An In-Depth Look at Deep Links and Their Relevance Today

What Are Deep Links?

Simply put, a deep link is any link that points a user to a specific web page that may be several layers deep past the site’s home page. In most cases, as long as the link doesn’t go to the website’s home page, then it is effectively considered a deep link. For a more concrete example, take a look at the URLs below.

Non-deep link URL:

Deep Link URL:

The importance of deep links today is mostly tied to the way mobile apps redirect users to a specific piece of content on a site. However, the ultimate goal of deep links is to save users a lot of time when they are presented with a link. Instead of redirecting them to the home page and force them to navigate down to that specific page, users can be taken directly to the intended resource thanks to the deep link.

History of Deep Links

Links have been an inherent part of the Web's architectureDeep links have always been part of the Internet’s inherent architecture. In hindsight, all links – whether it points to the home page or a deeper page – are considered equal, allowing published documents on a site to be easily shared by users.

The search engines in particular have been designed with the express purpose of sharing specific pages that were relative to the users’ entered search terms. The term itself was made popular around 2006 to describe the way that Google and other search engines serve specific pages, via their results pages, that were beyond the home page to their users.

However, the concept of deep linking existed even before the turn of the century – mostly in the form of controversial copyright violations. In 1997, a case was filed between Ticketmaster and Microsoft where the latter deep linked to Ticketmaster’s site from its Sidewalk service, completely bypassing Ticketmaster’s home page. The case was eventually settled through a licensing agreement between the two parties.

A similar case was filed by Ticketmaster against for a similar infringement. The case was ruled in favor of, with the judge stating that deep linking to Ticketmaster’s pages was legal as long as it was clear that it belonged to them. The legal ruling concluded that URLs were basically public domain and was not covered by copyright law.

Despite the initial controversy that deep linking brought, its applications took another step forward in 2008 when Apple released its iOS SDK. It gave developers the capacity to create apps that could handle deep linking as well as mapping to content and actions. Despite the software structure at the time still being very basic, it at least paved the way for page content to be mapped into an app.

Google followed suit in 2012 when they also implemented deep links to content on the Google+ app. Google showed that it was possible for deep linking to be used across apps, regardless of whether you’re using an iOS or Android device. Users no longer had to open a separate app or browser when a link was shared on Google+, greatly improving the user’s experience.

Applications Today

With the rising adaption rate of mobile device users, the need for a seamless mobile app-to-app experience was more important than ever. This is because many people now use their mobile devices to do online transactions and there was a need for better tools to drive them towards a site’s targeted landing pages.

Instead of relying on email and web ads for traditional marketing channels, apps on both iOS and Android devices now allow for a more intelligent and focused form of acquiring new customers. Even non-commercial apps like Facebook and Twitter now have the capacity to open links directly and display an internal page like a regular browser.

On the SEO side of things, it gave websites a better way of diversifying their link profile by allowing links to be spread out across several channels. In addition, user experience has also improved because of the way users are now able to get targeted information directly instead of manually navigating their way through so many pages. Finally, long-tailed keywords also get a lot of love thanks to the way deep links work.

Deep Linking Tactics

With the importance of deep links established, let’s take a look at some winning strategies on how to effectively implement deep links to a site. In placing deep links, the main idea here is quite simple: location. Knowing where to place your deep links is just as important as knowing how to do it.

  1. Social Media Account – Any site with a social media account can get a lot of mileage by posting the link to a high value page that you want to promote. Sharing deep links that your audience will appreciate is a great way to drive more traffic to your site, especially if you have some interesting content. While there’s nothing wrong with sharing your site’s home page, you get much more value by posting an interesting internal page.
  2. Blog comments – Depending on the topic of the blog article, you might want to leave a link to a related page on your own site (after replying with a relevant comment, of course). Leaving an interesting comment can get a good conversation going and sharing a link to a similar page that furthers the discussion is a great way to link back to your site. Even if links on blog comments have a nofollow attribute, it’s still a great way for users to know where to get more of the same type of content.
  3. Forums – Similar to blog comments, some forum posts allow you to enter a customized URL to website of your choosing. Instead of pointing it to the home page, why not try promoting some of your internal pages here instead.
  4. Author bios – If you’re a content writer, here’s your chance to share a link to an article that’s related to the one that you’re writing about. The same concept applies if you’re a guest writer for another site. Instead of just directing users to your website, a short author bio saying something like: “For more articles like this, here’s another one that you might like.” is an effective tactic you might want to try.
  5. Email signature – This is another place where it’s common to find a link to your home page. However, this adds very little value to your email respondents, especially if this is an email address that is client or customer facing. The main strategy that we’re going for here is getting users to go to your internal page and pique their interest enough to interact more with the page. It’s also a good idea to switch out what page you’re trying to promote from time to time.

Though stemming from a simple concept, deep links have a lot of intrinsic value that a lot of people easily dismiss. Understanding how they work and how to leverage them can be a great way to boost your site and promote your high value pages even further.

Glen Dimaandal
Glen Dimaandal
Glen Dimaandal is the founder and CEO of SearchWorks.Ph. He has been doing SEO since 2008 and is consistently featured in mainstream media and industry conferences. His core skills include SEO, SEM, data analytics and business development.
Glen Dimaandal
Glen Dimaandal
Glen Dimaandal is the founder and CEO of SearchWorks.Ph. He has been doing SEO since 2008 and is consistently featured in mainstream media and industry conferences. His core skills include SEO, SEM, data analytics and business development.