URX Arrives On The Web

We’re pumped to announce that we’ve brought the power of URX to the web. Using our new web SDK, developers can now connect their websites to over 100 top mobile apps in less than 10 lines of code (download on Github).

Here’s a quick example of an integration: I’ve added a feature to my personal site enabling users viewing the site on mobile to search for music and listen to that music inside an app on their phone:

When a user searches “Kanye West," the site uses URX to surface Kanye West songs from apps like Spotify, Soundcloud and other URX-indexed music apps.

Each search result sends users directly to Kanye music inside an app through a deep link. If a user doesn’t have the selected app installed than links resolve users to the requested content on the web.

URX surfaces many different types content including videos to watch, songs to listen to and items to buy. And it's easy to filter to this content to create contextually relevant web-to-app experiences.

For instance, I can change the search engine on my personal site from one that surfaces music to one that surfaces tickets to nearby concerts by changing just one line of code. The concert tickets are sourced from mobile apps like StubHub and SeatGeek:

How to add URX’s web SDK to your site:

  1. Download the URX.js file from Github

  2. Upload the URX.js file to your site

  3. Import URX.js

  4. Construct a search query:


<script src="urx.js"></script>

<script>
$urx.setApiKey("API KEY GOES HERE");
 var keywords = "kanye west";
 var musicFilter = " action:ListenAction";
 $urx.search(keywords + musicFilter, function(response) {
   // SEARCH SUCCESS HANDLER
   var searchResult = response.results[0];
   // The Search Result Content's Title
   console.log(searchResult.name);
   // The Search Result Content's image url
   console.log(searchResult.imageUrl);
   // The Search Result Content's longer text description
   console.log(searchResult.descriptionText);
   // The Search Result Content's call to action text (ie. "Buy Tickets")
   console.log(searchResult.callToActionText);
   // The Search Result Content's app name (if deeplink is available)
   console.log(searchResult.appName); }, function(req, errorMessage) {
   // SEARCH FAILURE HANDLER
   console.log(errorMessage);
}); </script>

Here we're creating a keyword search for "kanye west" with a ListenAction filter (to limit search results to music) and executing it against the URX Search API.

If you check your browser’s console, you’ll see results for Kanye West songs and albums, which you can now display on the page.

Copy and paste this code on any site to see URX search results displayed on the web page.

You can switch your search engine from one that surfaces music to one that surfaces concert tickets by changing the "action:ListenAction" filter to "action:BuyAction tickets":

  
<script>
	$urx.setApiKey("API KEY GOES HERE");
	var keywords = "kanye west";
	var ticketsFilter = "action:BuyAction ticket";
	$urx.search(keywords + ticketsFilter, function(response) {
		var searchResult = response.results[0];
	}, function(req, errorMessage) {
       // SEARCH FAILURE HANDLER
       console.log(errorMessage);
    });
</script>
  

Learn more about URX action filters here.

Need Help?

If you’re having any difficulty or just want a quick explainer, please feel free to contact me: n@urx.com.

Did We Mention You Can Get Paid?

You can get paid for using URX on your site to power web-to-app experiences. It’s as easy as implementing the code above. To learn more please contact us.

For more information on building search and discovery inside your mobile app, check out URX Widgets or read our developer documentation.

The Deeplink Debrief - January 9

We rounded up the latest news in mobile search and deep linking. Subscribe here to receive the latest updates and insights from URX.

1. The NY Times takes a look at companies that are trying to make the user experience with mobile apps more like that of the web. 

Unlike web pages, mobile apps do not have links. They do not have web addresses. They live in worlds by themselves, largely cut off from one another and the broader Internet. And so it is much harder to share the information found on them . —The New York Times

2. URX co-founder John Milinovich discusses the re-aggregation of the web.

As users, we will want to access information and take action on the most convenient device and expect all our digital services to work together seamlessly. We won't care whether we use a web browser or an app to make it happen, just that the experience is smooth. —Accel  Blog

3. Gigaom named deep linking and app constellations as one of its top five social trends for 2015.

As social applications turn into portals for other experiences in 2015, the deep linking trend and constellation of apps that communication with each other will only grow. —Gigaom

4. URX marketing lead Mike Fyall looks at the impact of deep links on search and discovery in Wired.

Google and other mobile search startups are now indexing apps, like the Googlebot that crawls the web. They're building search engines that understand what apps can do and are combining them with important mobile signals (e.g. do I have the app installed already?) to provide relevant and personalized results that link directly to the correct place to take action. —URX Blog

5. Brian Klais of Pure Oxygen Labs discusses how mobile SEO and deep linking will impact retailers.

The long term implications of deep links are broader than simple linking. When developers expose their app structure, we can organize the information inside apps in new ways and can create better ways to find information. —Internet Retailer

6. Recap and demo videos of the deeplink.nyc meetup are now posted online.

The Deeplink Debrief is published every two weeks. Sign up here to receive our newsletter.

