If you understand the philosophy of “the shortest distance between two points being a straight line” then you are well on your way to understanding the power of deep linking, or if we may be so bold, “the shortest distance from user to conversion.”

What are deep links? Deep links are essential tools for businesses to optimize user engagement and conversion rates. They allow users to access specific content within an app or website quickly and easily, improving their overall experience and delivering the exact page they want to see without requiring extra navigation.

Below, we’ve laid out the benefits of deep linking, best practices for creating and optimizing deep links, and advice on tracking the performance of deep links. With the correct approach, you can harness the potential of deep linking to boost user engagement, drive conversions, and make your app much more discoverable in the process.

What is Deep Linking?

Deep linking is the practice of using unique URLs (or URIs) to quickly send users from a webpage, email, or app directly to a specific app page. By sending users directly to the content they are looking for rather than your app homepage, deep linking creates a frictionless user experience.

But deep links are more than just a crowd-pleasing URL portal gun — they also allow developers the ability to create seamless user journeys and allow marketers to track the success of their marketing campaigns.

Benefits of Deep Linking for User Engagement and Conversion Rate

When users click on a link, they typically have a clear idea of where they expect it to take them. The better you deliver on that expectation, the higher your user engagement will be. Deep links enable you to reinforce user engagement by sending them from ads, emails, or other apps straight to a product page, app screen, checkout page, tutorial, or any other desired location — instantaneously delivering high-interest content without requiring users to hunt through irrelevant pages to find their destination.

For mobile apps in particular, deep links represent enormous potential for strengthening the user experience:

  • Deep links send users to specific product pages, promotional offers, or checkout flows, eliminating unnecessary steps and simplifying the conversion process.
  • By directing users to specific app features based on their preferences, past interactions, or targeted campaigns, deep linking increases engagement and encourages users to spend more time within the app.
  • Deep linking also contributes to app discoverability. By allowing app content to be indexed by search engines, deep links enable users to discover and access specific app content through web search results

Additionally, deep linking helps with user retention by providing users with a direct pathway back into your app or website if they have been inactive for some time. Some examples of implementing deep linking into your re-engagement campaigns may include:

Drive Feature Adoption, User Education, and Revenue

Adding deep links to notifications to lead users directly to relevant content or features within your app, such as personalized recommendations, exclusive offers, or unfinished tasks.

Recover Abandoned Carts

Using deep links targeted at users who have abandoned their shopping carts. By sending a push notification with a deep link that leads directly to the abandoned cart, you give users an instant and effortless way to resume their shopping experience, increasing the chances of completing the purchase.

Share Personalized Recommendations

Incorporating deep linking with personalized recommendations based on user preferences. By including deep links to recommended products, articles, or videos, dormant users are more likely to engage with content and rediscover the value of your app.

Encourage App Downloads

For web-first companies that also have a mobile app, deep links represent an enormous opportunity to send website visitors to your app install page. Whereas generic user journeys have a 5% Click-to-Install (CTI) rate, deep linking-enabled journeys deliver up to six times higher conversion rates.

Crafting targeted campaigns with targeted deep linking is about as close as you’ll get to creating a conversion out of thin air. It’s a low-lift case of “give the people what they want” — lightning fast navigation and hyper-relevant content.

Benefits of Deep Linking for Data & Analytics

Deep links offer companies valuable insights into how their products are being used, allowing them to track user behavior and identify areas of improvement.

By implementing a messaging analytics tool, you may begin track things like screen views, drop-off points, and popular pathways. This data can help you create a more seamless UI, build out higher-converting app pages, and continue to optimize the customer journey. In short, deep links help developers and marketers alike by identifying areas where small changes may result in big improvements in terms of both customer satisfaction and overall revenue.

Deep Linking vs. Traditional Linking: What’s the Difference?

There are three primary differences between deep linking and traditional linking.

  1. Deep linking provides a direct route to the specific content a user is looking for.

    Traditional linking only links to the homepage of a website or application, often creating a tedious and time-consuming experience for users. For example, you own a travel app and are attempting to link users from a promotional email to their trip itinerary. A traditional link would only take users as far as opening the app to the homescreen, requiring them to navigate the rest of the way. A deep link would take them to the correct itinerary screen directly.

  2. Deep links increase user retention and conversion rates due to their ability to send users directly where they want to go within an app or website.

    Traditional links don’t always drive traffic straight to the desired app screen and therefor have limited effectiveness when it comes to driving conversions.

