How To Track App Downloads and Engagement with App Deep Links and Google Analytics UTM Tags
Every online marketer around the world is probably familiar with Google Analytics for measuring web traffic and campaign attribution, but what about mobile apps? Marketers are discovering that with the right campaign link it’s possible to route traffic to a brand’s app and website from the same link, while appending attribution tags just like you do today for a web URL.
This post shows you how to do that by creating an intelligent campaign link that will open your app, website, or the right app store while appending UTM tags for Google or any analytics solution. Marketers can see better results when they have control over routing and can align the consumer journey with the goals of the campaign.
The concepts covered in this post apply to any marketing channel whether you’re linking to your app from social ads, SMS campaigns, email, or even QR codes to open apps that let you attribute scans and measure installs by appending attribution tags to the link behind the QR.
Before we get to the ‘how-to’, it’s important to understand some background about app deep linking and UTM analytics. So, let’s start by clearing up a few misconceptions as well as some important things to consider when trying to measure app installs.
What to Know about App Deep Linking and UTM Analytics Tags
Apart from Google Analytics, a common misconception about app deep linking is that you need to install yet another third-party SDK to be able to link to your app from different marketing channels while measuring app installs and app engagement. Not so— hallelujah!
So how has attribution technology changed with regard to mobile apps?
When apps became popular, measuring app installs was perhaps the most important key performance indicator (KPI) for app marketing. Apps were also a treasure trove of device-level behavioral data which created an opportunity for third-party companies to create SDK-based solutions that offered attribution and dashboard analytics to measure app installs in exchange for your app’s data.
Your app’s device-level data would be collected by the SDK, pooled with data from other devices, and sold for re-targeting (a big no-no today). That ecosystem of surveillance marketing became the norm until Apple and Google changed their privacy policies.
Fast forward to today’s privacy-minded advertising ecosystem and that value exchange is less appealing. In fact, now is a good time to evaluate all the SDKs in your app and make sure they’re not using surveillance marketing tactics.
To build audiences, marketers are now focused on first-party data and removing friction in the consumer journey to maximize conversion. New, cloud-based solutions like URLgenius do not require an SDK for app linking which makes them codeless. App deep linking today is easier and gives marketers more control over when to route visitors into a brand’s app, website, or the right app store based on the goals of the campaign.
URLgenius lets you append UTM tags to your app deep links and pass those tags into your app, your website, or the right app store all from the same campaign link so you can measure the incremental results of your campaign.
You can measure app store visits, app installs, app-opens, and app re-engagement all without installing or managing an SDK. This codeless approach lessens the burden on your technical team and helps you implement attribution capabilities faster.
You can set up your campaign links and test them immediately. The following example will step you through how to create a deep link with attribution. The link will open the app if it’s already installed and depending on the goals of your campaign, you can decide to set the fallback to the website or the app stores when the app is not installed. So, let’s dig in and create one!
Step-By-Step: Using the URLgenius App Deep Link Composer to Build or Update Your Google Analytics Tracking Links
To create an app deep link with attribution that opens your app while falling back to your website or the right app store, start at the URLgenius home page where you will see a box where you can enter a regular web URL.
This is the URLgenius app link builder or composer.
Paste a regular web URL into the box on the URLgenius home page and include your Google Analytics tags. In this example, we’re going to create an app deep link to the Tripadvisor app to a specific hotel property:
The composer can be configured to recognize your link and your app and then it will automatically populate all the information needed to compose your deep link with attribution tags. When you paste the link, URLgenius shows you that information embedded in your deep link including the app address or URL scheme for the screen being opened in your app for iOS and Android.
If the URLgenius link composer is not familiar with your app, you can fill in the required fields manually. If URLgenius does not show you your app’s logo, start by entering your iOS App Store or Google Play link and filling out the fields or contact us for help setting up your links.
You can customize the end of the link to be aligned with your campaign then select compose and you’ll be brought to the settings page where you can copy your URLgenius deep link to place in your campaign. Scan the QR code to test the behavior of the link. You can also use your brand’s domain for your links which is easy to set up from the settings of your account.
