GA4 Outbound Links: How To Track Them in 2024

Are you curious about how many visitors are leaving your website through outbound links? Tracking outbound links in Google Analytics 4 can provide valuable insights into user behavior and help you optimize your website’s performance. This article will explore a simple and effective method to track GA4 outbound link clicks without complex code changes, additional custom dimensions, and using Google Tag Manager. Whether you are running an affiliate website or an e-commerce store, understanding GA4 outbound link activity can help you make data-driven decisions to enhance user engagement and drive conversions. Let’s get started.

What’s outbound link tracking in GA4?

Outbound link tracking in Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is a valuable feature that allows website owners to monitor and analyze user clicks on links that direct them to external websites. An outbound link, also known as an external link, is a hyperlink on a website that leads users to a different domain or website outside of the current site. This feature is particularly beneficial for affiliate websites, e-commerce stores, content publishers, and any other websites that rely on external links to drive traffic and conversions.

Implementing outbound link tracking involves setting up event tracking parameters to capture data whenever a user clicks on an outbound link. This data is then sent to Google Analytics for analysis, providing insights into user behavior, engagement patterns, and the effectiveness of external links in driving website traffic and conversions.

For affiliate websites, outbound link tracking can help track conversions and measure the performance of affiliate links. E-commerce stores can use this data to understand which external websites are driving the most traffic and sales. Content publishers can optimize their outbound link strategy to improve user engagement and drive desired actions. If you have links to your social media profiles on your website, tracking outbound clicks can be beneficial as well.

Overall, outbound link tracking in GA4 is a valuable tool for businesses looking to optimize website performance, enhance user experience, and make data-driven decisions to improve their digital marketing strategies. By leveraging this data effectively, website owners can gain a deeper understanding of their audience, improve website engagement, and drive success online.

How to turn on GA4 outbound links tracking for your property

Google Analytics 4 simplifies the process of tracking outbound links, making it much easier than with Universal Analytics. Enhanced Measurement in GA4 allows you to activate outbound link tracking directly within the interface, without the need for code changes, custom dimensions, or Google Tag Manager.

Here are the detailed steps to track outbound link clicks in Google Analytics 4:

So, what steps do you need to take to track outbound link clicks?

  1. Log in to Google Analytics 4 and navigate to the Admin page.

    Step 1 Admin Page

  2. Select “Data Streams” from the Admin page.

    Step 2 Data Streams

  3. Choose “Web Stream Details” from the Data Streams section.

    Step 3 Web Stream Details

  4. Activate “Enhanced measurement” and click the gear icon to access the settings.

    Step 4 Enhanced Measurement

  5. Within the Enhanced Measurement settings, toggle on the option for “Outbound clicks.”

    Step 5 Toggle on Outbound Clicks

Yes, with just these five steps in Google Analytics 4, you can efficiently enable outbound link tracking without the complexity associated with Universal Analytics, which required up to 20 steps. Upon completion, GA4 will begin collecting the “click” event with the following parameters.

Event ParameterWhat it is
Link classesThe HTML class attribute for an outbound link or file download. For example, if a user clicks a link “<a class=”center” href=”www.youtube.com”>“, this dimension returns ‘center’.
Link domainThe destination domain of an outbound link or file download. For example, if a user clicks a link “<a href=”www.youtube.com”>”, this dimension returns ‘youtube.com’.
Link IDThe HTML id attribute for an outbound link or file download. For example, if a user clicks a link “<a id=”socialLinks” href=”www.youtube.com”>”, this dimension returns ‘socialLinks’.
Link textThe link text of a file download.
Link URLThe full URL for an outbound link or file download. For example, if a user clicks a link “a href=”https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=analytics”>”, this dimension returns “https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=analytics”
OutboundThe text ‘true’ when a link leads to a website that’s not a part of the property’s domain.

The above data is essential to distinguish between different click events on your website. All these event parameters will be accessible in Google Analytics reports.

Once GA starts collecting the first outbound information, we’ll be able to find the link data in GA4. However, remember that you’ll only have access to the data collected after following these steps. It might take up to 48 hours for the first data to show on GA4.

Troubleshooting that GA4 outbound link tracking works properly

You can utilize the DebugView feature to test your outbound clicks in Google Analytics 4. With DebugView, you can verify if the outbound click tracking works in real-time. Here’s how to do it:

  • Enable Debug View in GA4 by clicking on the “DebugView” button in the top right corner of the GA4 interface.
  • Navigate to your website and click on any outbound link that you want to test.
  • In the Debug View, you will see the event related to the outbound click. Click on the event to access more details.

