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August 22, 2019

Why Doesn’t App Deep Linking Always Work?

App deep linking with Universal Links and Firebase is confusing because sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. This article explains why and how marketers can use a cloud-based deep linking platform to create app deep links independent of these technologies.

App Deep Linking Doesn't Always Work

Imagine this scenario: While in the midst of a busy day at work you decide to grab some coffee. You take a brain break and jump into Facebook. As you scroll through the news about friends and family, you see an ad in your feed for a trendy pair of jeans and a shirt that would be perfect for an upcoming social event. As a frequent shopper, you already have the retailer’s app installed on your phone. Feeling the impulse to buy, you click the ad and instead of just opening the app, you are taken to the retailer’s website where you need to login. You do not remember your password because you are permanently logged into the app. Frustrated, you switch over to the app and try to find the same items. Annoyed after a few clicks, you move on with your day.

Consider the same scenario from a marketing point of view: The app was recently enabled with app deep linking technologies. Apple’s Universal Links was enabled for iOS and Google’s Firebase was implemented for Android. App analytics show that when users find product links in organic search results, the app opened and conversion was higher. Conversely, when the link was clicked from Facebook or Instagram ads, the app did not open and the shopper was routed to the website where login was required. The same often happened when clicked from the email channel. Faced with having to login to the website, most customers abandon their shopping journey. As a result, conversion was suffering significantly. So what’s going on? If deep linking is enabled on the apps for iOS and Android , why doesn’t it always work?

Where is the deep linking disconnect? In the exceptions that prevent these deep linking technologies from “working” when clicked from certain channels. One of the most common exceptions is an embedded browser. Many apps including Facebook, Instagram, and email apps use a simplified or “embedded” browser that is designed to let your visitors go to websites but not to another mobile app. In the case of Facebook and Instagram this is by design. Facebook’s goal is to keep consumers inside its walled garden to maximize the data collected on consumer behavior and interests. Once a consumer leaves Facebook or Instagram to go to another app that tracking is lost. So routing the consumer to the website within the embedded browser – instead of deep linking to the app – is good for Facebook but not good for the consumer experience or for those advertisers trying to increase conversion in the app.

Embedded browsers are not the only culprit. Here are some other scenarios where Universal Links and Firebase app deep linking will not work. Marketers need to keep these deep linking disconnects in mind when planning campaigns:

  • App-only content not available on the website and not enabled with Universal Links or Firebase such as app-only, time sensitive promotions.
  • Features in the app that are not available on the website. For example, customer service or camera related features.
  • Deep linking is suddenly broken. Apps are continuously updated and app deep linking can sometimes break when app updates are released on iOS or Android.
App Deep Linking for Marketers and Agencies

What can marketers and agencies do about it? Create your own app deep links to improve the customer journey and increase revenue! App deep linking is often considered an upstream technical feature which cannot be controlled by marketing or agencies but that is no longer true. Marketers can compose deep links to any app and implement them in campaigns immediately. The only thing your app needs is a URL scheme configuration which is like an address in the app.

Cloud-based deep linking platforms work independently or in conjunction with Universal Links and Firebase and don’t require any SDKs or technical implementation. These platforms also allow marketers to control the fallback URL for when the app is not installed. When it comes to attribution, simply append your campaign UTM parameters to pass information to website and app analytics solutions.

Deep linking doesn’t have to be a headache for marketers. Marketers should create deep links into any app and use them within any marketing channel including Facebook and Instagram advertising.