Posted to Ben Finklea's blog on December 1st, 2009

Your Guide to Tracking External Links

When building your website (and you always should be), it’s makeup will include a combination of both internal and external links. Internal links refer to the links that send your traffic to other pages on your site, a proverbial intra-state highway system. External links refer to the links that send your traffic to another website other than your own.

Your Google Analytics account can track and report how your visitors navigate the pages and links within your site, but there isn’t a core feature that tracks traffic when they click away on an external link. However, there is a quick tweak you can do to the way external links are constructed that will tell Google Analytics to track of the number of visitors you are sending away.

Why Track External Links?

If you offer an affiliate marketing or cost-per-action (CPA) network, it’s a good idea to record data on how much traffic is following those external links. This allows you to compare your own figures with the networks. If your numbers and your affiliate’s don’t match up on the same report, you can catch problems that may slip through otherwise.

Also, if you trade reciprocal links you will want to know how much traffic you are sending to your link partner. If you are getting half as many click-throughs as your linking partner is getting from the exchange, you may want to negotiate a better placement of your link.

Tracking External Links

1. Open the source file for the page that contains the external link you want to track.

2. Locate the link in the source file. It will look like this:

3. Insert the following at the end of the link, but within the brackets:


4. Repeat this process for each link you want to track.

After 24 to 48 hours, your Google Analytics will be pumping about data for your external links on your Content Drilldown page.

Organizing External Link Data

Make a folder in your website and name it something like “outgoing”, “external”, or “clicks”. In this folder, separate and organize by the name of the URL you are linking to with subfolders. This is an easy and effective way to stay sharp on all your external link data and your overall SEO campaign.

This guide should give you some sturdy legs for tracking external links using Google Analytics with a code addition in the page source for each link. You can track your bounce rate and see which external links are worth the relationship, and which are not working. Give it a try and if you have a question or concern, leave us a comment below and we will respond as soon as we can.