A group of mobile tech companies participating in something called the Mobile Deeplinking Project made an announcement yesterday that you might have passed over. Have you ever opened a LinkedIn Groups update email on your phone and wondered (for the 500th time) why it couldn’t just launch the app?
Instead it drops you at the login screen in your browser, helpfully suggesting you download LinkedIn’s fabulous app. That is the very definition of throwing away vast, profitable amounts of user engagement. How many people are really going to tap-tap-tap their credentials into the teeny browser (again) or manually launch the app and try in vain to find that discussion that first caught their eye? Nearly nobody, that’s who.
With mobile deep linking, tapping on that interesting discussion thread in your email would launch the LinkedIn app and deliver the exact page you were expecting, i.e. ‘deep linking’ you to the otherwise impossible to find page inside LinkedIn.
So what does that mean for publishers who now see a path to making their apps a viable place to sell ads? If your ‘app’ is a simple digital replica of your print product, none of this will matter. If you have a useful app that extends your brand, then read on.
Let’s say you are like CNET and have well-regarded product reviews that millions rely on to make good decisions when purchasing electronics. If you put all those reviews into a well-designed app and promoted it well, you could get lots of people to download it. Then the app will most likely never get opened again, lost among dozens of other unused apps on millions of phone screens.
However, if CNET sent out a weekly newsletter that leveraged deep linking, suddenly their app starts getting used, perhaps promoted to users’ home screens and regularly updated. Otherwise, all that effort to develop the app will continue to show a crappy ROI.
It is this new set of standards and best practices that has the potential to put the native app versus mobile web debate to rest. Now apps can be just another, slicker part of the web instead of these islands of awesomeness that are forgotten because they’re too much trouble to get to. Publishers will be able to point to engagement data instead of downloads when pitching to advertisers.
These standards are open source and therefore a moving target, so there will be some hiccups. But it’s all laid out pretty well, complete with code libraries for your developers to leverage. If you have a great idea for an app that you’ve never built because you couldn’t see how to get enough users to matter, this may be the time to revisit that decision.