SMS Link Previews: A Detailed Look

MessageFlow Team
5 min read
October 9, 2023

In the rapidly evolving realm of mobile communication, a major shift has occurred in how we interact with text messages. This transformation comes in the form of SMS link previews, a seemingly subtle yet incredibly influential feature that has quietly found its way into our everyday messaging experience. The article that follows aims to provide an informative and comprehensive look at this intriguing element of modern mobile messaging which can be utilized in a variety of ways.

So, feel curious about the topic? Very well! Let's shed some light on how SMS link previews work, their behavior on different mobile platforms, and their role in contemporary communication. Get ready to uncover the mechanics that power this feature across various systems and devices.

Understanding SMS link previews

SMS link previews came into the spotlight as an interesting feature. To navigate their role effectively, it's crucial to understand their essence and place in modern mobile communication.

Defining SMS link previews

When you receive an SMS containing a URL on certain devices, a preview is generated, offering a snapshot of the linked page within the messaging application. Its role is to provide a visual context to the recipient at a glance.

Variations in link preview behavior

One essential aspect to acknowledge is that the behavior of SMS link previews isn't uniform across all devices and platforms. Each device and messaging application may interpret and display these previews differently, affecting the user's experience. These variations stem from the device's software and settings, making it a device-driven feature.

link preview

Link preview behavior on iOS

Understanding how SMS link previews work on iOS devices is crucial, given the popularity of Apple's mobile ecosystem. Let's look at the specifics of this context.

Factors influencing link preview display

The behavior of SMS link previews on iOS devices is affected by several factors, reflecting the device's capabilities and settings. Here are some key considerations:

  • Link placement: iOS devices tend to display link previews when the URL is positioned at the very beginning or the very end of the message. Placing a URL in the middle of a message or surrounded by punctuation marks may not trigger a preview. This behavior ensures that link previews are presented in a user-friendly manner, respecting the message's content.

  • Number of URLs: iOS devices typically generate link previews for messages with a single URL. If multiple URLs are present within the same message, the device may opt not to display a preview. This behavior streamlines the user experience, preventing clutter and confusion.

  • Open graph metadata: iOS leverages Open Graph metadata on linked websites to create rich link previews. When available, OG metadata provides essential elements like the title, description, image, and URL. 

Link preview behavior on Android

Understanding how SMS link previews operate on Android devices is another vital aspect of our examination. Android, being a diverse and widely-used mobile ecosystem, offers its unique approach to link previews.

Introduction to Android's SMS link previews

Android Messages, the messaging app for Android smartphones, has joined the league of platforms offering SMS link previews. Let's examine the nuances of how the feature works within the Android environment.

Customizable elements in SMS link previews

One noteworthy feature of Android's SMS link previews is their customizability. Unlike some messaging features that are one-size-fits-all, Android allows users to tailor their link preview preferences to suit their specific messaging needs. Here's a glimpse into what can be customized:

  • Title: Users have the flexibility to assign a title to the link preview, enhancing its relevance and appeal.

  • Page description: A brief description can be added to provide context and entice recipients to engage with the linked content.

  • Image: Including an image in the link preview adds a visual element, making the message more engaging and informative.

  • URL: While the URL itself remains unchanged, Android allows users to present it as part of the link preview.

The functionality of SMS link previews

SMS link preview serves a distinct purpose within the realm of mobile communication. In this section, we will investigate its core functionality and the role it plays in enhancing user engagement.

SMS link previews as a communication tool

At their core, SMS link previews function as a communication tool, facilitating in-depth exchange of information between sender and recipient. They act as visual intermediaries, providing a snapshot of the content that awaits the user on the other side of the link. 

Impact and user engagement

SMS link previews are designed to have a certain impact on user engagement. Among the important factors to consider are:

  • Increased SMS size: SMS link previews increase the size of the message, making it more conspicuous and informative. This increased prominence can capture the recipient's attention more effectively.

  • Expanded "click zone": With the inclusion of a preview, the area available for clicking becomes bigger. This reduces the likelihood of accidental clicks and enhances the overall user experience.

  • Customization opportunities: Link previews empower users to customize the information displayed. This level of personalization can entice recipients to engage further with the message.

  • Greater user confidence: The immediate visibility of linked content within the preview instills confidence in the recipient. This can contribute to an improved customer journey overall.

Practical implementation of SMS link previews

Understanding the theory behind SMS link previews is essential, but the practical implementation is equally important. In this section, we will explore the practical aspects of incorporating link previews into your SMS messaging strategy, should you ever plan one.

Guidelines for effective use

To make the most of SMS link previews, follow the specific guidelines below:

  1. Placement and number of links: SMS link previews are most effective when a single URL is included at either the very beginning or the very end of the message. This ensures that the preview is triggered and presented in a user-friendly manner. If a URL is placed in the middle of a message or surrounded by punctuation marks, it may not trigger a preview.

  2. Include "http://" or "https://": To ensure that the SMS link preview functions correctly, URLs must begin with "http://" or "https://." This protocol is crucial for link recognition and preview generation.

  3. Use trusted URL shortening services: Using just any link shortening service may not be the best idea, since the URL it generates can be considered spam or even a phishing attack by in-built messaging apps. MessageFlow offers its own custom service in this regard, which provides security and the ever-important insights into how efficient your SMS campaign is. Oh, and it’s free too!

  4. Use a URL in your own domain: Better yet, with MessageFlow, you can send SMS containing links in your own domain. The way it works is you provide a URL, preferably containing your brand name, which gets a brief string of characters attached to it and voila! Your SMS gets that extra legitimacy and builds trust with the recipients.

Customization opportunities

As mentioned earlier, Android devices offer users the ability to customize elements within SMS link previews. This customization empowers senders to tailor link previews to align with specific messaging objectives. By personalizing the title, description, image, and URL, you can optimize link previews to elicit desired responses from recipients.

Leveraging open graph (OG) tags

To make sure that link previews display the desired information accurately, you can utilize Open Graph (OG) tags. These tags, integrated into a website's code, provide structured data that feeds into the link previews.

By setting OG tags for individual pages, you can control the information presented in the link preview. This customization ensures that recipients get a coherent and informative preview, increasing the likelihood of engagement.

Final thoughts

As this exploration of SMS link previews comes to a close, it becomes clear that the feature has become an impactful tool in the world of mobile messaging. It holds the potential to affect user engagement with its visual appeal, plus, the additional contextual information is difficult to ignore. That said, the effectiveness of SMS previews can vary, depending on user preferences, device capabilities, and strategic implementation.

Overall, SMS link previews provide you with versatile options for enhancing your messaging strategies. By understanding their mechanics, adhering to guidelines, and leveraging customization options, you can harness the potential of previews to create engaging and informative messages that remain a valuable asset in your broader cross-channel communication strategy.

If you're planning to launch an SMS-centered communication campaign, contact us to get expert assistance, as well as tried and tested tools that will help you get your point across efficiently. Get in touch with our specialists at:

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