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Bitly, famous for its ubiquitous link-shortening service, has announced new deep-linking functionality designed to help marketers increase mobile app engagement and installs.

The New York-based company has previously made noises around the benefits of deep linking, but now the company is moving beyond its own web-based URL roots into the world of apps.

Deep linking involves using a uniform resource identifier (URI) that does more than launch a native mobile app on your smartphone — it actually takes you to a specific place within it, such as an article or video. It’s similar to how URLs work to connect content on the web.

Bitly’s deep-linking function, Deep Links, serves as an extension to its existing Bitly Brand Tools, and it means that mobile app users (basically most smartphone users) who click on a Bitly-shortened link can be taken directly to a specific point in an app. If the app isn’t installed on their device, they can of course be sent to the relevant app store to download it, or redirected to the mobile-web version of the content (if it exists).

This is win-win-win situation — whatever a marketer’s goal is with the link (“Bitlink”), Bitly is now better equipped to cater to it — and this means that marketers are more inclined to use Bitly. But it also serves to remove the friction from the end user’s experience, which is key here.

“App audiences are incredibly valuable, but there isn’t a comprehensive solution for marketers and publishers to drive their users deep into their apps,” explained Mark Josephson, CEO of Bitly, in a press release. “Bitly is uniquely positioned to solve this problem because we already work with the largest brands and publishers in the world to make their links more powerful. Deep Links address a core objective for Bitly Brand Tools customers — getting the right content on the right device. It’s a logical extension for Bitly that’ll make it easy for customers’ Deep Links to work with existing links — and maximize the value of mobile audiences.”

As one of the biggest URL shorteners on the web, with more than 21 billion links shortened to date, supporting deep links is a big move. ComScore data suggests that seven out of eight media-consumption minutes on mobile take place within an app, and as much as 86 percent of consumers’ time (U.S. data) is spent within native apps. So this move makes sense on many levels. By automatically redirecting to Google Play or Apple’s App Store to download apps, or to the mobile web, the company is ensuring that all bases are covered.

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