If You Think Deep Links Are a Big Deal Now, Just Wait

This article originally appeared in Wired on Dec 19th.

They were a discussion topic on Google’s Earnings Call and were a focus at I/O. Facebook created a standalone initiative called App Links to take a leadership position. Long time internet watcher John Battelle claims the quickening is nigh. What is it about deep links that has everyone so worked up?

Today, they help us quickly navigate to specific places in our favorite apps. For example, deep links enable you to click on a push notification that takes you directly to a calendar invite for your upcoming meeting. Deep links also provides the connective tissue between apps and allow you to click on an Uber button inside the United app to book a car.

For Google, Twitter and Facebook, deep links provide the infrastructure to unlock the next stage of mobile ad dollars. Mobile app install ads have become a huge business, and the next step is driving users back into apps they already have, either through an ad in your feed or from a search result. User retargeting is already a huge business online and is starting to gather momentum in mobile.

While these improvements to mobile experience are great, they pale in comparison to the impact of deep links on mobile search and discovery.

Its hard to believe that 6 years later we are still browsing through lists in the App Stores to find apps. And when we search, we get a list of apps that might help us with a picture and brief description, not a link to solve our specific problem. Web search is light years ahead of app search, and until we solve it long tail discovery is virtually impossible.

Deep links help us understand the content inside apps so we can categorize them in a smart way. Google and other mobile search startups are now indexing apps, like the Googlebot that crawls the web. They’re building search engines that understand what apps can do and are combining them with important mobile signals (e.g. do I have the app installed already?) to provide relevant and personalized results that link directly to the correct place to take action.

Deep links will transform how we search apps on our devices. But what about discovery?

On the web we share links with friends on social media, hyperlink relevant articles in blogs (I’ve already done it twice here), or personalize our homepage with feeds from our favorite sites. We don’t think about it, we just copy and paste the URL or hit the share button. Coming soon to the app ecosystem courtesy of deep links.

And, like it or not, advertising also plays a huge role in discovery. Yet all we are discovering today inside mobile apps are new social games, or seeing ads for companies our friends liked in the past. There is no concept of contextual relevance – the ad networks don’t know anything about the app you are currently using. You could be reading about a music concert, a football game, or politics and you’ll still be served the same ad. Online, we can automatically scrape the html of a page to know what its about and then can target an ad appropriately. So as we understand the content inside apps, ads will be become more effective for advertisers, higher paying for developers, and far less annoying for users.

Ultimately, deep links provide the underlying infrastructure that will bring many of the awesome benefits we take for granted on the web to the app ecosystem.

Four SEO Tips for Mobile Apps

This post first appeared on developer.com.

Mobile app discovery is still incredibly challenging. This is finally changing as Google, Twitter, Facebook and startups are using deep links to index the information inside mobile apps. Soon, we'll have new tools to discover apps and engage directly with ones we've already chosen to download.

However, to take advantage of free traffic into your app, developers need to prepare their apps to be indexed. These four steps will show you how to enable third parties to understand the content inside your app and link to it at the appropriate time.

1. Enable Deep Linking to Your Mobile App

This is the only way to enable external traffic to be directed inside your app. Search engines like Google are starting to add deep link content to their search results. As new mobile discovery tools are developed, this is the only way they can direct relevant traffic into your app. Deep links also enable you to set up cross promotion partnerships with other apps. More info and links to documentation can be found here.

2. Add Tags on Your Website Exposing Your Deep Links

After adding deep links, you need to share your URL structure so that other computers or end users can find the appropriate link. This is done by marking up your website with meta tags indicating what the app deep link is for each given page of web content. Google, Facebook, and Twitter each have markup tags that shares your deep links with their platforms. This blog post contains additional information on deep link standards.

3. Create Web Pages for Equivalent Screens in Your App

Crawling and indexing mobile apps directly is technically challenging. Instead, search companies index apps by crawling metadata on web pages associated with the deep link. However, there may be screens in your app for which there is no equivalent web page, and so that content will not be indexed or discoverable. We recommend creating pages for this content to help search engines better make sense of the structure of your app and content.

4. Add Structured Data to Your Site

Structured data is a way of telling web crawlers explicitly about data points related to a given page. This could include information such as price, date, geolocation, related images, title, description, and types of actions users can take on your site, ratings/reviews, and much more. Not only do search engines use this meta data when determining relevancy, new contextual experiences like Google Now use the data to provide detailed answers to questions. Exposing this data allows developers to build richer integrations with your own app, which ultimately results in more traffic. Visit Google support for a good summary on why and how to add structured data.

