Deep linking is one of the hottest topics in app store optimisation and will significantly influence the future of the mobile industry. It is however, still underrated by app developers – this study shows that only 30% of websites with Android apps and 19% with iOS apps have implemented this feature. So why is it vital for app publishers to acknowledge the importance of deep linking? Let’s take a closer look at this and how it benefits the app industry.
What is app indexing/app deep linking?
App deep linking lets you synchronise an app with search engines and as a result enables users to view app content in mobile search results.
So how does the process look in practice? Let’s look at 3 possible options (we’ll focus on Android for the sake of this blog post):
1. App is already installed
Let’s say you are performing a search query on your mobile phone – you are looking for “Forrest Gump” film reviews and you already have the IMDb app installed. Search engine results show a link to content within the app. After clicking it, Google directs you to the app page where you are able to find all of the information you are looking for. Here is how the process looks:
However, there is another way to access the app. This step takes a bit more time, but allows you to choose whether to open the content in the app or on the website. The steps are as follows:
2. App is not installed
Let’s assume you’re interested in learning Spanish and have heard about a website which provides language courses, called Duolingo. When you type ‘Duolingo Spanish course’ on Google on your mobile, this is what appears on your screen:
As you can see, in the search results you will find a link to the app with an encouraging ‘install’ button. When you click it, you will be directed to the Google Play Store’s app page.
3. App Streaming
App streaming is the most advanced deep linking feature. How does it work? Imagine you’re looking for a hotel room, type ‘Boston hotel’ on your mobile and have the opportunity to access the content of a hotel booking app without downloading it. Sounds interesting? Well, this feature is not fully available yet because only 9 apps are currently being tested by Google. App streaming brings us closer to breaking the barriers between websites and apps and makes it easier for the app ecosystem to open up its content to potential users.
Benefits of deep linking
If you’re an app developer and still haven’t applied deep linking to your app, these benefits should convince you to make the relevant changes to your app code:
1. Increased number of installs
As shown above, users looking for specific content are encouraged to access the content within an app. The ‘install’ button, which appears within search results will trigger downloads and consequently increase the number of installs, which is one of the most important ranking factors in the app stores.
2. Increase of app engagement
Having the app installed does not necessarily mean the users will use it regularly. Sometimes users even forget they have the app installed on your phone. Research shows that 20% of apps are used only once. However, if in-app content appears in the search results, the chances for re-engagement are far higher.
3. More traffic
A consequence of increased number of installs and higher retention rate is that app developers will experience more traffic. This will reinforce the brand and have a positive impact on the app’s visibility on the app stores.
4. More conversions
Deep linking influences different kinds of interactions which will also affect conversions. If users return to your app more often, they are more likely to buy products through your app or make in-app purchases.
5. Improvement in App Store rankings
Last but not least, deep liking will help you rank higher in the Google Play Store, as it is an official ranking factor on Android. This does not apply to iOS.
How to implement deep linking?
Now that you know some of the ways that deep linking will improve your app visibility, traffic and engagement, here are some tips on how to implement this feature to your app.
Google is much more advanced in terms of app deep linking than Apple. It introduced the feature, called App Indexing, in October 2013 and has gradually improved it since. It is available both on Google and Safari search engines and has recently been tested for apps that have not yet been installed and apps that don’t have matching web content.
The implementation of App Indexing requires support from developers for both your app and your website. The process consists of 3 main steps:
1. Enabling deep linking within the app
In this step, the app developer should make changes within the app code. The aim is to make the app understand requests coming from Google search and respond to them properly. For more details, visit the the Google Developers site.
2. Connecting the app and the website
Connecting the website and the app should follow these steps on the Google Play Console and Google Search Console.
3. Defining deep links
This part of App Indexing is not obligatory, however it will give Google clearer instructions on how to find the right content. It involves defining the relationships between your website and the corresponding URIs within your app. For more details, visit Google instructions.
App indexing on iOS can be implemented by following these steps.
Apple launched its deep linking feature, called Universal Links, 1 and half years after Google, in June 2015. This feature is only available on iOS 9. It allows you to send information from your apps to Safari, Spotlight and Siri search. Universal links make it possible to view search results directly in apps, no matter if they are installed or not. If you are an iOS app developer, you might want to read these guidelines to implement Universal Links to your app.
It seems that deep linking/app indexing is a major step towards opening the app ecosystem and making it easier to access apps from mobile search. This is a huge opportunity for app developers, marketers, ASO and SEO specialists to keep up with the latest mobile trends and increase their apps’ potential.
Author: Zofia Folkman
Adapt Worldwide is a multilingual digital agency focused on helping clients attain growth at home and abroad. Our ASO offer includes multilingual market localisation, keyword research & analysis, description optimisation, screenshot creation, online PR and much more.