Tracking Clicks on Outbound Links

Clicks on outbound links is an advanced statistic to track. It can give you insight into the biggest traffic leaks on your site or how well you're doing when you encourage people to follow a link offsite.

I recommend using Google Analytics for all your tracking needs. Its a free and powerful analytics package which can plug right into your Adwords account. (Note: This article assumes you're using the new Asynchronous tracking code.)

There are two main ways to track outbound links using GA, Virtual Page Views or Event Tracking. Both methods use a piece of javascript code within the link attributes to track the action of clicking the link.

Virtual Page Views

This method creates whats known as a virtual pageview when the link is clicked. You specify the path for the pagview as if it were an actual page and it is recorded within GA just like any other page view.

The problem is that the extra pageviews affect other important statistics such as Bounce Rate and Page Views/ Visitor. The advantage is that you can use the virtual page view as a goal.

Event Tracking

This method simply tracks the click as an event and is the more appropriate way to track clicks on outbound links.

The problem is you cant use the event as a goal within GA (yet).

I've been trailing the use of virtual pageviews on this blog and another site and I've decided that its ability to be used as a goal is not worth the affect it has on bounce rate. I am in the process of switching over to the event tracking method. I've found an interesting article which has a workaround for using event tracking as if it were a goal.

These resources might also be helpful:
Trying to work this stuff out was made much more difficult by the existence of this article: It contains an outdated method but because it was in Google support it was difficult to discount it. I eventually found some other threads; here and here that clear it up.

[Conversion tracking resources and reading]

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