Summary

SEO is a critically important task for any website today, and it will be for app developers in the near future. Developers who implement these four steps today will be the first to take advantage of the new mobile discovery tools being built today.

James

URX and Re-Aggregating the Web

Native apps, the fuel powering mobile’s incredible growth, now account for more than 52 percent of consumers’ total digital media engagement. Despite our daily reliance on apps, they still lack many of the major benefits of web experiences. We cannot search, link to or easily travel from one app into another. Flipping through pages and folders to find the app you want is tedious and frustrating.

Enter deep linking, which carries the promise of bringing these very benefits to the app ecosystem. These links function similarly to URLs on the web – they enable us to go directly to a specific place inside an app. Deep links can be used to bring someone back to an app from a push notification or email, or used to link from one app to another.  Ultimately, they provide the foundation needed to create a more cohesive mobile experience across the web and apps.

THE STATE OF DEEP LINKING FOR CONSUMERS AND DEVELOPERS

Consumers are already experiencing the benefits of deep linking without knowing they exist. Instead, consumers benefit from a more fluid and connected experience when apps communicate with each other. Homeaway, for example, now integrates Uber, Instacart and Gogobot. Consumers can book an OpenTable reservation from Google Maps or listen to SoundCloud from Twitter. However, these direct integrations are time consuming and not scalable. 

Benefits aside, developers lack a standardized process to share their deep link structure with other developers, which makes it more difficult to connect apps. Unlike web URLs, apps do not share links to individual pages, which inhibits developers’ ability to collaborate and directly integrate with other developers.

Google, Twitter, and Facebook proposed individual standards for sharing deep links on their platform.  They are highly motivated to link inside apps so they can sell ads that link directly to a specific place of purchase.  Google is working to add deep links into search results, while Facebook and Twitter want to sell re-engagement ads and improve navigation on their platforms.  However, these companies do not make it easy for developers to use these links for their own benefit.

WHAT TO DO ABOUT THE DEEP LINKING CONUNDRUM

The key ingredient is to implement deep links across any and all platforms that make sense for your company. Fortunately, the methodology for each is similar and the benefits of discovery via Google search or social sharing is to great to pass up. The reality is that a unified standard is unlikely to appear anytime soon, so it’s most important to pick at least one so partners can link directly into your app.

Our company aims to remove this complexity by making it easy for apps to work with each other through an API that can find a link into any app that uses the Google, Twitter or Facebook standards.  We’re one of several startups attacking the discovery challenges in mobile today.

CONNECTING ALL OF OUR DEVICES

In the near future, our TVs, cars, appliances, and just about everything else will be connected to the internet.  As users, we will want to access information and take action on the most convenient device and expect all our digital services to work together seamlessly.  We won’t care whether we use a web browser or an app to make it happen, just that the experience is smooth.

The only way this will happen is if apps and sites have a common language to communicate with each other across devices.  That language is the web, and the faster everyone jumps on the deep linking bandwagon the closer we will be to a truly connected future.

This post was written for the Accel Partners blog

The Deeplink Debrief - December 15

The Deeplink Debrief - December 15

We rounded up the latest industry news, highlights and announcements in mobile engagement, search and deep linking to bring you the top articles to read. Subscribe here to receive the latest updates and insights from URX (delivered to your inbox every other week).

Read More

A Recap of the Inaugural Deeplink.nyc

We were excited to participate in the inaugural Deeplink.nyc event, hosted by Eniac Ventures, which featured product demos by Deeplink.me, Button, Wildcard, and URX, as well as a panel on deep linking moderated by Vera Tzoneva at Google.

There was widespread agreement about the enormous opportunity and need for cross-app partnerships. We should be able to seamlessly go from one mobile app into another to perform an action, such as booking a ride, buying tickets, or listening to music.

Panel

The discussion revolved around the lack of a single standard, app monetization, and the role of deep linking across both apps and devices.

Since apps have developed as “silos,” there has yet to be a single standard for deep linking. While one standard was welcomed, perhaps by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), deep linking companies currently support multiple ways to link into apps.

In addition, it is too early to tell if the mobile-first experience will start with either the mobile web or mobile apps, even if apps monetize a lot better than the web. In the case where a user does not have an app installed, should a deep link take the user to the app store or the mobile web?

Finally, deep linking will facilitate partnerships between apps and operating platforms. It is inevitable that wearables, connected cars, and even smart home products will use deep linking technology to enable contextually relevant actions in the wild.

