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How To Set Up Google Deep Linked Ads with Branch

By March 29, 2017 No Comments

This is the second in a two-part series about deep linked advertising on Google. Part 1 covered background concepts. In this post, we will walk through how to configure everything using Branch, and discuss an alternative approach to mobile app ads.

Okay, so where are we? Well, if you read Part 1, you’re probably sold on the value of deep linked Google ads, understand basically how they work, and now just need instructions for properly setting them up.

Display Network App Install Campaigns

This is the simplest ad type to set up with deep linking, since the same process works for both iOS and Android.

Option 1: Track Keywords Only

If you just want to track which keywords drove installs, Branch provides a pre-configured link for you to use. This conforms to the format AdWords expects, and automatically passes through keywords as tags you can measure through Branch’s Source Analytics feature, like this:

Here are the steps to set up only keyword tracking:

  1. Go to the Settings > Link page on the Branch Dashboard.
  2. Scroll down to the Google Ads Conversions section and find the AdWords URL for non-Universal App Campaigns field (note: this link will be on the bnc.lt domain, even if you are using an app.link or a custom domain — this is expected and will not cause any problems). 
  3. Input this value into the Tracking template field of your AdWords Campaign, Ad Group, or Ad.
  4. Google may have pre-filled the Final URL field with your App or Play Store page (if not, go ahead and enter it). Take that value and append it as a query parameter to the end of the Tracking template URL: &$desktop_url=[Final URL value]. The full value will now look like this: https://bnc.lt/a/key_live_gchnKkd3l3m9YBPP2d73jmfejkcgVjgM?tags={keyword}&$desktop_url=https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=io.branch.branchster
  5. Click the Test button. When everything is configured correctly, you will get a success message:
  6. If you want even more tracking data, you can optionally pass through any of the AdWords ValueTrack parameters as Branch link data. For example, if you wanted to map the AdWords campaign, you could append &campaign={campaignId}

Option 2: Track Individual Links

If you want to break out clicks and installs in more detail, using individual Branch links is a better approach. You can still get keyword reporting as described above, and you’ll also be able to see statistics for each link you use:

To set up tracking for individual links, follow these steps:

  1. Create a Branch link to use. A Quick Link is usually the best option. Make sure your link redirects desktop users to the App Store page (for iOS ads) or Play Store page (for Android ads) of your app, otherwise AdWords validation will fail
  2. When setting up your AdWords Campaign, Ad Group, or Ad, input your Branch link into the Tracking template field
  3. Google may have pre-filled the Final URL field with your App or Play Store page. If not, go ahead and enter it.
  4. Click the Test button. When everything is configured correctly, you will get a success message:
  5. To map search keywords, append ?tags={keyword}
  6. If you want even more tracking data, you can optionally pass through any of the AdWords ValueTrack parameters as Branch link data. For example, if you wanted to map the AdWords campaign, you could append &campaign={campaignId}

Search Network App Install Campaigns

On iOS, Search Ads are easy. You can follow exactly the same process outlined for Display Ads above, with the exception that there is no “Test” button at the end (so make sure you get your Branch link redirections right to avoid rejections later.)

On Android, Google has decided to make Android Search Ads special: even though the Tracking template box appears that appears in the AdWords UI, is completely ignored.

To configure Android Search Network ads, follow these steps:

  1. Register for the Google Play Install Referrer when integrating the Branch SDK.
  2. Create a Branch link to use. A Quick Link is usually the best option.
  3. Take the URL of your link and append ?debug=1. For example, https://bnc.lt/ALMc/C496HDZTdB?debug=1
  4. This URL will bring you to a debug page. You are looking for the idof the link:
  5. Append this value, along with an HTML-encoded equals sign (%3D) as a query parameter to the end of the Final URL in your AdWords Campaign, Ad Group, or Ad: &referrer=google_search_install_referrer%3D366317753604696960 The final URL will look like this: http://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=io.branch.branchster?hl-en&referrer=google_search_install_referrer%3D366317753604696960

Universal App Campaigns

Universal App Campaigns are perhaps the most “set it and forget it” variety of app advertising available from Google, and Branch’s integration is equally painless once initially configured. You’ll see clicks and installs broken out by link, like this:

Step 1: Set Up a Conversion for Universal App Campaigns

  1. Go to your AdWords dashboard
  2. In the top nav bar, click into Tools > Conversions
  3. Click the + Conversion button
  4. Select App from the cards presented
  5. Select First opens and in-app actions
  6. Select the appropriate platform: iOS or Android (note: if you select iOS, you will see the warning shown below. All Universal Ad Campaign ads run through the Display Network, so this can be safely ignored)
  7. Select App installs (first-open)
  8. Select Continue
  9. Give your conversion a name like Branch iOS Conversion
  10. Under Value assign a value (or select Don’t assign a value to this install)
  11. Under Mobile app input your application details
  12. The Postback URL section is where you provide the data Branch uses to retrieve deep link parameters A. For Android, enter http://branch.io?adid={adid}&lat={lat}&click_url={click_url} B. For iOS, enter http://branch.io?idfa={md5_advertising_id}&lat={lat}&click_url={click_url}
  13. Click Save and continue
  14. Under Set up your tracking method, select Set up a server-to-server conversion feed from an app analytics package to Adwords and note the values provided
  15. Go to the Settings > Link page on the Branch Dashboard
  16. Scroll down to the Google Ads Conversions section
  17. Enter the Google Conversion ID and Google Conversion Label for the relevant platform from step 14
  18. Scroll down and click Save
  19. Return to the AdWords dashboard and click Done

Step 2: Add Branch Link to Conversion

  1. Create a Branch link to use. A Quick Link is usually the best option
  2. Take the URL of your link and append ?debug=1. For example, https://bnc.lt/ALMc/C496HDZTdB?debug=1
  3. This URL will bring you to a debug page. You are looking for the id of the link:
  4. Head back to your AdWords dashboard
  5. In the top nav bar, click into Tools > Conversions again
  6. Find you previous Branch conversion and click on its name to view details
  7. Click the Edit settings button
  8. Modify the Postback URL to append &link_identifier=link-366317753604696960. For example http://branch.io?adid={adid}&lat={lat}&click_url={click_url}&link_identifier=link-366317753604696960
  9. Click Save

An Alternative Approach to App Advertising

All of that said, advertising for app installs may not always be the best option. Users are more likely to download your app if they know what they are getting on the other end, and even deep links cannot prevent drop-off by users who click an ad but drop before completing the install process.

If you think this could be a problem for your app, you may want to consider offering a content preview before redirecting to the App or Play Store. Branch offers two ways to make this extremely simple:

Deepviews

These free, customizable content previews are automatically hosted by Branch for every link. They are easy to set up, and work even if you don’t have a website of your own. Once you enable Deepviews, you can use your Branch link as the destination of any standard AdWords ad type. Because every Deepview contains a call-to-action button, users will have an easy path into the app.

Journeys Smart Banners

If you already have a website, Journeys is the easiest, most flexible way for you to convert mobile web visitors into app users. This adds up to a perfect way to offer pre-download content previews for ads, since you can advertise your mobile web content and still give a meaningful experience to users who don’t want to install the app.

Paid advertising is a reality of most app marketing efforts, but it can be difficult to optimize campaigns or even determine if they are working at all. Deep linked ads both improve your ad ROI and give you improved visibility into down-funnel metrics, and setting them up via Branch is easy and simple for any marketer, developer, or founder.