Get More App Downloads By Using This iOS Linking Trick

Opening iTunes with a website link can elminate an extra step and boost your downloads. Learn how to do it in this post.

Hopefully you have already setup a website for your app. If you haven't, check our our post on setting up a website to market your app. Having a website gives your app yet another way to be discovered outside of App Store Search.

Even if you don't have a website setup yet, you will want to read this quick tutorial because we will show you how to eliminate a step from the download process, which can help you maximize your conversion (download) rate when people click on your online links.

The Problem

When you promote your app online, you can link to it so that a user can view it on the iTunes Preview website. This is great because that person can see all of the information about your app on one page.

For example, if you are Instagram, Inc and want to promote the Instagram app on the homepage, then you could use this link: In order for someone to download your app on a desktop operating system, there are two steps that have to be completed.

Step 1

When a person clicks on that link, it will take them to the iTunes Preview website. The only problem with this is that now people have to click on the View In iTunes button to actually download the app.

Step 2

When they click on the button, iTunes will then open on their desktop or laptop computer. From there, they can click on the download button and it will install the app on their iOS devices.

With every extra step that you add to the download process, you will lose people who might have otherwise downloaded your app. In addition, the View In iTunes button may not make it obvious to some people that they should click on that button to download the app. So how do you eliminate step 1 above, thereby removing a possible download barrier?

The Solution

Luckily, the answer is simple. First, use the iTunes Link Maker to create a link for your app.

Search for your app by name and select iOS Apps under Media Type. Then click on the Search button.

Then when the search results come up, click on the link for the app you would like to promote. In this example, when someone clicks on our link, they will be taken to the Instagram iPhone app in iTunes.

After you click on iPhone App Link, this box will pop up. Copy the direct link.

But before you use the link, you will have to change it slightly to get it to open iTunes. Simply change the "https" to "itms." Now you can use this link on any website and take the person who clicks it directly to iTunes to download your app.

Give this a try with any iTunes link to see how it works. You can now use this link on your website or any other website that promotes your iOS app.

Alternative Solution

But wait! There is another way that you can do this. The solution shown above may not work with certain browsers. If you find that a lot of your users are using a browser that does not support the method above, you can try this alternative method.

When you check out the Instagram homepage, you will see that they use a different link for their Download On The App Store button. When you hover over the button it shows that the link is:

Before we go on, this is a good lesson, so let's take a quick look at what they are doing. They are using link cloaking to redirect to the real link address. This may sound shady, but it isn't, and is actually a smart linking strategy.

One of the reasons that you might want to cloak some of your outbound links is so that they look more friendly because they use the current domain in the URL instead of the destination URL. Another reason is that if the destination link ever changes, it can be changed in one central location, instead of having to change every single instance of the link.

If you want to find out more about how to manually implement link cloaking, you can read this post. There are also many plugins that you can download for CMS packages such as Wordpress, that make it easy to do link cloaking.

When you click on the button on the Instagram homepage, it redirects to:

This invokes the iTunes search function. You can replace "instagram" in the search string that directs a user to your app.

The benefit to using this method is that it may be compatible with more browsers. The downside is that if your app name is not unique, the search function will take people to a list of search results instead of directly to your app, which defeats the purpose of opening iTunes with the link.

For example, it can be almost impossible to get the search string to display the "Craigslist" app. Instead, it returns search results like this.


So that is how to create website links that will open iTunes directly. If a user is on an iOS device using Safari, then any iTunes link will automatically open iTunes, so you don't have to worry about that.

Just like anything else, test to see if opening iTunes directly from a website link increases your conversion rate. It may work well for some and not for others. But eliminating even just one step from the download process can make it more likely that users on desktop operating systems will download your app.

If you would like to make more upgrades to your website, consider adding Smart App Banners to your site. Click here to learn how to implement them, it is super easy.

Do you think that it is more effective to open iTunes directly, or link to the iTunes Preview page?

Sensor Tower's platform is an enterprise-level offering. Interested in learning more?

Hugh Kimura

Written by: Hugh Kimura, Head of Content

Date: January 2014

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