This action will display specific event parameters and their values, you will see the outbound parameter and the value true for the outbound click event allowing you to verify the accurate tracking of the event and ensure that the outbound click is being recorded correctly in Google Analytics 4.

Troubleshooting GA4 Outbound Link Tracking in GA4 DebugView Report
Troubleshooting GA4 Outbound Link Tracking in GA4 DebugView Report

View your GA4 outbound links in GA4 Standard Reports

In standard reports, you can find outbound clicks by navigating to Reports > Engagement > Events. In the table, outbound click events will be listed alongside other events, typically identified as click. 

Outbound Click Event Data in GA4 Standard Reports
Outbound Click Event Data in GA4 Standard Reports

However, a limitation of using the standard report is the inability to view the individual links that were clicked by users. To overcome this limitation and view specific outbound links instead of the aggregated outbound click event data in the standard report, the method outlined in the next section will provide more detailed information about the outbound links that users are interacting with.

Explore GA4 outbound link clicks in Exploration Reports

Google Analytics 4 includes a helpful feature called Explore for creating customized reports and visualizing data. You can use it to create a customized report to explore outbound link data in Google Analytics 4. Just follow these steps:

Step #1: Log in to Google Analytics 4 and Go to Explore Tab

Step 1 Go to Explore Tab

Step #2: Create a new blank report

Step 2 Create a blank report

Step #3: Import the following dimensions to your report:

  • Link URL
  • Outbound
Step 3 Import the dimensions

Step #4: Import the following metrics to your report

  • Events count (to see how many clicks a link received)
  • Total Users (to see how many users clicked a link)
Step 4 Import the metrics

Step #5: Add custom metrics and dimensions to the report

  • Add “Link URL” dimension to Rows
  • Add imported metrics into “Values”
  • Add “Outbound” dimension to Filters (exactly matches “true”)
Step 5 Add custom metrics and dimensions to the report

Step #6: That’s it! GA4 will show you the data about outbound links clicks.

After you build this report, you can save it with the exploration name “Outbound Link Clicks”, and you will be able to return to it whenever you need it. 

Note: Please keep in mind that apart from “Link URL” and “Outbound” dimensions, you can also use “Link domain”, “Link ID”, and “Link text”. 

Apply a smart filter to see proper GA4 outbound link clicks 

When creating a custom outbound click report in GA4 Explorations to showcase outbound link click data, it’s essential to filter out certain types of data such as phone numbers, emails, and “javascript:void(0)” tracked by GA4 outbound click tracking. 

Applying the following filters to the report will help exclude this information: 

  • “Link URL does not contain javascript:void(0)”
  • “Link URL does not contain mailto:”
  • “Link URL does not contain tel:.” 

These filters ensure that the outbound click data presented in the report focuses only on relevant links, eliminating any unwanted or irrelevant details for a more focused analysis.

Smart Filter to See Proper Outbound Link Clicks
Smart Filter to See Proper Outbound Link Clicks

Why is Link Text not available with outbound link clicks?

Currently, Google Analytics 4 (GA4) does not capture link text for outbound link clicks. This issue may be due to a potential bug in the system, as link_text is automatically captured for file downloads but not for outbound link clicks. To address this problem and use Link Text data in reports, a workaround involves disabling the outbound click feature in the enhanced measurement settings of GA4 and setting up outbound click tracking using Google Tag Manager (GTM).

How to use Outbound Link Clicks to Set up Key Event / Conversion in GA4? 

In a recent update, Google Analytics 4 now considers conversions as key events. If you want to set up a key event to track specific outbound link clicks, such as Calendly links, you can create a custom event inside GA4 using the existing “click” event and mark this newly created custom event as a key event.

To create the custom event, navigate to Events in your GA4 admin section, click on it, and then click on the “Create event” button. This will open a window where you can update the event name to “calendly_link_clicked” and add an event parameter—”link_domain” set to “calendly.com”.

Creating a custom event in GA4 to track Calendly outbound links
Creating a custom event in GA4 to track Calendly outbound links

To set the outbound click event as a key event, go to the Events section within the data display area of your GA4 admin panel. Find the “calendly_link_clicked” event in the list of events and toggle the switch next to the event name to designate it as a key event.

Why do GA4 Explorations not show more than 2 months data?

