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Deep linking — the practice of linking to relevant content inside of an app, not just to the app’s front door — is becoming an essential practice for app developers and the brands they represent.
An ad that links directly to a specific product page within a retail app, for example, is far more powerful than one that merely prompts the user to open the app, the thinking goes.
New York and Tel Aviv-based Deeplink operates a large network of deep links within thousands of apps. App makers can use the platform to connect links they place in emails, banner ads, and on social networks to relevant content within their apps.
Deeplink says its platform is already used by thousands of apps, including Shazam, WeWork, Jackthreads, and the New York Times, as well as by several (unnamed) large retailers’ apps. The company says almost 800 app owners are now paying to drive traffic through its network.
“Google, Facebook, and Twitter facilitate lots of deep linked traffic from their own sources, but we are the largest of the startups/non-public companies,” Deeplink co-founder Itamar Weisbrod tells VentureBeat in an email.
Now the company has launched a new program that further exploits the platform. It’s something like Google’s Ad Words, which creates an auction marketplace for advertisers who want to place advertisements, but for deep links in apps. AppWords, as Deeplink calls the new service, is “the first intent-based and keyword driven mobile search and advertising platform.”
AppWords enables app marketers to reengage their existing users by purchasing search keywords that are relevant to their app content. App developers host the AppWorks software development kit code in their app, which allows them to search for relevant deep links in other apps.
For example, a mobile app that sells movie tickets might have a defined exit point, like the confirmation screen people see after they’ve purchased a movie ticket. Using AppWords, the app can search for relevant content in other apps, then link a user from its confirmation screen there.
Ideally the app would send a user to content that would follow naturally from the exit point. It might search for information about a restaurant in the same neighborhood as the movie theater, for example.
The owner of that restaurant app might bid on the keyword phrase used in the search, like “restaurants near [theater location].” If the movie theater’s app uses that key word, the user might be taken directly to the reservation page in the restaurant’s app. If the restaurant doesn’t have its own app it could still bid to drive users into its profile page within a third party app like FourSquare, Yelp, or TripAdvisor, Weisbrod explained.
It’s clear that Deeplink’s take on search is very different than the desktop search paradigm. “The biggest behavioral shift we’re seeing is that mobile users don’t search like they do on desktop,” Weisbrod says. “Intents are declared inside of apps as the default behavior, and the keyword, Google-type search is now becoming the secondary behavior.”
After spending the last year building up its deep linking network, AppWords represents the first attempt at making money from the platform, the company says.
“What we’ve built is the connective layer between apps, enabling apps to, in a way, partner with each other, add product extension and also increase their LTV by monetizing their exit points,” Weisbrod said in a statement.
“AppWords is the perfect next step for the Deeplink platform,” Weisbrod said. “We’ve spent the last year building up a massive index of deep links, and this is the vehicle that will allow so many apps to benefit from what we’ve built.”
Deeplink says it is venture capital funded, but has yet to make those details public. The company now has eight full-time employees, spread between New York and Tel Aviv.
“[We’re a] classic Israeli-American startup, with unique folks like a Cambridge trained mathematician, a former Geocities/Yahoo employee, and the token elite Israeli Army 8200 Unit intelligence grad,” Weisbrod explains.
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