Deep Linking Mobile Apps; The Getting Started Guide

Google is now able to index the content found within mobile applications and deliver the right "experience" when a user conducts a relevant or related search.

It is truly an incredible, game-changing capability as it can speed up consumers access to information and provide brands a better opportunity to drive user engagement (which is particularly important considering that most apps are only opened and used a few times before being deleted).

If marketers and developers can shorten the path to information access, they're able to realize a far greater return on their investment and do so much faster. This is why there is so much interest currently in mobile deep linking.

A deep link is essentially a URI (uniform resource indicator) that directs a user to a specific location within a mobile app. Say for instance that you have an application installed on your mobile devices that shows English Premier League football/soccer scores. With deep linking set up, users of the app can be immediately directed to a page within the app that features that particular content when searching (on Google, for example).

In a time when a majority of search traffic is initiated from mobile devices, deep linking is an effective way to generate greater rates of interaction and it's not terribly difficult to set up. To use a deep link URL from a mobile site to a mobile app, there are some things developers will need to know of course.

As developers will quickly discover, there is a great deal of configuration that is required but fortunately there is no shortage of information available to help developers do so correctly.

One of those first key developer steps, and arguably on of the most important, is to designate a custom URL scheme (within both iOS and Android) which makes it possible to engage in deep linking at all.

Developers will also need to include JavaScript in the head of HTML pages that will open the deep link URL on page load and instruct the device/browser on what to do. Essentially what happens is if the user already has the app installed on their device, then the browser recognizes the URL scheme for the app and opens the app to the specified screen; if not, the user can be directed either to the app store or to can send them to the Web page itself.

Deep linking to mobile apps is a great way to drive interaction rates among existing users and in some cases attract new users. While there is some setup required, the benefits of doing so are significant.