We are entering a “mobile only” world where our everyday decisions take place on mobile devices. In fact, almost 90% of the time we spend on mobile is in applications: discovering a cafe on Yelp, listening to Spotify, buying on eBay, reading Bleacher Report, or watching Hulu.
These leading apps are part of a group of trendsetting companies that have both added deep links to their apps and added deep link header tags to their corresponding websites. This is an important distinction: adding deep links to a mobile app enables a company to link into specific pages in the app, while adding the proper deep link tags to websites informs everyone how to link into that app.
In an analysis of the top 200 mobile apps on the Android and iOS App app store charts, we find that only 22% of apps have added these deep link tags to their websites for at least one operating platform. Companies that have added tags for all three platforms (Android, iPhone, and iPad) comprise just 8% of the top 200. We exclude mobile-only apps like Snapchat or Uber.
We are looking specifically for a website mapping to the app URI scheme, such as:
<meta name="twitter:app:url:iphone" content="ebay://xyz"> <meta property="al:android:url" content="hulu://xyz"> <link rel="alternate" href="android-app://com.goodreads/http/www.goodreads.com/xyz"> <link rel="alternate" media="screen and (os: ios)" href="ios-app://app_id/seatgeek/xyz">
We count “yes” if an app has any of the deep link tag sets proposed by Twitter, Facebook, Google, or URX tags. In the above examples, eBay uses Twitter Card tags for its iPhone app, Hulu uses Facebook App Links tags for its Android app, Goodreads uses Google tags, and SeatGeek uses the URX tags.
We run a script through both the website’s homepage and inner pages for this URI scheme since some companies use header tags on either or both. Third parties need to know apps’ deep links in order to send traffic to them, whether from the mobile web, e-mail newsletters, social media, or even from other apps.
Findings by Vertical
The top 200 apps in more “action-based” verticals have the highest adoption of tags, such as Entertainment (46% have tags) and Music (36%), but there are glaring gaps in “passive” categories where users actually spend more time, including Social (6%) and Productivity (0%). Below, we dig deeper into the findings for some of the top app verticals.
Analyzing over 130 of the top ranking News apps, 4 of the top 10 apps have deep link tags (ABC News, BuzzFeed, Flipboard, and Fox News), but just 20% of the top 50 and 11% of the top 100 do. ABC and Fox are the only two with tags for each of their Android, iPhone, and iPad apps.
Publishers are using mobile deep links to better engage and retain their readers. In fact, News has one of the highest retention rates among app verticals, according to a study by Flurry.
Most of the large publishers also have several apps. For example, CBS has apps for CBS News, CBS Radio News, CBS Sports, CBS Sunday Morning as well as The Masters Golf Tournament, Showtime, and others. We believe mobile deep links will become the standard for companies like CBS to re-circulate relevant content and drive organic installs among their “app constellations.”
Of the top 10 Entertainment apps, 6 have mobile deep link tags on their sites, including Crackle, Fandango, Flixster, HBO GO, Hulu, and YouTube. This reflects the relatively high average time spent in these apps as well as the need for a significantly better in-app than mobile web experience to watch rich media like movie trailers or TV shows.
Music & Social
Music and Social are the two most popular app verticals, each having 5 apps in the overall top 15. Music apps Spotify, iHeartRadio, and SoundCloud all expose their mobile deep link structures to the web while the only Social app to do so is Pinterest.
Interestingly, Facebook and Twitter, who have each proposed a standard for deep link tags, have yet to adopt their own proposals on their respective websites.
Streaming music companies have quickly become mobile companies, as evidenced by the fact that over 80% of Pandora’s listening hours come from mobile and connected devices. Music apps will benefit as more Social and News apps, important channels for music discovery, allow deep linking from their apps into these Music apps.
The most surprising app vertical is Lifestyle, a broad spectrum of apps where 8 of the top 15 have deep link tags, ranging from Medium, Tumblr, and Wikipedia to Cartwheel, Yummly, and Zillow.
Deep links are helping drive traffic back into the less frequently used apps, especially as the average smartphone user has 65 apps installed but launch only 8 every day.
Of the top 50 Shopping apps, 26% have added deeplink tags to their sites, but just 3 are among the top 25 Shopping apps: eBay, Etsy, and Amazon Local. Others outside the top 25 include OfferUp, Modcloth, Threadflip, Fancy, Instacart, and Luvocracy.
E-commerce highlights the need for a more cohesive experience across all devices and form factors. Mobile spending is still around 15% of all e-commerce, in part due to a cumbersome checkout experience on mobile web. By 2020, some believe mobile will account for more than 75% of online commercial transactions.
Retailers will need to use deeplinks in their apps to provide consumers with the best mobile shopping experience and increase their conversion rates on smartphones, which are currently one-fifth those on desktop.
Travel & Local
Similar to Shopping, 29% of the top 40 apps in Travel & Local have deeplink tags on their corresponding websites. Both Airbnb and Yelp have tags for their Android, iPhone, and iPad apps. Several ticketing apps including Eventbrite, Live Nation, Seatgeek, and Stub Hub have successfully used tags to route users directly into their apps from e-mail newsletters and social media campaigns.
A huge opportunity looms for travel search engines, airlines, hotels, and rental cars where hardly any apps successfully use deep linking.
Users should have the ability to search on Kayak and Hipmunk and see results that link into apps of affiliate partners to book flights, hotels, or cars.
Join the Deep Linking Movement
Our deep linking analysis of the top mobile apps suggests that several categories such as Entertainment, Lifestyle, and News are pioneering the Reaggregation of the Web. However, Social and Productivity apps lag behind, and there has yet to be notable adoption of deep link tags in Sports, Finance, Health & Fitness, and Transport.
Some apps may have added deep links to their app but do not have the deep link header tags on all their sites. It is good practice to use these tags and tell the web how to link into the mobile app. For the 78% of top 200 apps that do not have deep link tags on their sites, their app content remains hidden behind gated walls. Deep links are essential to reconnect native apps and the web to create the most fluid and engaging mobile experience.
We are at a turning point in the mobile app ecosystem where deep linking is becoming a priority and not just a feature.
Companies will achieve a competitive advantage through higher levels of user engagement and retention as well as the ability to surface the most relevant app content at the right time.
How do you join the deep linking movement?
Enabling mobile deep links requires a straightforward, one-time codebase addition to an app, which involves registering a scheme to open the app and mapping routes to in-app pages or actions. Most importantly, the mobile deep link structure should be exposed to the web using either Facebook, Google, or Twitter tags. You can find more information on deep linking in 3 Steps or get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.