Company Demos

Deeplink - Noah Klausman set the stage with a timeline of how deep linking has evolved over the last few years, from the early standards by Facebook, Google, and Twitter to the recently announced APIs by Deeplink and URX. Noah also gave a demo of their DeepSearch iOS app, which allows users to search for relevant content from apps already on their phones. For example, a search for “mockingjay” showed reviews from the IMDB app.

Button - Chris Maddern focused on use cases for on-demand commerce. He described how users have “nothing to do” after completing an action. Dudas demonstrated the ideal user flow: reserve a table at in the Resy app, click on a push notification, and book a ride in Uber. He noted the importance of deferred deep linking for users who don’t have the destination app installed, the ability to take them to a specific app page after installation.

Wildcard - Doug Petkanics argued that deep linking alone isn’t enough and should be combined with a card-like mobile format that preserves the speed and richness of native apps. He showed a demo of their card-based browser: a search for “coffee” surfaced interactive cards from Eater and Yelp with relevant information. Users did not have to leave the browser to view the cards unless they wanted to download the corresponding app.

URX - Co-founders John and James then introduced the URX native ads platform, which lets publishers monetize apps without compromising the user experience. URX aspires to be the AdWords & AdSense for apps.

James also did a live integration of the “Listen Button” in just a few minutes, proving that it indeed requires zero lines of code. He topped it off with a cool demo that uses the URX App Search API and Estimote iBeacons to take users from physical objects in the real world to the most relevant mobile content for that object. Upon placing his phone in the vicinity of a watch with a beacon attached, he was deep linked into the Fancy app to purchase the watch!

View URX's slides from the event:

URX: From YC S'13 to 2015

It’s hard to believe that sixteen months ago when we presented at YC Demo Day, deep linking was an obscure concept. Fast forward to today, when deep links have become a critical component in every mobile strategy. This powerful technique allows companies to re-engage users after the install and take a more holistic approach to their app marketing. Deep links are used in push notifications, social campaigns, advertising, and app partnerships to shorten the path to action. Facebook and Google also threw their weight behind their own deep link initiatives to increase engagement on their platforms.

In the past year, URX has worked closely with developers and marketers in all facets of deep linking and app re-engagement. We partnered with companies like Kohl’s and Grand St. to send over 200 million links that direct users inside apps. We’ve helped direct-response giants like Spotify and Threadflip re-engage users with advertising across 100’s of millions of impressions. And we built a web-scale crawler to index in-app content from more than a hundred apps from Airbnb to Zagat, along with a deep link search engine to easily access this information.

With this foundation, we are excited to continue building the most advanced native mobile ads platform on the planet. Our platform includes four pillars that we’ve built over the last 2 years, all of which are needed to create amazing mobile experiences:

As of today, we’ve launched a music widget to let developers integrate cross-app music search in less than 5 minutes and get paid for driving traffic and engagement in other apps. We’ll be rolling out widgets across other verticals quickly.

For as much progress as URX has made in the last year, we're still in the very early days of being able to capture the massive opportunity presented by programmatic, native mobile advertising. In 2015, we will build on our 2 years of domain expertise, deep technology and data to improve the relevancy, efficacy and usability of URX's platform to truly become the connective tissue between apps.

If you're an app developer who wants to monetize your app without compromising user experience, or would like to join us on achieving our ambitious mission, contact us to learn more about how we can work together.

John

 

A/B Testing in Go: An Interpreter for Facebook's PlanOut

PlanOut, which is Facebook’s set of tools for running online multivariate tests, makes it easy to run simple and complex field experiments. Facebook shared an open-source version of this framework, which is written in Python. We wanted to be able to use PlanOut to run experiments for our search engine, which is written in Go, so we wrote a Go Language interpreter. We’ve open-sourced this interpreter to make it possible to everyone to use PlanOut for applications written in Go – check it out here.

Designing tests for our search engine

We run multivariate tests to improve search relevancy and adjust the parameters our search engine uses to order, boost and filter search results. While there are a number of tools available, we selected PlanOut because it allows us to craft statistically sound experiments, we can integrate it anywhere in our stack, and we have control over the integration.

Some of the first tests we will run are around filtering or boosting certain search operators, like date and location. For example, are we providing better results if we boost results with a certain date range, or if we only show the most recent search results?

After we set up our testing parameters, we can randomly segment users, send them to different sets of search results, and then evaluate the both sets of search results based on click-through rates, search relevancy, and other key metrics.

If you’re interested in learning more about how we’re building our search engine, we’ve written more about it in these posts:


URX is hiring savvy engineers to build our search engine. View our job listings here.