App Deep Linking 101: How It Works & What You Need to Know

The internet is made of an endless stream of websites that can easily become vastly interconnected very quickly with linking.

This is something that almost all users understand: Links send users from one online location to another. Click on a link in this blog, for example, and you might be taken to another place on our site or to another website’s URL entirely.

URLs are simply digital addresses that contain the files that make up a website. They’re a type of Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) that helps users land on the site they’re trying to connect to.

Easy enough.

But what about deep linking? This is where most businesses get lost, particularly when it comes to app deep linking.

App deep linking works a little differently from your standard easy-breezy site hyperlink, and in this post, we’re going to discuss everything you need to know about how it all works.

What is Deep Linking?

Standard, everyday linking involves placing a hyperlink in the text that takes users to another basic UR location.

When you click on this link, for example, you’ll be taken to the tracker.my.com home page.

This is a simple link, with basic URL linking.

Deep linking sends users to specific places on a website or to a mobile app via a link. You’re not just sending them to a standard site. Instead of going to just a standard home page, you’re going to a specific place, like where “ https://tracker.my.com/promo/pricing “ will take you.

This is a different type of URL. You can use it to send users to an app directly instead of just an app store page. You can also transport users to a specific page or certain content within the app, and the app can be opened through a URI scheme.

There’s also the option to use deferred deep linking. This is the process that can be used to take users who just installed your app to app launch.

Why App Deep Linking Matters

Since mobile apps are designed to provide strong mobile experiences, using app deep linking to deliver users straight to the app itself is a great choice.

You can use app deep linking to increase retention and engagement rates, taking users from a search engine to your app for an improved user experience. This can mean more conversion rates.


Deep linking also can take new users to the app store page so that they can download it, which increases your number of users or subscribers overall. Long-term, this likely means more conversions, too, as you’re able to stay connected and relevant to your target audience.

Different Use Cases of App Deep Linking

There are several different core use cases when it comes to deep linking that can help brands increase app engagement, retention, and in-app purchases. These include the following:

  • Web-to-app journeys. These can be leveraged when users first discover your brand through search and can be encouraged to download your mobile app with a link on-site or even in search.
  • Email-to-app journeys. Utilizing specialized deep links can route users to optimal locations from an email campaign, even though email service providers often “wrap” their links and cause smart links to break. This can deliver users to the right page in-app on mobile.
  • Social-to-app journeys. Encouraging users to download an app on social media is an excellent way to drive app growth. You can drive users to specific pages, to the app download page, and even encourage them to drive downloads for incentives.
  • SMS & push notification links. These links take users from a link in an SMS message or push notification right to a designated place in-app. It can do so with special offers attached to incentivize conversions.
  • Referral links. One of the fastest ways to increase business and app usage growth is to set up a formal referral program. Users can click on referral deep links shared by friends in email, text, or on social to sign up, too.

How App Deep Linking Works

App deep linking is actually relatively simple once you understand the process.

Here’s how it works:

  • The link attribution provider (which is who is doing the linking) creates a special link or URL.
  • This link tries to open the URI scheme, which takes the user straight into the app.
  • If the URI scheme doesn’t work and the user isn’t sent into the app, it means the user doesn’t have the app downloaded. Instead, the user is taken to the app store or the business’s website. It’s a little like rerouting a package to a home office instead of a PO Box.
  • If using a deferred deep link, the following can happen: Once the user installs the app, the link provider can send users to a specified place within the app after the install. This allows the user to then continue on with their experience as they had originally intended.


You can therefore set up schemes to send users to a specific place in an app, but direct them to the install page if that isn’t possible.

On Reddit, for example, you can browse search results. Once you click on a topic or conversation thread, however, you might be taken straight to the same page you want to view within the app.

How App Deep Linking Works in myTracker

myTracker makes it easier for you to set up and track app deep links for heightened success. We have options available for regular deep links, deferred deep links, and smart links.

Let’s take a look at how they work.

1. Regular Deep Links

Our regular deep links allow users to click on a link, search result, or an ad, and then have a deep link send users to a relevant landing page within the app if it’s already installed.

If they see an ad for an eCommerce business, for example, they might see an ad featuring a pair of boots. When they click, the app opens and they’ll be taken to the product page in-app for boots in the ad they clicked on. 

regular deep links



2. Deferred Deep Links

As we now know, deferred links kick into action when your link tries to send users to an app they haven't downloaded yet, so they defer the traffic to the app store for download. Then once downloaded, the user is delivered to the originally intended location in-app.

So in this case, you’re viewing that pair of boots in the ad, and click to purchase or view other similar products. You’re taken to the app listing in the app store for your device type. If you install it, you’re then taken to the original product page in-app you would have been taken to originally.

This is excellent for users who don’t have the app installed, creating fewer redirects, higher conversion rates, and higher app download rates. Plenty of users who might have otherwise just used your site will now download the app, making it a go-to tool instead of Google search.

deferred deep links

3. Smart Links

We haven’t talked much about smart links yet, but they can be a gamechanger for businesses trying to drive more traffic to their app.

Smart links are a type of advanced links that are available in myTracker. It’s a universal tracking link that decides exactly where to take the user.

Any scenario can happen; users can be using any platform, any app store, and in any scenario and they’ll still be delivered to the right place. It’s the same end experience no matter what, all while simplifying your process. You can read more about this here.

smart link

There are two scenarios when smart links aren’t a good fit. You can’t use smart links when:

  1. You’re using self-referencing attributing networks like Facebook or Google, because they don’t support external tracking links. The tracking capabilities are an essential part of smart links.
  2. You’re using networks that don’t distinguish between old and new users, making it impossible for the link to know whether the app has been installed or not. The technology needs to be in place for the smart links to work.

Final Thoughts

App deep linking can take some time to set up, but it’s easy enough to do with the right URI schemes laid out in front of you and tools like myTracker’s smart links to streamline the process.

And it’s absolutely worthwhile, considering that deep links can lead to significantly more downloads, higher retention rates, more engagement, and increased conversions. You put plenty of time, effort, and money into making your mobile apps capable of delivering outstanding mobile experiences, so you want to do what you can to increase usage. Deep links can help with that.

Interested in streamlining the app deep linking process? Request a demo with myTracker here to see how we can help you or create a free account and see for yourself!

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