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Last update: July 2020

4 mins to read - 2019/06/07

5 Ways Deep Linking Can Give Your Notifications the Impact They Need

Anyone familiar with push notifications will know that one of the improvements they have on standard SMS messaging is their capacity for including deep links.

In short, a deep link is a hyperlink the device user can click on that will take them to a specific page in a website or a screen in a mobile app. For example, a link to a specific blog post – https://www.openback.com/keeping-your-app-coppa-compliant-in-the-aftermath-of-the-tiktok-scandal/– is a deep link. A link to a home page is not.  This may seem like a simple enough feature, but when it comes to deep linking within and between apps, it’s more challenging than it looks. However, once you get around the pitfalls, they make for a rich and dynamic app experience.

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Various apps with notification flags

 

What Is Deep Linking?

Basically, they are links sent to screens or pages in a mobile app, rather than a web browser. So they perform the same function and, in terms of user experience, bring the user to the same destination. However, deep links have a unique set of challenges to overcome, mainly the fact that each separate platform has its own unique standard for deep linking.

A recent attempt to solve this disconnect has been multi-platform linking, in which weblinks are tweaked to include apps as well as webpages. However, this involves pointing a weblink to various different destinations at the same time, which is tenuous and only works if every platform has the same content on it.

As each of the main platforms (Google, Facebook, and the like) are in fierce competition to be the #1 internet platform that users default to, they have designed their deep-linking standards to deliberately exclude all other platforms. While this may make sense from a corporation’s standpoint, in terms of user experience, it makes deep linking a difficult, fractured process.

Branch.io offers an excellent graphic illustrating how inconsistent and complicated different platforms’ mobile app linking standards are:

A handy chart of mobile deep link standards, courtesy of Branch.io
Image Source: https://branch.io/glossary/deep-linking/

But integrating deep links into your push notifications is well worth the effort, as you’ll soon see. Deep links can radically transform your push notification, and the way users interact with your app as a whole.

How Can Deep Linking Give Your App That Extra Oomph?

1. Efficient and Easy Link Sharing

Suppose you have an eCommerce app, and you want to offer a discount code on an item – say, a dentist-approved electric toothbrush – to a customer. A deep link URI (uniform resource identifier) will take them straight to the very electric toothbrush in question, so they don’t need to awkwardly switch between browser and app to make the purchase. Without a deep link, the customer would have the unwieldy process of going to the app, searching for toothbrushes, and scrolling through haphazardly until they find the correct one.

2. Deep Linking Extends Your App’s Utility

While some may see it as counter-intuitive to send a customer to an app that’s not yours, it can actually result in your user having a richer, more fulfilling experience with your app. Think linking to Spotify from your fitness app while you work out, and then linking to the merchandise store of the band you’re listening to.

This is especially true when it comes to eCommerce apps. At a meeting at Deeplink.NYC, a discussion group that explores deep links, Chris Maddern, the co-founder of Button, observed:

“For commerce-based apps, there’s no real benefit to keeping users in your app forever, though there is a benefit to directing them elsewhere after they complete a purchase. For one, it extends the functionality of your product. Say you’re a restaurant-reservations service: Shouldn’t your users be able to book a ride to the restaurant from within your app? Secondly, you can receive referral pay from partner apps each time you send them a new user.”

Taxi cabs! Three of 'em!

3. Seamless Communication Between Apps

Deep links offer a new way for apps to interact with each other. Rather than each app being its own, self-enclosed castle, deep linking offers the ease of navigation we are used to when we browse the internet. This can be especially useful if your brand has multiple apps. Not only does it encourage user activity across a variety of different apps, it also makes the mobile app ecosystem as a whole more intuitive and inclusive.

4. User Doesn’t Lose Data in the App-Browser Transition

Let’s take a scenario where a customer is using your travel app to book flights and rent a car. Deep links allow them to navigate directly to the rental company’s app, where the data they entered in terms of how many days, location, and type of car needed will still be in tact. Otherwise, clicking on the link will take the user to either the app store, where they will have to download the rental company’s app, or to the rental company’s website in the browser, where they will have to enter their data again from scratch. Both of these scenarios makes for a clunky user experience.

5. Direct Users To a Specific Page You Want to Boost

Let’s say you’re a digital publication, a social media platform, or a blog and you want to boost a particular article or post above others. Of course you’re going to want to recommend this post to your users, and as we have pointed out before, push notifications are the best way to do that. Offering deep links is a way for you not to miss out on potential mobile traffic for a particular in-app page.

Conclusion

Deep linking is a feature that’s still very much evolving. Different APIs are seeing what features work to optimize user experience, and getting rid of what is clunky or slow.

OpenBack offers deep links with our push notification SDK, including features like a deep link template where you can save a particular link and then select it from a dropdown menu whenever you want to add it to a new notification. We also make it easy to track what a deep link contains, and if you send someone a deep link that has a certain parameter on the end, you can later pull in that parameter from inside of the app.

For more information on what type of features we offer, read through our documentation page, or get in touch with one of our experts.

For more push notification best practices download the OpenBack Mobile Marketing Playbook 2020 here:

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