Deep linking do's and don'ts: How to get the most out of deep links

James Haslam

Posted Aug 3, 2017

Deep linking is a great way to improve all kinds of metrics, from retention rates to engagement. By providing users with a way to move from the web to app and (in some cases) back again with ease, you make a mobile journey much easier, and are more likely to find that users stick around longer. This seamless transitioning removes unnecessary clicks, reduces friction, and improves user experience in a beneficial way. Deep links also mean an increased likelihood of users moving along the funnel, right up until a significant conversion.

So how can mobile marketers get deep links right? And what things should apps avoid doing, and what do they need to be wary of? There are many ways to do deep links well, and many ways to abuse them - so in this article let’s look at the do’s and don’ts of deep linking, and find out how you can get the most out of deep links.


Retarget, retarget, retarget

Deep links are all about clever retargeting. With special parameters set up, you can direct users anywhere within the experience, such as to certain offers or reward pages. For ecommerce especially, the chance to send users directly to a preferred destination such as a category within a catalogue, or to a previously searched for item, could mean more direct sales made through the app.

Getting to the users who already have an app installed means more power when it comes to shaping their mobile experience. Deferred deep links allow you to send them where you want to go, without worry that they’ll end up in an app store instead.


Allow your links to break

All apps are updated every once in a while. Whether it’s a feature release or user experience improvement, or just fixing bugs, an app is in a constant state of change - and if you have deep links pointing to a page in one release that’s no longer there in the next, you have to be wary of what might happen.

Mobile deep links aren’t as easy to redirect as they are on the web. This is mainly because different users will update to different apps - meaning for some users a deep link works fine, whereas for others it could lead to an empty page.

Adjust can react to this (if you experience such an issue, getting in contact with us is the quickest way to take it on) - but other solutions may not be so reactive, potentially leading to a poor user experience.


Use deep linking for referral benefits

Whether your users are new, or if you’re targeting specific users to return, using deep links combined with incentives (and a convincing creative) can create a quick hit that brings users back to your app, or at least reminds them of your app experience that might one day lead to a return.

Incentives can be used to great effect for gaming apps, as well as ecommerce platforms. Thinking beyond the two, in verticals such as Publications and Entertainment deep links also work with clever subsidies, from offers to early access to new content.


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 been on, and a suggested place of where they’re going next. If clicked, the user can jump from app, to web, and back again.

If a user clicks on a universal link 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 carry on opening the destination even if the user didn’t intend to go there in the first place.

So, if a user has tapped a universal link to your app, and then opened your site in Safari by tapping the breadcrumb button, iOS will remember that choice. So, there’s a potential problem with a user’s journey if a user wants to go back to the app, instead of the web page where Safari will continue to open, even if the user wants to go back to the app, based on a past decision.

This means that the user is stuck on Safari. There is a setting to change this on the user end - tapping on the Smart App Banner on the 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 instead of being able to find the right option, they quit the experience, never to return. The issue makes users think the app is broken, rather than the deep links around it.

If this error occurs to you often, you may consider adding a Smart Banner to your mobile website which redirects 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.


Send recurring performance tracking emails

Common for educational, e-commerce, fitness and food & drink applications, performance tracking is a popular means to keep your users aware of both how they’re doing, and of your product and brand. Tracking progress tends to be popular with users, but also means that you can create content with relative ease beyond the setup process. With every new email you’re likely to have more people coming back, or 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 open rates, and would need to be optimized to increase conversions.

While this is a more advanced style of campaign - email sales themselves are still heavily utilized. Deep links are effective at bringing users directly to the 'clicked' item in the sale, leading to bigger conversions. Going deeper - emailing bespoke suggestions of new products, or specific lines (in ecommerce) may lead to sales in a couple of clicks.

If you’re not already implementing deep links in your email campaigns, it’s worth setting up a test to see what they’re capable of.


Stick with what you know

As brands and businesses move slowly away from solely pursuing user acquisition, and looking to remarketing and re-engagement as ways to keep users already attracted to their app - many are starting to see they’re a little behind the curve.

For many, running a nurture campaign via push notifications (which would only require default deep links) would be enough. Now, using deferred deep links, or universal links when working on iOS, is a standard. Major partners such as Facebook and Google only really require the use of standard deep links, but moving forward more sophisticated campaigns which we’ve talked about above may be needed in order to get users to return.


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 (and rewarding them for doing so), you 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.

And also!

Read up on deep linking with Adjust

We’ve written so much on deep linking already. With our recently updated guide to our glossary definition of deep linking, we have the basics covered. On the blog you can dive into deep links, and also get more information on universal links, and find out what deep links can do for you. We even have a great guest post on games that you can read up on too!

With all this knowledge you can become a deep linking expert - we recommend that you start with the guide, and work on from there.

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