Deep Linking in Mobile Apps

Deep Linking

Imagine a situation where you have an event booking app. There are five steps to be followed to enter your details and location along with the name of event and number of tickets,  before you can proceed to make a payment.  However,  on the browser you simply click on a button from a website where you are logged in, and it opens the payment page of your app directly, with all details filled-in. Does that sound like magic!

Well,  though it may sound fascinating, there is no magic behind this.  It is just Deep linking that is doing its job.  If you are unaware of what deep linking is,  then let’s help you befriend the technology that brings relevance to your actions in mobile apps.


What is deep linking? 

Deep linking is a methodology that helps to launch a mobile application through a link. When a user clicks on a unique link,  he is taken to a definite action on a mobile app. This connects the user to relevant content and helps to make the online tasks productive and effective.

We also have Deferred Deep Linking,  which aids the users to deep link to content even if the app is not installed. Deep linking works with URI, i.e. Uniform Resource Indicator.


What is Uniform Resource Indicator? 

Just like we have underlying technology of HTTP and URL for web browsers, we have URI for mobile apps.  URL and HTTP help to implement deep linking by default. However,  for mobile devices, we need the apps to be configured for handling uniform resource indicator properly. URL is an address for a website.  You can easily guess what URI is.  It is an address for mobile apps on the device.


How does URI look like? 

URIs can open mobile apps and have a specific format. A few examples of URI are as follows.

  • twitter:// – this opens Twitter’s mobile app on iOS devices
  • YouTube:// – this URI opens YouTube’s mobile app on iOS devices.

Don’t presume that all URIs look the same.  The format of the URI changes respective to operating system.  While Android uses intents,  BlackBerry 10 uses BB10 framework. Moreover, iOS uses the OpenURL application method and Firefox goes for Web Activities.  Talk of Windows 8 platform, and you will find UriMapper class working for deep linking. This is how URI differs from one mobile operating system to another.

To make matters simpler,  let’s show you a real world example.

  • eBay://launch?itm=360703170135: This URI will launch the eBay app inside an iOS device, whereas,
  • eBay://item/view?id=360703170135: this will launch eBay app inside Android devices.

Easy marketing

Companies find it easier to market their products as the apps bring the customer right to the relevant location within an app using a dedicated link. The way deep linking made web more accessible, the same way deep linking helps to make mobile apps far more productive and effective.

Through deep linking, companies can make their marketing strategies seamless and can help in saving time of customers. More work in less time can raise the repute of the company in the eyes of the customers.


Itch for developers

URI works differently as compared to URL. And since URI is different for each mobile operating system, it is an overhead for developers as they have to follow different formats. The inconsistency of format leads to inclusion of different links for accessing the same app on different platforms. This leads to confusion in development process.


Deep linking increases productivity

Without deep linking, there are two ways for a user to handle this.

  • First, a user can tap on a button that redirects him to Facebook or Twitter on a browser, where he can perform the desired operation. This may require authentication if the user is not logged in.
  • Second, the user can exit the company’s app and open Facebook or Twitter app to search for your company’s page.

These tasks include overheads and hence, users will love to see this heavy lifting being done by the app itself. This is where deep linking helps.


Attracting new users

Deep linking can help you attract new users. No user today wants to exit the browser and move to app store, just to find your app in the app store and explore it further. Instead of asking them to do their own research, you can straightaway direct them to a specific location in your app. The control which you get over your marketing and on-boarding process is incredible. A company can send emails or SMS to prospective customers, with a deep link. The deep link can help the people arrive at your app’s location with just a single click.


User tracking

Deep linking can also shed light on how users are downloading and installing your app. You will get to know if SMS, emails or social media posts or blogs are leading people to your apps. This will help you figure out the most effective channel to promote your apps and this will be a huge incentive for your marketing team too.


Deferred deep linking

What if your customer does not have the concerned app installed? The operating system will try to open the deep link URL on a browser and the page opened will not display anything except an alert apologizing for failing to load the page. It definitely does not sound or look good.

Deferred deep linking can help here. If the app is not installed in the device of the user, the URL can redirect the user to the App store for installation of the app. This way, a company can promote its apps and also use deep linking later for those people who have downloaded the app after being redirected by deferred deep link.


Deep linking is a vital part of marketing and on-boarding strategy these days. It helps in user engagement and also tracking the behavior and response of the users and customers. Without deep linking in mobile apps, apps will soon become unknown in the app market and will fade out.

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