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Enabling Deep Links for App Content

To enable Google to crawl your app content and allow users to enter your app from search results, you must add intent filters for the relevant activities in your app manifest. These intent filters allow deep linking to the content in any of your activities. For example, the user might click on a deep link to view a page within a shopping app that describes a product offering that the user is searching for.

Add Intent Filters for Your Deep Links

To create a deep link to your app content, add an intent filter that contains these elements and attribute values in your manifest:

<action>
Specify the ACTION_VIEW intent action so that the intent filter can be reached from Google Search.
<data>
Add one or more <data> tags, where each tag represents a URI format that resolves to the activity. At minimum, the <data> tag must include the android:scheme attribute.

You can add additional attributes to further refine the type of URI that the activity accepts. For example, you might have multiple activities that accept similar URIs, but which differ simply based on the path name. In this case, use the android:path attribute or its variants (pathPattern or pathPrefix) to differentiate which activity the system should open for different URI paths.

<category>
Include the BROWSABLE category. The BROWSABLE category is required in order for the intent filter to be accessible from a web browser. Without it, clicking a link in a browser cannot resolve to your app. The DEFAULT category is optional, but recommended. Without this category, the activity can be started only with an explicit intent, using your app component name.

The following XML snippet shows how you might specify an intent filter in your manifest for deep linking. The URIs “example://gizmos” and “http://www.example.com/gizmos” both resolve to this activity.

<activity
    android:name="com.example.android.GizmosActivity"
    android:label="@string/title_gizmos" >
    <intent-filter android:label="@string/filter_title_viewgizmos">
        <action android:name="android.intent.action.VIEW" />
        <category android:name="android.intent.category.DEFAULT" />
        <category android:name="android.intent.category.BROWSABLE" />
        <!-- Accepts URIs that begin with "example://gizmos” -->
        <data android:scheme="example"
              android:host="gizmos" />
        <!-- Accepts URIs that begin with "http://www.example.com/gizmos” -->
        <data android:scheme="http"
              android:host="www.example.com"
              android:pathPrefix="gizmos" />
    </intent-filter>
</activity>

Once you've added intent filters with URIs for activity content to your app manifest, Android is able to route any Intent that has matching URIs to your app at runtime.

To learn more about defining intent filters, see Allow Other Apps to Start Your Activity.

Read Data from Incoming Intents

Once the system starts your activity through an intent filter, you can use data provided by the Intent to determine what you need to render. Call the getData() and getAction() methods to retrieve the data and action associated with the incoming Intent. You can call these methods at any time during the lifecycle of the activity, but you should generally do so during early callbacks such as onCreate() or onStart().

Here’s a snippet that shows how to retrieve data from an Intent:

@Override
public void onCreate(Bundle savedInstanceState) {
    super.onCreate(savedInstanceState);
    setContentView(R.layout.main);

    Intent intent = getIntent();
    String action = intent.getAction();
    Uri data = intent.getData();
}

Follow these best practices to improve the user's experience:

  • The deep link should take users directly to the content, without any prompts, interstitial pages, or logins. Make sure that users can see the app content even if they never previously opened the application. It is okay to prompt users on subsequent interactions or when they open the app from the Launcher. This is the same principle as the first click free experience for web sites.
  • Follow the design guidance described in Navigation with Back and Up so that your app matches users' expectations for backward navigation after they enter your app through a deep link.

Test Your Deep Links

You can use the Android Debug Bridge with the activity manager (am) tool to test that the intent filter URIs you specified for deep linking resolve to the correct app activity. You can run the adb command against a device or an emulator.

The general syntax for testing an intent filter URI with adb is:

$ adb shell am start
        -W -a android.intent.action.VIEW
        -d <URI> <PACKAGE>

For example, the command below tries to view a target app activity that is associated with the specified URI.

$ adb shell am start
        -W -a android.intent.action.VIEW
        -d "example://gizmos" com.example.android