To go back get your link later or to adjust the link settings click ‘Console’ from the menu and select the link.
The settings page has several tabs for advanced settings. The routing tab is where you can set the fallback URL to the website or the app stores. You can also add or change your attribution measurement tags. Keep in mind your attribution tags need to be added to your fallback URL and the app address for iOS and Android. Contact us to request a demo and to go over any questions you may have about adding attribution tags.
Pro Tip for Reporting: URLgenius shows you clicks, app-opens, app store visits, and scans for QR code campaigns. The number of app installs attributed to your campaign links can be viewed in the iOS App Store and Google Play consoles. Generate your app store links in the consoles to ensure they have the right tags.
Deferred Deep Linking and Attribution Tags
App marketers may be familiar with the phrase ‘deferred deep linking”. A deferred deep linking campaign is when you offer your audience an incentive for downloading your app. The first time the user opens the app they are routed to the screen with the offer.
Your URLgenius app deep links work in a similar way this advanced use case. An SDK is not required for deferred deep linking only a few lines of code are placed in your app. Contact us if you’d like to test this use case.
Your app may already have some deep linking and attribution capabilities only to discover that it doesn’t work for today’s most important use cases like social media ads, display advertising, or even paid search ads. Some deep linking technologies are designed only for very specific use cases like organic search and that’s why it may not be working and your app doesn’t open across channels.
Cloud-based app linking helps you find ways to lighten the burden on your team by implementing a simpler approach to deferred deep linking and other capabilities like app install banners. A codeless approach to these challenges will also empower your marketing team to be more nimble and get to market faster.
Once you increase your app installs with app links and deferred deep linking, you’ll want to lead your customers back into your app from social media and other marketing channels to engage with specific screens and content.
You’ll need a URLgenius link for that type of campaign as well due to the ‘walled garden’ or web login friction.
Read on— this is important!
How Walled Gardens Interfere with App Marketing, Google Analytics UTM Tags, and Attribution
Even if your app already has some type of deep linking capability, you may have discovered it doesn’t work for your use case espeically when trying to open the app when it’s already installed. That’s because your links still need some extra deep linking functionality to remove the most common friction in the consumer journey.
When your link doesn’t open your app the industry calls this the “walled garden” effect.
The walled garden has no resemblance to any actual garden you may have visited in your lifetime, but you’ve experienced it as a consumer. The walled garden is a common industry challenge that ‘breaks’ attribution measurement and can typically be seen when linking app to app or from various marketing channels into an app. The issue when linking to your app from social media.
When your visitor clicks a regular web link and the app is installed, it’s logical to expect your brand’s app to open to the right screen. Instead, your visitor is routed to your brand’s website login in the embedded browser of the app they’re in (Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, an email app, etc.).
That’s friction. That’s the walled garden.
For an app user, that’s frustrating and most consumers abandon their shopping or content journey at that moment. It’s more like a brick wall than a walled garden because it prevents your attribution tags from being passed to your app.
When your consumer abandons their journey at your web login, campaign measurement and attribution is stopped in its tracks (no pun intended). Even if your visitor jumped over to your app and found what they were looking for and took action, your campaign link can no longer follow the consumer’s journey and attribution is lost. Your campaign doesn’t get the credit. So how do you fix it? URLgenius is the answer. You simply update your links to add some advanced deep linking capability.
With the right type of campaign link appended with attribution tags, your visitor can securely jump over that web login and open your app to the right screen while passing attribution tags to your app and website or the app stores all from the same campaign link.
URLgenius is Your Codeless App Deep Linking Solution for Maximizing App Downloads and Reengagement Across Channels
If you’re not linking directly to your app from social media and measuring your results, you could be missing out on significant sales and remarketing opportunities. App deep links with attribution tags will help turn social media into a powerful channel for driving app installs and finding new customers.
So, doesn’t it make sense to build a seamless bridge between social media and other channels and your brand’s app with URLgenius?
We are always here to help you with your app-linking campaigns! Contact us with questions at firstname.lastname@example.org about campaign attribution, app deep linking, and QR codes.
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