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How to Track Outbound Links in GA4

Last Modified on January 18, 2024

Did you know that setting up outbound links in GA4 is unnecessary?

Why? Because GA4 will do it for you.

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In this post, we will show you how to find the outbound link click data in Google Analytics 4 and discuss the advantages of tracking it. 

Here is an overview of what we’ll cover:

Let’s dive in!

Checking Default Settings or Turning on Enhanced Statistics

Enhanced statistics is one of the best features that can track outbound traffic by default. It can track not only page views but also outbound link clicks. 

Enhanced Stats are events that Google collects automatically, provided you have enabled the Enhanced Stats feature. Note that this type of event is only tracked on sites. If you see that it is turned off, this is an easy fix.

However, finding that data and reports might take a lot of work for beginners. So, let’s look at how you can do that in Google Analytics 4.

First, let’s make sure this feature is turned on in your GA4 property. Go to the Admin section, then head to Data Streams within the property column, and select your website data stream. 

Data Stream settings

Here, you will find the enhanced measurements section. 

Enhanced measurements section

If enabled, you can check what kinds of events are tracked automatically.

Today, we’re shining the spotlight on outbound links in GA4. If you can’t find it right away, no worries! Just click on the gear icon and enable this feature. 

Enabling outbound clicks in enhanced measurement settings

Once activated, GA4 will keep tabs on every time a visitor clicks a link that takes them to another website, which we call outbound links.

Where Can I Find Outbound Links in GA4?

After you’ve collected the outbound link click data for at least 24 hours, then stroll over to the Reports section under Engagement. You’ll find a list of events there, including the one we care about, the outbound link event named “click.” This is where the magic happens.

However, at this stage, you’ll only see the basics – how many times the event happened and the total number of users who engaged with your outbound links in GA4. But for the juicy details about which specific links were clicked, it’s time to roll out the explorations.

Outbound Traffic Report in Explorations 

Head over to the sidebar in GA4 and find Explore. Choose Free Form or Blank to create your exploration adventure. 

Choosing the Exploration Report type

Now, add dimensions by clicking the plus sign. Start with the event name and the all-important Link URL

Selecting Link URL dimensions to import in the report

These dimensions are your treasure map to the clicked links. Import them into your exploration.

To get the complete picture, let’s add some metrics. Event count helps you see how often each link was clicked, and total users give you the big picture of user engagement.

Add these metrics to your exploration to supercharge your analysis.

Adding Event Count and Total User metrics to the Exploration reports

Building Your Custom Report

It’s time to craft a report that spotlights the MVPs – the most clicked outbound links. Start by double-clicking the link URL and the two metrics you added. By default, you might see all the events on your website, not just clicks. 

To zoom in on our click event, scroll down to Filters. Pick the event name and ensure it matches with the click. Apply the filter, and voila – your report is tailored to perfection.

Adding filter of Event names, leaving only click events

Patience is a virtue, so if you’re starting with GA4 or recently enabled outbound click tracking, don’t fret.

Standard reports can take up to 24 hours to fill with data, and exploration reports might need up to 48 hours. If you don’t see your data after a day, give it another 24 hours.

Configuring Outbound Traffic for Standard Reports within GA4 Interface

In addition to the custom report in Explorations, you can add more information about your outbound traffic to standard reports. And this can be done without involving developers and even without using GTM.

Bring Back Universal Reports!

What if you or your client want to see the outbound link clicks as separate events alongside other events, as it was possible to configure within previous Universal Analytics?

No problem. We can modify and configure click events within GA4 to extract only outbound clicks. In general, the click event lets you know which links are most frequently clicked by users on your site before they leave it.

Outbound clicks are used to track the transition on an outgoing link to another domain. Along with it, an additional outbound parameter is sent (with the value true), and such parameters are link_classes, link_domain, link_id, and link_url.

The outbound parameter of the click event equals true in Debug mode

To extract only clicks with these parameters, we need to take the following steps:

Modify GA4 Events: Tweaking Settings

Navigate to Admin, then Events. Click  Modify Event and assign a new name to your adjustments.

Modifying events in admin panel GA4

Customizing GA4 Events: Defining Initial Match Criteria

In this step, elucidate which events or parameters require modification. In our instance, we’ve opted for event_name equals click, and we’ve introduced a secondary condition, outbound click equals true.

Matching conditions to modify click event

Adapting GA4 Click Events

We’ve introduced a fresh event_name parameter to the conditions outlined earlier and renamed it outbound_click.

Modifying click event

Eliminating the Outbound Parameter from the Click Event

To exclude this parameter from click tracking, insert an additional row featuring the outbound parameter, leaving the value field empty.

Removing the outbound parameter from the click event

Now, you will see outbound clicks separately from other clicks, as a custom event along with other events.

Custom outbound_click event

Tips: Displaying Outbound Link Domains within Standard Reports

Here are a few tips to make standard reports more comfortable to do. Add parameters like link_domain within standard reports if you want to see them as custom definitions.  

Step 1:

  • Navigate to your GA4 Admin interface.
  • Locate the section for Custom Definitions.
  • Opt to create custom dimensions.
Custom definitions within GA4

Step 2: Add your parameter name. Choose the link_url or link_domain event parameter in the dropdown and click Save.

Naming parameters in Custom definitions

Now, you can find Link Domains and Link URLs within standard reports.

💡 Top Tip: If you need to learn more about custom definitions, read our setup guide. 

1. Navigate to all events and click on our custom Events – outbound_click event. You’ll see the cards with these parameters

Outbound link domains in standard reports

2. After adding parameters to custom definitions, you can also add parameters as a secondary dimension to the standard Events reports.

Secondary dimensions in the Events report

Summary

Tracking outbound links in GA4 is like finding buried treasure for your website strategy. It offers valuable insights into how users interact with your outbound links, helping you make informed decisions.

By following the simple recommendations from this post, you’ll harness the full potential of GA4 and take your website’s performance to new heights. 

Continue reading about customization affiliate links and setting up them as conversions.

Share in the comments if this was a useful article or your experience in installing an outbound tracking through GTM.

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Sergiu
Sergiu
21 days ago

Thanks, Inna!

Last edited 21 days ago by Sergiu
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