The default setting for GA4 Explorations only shows data for the last two months. However, you can adjust this setting to access historical data beyond the two-month window. To do this, go to the Admin area of your GA4 property and navigate to the Data Retention section. By modifying the data retention settings, you can extend the timeframe for which data is available in GA4 Explorations, allowing you to analyze historical data.

Data Retention Settings in GA4
Data Retention Settings in GA4

Do you need extr​​a help with tracking your outbound link clicks in Google Analytics?

Outbound link tracking is a critical component for many websites. If it’s imperative for your business success and you’re experiencing issues with tracking outbound link clicks in Google Analytics 4, rest assured that we have already resolved this issue for Bridal Guide.

Bridal Guide, an influential online magazine offering valuable insights into weddings and lifestyle trends, faced outbound link tracking challenges that were effectively resolved with the assistance of Vakulski-Group. To delve deeper into this success story, don’t hesitate to review our detailed case study or reach out to us today for expert guidance on tracking and analyzing your outbound clicks.

GA4 Outbound Links: Final Words

Google Analytics 4 offers a more streamlined approach to tracking outbound link clicks compared to Universal Analytics, thanks to the Enhanced Measurement feature. Setting up outbound link tracking in GA4 through Enhanced Measurement eliminates the need for code changes and developer costs, making it a more accessible and efficient process.

Tracking outbound links in Google Analytics 4 is crucial for gaining insights into how users engage with external content on your website. While GA4 standard reports provide some visibility into outbound click events, they may lack detailed information about individual outbound links.

To address this limitation, you can leverage the GA4 Explore feature to create custom reports that offer a more in-depth analysis of the outbound links users interact with. This approach allows you to gain a comprehensive understanding of user behavior related to outbound links and optimize your website’s performance accordingly.

By utilizing these techniques, you can effectively monitor and analyze outbound link activity in GA4, improve user experience, and make informed decisions based on data insights. If you have any feedback or questions, feel free to leave a comment below.


Frequently Asked Questions

What is outbound link tracking?

Outbound link tracking allows you to track links on your website that send visitors to other websites.

Can Google Analytics 4 track outbound links clicks?

Yes, Google Analytics 4 Enhanced Measurement allows you to track outbound links clicks without code changes, GTM usage and custom dimensions.

Everything you need to do is to take the following steps:
#1 Log in to Google Analytics 4 and go to Admin page 
#2 Go to Data Streams 
#3 Go to Web Stream Details
#4 Activate “Enhanced measurement” and click on the gear icon 
#5 Toggle on “Outbound clicks” 
#6 GA has started to track outbound links clicks! That’s it!

How do I see outbound links in Google Analytics 4?

Firstly, you should activate outbound links tracking in GA4 Enhanced Measurement. 
Secondly, you should take the following steps to see outbound links data in GA4:
Step #1: Activate outbound links tracking in GA4 Enhanced Measurement. 
Step #2: Go to GA4 Exploration and create a new report
Step #3: Import the following dimensions: “Link URL” and “Outbound”
Step #4: Import the following metrics: “Events count”, “Total Users”
Step #5: Add imported metrics and dimensions to your report. 

How to set up a conversion/key event using GA4 outbound links tracking?

To set up the outbound click event as a conversion or key event in GA4, go to the Events section in the admin area under the data display section. Locate the outbound links event, then toggle the “Mark as conversion” or “Mark as key event” switch.

How to see outgoing traffic in Google Analytics 4?

To view outgoing traffic in Google Analytics 4, follow these steps:
1. Enable outbound click tracking in the Enhanced Measurement feature of GA4. This can be done by navigating to your GA4 property settings and enabling the outbound click option under Enhanced Measurement.
2. Once outbound click tracking is enabled, you can use the Explore feature in GA4 to create a custom report specifically for outgoing traffic analysis. 
3. Additionally, you can check standard reports related to outbound links by going to Reports > Engagement > Events in the GA4 interface. Here, you can find data on outbound click events.

What’s a click event in GA4?

Click events are tracked automatically as part of a set of features known as Enhanced Measurement. With Enhanced Measurement enabled, GA4 automatically tracks various user interactions, including clicks on certain elements such as outbound links, video plays, file downloads, and scroll tracking. 

23 Replies to “GA4 Outbound Links: How To Track Them in 2024”

  1. Thank you, this is a good start.
    The report in UA I need to replicate shows the outbound link clicks, and percentage of people who clicked a link (which is the important number). Like all the typical reports it was for a particular period of time, and it had a graph of whatever you wanted at the top.

    I assume all this is possible to do?

