GeoMarketing 101 - What Is Mobile Deep-Linking?

The coming together of the walled garden of apps and the openness of the web has meaning for enterprises with thousands of locations on down to SMBs.

Location data, geo-targeting, geofilters. Location-based technology is opening up a world of possibilities for marketers — but it’s also complicated, as new capabilities and use cases seem to emerge every day.

With the goal of breaking down some of the most important “geo” concepts to provide a better understanding of the basics — and a jumping off point for exploring how far the power of location may take us — we introduce the next installment of our GeoMarketing 101 series: understanding mobile deep linking in the context of location-based marketing.

What Is Deep Linking?

In general, deep linking directs a user to their desired page within a website or an app, skipping the landing page in order to get them directly to the specific information they are looking for.

A deep link functions just as a hyperlink in a browser does — with one notable exception: it launches the user into a specific point within an application, instead of a website. This can happen from anywhere in the mobile ecosystem. That can be app-to-app, web-to-app, email-to-app, even app-to-web.

Deep links can be embedded within push notifications, in-app messages, emails, social media, and within other apps. Both Google Android and Apple iOS have their own protocols and differences, but developers can easily navigate through both.

Deep Linking In Action

For a business that wants its physical place to be discovered by a person using  a smartphone, the value of deep linking lies in its ability to allowing the confirmation of a location from two data points — one from the app and the other from the website where the deep link was launched.

The benefits can come in many forms. For a possible scenario, think of a clothing store that has a particular brand of jeans in stock that no one seems to be buying. It wants to drive more sales of that item by getting people in its store. When a consumer opens their phone to search for jeans, deep linking goes into action.

The prospective jeans shopper is sent an in-app ad that links directly to a product description and then to a location of a store that has the item in stock.

In the past, a consumer would have to wade through a retailer’s home page, then search some more to find the item that might interest them. By targeting consumers based on past web behaviors and their location services settings, the right store, with the right product, can be found by the right consumer.

And that precision can benefit publishers looking to drive greater mobile ad revenues as well.

“Location-based targeters can take advantage of deep linking, because the mobile web utilizes a little piece of code called the geolocation object,” geo-data specialist Therran Oliphant, wrote in GeoMarketing. “Assuming minor collaboration with the app, the site can retrieve and asynchronously ping the users GPS to obtain the most accurate user location and share that with the app. Since advertising inventory with precise location parameters is highly coveted and more expensive, publishers can command higher rates for this inventory in open exchanges. That in turn incentivizes all players to work together toward achieving better location accuracy.”

Deep Linking’s Impact On SMB Search

As deep-linking between apps becomes more prevalent, we will also start to see usage patterns change with respect to search. According to Greg Crockart, the CEO of WPP Group cross-platform agency Candyspace, “Brands will be able to use search to drive users back into apps, which they may have long forgotten.”

Still, search ad spending by SMBs is projected to lose revenue share to social media channels, BIA/Kelsey has reported, forecasting that search’s current share will go from 50.4 percent this year to 45.6 percent by 2019.

The report indicates that in their own respective ways, Apple, Google, and Facebook are all competing and reshaping a local marketplace that BIA/Kelsey now estimates to be worth $7 trillion — $2 trillion of which is comprised by mobile — as the practices of using deep linking is reforming the way businesses compete at the regional and neighborhood level.

“Though deep linking is a factor that will assist search’s revenue share, overall we’re seeing a clear decline in search query volume,” said Mike Boland, BIA/Kelsey senior analyst.This is simply because app usage far outweighs browser, and the latter is where search lives. The front door to connected experiences is more fragmented and siloed into different apps, meaning its not channeling through Google’s front door. That query volume is the foundation for search revenues.”

As we’ve seen with its moves to incorporate iOS 9 apps in its search index as well as the widening coverage being advanced in its Google Now app, Google will surely find ways to meet the challenge of the shift to apps and away from the browser, Boland added.

“But the underlying trend will still take a bite,” Boland said. “Meanwhile, native social is on the rise for the above reasons and will take some of that share. That’s why the numbers are the way they are.”

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.