  3. Deep links enable accurate attribution of user actions to specific marketing campaigns or sources. When a user interacts with a deep link and performs an action, such as installing an app or completing a purchase, the deep link can capture that information and attribute it to the respective campaign or source. This allows you to determine the impact of each campaign or source on user acquisition, conversions, and overall business goals.

    While traditional links offer tracking and attribution capabilities for web-to-web communication, they do not offer this advantage for web-to-app or app-to-app communication.

Choosing the right approach: App-to-App Deep Linking versus Web-to-App Deep Linking

There are two main approaches to deep linking, app-to-app and web-to-app. While utilizing both is often beneficial, the exact approach you adopt will depend largely on your business model and goals. You may also wish to explore the additional forms of deep linking like QR-to-app.

App-to-app deep linking is a great way to easily share content between users who have the same app installed. This is especially beneficial for companies with multiple apps or with affiliate apps they partner with. Take this deep link example: You run an eCommerce platform that just sent out an email promotion for a discounted product. When your users open their email on their phone and tap the promo link, it opens your app, navigating users directly to the product page and pre-populating it with the specific discounted item. The user can then easily view the product, review the details, and proceed with the purchase directly within the app.

Web-to-app deep linking is used for converting web traffic into either app downloads or conversions via campaigns such as emails or SMS messages. Imagine a scenario where a user comes across a promotional banner on a website for your travel booking app. The banner advertises exclusive deals for a popular vacation destination. By utilizing web-to-app deep linking, the promo banner navigates the user directly to the relevant section within your app. They can now view the exclusive deals for their destination, review available flights or accommodations, and easily proceed with the booking process.

Combining both approaches will help you capture organic mobile web traffic while simultaneously providing existing customers with quick access to relevant content. For instance, if you are deep linking from a promotional email, you would utilize both web-to-app deep links (for desktop email users) as well as app-to-app deep links (for mobile email users) to get all users to a specific destination within your mobile app.

Remember, every business will have a different approach and require a different linking strategy, so always test different types of deep links and track every click in order to measure performance over time.

Best Practices and Considerations for iOS and Android Deep Linking

Deep linking is a powerful tool, but it can be difficult to implement correctly. When creating deep links, it’s crucial to ensure that the correct page is opened when your users click on a link. To ensure this, you should be using Universal Links on iOS (that are compatible with Safari), which are linked to specific content within your app. For Android users, you should be using App Links, which are linked to content within an app or website.

It is also important to remember that some features may not work across all platforms, such as deferred deep linking on Apple devices. Testing your deep links before deployment is essential in order to ensure they open correctly across all platforms.

What is a deferred deep link?
A deferred deep link is a two-step link that takes a user to their app store to download your app, then also takes them to a specific page within your app after downloading.

When considering your crosschannel messaging provider, you want to make sure that whoever you choose supports deep linking capabilities. These links play a massive part in driving app conversions and adding some serious weight to your re-engagement campaigns across all channels. For example, you can include deep links within email campaigns, social media posts, or push notifications, creating a cohesive user experience across different touch points and maximizing the impact of your messaging efforts in the process.

Make no mistake, deep linking is not a purely technical strategy. There is still a degree of nuance to setting up your deep link URL for success.

Big SEO Value, Small Package

Writing impactful and SEO-friendly deep link copy will help ensure that users are directed to the right page while also optimizing the chances of conversion. Deep link text should be short, sweet, and easy to read. Keep it under 25 characters so that it’s easy for users to understand without having to scroll over or click on a “more” button. Most importantly, always make sure your text includes relevant keywords for where it’s linking to.

Avoid Clickbait Tactics

Don’t overpromise with your link copy! The last thing you want is to frustrate users if they don’t get what they expect after clicking on your link. Instead, keep the language simple and straightforward so that readers know exactly what to expect when they click on your deep link.

Take these hypothetical deep link examples:

1. Get started with OneSignal for free! Boost app engagement with unlimited mobile push notifications here: [Deep Link URL]

  • This copy grabs user attention, shares a compelling offer, and highlights a clear benefit of leveraging one key feature users will actually receive.

2. Click here for full free access to all the crosschannel messaging features you could ever need with OneSignal: [Deep Link URL]

  • This copy is generic, lacks excitement, and overpromises using language that implies an absolute (the user receiving "all the features they will ever need.")

