Track Website Outbound Links

In this article, see how to track your WordPress website outbound links and see which of those external links receive the most clicks

Updated on December 9, 2022
Track Website Outbound Links

Do you want to track outbound links on your WordPress website? Outbound links are the links that take users away from your website. These could be links to affiliate products, social networks, or simply other websites that you have linked to from your website. In this article, see how to track your WordPress website outbound links and see which of those external links receive the most clicks.

You can always create a list of all the links you’ve added to your website, but that’s not practical. A better approach is to use a tool that helps you track outbound links, such as Google Analytics. In this article, we’ll talk about why it’s important to keep tabs on these links and teach you how to do it with the aforementioned tool. Let’s get to work!

If you’re a regular Elegant Themes reader, you’ve probably noticed we include many outbound links in most of our pieces. This is to help you find related content that you might find interesting and to support the information we present. Most websites will link to external content, at least to some degree.

The problem is it’s often hard to keep track of all the links you add to your websites. This can cause you a few problems down the line:

  • Websites might go offline. Not all websites stick around forever. This may lead you to unwittingly link users to sites that no longer exist, which can hurt your SEO.
  • Content could become outdated. Some content might stop being relevant or useful as time passes. You’ll want to replace those outbound links with newer ones when that happens.

Additionally, by tracking your outbound links, you’re also not able to monitor their Click-Through Rates (CTR). This can help you determine where to place links and optimize their anchor text.

The best approach to tackling this is finding a tool to help you compile all your outbound links. There are plenty of services you can use to monitor those links and see how they’re performing. Let’s talk about how to use one of them.

In this section, we will focus on track clicks on outbound links on WordPress sites using Google Analytics. We chose this approach for a few reasons. First, it’s always a good idea to use an analytics tool for your website, and Google Analytics is one of the best options. Secondly, using Google Analytics provides you with a lot more benefits than merely being able to track outbound links. For example, it enables you to monitor the performance of your links, which is one of the benefits we mentioned earlier.

One way you can do this is by manually adding JavaScript to your Google Analytics tracking code. However, we’re going to show you an approach that is cleaner and has the added benefit of helping you learn how to use Google Tag Manager, which is another handy tool.

In order to follow this process, you will need to have a Google Analytics account set up to work with WordPress. If you haven’t set one up already, do this now.

Even if you’re familiar with Google Analytics, you may not know how to use Google Tag Manager or what it does. In short, Google Tag Manager is a tool that can help you customize the Google Analytics JavaScript code on your website. With it, you can track complex events through a simple tags system. In this section, we’ll teach you how to use Tag Manager to set up outbound link tracking with Google Analytics.

To get started, create a Google Tag Manager account and link it to your website. Once you’ve done that, open the Google Tag Manager dashboard and look for the tab reading Triggers. Click on it and hit the New button at the top of the screen:

Triggers are conditions that determine whether or not a tag is activated. In this case, the trigger will be used to track when an outbound links is clicked. Start by setting a name for your new trigger, for example, Outbound Link Clicks, to make the purpose clear. While you’re at it, you should also set the Click option to Choose Event, then move on to the Configure Trigger section and choose the option that reads Link Click:

So far, we have set up a trigger activated when someone clicks on an external link on your WordPress site. Now we’re going to get a bit more specific. Look for the Enable When section and input the following settings in order, Page URL > matches RegEx > .*:

Events Track

This tells Google Analytics to track this type of event on all pages on your site. All that’s left now is to indicate what type of links it should track. To do that, go to the Fire On section and choose the Some Clicks option. Configure it to fire using the criteria Click URL > does not contain > yourdomain.com:

This configures the trigger so that it only tracks when someone clicks a link that doesn’t include your domain. You should, of course, replace the yourdomain.com placeholder with your own site’s URL. When you’re done, click on Save Trigger.

We just set up our event’s trigger! All you have to do now to start tracking is link it to Google Analytics.

Linking New Trigger

Google Tag Manager works with several tools, not just Google Analytics, so you must manually link your new trigger to your Google Analytics account before it starts to work. To do that, return to your Google Tag Manager dashboard and go to the Tags tab. On the next screen, name your tag and choose Google Analytics as the product:

Now, set Universal Analytics under the Tag Type heading, assuming you’re using that implementation on your website (which you should be). Further on, type {{AnalyticsID}} under Tracking ID.

This is where things get a little tricky in this track outbound links guide. Here you’ll see a section called Event Tracking Parameters. Inside, you need to add a number of settings exactly as we describe them. Choose Outbound Links under Category, then type {{Click URL}} under Action, and {{Page Path}} right beneath Label:

Finally, scroll down to the Fire On section and click on the More option:

You’ll see a list of all your custom triggers on the next screen. You should see the trigger you set up during step number one here:

Choose that trigger and click on the Create Tag button. Your new tag is now ready to be published, which you can do by clicking the red Publish button at the top of your Google Tag Manager dashboard:

With that, you’ve completed the setup portion of this tutorial!

During the first two steps, you create a custom Google Analytics event you can monitor from your dashboard. If you want to see it in action, you’ll need to let your website accrue some data beforehand. After waiting a while, go to your Google Analytics dashboard and navigate to your Behavior > Events > Overview tab. Here you’ll be able to monitor your outbound links’ performance by looking at the Top Events section at the bottom of the page:

Likewise, you can also monitor real-time data concerning outbound clicks by going to the Real-Time > Events tab on your dashboard:

You can now use this tab to monitor your link performance and track clicks on outbound links on your WordPress site. You should take some time to check your top performers to see if the links are broken and evaluate whether you need to replace them.

Final Words

Outbound links are among the most powerful resources for helping your visitors find other content that might help them. However, sometimes sites go off the map, or the content gets out of date. Without a tracking tool, staying on top of these issues is difficult. We hope this guide on how to track clicks on outbound links on your WordPress website has helped you. If you have any questions or if you want to add something, leave it to us in the comments section below.