Tracking Outgoing Links on the Public Site with Google Analytics

A few weeks ago we started collecting a new metric in Google Analytics (GA) that can help explain how users interact with content on the eXtension public site. The new metric tracks outgoing clicks, which can reveal where and why visitors are leaving a page.

Previously, if an article had a link pointing to an external site (i.e. a non extension.org domain) and the page had a high exit rate, there was no way to know if a visitor clicked an outgoing link to leave, or if they left without interacting.

For example, suppose you had a page with a 50% exit rate (this means that half the visitors to that page end up leaving the public site from that page.) We didn’t know if those visitors are closing their browser window, or if they are following the link. But with outgoing link tracking, we could see that the true exit rate is, for example, 20%, and that a majority of visitors actually click on external links. In short, we get a more accurate measurement of how users are interacting with the page.

An Improved Bounce Rate

The bounce rate is a measure of how many visitors visit only one page on the site and leave. Generally speaking, low bounce rates are better because it means the user spends more time on the site, engaged, clicking from page to page. However if your page includes an external link, the page might have a high bounce rate (because they come from Google search, view the single page, and click an outgoing link). Tracking outgoing links will decrease the bounce rate for pages like that because GA now knows when a visitor interacts with the page. The lower bounce rates will more accurately reflect the quality of the visit.

New Profile and Pageviews

To access the outgoing clicks data, you will need to select the new profile we added to the GA start page. The new profile is called “www.extension.org Outgoing links (not for total page views).” The existing, primary profile is “www.extension.org.” We needed an additional profile because this new feature works by creating a virtual pageview for every outgoing click, and that artificially inflates the pageview count for the entire site. These virtual pageviews are filtered out of our primary profile “www.extension.org,” so if you need to count pageviews, be sure to use the primary profile.

Switching Profiles

If you are already logged into GA and viewing the primary profile, you can switch to the other profile using the dropdown at the top of the page.

Comparing Profiles

We compare the data from the two different profiles below so you can see how they differ.

In the following image we can see that the outgoing links are filtered from the main profile, and show up in the “outgoing links” profile. We know that the lower exit rate is more accurate because the outgoing click is captured.

To see this information for your page, you need to visit a Content Detail page in Google Analytics. Click on “Content” > “Top Content” and then search for your page. Once you find your page, click “Navigation Summary” to see what links visitors are clicking to leave the page.

If you are interested in learning more about GA, please join the eXtension Web Analytics Community in People. We’ll give you access to the eXtension GA account and let you know when we have GA professional development sessions.