App Links

An App Link is a URL that sends mobile users to a specific app location, app store listing, or external website.

What are app links

App Links are custom URLs that direct users to a specific location. This might be an official app store listing (in which case the link is called an app store link), or a web page outside of the app that’s launched within the app itself (this is known as a deep link). 

Note that the term “App Link” is specific to Android devices — the iOS equivalent is Apple Universal Links. 

how do app links work

Once a user clicks on the App Link, they’ll be directed along one of two paths, depending on whether or not they have the corresponding app installed.

If the app is installed, the user will follow a deep link and launch the app, landing directly in the relevant app content.
If the corresponding app is not installed, a deferred deep link will direct the user to the app store page to download it, and then take them to the relevant in-app content once the app is installed and opened.

There are three types of App Links that operate in their own unique ways:

  • Web links are standard links that direct users to a web page.
  • Deep links direct users to a specific location within a mobile app. 
  • Dynamic links send users to different locations depending on the user’s behavior. For example, if a user doesn’t have an app installed, they can be directed to the relevant app store. If they do have the app installed, they can be directed to a help article within the app.

App Links help users and app marketers alike. From increased security, to more accurate measurement, there are many reasons App Links are crucial for apps today.

Smooth user experience

App Links direct users to exactly where they need to be — whether that’s the app store or a specific location in-app. Deep links can also transition users between an app and web pages without having to close or switch between apps, making for a seamless user experience. 

Increase app conversions and retention

Better user experience leads to improved app conversions by reducing friction. Sending users to your intended in-app location helps tighten your conversion funnel without risking them getting lost in navigating to the next stage of the process.

Accurate attribution

App links - accurate attribution

Post-IDFA changes are already making it more difficult for mobile marketers to accurately measure their campaigns. Deep linking enables user acquisition managers to track and attribute app installs, conversions, and actions, because user behavior is all completed within the app, rather than another app browser.

Safer experience

Android requires app developers to verify corresponding apps with their web pages, improving security standards and creating safer app environments. 

How to set up app links

The App Link itself needs to be generated by your developer. There are four key steps to this process, which are outlined in detail in our developer blog — here’s a quick summary:

  1. Create a SHA256 fingerprint as a security measure to ensure you’re associating your app with the corresponding website. This prevents unauthorized handling of links and tampering.
  1. Create intent filters to specify which URLs to map to your app. Android developers can use App Links Assistant from Android Studio to streamline the process.
  1. Generate a Digital Assets Links file to link your website with your app. For a step-by-step guide, check out our setup instructions here.
  2. Test your App Link before you begin sharing it. If you’re using App Links Assistant, simply click Test App Links. Otherwise, test the link on different channels to ensure it’s directing you to the intended location.

Key takeaways

  • An App Link is a URL that sends mobile users to a specific app location, app store listing, or external website.
  • There are three types of App Links, which each work in their own way: web links, deep links, and dynamic links.
  • App Links improve user experiences, increase app conversions, provide more accurate attribution, and elevate safety measures. 
  • Setting up App Links is a job for a developer, and involves a four-step process. 
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