The online universe has undergone a drastic change since the emergence of the first smartphones roughly a decade ago. It’s safe to say that the mobile revolution isn’t just a trend, it’s the new reality. Marketers have had to adapt, and along with them, intelligent linking companies have created new tools to embrace the massive shift to mobile. A few are now offering a feature that we call Mobile Deep Linking.
What is Mobile Deep Linking?
The idea of a link typically conjures up images of underlined blue text, like this, that you click on to be directed to a specific destination on the web. In this format, a link is a pretty simple concept, but links now take many different shapes across the web and within our devices. Instead of clicking on links with a mouse and cursor, we’re increasingly tapping them on touch screens with our fingers.
The mobile revolution has also taken an enormous amount of our online experience away from web browsers and shifted it to apps. Recognizing this shift, mobile deep linking has been developed to allow marketers to send people directly to destinations within specific apps.
Instead of sending you to a website, clicking (or tapping) on a mobile deep link can do things like bring you directly to a book within the Amazon app on your iPhone, directly to your favorite song in the Spotify app on an Android, or to an article within the New York Times app on a Kindle.
Why is Mobile Deep Linking Important?
As we become more dependent on our mobile devices, our online experience continues to shift toward apps because, well, the experience is better. Shopping on Amazon from a mobile device is a much more enjoyable experience within the Amazon app than on a phone’s web browser. Amazon has built the app to optimize the mobile experience. Browsing is easier, navigating is faster, and purchasing is seamless.
If you’re linking people to destinations that exist within apps created for an optimal user experience, why not send them directly to the most optimized destination? Watching videos on a mobile device is more streamlined in the YouTube app, and interacting on Twitter is easiest within Twitter’s mobile app.
Not only can mobile deep linking improve the user experience, but it can also increase the likelihood of a conversion or purchase. For example, sending someone directly to the Amazon shopping app where they are already logged into their account streamlines the experience, and makes a purchase a thumb tap away. It goes without question that removing any barriers to purchase is a really good thing when you’re trying to sell something.
How Does it Work?
While it varies slightly between different intelligent linking services, mobile deep links generally function in the same manner. Without diving too deep into the technical details, here is the basic process:
When the link is built, a destination is specified within an app where the user will be sent if that app is installed on the user’s device. A default destination is also specified where the user will be sent if they’re not on a mobile device, or don’t have the specific app installed.
When the link is clicked, the service detects what device the person is using and whether or not that app is installed. The user is then sent to either the default destination or directly to the desired destination within the app. If someone doesn’t have the app installed or is using a computer, they’ll never know the difference.
What Services Provide Mobile Deep Links?
While mobile deep linking is probably going to become standard practice as our online experience continues it’s shift to mobile, there are currently only a handful of companies offering this feature. Mobile deep linking is offered by Bitly, Deeplink, Tapstream, and SmartURL.