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Deep Linking Explained: Connecting Users to Content

Deep Linking Explained_ Connecting Users to Content

With all the different types of links on the web these days, it’s easy to get confused about what’s what. Indeed, it is a complex subject, but in the end, all links help transport users seamlessly between sites and content. In this article, we will tackle deep linking.

Taking advantage of links means that your content is ranked well by search engines, and you are funneling users to the parts of your website where they will convert and become customers.

Think about links like a big family. You have the cool distant cousins – backlinks – the websites linking back to you from across the web. You definitely want all the popular, reputable cousins linking to you if you want to be popular yourself. Then there are your siblings – internal links – navigating users around your own website. Make sure to use them wisely to connect related content. And finally – deep links – small shortcuts that transport users right to the good stuff within mobile apps and sites. Pretty handy when you want to cut to the chase!

Deep links are what we are going to focus on in this article. Keep reading to find out what they are, why you need them and how to implement deep linking for your app or website, and tips for measuring effectiveness.

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What Is a Deep Link?

A deep link is a link that takes users to a specific destination in your mobile app.

Deep links allow users to immediately access desired content, features, or pages within an app. Instead of navigating from the home screen, deep links use custom protocols and paths to launch apps to predefined screens. They create seamless user experiences by reducing steps and loading times.

Deep links can originate from many sources like emails, notifications, social media posts, QR codes, and external websites.

What Is a Deep Link

By bypassing navigational hierarchies, deep links provide quick, direct access to in-app content and core app functionality. Implementing deep links involves setting up routes and handling intents on the app side plus creating properly formatted links from external sources.

What Is Deep Linking?

Deep linking is the practice of linking to specific pages within a mobile app.

More broadly, the term “deep linking” can refer to any link that takes users directly to a specific page on a website or content within a mobile app. For websites without mobile apps, deep links essentially serve the same purpose as internal links – guiding users from one webpage to a targeted, relevant page within the site. However, deep links provide more focused, direct pathways to crucial pages that users may otherwise overlook when navigating a site’s menu hierarchies.

While internal links aid general site navigation, deep links create shortcuts straight into the depths of a website to highlight key content and conversion opportunities. Whether within a mobile app or website, the core benefit of deep links is streamlining access to pages and information living below the surface.

Benefits of Deep Linking

Deep linking serves to remove friction and take users directly to the most relevant content. Some key benefits include:

  • Drive Users to Convert. By deep linking to a product page, you are creating an efficient and cohesive experience that encourages users to convert.
  • Improved User Experience. Deep linking allows you to bypass navigation hierarchies and go directly to whatever you were looking for This creates a journey that is both seamless and without much friction.
  • Increased Engagement. deep linking allows users to pick up where they left off and therefore increases engagement.
  • Analytics and Attribution. With deep linking, you can track how users arrive at different parts of your app. This allows you to measure the impact of marketing campaigns, social shares, and other user acquisition sources.

Types of Deep Linking

There are a few main types of deep links for mobile apps and websites:

Standard Deep Linking

This is the simplest type. It uses a custom URI scheme to link to content within your app. For example, you could use a link like: app://products/electronics to take users directly to the electronics page within your app. These links will open in your app if it has been installed, or it will be redirected to the App Store/Play Store, if not.

For instance, if a user likes a product on your Instagram sponsored post and already has your app installed, the deep link would take them directly to the product within the app. If not, they would need to download the app and start the journey from the beginning.

Standard Deep Linking

Deferred Deep Linking

Deferred deep linking is when a deep link takes the user directly to in-app content if they already have the app installed. However, if the app isn’t installed, the deep link will redirect them to the appropriate app store to download it first before viewing the content.

In other words, deferred deep linking ensures the user either ends up in the linked in-app content, or is guided to download the app in order to access that content.

Deferred Deep Linking

Contextual Deep Linking

Contextual deep linking directs users to specific in-app content while also passing valuable data into the app about the user and their context. This data might include details like user identity, location, referral source, or promotional codes.

Contextual deep links not only deliver users to the right in-app place, but also inform the experience by enabling personalized messaging, analytics tracking, and targeted offers. Ultimately, contextual deep links optimize and customize the user journey.

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Where Should Deep Linking Be Used?

Deep linking should be utilized at every stage of the mobile app user journey. From initial discovery and download to onboarding, re-engagement, purchases, and loyalty building – deep links provide value. The power of deep links to connect channels and streamline the path back into your app is immense.

Here are some key use cases to employ deep linking and enhance your mobile app experience:

  • App-to-app. Deep links allow users to smoothly transition between apps to specific content. For businesses with multiple apps or affiliates, deep links provide easy access to relevant in-app content for users.
  • Web-to-app. Like web pages, app content gets indexed by mobile search engines. Deep links optimize the search to app experience – detecting the user’s device and redirecting them straight to the promoted in-app content. This instantly engages users by taking them directly where you want them to go. Deep links bridge the gap between search and app seamlessly.
  • Desktop-to-app. Deep links allow you to engage desktop users with mobile app content. Prompt them to share contact info to receive a deep link to specific in-app information. This keeps users engaged across devices, driving more mobile app sessions – like Google Maps does by linking desktop searches to the app. Deep links bridge the desktop-to-mobile gap for a unified experience.
  • SMS-to-app. For apps with SMS subscribers, use deep links in messages to boost engagement. Promote features, offer discounts or share specific content. Deep linking provides a smooth SMS-to-app transition – especially with an API for business messaging. Mobilize SMS campaigns to drive app sessions.
  • Email-to-app. Email is a key channel for re-engaging app users. Deep links enable personalized email marketing content that takes users directly to relevant in-app information. This optimizes 1:1 engagement by connecting messaging with easy access to targeted content. Deep links amplify the power of email campaigns.
  • Social-to-app. Today, many apps engage users through social media, sharing in-app content, contests, and more to stay top-of-mind. Deep linking ensures your social media promotions lead users directly back to your app.

When Should You Link Deep?

Implementing deep links at key moments in the user journey can create smoother navigation, reduce friction, increase conversions, boost engagement, and help retain and educate users.

Here are four examples of when you should definitely deep link.

Abandoned Checkouts

If a user adds items to their cart but doesn’t complete the purchase, sending them a deep link to directly open your app’s checkout page can help them pick up where they left off. Think about a DM, SMS, or e-mail.

User Acquisition

Including deep links in your social media advertising campaigns or marketing emails allows new users to instantly access targeted content or features in your app.

In-App Contextual Education

Once a user completes an action in your app, you can deep link them to relevant tutorial or educational content to teach them about additional features. If a user uploads a photo, you can deep link them to a “Learn how to edit photos” tutorial. This contextual promotion educates users and increases engagement.


Apps from the same company can leverage deep links to cross-promote related content between them. For instance a travel app can deep link to the airline’s app to encourage booking flights, while the airline app can deep link back to recommend local sights. This builds an ecosystem that retains users.

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Wrap Up

Deep linking provides a seamless interconnectivity that benefits both users and app developers. Focus on use cases that align with your app’s core goals and where reducing friction can have an outsized impact. With the right deep link strategy, you can create stickier experiences and develop a thriving app ecosystem.