In the Deep Link Ad Game, Google Scrambles to Keep Up with Facebook

Users spend roughly 80 percent of their time with smartphone apps, whereas 20 percent or less of their time is spent on websites.

facebook google deep link ad gameIndexing AppURL links within mobile apps lets people search for content on mobile apps in ways similar to Web searches. Google, for example, is suggesting that companies use deep links to tag pages within their website that are similar to content sections of their mobile app.

The company has been indexing content inside mobile apps and links pointing to that content featured in Google’s search results on smartphones. But as users spend more time on mobile apps, Google’s traditional search engine risks becoming less relevant — along with its $50-billion advertising business — and the company is struggling to keep up with Facebook’s success with ads that prompt users to install apps.

Facebook’s deep linking advertising technology was launched in 2012 with “app install ads” that appear in Facebook’s mobile app, prompting more than 145 million app installations from the Google Play Store and Apple’s App Store.

Links to apps on a mobile phone are often more useful than Web links as smartphones can capture relevant user information such as location. According to The Wall Street Journal:

Links inside apps are crucial, because that is where smartphone users spend roughly 80% of their time, according to mobile-analytics firm Flurry; by contrast, Flurry says users spend only about 20% or less of their time with mobile websites.


“Search is the gateway to information on the Web, but that is not the case in mobile,” says Simon Khalaf, Flurry’s chief executive. “When people turn on their phones, they are clicking on apps, not going to the browser and typing”

google deep links

Mobile research firm, Localytics, found that more than 60 percent of apps are opened 10 times or fewer after being downloaded, which makes deep linking particularly appealing to developers. In order to encourage re-engagement among users, Facebook added the “mobile app ads for engagement” feature that lets app developers buy deep links pointing back to apps users already have installed.

Google offers links only to apps on mobile devices using its Android operating system but Google product manager, Lawrence Chang, told the WSJ that there is no reason not to expect it to work with Apple’s iPhone. “Whether content is in an app or a website, we should be able to help find it.”

Google declined to comment on whether the company will sell advertising with deep links. But John Milinovich, founder of mobile-ad firm URX, thinks ads will appear soon. He told the WSJ, “[Google’s] Adwords for deep linking will be huge.”

Apple, Twitter and others also support deep linking technology.