  2. Hi, this is very helpful thank you. I notice that it will only display 500 outbound links when I set the report up under explorations. is there a way to display more than 500?

    1. Hi Jodie,

      There is no possibility to see more than 500 rows in GA4 Explore, but you can export the data into Google Sheets and access all data there.
      Please let me know if you have more questions.

      Best regards,
      Ihar

  3. Hey Ihar, great article. I can easily track phone link clicks with what you have already discussed (data showing up as expected). However, I would like those phone link clicks as conversions. I would like to add it as an event and then mark it as a conversion. Would how I have set it up as an event work properly? (I realise I would then mark as a conversion) Here is a screenshot: https://ibb.co/8zTQHDz

    I know I can easily do so with GTM, but I would like to do so without.

    Please help and I look forward to your response.

    1. Hey Jack,

      Thanks for the question!

      GA4 “click” event tracks click that redirect a user outside of your website, basically. You track phone calls on your website; they are not leaving after that to another website, they are staying.
      In this case, you should set up a custom event via Google Tag Manager.

      Best regards,
      Ihar

  4. Hi.

    The reason I’m interested in this is that I want to track how many people clicked to go to my calendly from my website.

    Each campaign I’ve created has it’s own separate landing page, but I only have one calendly page. So I’d like to know what campaigns bring traffic to the calendly and also know how well each campaign gets appointments for me.

  5. Hey,

    Can you please do similar tutorial to set up tracking affiliate links. Let’s say they are all marked with /go/, how can I set up tracking /go/ affiliate links? As they are kind of internal links.

    Thanks a lot!

  6. Hi Ihar, this was helpful, thanks.

    How would you go about setting these link clicks as events so they can be marked as a conversion?

    1. Hi Brandon,

      Thank you very much for reaching out.

      In order to set up outbound links as conversions in GA4, you can use GA4 Interface and create a custom event from existing events (GA4 -> Admin -> Events -> Create events) with the following parameters:
      1. event name equals click
      2. link_domain equals (or contain) …

      After that, just mark this new custom event as a conversion in GA4.

      Let me know if you have questions.

      Best regards,
      Ihar

  7. Thanks for this…however, what would you do if after enabling enhanced outbound tracking and generating that report outbound url data was not being reported? It is just a blank field.

    1. Hi Jeremy,

      Thank you for the question.

      If everything is right with the GA4 setup, then you should investigate the link format at the HTML level.
      I recommend you to look at the official Google documentation on GA4 enhanced measurement events.

      The full URL for an outbound link or file download. For example, if a user clicks a link ‘‘, this dimension returns ‘https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=analytics’.

      Let me know if this is helpful.
      Ihar

  8. Thanks for this, I did everything correctly, I been collecting outbound clicks for months but after I build report they only show me one row with this – javascript:void(0)

    1. Hi Thom,

      Most likely, the issue is with the HTML code your website uses for outbound links, which prevents GA4 from tracking them correctly.
      I recommend talking about it with the developers. You can also share the link to your website here.

      Best regards,
      Ihar

  9. Thanks for this tutorial! I am having an issue that others reported. Although I set this up, I am only seeing 5 rows of outbound URLs when there should be many more. I need to be able to track clicks on ads and text-based links that lead to our sponsors’ websites. What should I look for in the html of the links on my site? My site is http://www.greatloop.org. Thank you!

    1. Hi Kim,

      I tested this outbound link (button) on your website, and outbound link tracking events are sent into GA4 with the necessary attributes.
      So please specify pages where outbound link tracking doesn’t work.

      Processing GTAG command: ["event", "click", {link_id: "", link_classes: "btn download-btn", link_url: "https://www.blogtalkradio.com/aglca/2023/10/06/great-loop-radio-story-of-our-loop-bill-molly-rosborough-rf246", link_domain: "blogtalkradio.com", outbound: true, event_callback: [function], send_to: "G-4GN2RBZ61Q"}]

      Best regards,
      Ihar

      1. Thanks for your reply! I’m not sure what the issue is. The link for which you checked to see if the GTAG was firing is not showing up on the exporation I created. We have 100s of sponsors with links on our site (some are at the bottom of the home page) that I am trying to have included in this exploration, so I must be doing something wrog.

        1. Kim, you couldn’t create the exploration to see “click” event generated by me yesterday because GA4 Explorations have 24+ hours delay. Please check again in 6-12 hours when GA4 completely processes all of yesterday’s data for your property. Please also check that the measurement id is correct “G-4GN2RBZ61Q”.

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