Include a Call to Action

Encourage action by including a clear call-to-action with each deep link you produce. By offering users something specific to do after clicking on your link, you increase their likelihood of taking action and converting into customers or leads once they are directed to their destination page.

Deep links are only as effective as their URLs are optimized with keywords. In order to get the most out of your web-to-app deep links, we suggest creating a keyword strategy tailored to your target audience. You want to make your deep link URL as easy as possible for search engines to understand. Here are a few tips on how to optimize a web-to-app deep link URL with keywords:

1. Include Keywords in the deep link URL: This one is easy — Make sure your deep link URL contains relevant keywords. This will help ensure that search engines can accurately identify and prioritize your content, which can help improve visibility and engagement. It’s also important to keep URLs concise while still including relevant keywords when possible.

2. Choose an Appropriate Domain Name & Subdomain: Choosing the right domain name and subdomain can also help optimize deep link performance by making it easier for search engine crawlers to find them. It’s best practice to use a unique domain name or subdomain for each type of content you want users to access via deep links so that they are easily identifiable by search engine crawlers.

3. Use Meta Tags & Structured Data: Adding meta tags and structured data can further improve SEO performance by providing additional information about your content for search engine crawlers as they crawl through your website or app pages. Structured data helps provide context around different types of content on your website as well as any associated images or videos, which can help increase visibility in search results pages.

To make the indexing process more effective, it helps to have a single page with multiple deep links for users to access all of your content. Navigation elements like breadcrumb navigation should also be used so that search engine crawlers can easily understand the context of each page.

Using App Indexing and App Packs to Boost Search Engine Visibility

App indexing and app packs are excellent tools that can enable you to improve your presence in search engine results pages (SERPs.)

An app pack is a collection of multiple related apps grouped together as a single entity. This feature is currently only available on the Android platform and allows users to download and install multiple apps from a single listing, simplifying the process of acquiring multiple apps at once. App packs provide users with a convenient way to acquire and manage related apps, while developers benefit from streamlined installation and update processes.

App packs are typically used to bundle together a set of related apps that are developed by the same company or serve a similar purpose. For example, a productivity app pack might include a word processor, a spreadsheet tool, and a presentation app, all developed by the same company

Considering this, it becomes easier to imagine the “deep linking domino effect” potential here.

When someone conducts a search related to the content your app provides, they are displayed a SERP result showcasing installed apps alongside web results. Such results will include both your logo and name, along with reviews or ratings from other users as well.

From a more organic perspective, if users are being directed directly to an app pack including multiple high-quality apps that provide a positive user experience, it can result in increased engagement, usage, and positive ratings. Positive user feedback can improve the overall reputation and ranking of the individual apps within the pack, potentially leading to better search engine visibility in app store search results.

Which KPIs to Track For Deep Linking

Tracking key performance indicators (KPIs) is essential for measuring the success of deep linking. Many businesses fail to track KPIs, which can lead to a lack of understanding regarding how their deep linking efforts are impacting user engagement and conversion rates.

When it comes to tracking KPIs, there are several metrics that should be monitored in order to gain an accurate picture of the effectiveness of deep linking. These include:

  • Click-through rate  and impressions generated through deep links
  • New users acquired
  • Number of users who completed in-app actions
  • Number of users who abandoned the app after clicking on a deep link
  • The average session length for users who clicked on a deep link

By tracking these metrics over time, you gain instant valuable insights into how effective your deep linking strategy really is.

Finally, it is important to remember that all data should be analyzed holistically rather than focusing on any single metric. This approach gives you a more comprehensive view of your deep link performance.

How to Use A/B Testing to Optimize Your Deep Linking Strategy

A/B testing is a powerful tool for sharpening (dare we say perfecting?) your deep linking strategy. By conducting A/B tests, you can measure the effectiveness of individual links in terms of user engagement by collecting feedback from real people comparing two or more versions of the same link. You could also use A/B tests to determine the best placement for your deep links across different pages on your website or app.

Through careful analysis of the results from these tests, you can create more effective experiences for users by placing deep links in strategic locations throughout your website or app based on proven feedback!

Deep Linking is Just the Beginning

Delivering targeted messages to the people most ready to convert has never been easier than it is with OneSignal. With our robust suite of features, including push notification personalization, email segmentation, bulk SMS, and custom in-app messaging, you can reach your audience wherever they are, at the exact right moment.

And yes… we have developed a feature that empowers you to enable deep linking for email effortlessly within our platform!

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