With all the different deep linking standards that have emerged over the past few years, it has become incredibly hard for brands to maintain and update linking on all platforms and to create links that work everywhere, regardless of platform, channel or device type.
To help, companies like Branch have created hosted linking platforms that help brands create one hosted link that automatically handles all the different deep linking standards while being customizable at the account, campaign, and link levels. This enables marketers and product managers to customize the behavior of a link depending on the use case.
For example, some links can take users to the mobile website when they detect an app is not installed, while others can take them to the App Store or Google Play Store. Here are the eight critical aspects that a hosted deep linking system must fulfill:
- A single, backwards-compatible address (URL) for each link that is valid everywhere links can be used.
- Delivers users to the requested destination (the basic definition of a ‘link’).
- Capable of handling both public destinations that should be discoverable, and private destinations that require authentication or authorization.
- Able to detect the device and environment details of the user, and intelligently route to the best available experience (across desktop web, mobile web, and native app). This should be possible even if the preferred option is the native app, and it needs to be installed first.
- Centralized implementation of technical details (e.g., handling failure edge cases), preserving ease of creation and use for individual links.
- Updatable in real time (including retroactively for existing links) to incorporate emerging technologies and new edge case failures as they are discovered.
- Analytics reporting (such as the HTTP referer header and UTM parameters) for the entire traffic pipeline.
- Able to accept additional, contextual link data (often implemented on the web as URL query parameters).