagement tools.

1. Deep links streamline the user experience

Once you know how to deep link to an app from an ad, a single click connects a user to your chosen destination. There’s no signposting, no multiple guessed paths and no irritated customers who are forced to locate an item themselves. The same logic applies when you deep link from an email to your app.

2. Deep links create unbreakable user funneling

Reducing friction should never be overlooked — after all, this is arguably the most powerful benefit of deep linking. When clicking on a deep link, a user is sent directly to a specific in-app location. As well as improving UX, this also means you can optimize campaigns around a single page, stage or catalog without worrying about user navigation.

3. Deferred deep links bolster your UA campaigns

A key question covered in our deep-dive into deep linking was “what happens if a user doesn’t have my app?” With deferred deep links, your campaigns can acquire users and send them straight where you want them — even if they don’t have the relevant app installed on their device.

With deferred deep links, a user who clicks an ad but who doesn’t have your app installed can be directed to the App store instead. Then, because the data from their click is logged, that user is automatically sent to the intended destination after they’ve installed the app. This boosts your conversions and provides users with the content that drove that install as soon as they open the app.

4. Deep links improve your attribution

Not only can you use deep links to drive engagement, but you will also be able to see the source of those conversions. In one action you can reduce your user acquisition cost and ensure users are directed to the right in-app location (with an accurate way of knowing where the engagement can be attributed.)

5. Deep links convert better than any other link

Not only are deep links a smart way to improve the user experience, but their conversion rates far surpass other links. With deep links, you’re likely to see retention rates increase, as well as heightened conversions. For example, if you have an e-commerce app, deep links can help you convert the 51% of mobile users who prefer to finish their transaction in-app.

Best practices for deep linking

There are many ways to use deep links to great effect, but also many ways to misfire. So let’s breakdown everything you need to master the art of deep linking.

Retarget, retarget, retarget

As we’ve said, deep links are all about clever retargeting strategies. With special parameters set up, you can direct users anywhere within the experience, such as offering certain reward pages.****

For e-commerce, the chance to send users directly to a preferred destination such as a category within a catalog, or to an item for which they’d previously searched, can increase direct sales made through the app. Users view 4.2 times more products when browsing in-app (compared to mobile web), so the value of driving in-app engagements is greater than a single conversion.

Getting to the users who have your app installed means more power over their mobile experience. Deferred deep links allow you to send them to a specific location with the knowledge that they won’t end up in the app store instead.

Use deep linking for referral benefits

Whether you’re targeting new or existing users, using deep links combined with incentives (and a convincing creative) encourages users to open your app. Although the specifics vary, incentives can be used to great effect for all verticals. For example, Gaming apps can offer in-app currency while E-Commerce apps can reward customer loyalty with a discount on specific products.

Don’t allow your links to break

Whether it’s a feature release or just fixing bugs, an app is in a constant state of change - and if you have deep links pointing to a page that’s no longer there, you have to be wary of what might happen.

Mobile deep links aren’t as easy to redirect as they are on the web, mainly because users will update apps at different rates -- meaning a deep link will work for a portion of your users, whereas others are directed to an empty page. Needless to say, this is bad news for UX. To find out how Adjust can help, along with more information on fallbacks and troubleshooting, see our deep link documentation.

Don’t ignore the ‘right corner evil’

One clever feature specifically on iOS is the use of ‘breadcrumbs,’ which allow users to navigate quickly between a page or an app they’ve just visited and a suggested destination. If clicked, the user can jump from app to web, and back again.

If a user clicks on a Universal Link (note the difference between Universal Links and deep links) on the right side to navigate forward, iOS looks at the user’s most recent inputs in order to decide whether to open an app or a website. This user choice sticks, as iOS will continue to open this destination even if the user didn’t intend to go there in the first place.

If a user has clicked a Universal Link to your app and opened your site in Safari (via the breadcrumb button), iOS will remember that choice, creating a potential problem with a user’s journey if they want to return to the app. This means the user is stuck on Safari.

There is a setting to change this on the user end, set by tapping on the Smart App Banner on a web page, or pressing and holding until options open on the link, selecting ‘Open in App.’ However, there’s no way to reverse this on the developer side. Many users have come up against this problem, and it can cause them to abandon the experience entirely, never to return.

If this error occurs often, you may consider adding a Smart Banner to your mobile website to redirect users to the app. This can be effective in manually redirecting users back to a better mobile experience -- making use of deep links in the process.

Deep link from email to app with recurring performance tracking

Common for Educational, E-Commerce, Fitness and Food & Drink applications, performance tracking is a popular means to keep your users aware of their achievements. For example, performance tracking emails for a fitness app could tell a user when they’ve surpassed their workout goals. Deep links can then be set up to a page where users can update their performance goals, or view a log of their hard work. As well as providing a useful reminder for users, this is also valuable for brand awareness. Tracking progress tends to be popular with users, but another great advantage is that you can create content with relative ease beyond the setup process.

With every new email, you’re likely to have more users returning to your app, or at least remembering their own personal stake in your platform. Combining emails with a deep link strategy could help improve retention rates, as well as boost re-engagement.

The quality of your email can be judged from CTR, and then need to be optimized to increase conversions.

Encourage sharing of event completions

There are few tools as powerful for driving re-engagement as positive reinforcement from friends and peers. By making it easy for people to share content they enjoy -- and rewarding them for doing so -- you can embed your app into the user’s social circle. Carve a message from a successful event completion, complete with links to social media profiles, and with significant uptake, you may not only see your engagement increase, but also the number of new users trying your app for the first time.

Next steps: Further reading into how to deep link to an app

From our recently updated deep linking guide to the difference between deep links and universal links, we have all the basics covered. If you’re ready to learn more about the topic, we have a post specifically for deep-diving into the deep linking process – the next logical step after digesting our list of key benefits and best practices.

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