Site owners who use WordPress platform for their sites and blogs may find the need to track outbound links for various reasons. If a site owner is enlisted in one or more affiliate programs, tracking these outbound links is important. Webmasters will want to ensure that they are receiving credit for each referral to the affiliate site from their WordPress site.
How to Effectively Track WordPress Outbound Links Internally
One widely known and widely utilized tools for tracking outbound links for any site, not just those built on the WordPress platform, is the Google Analytics tool. For those who use the WordPress platform to publish their sites, a useful Google Analytics plug-in is available.
The Google Analyticator WordPress Plug-in enables the WordPress site owner to quickly and easily install the plug-in and take advantage of the Google Analytic tools from within the WordPress deployment.
Another plug-in that integrates your WordPress site with Google Analytics is the Google Analytics Plug-in by Yoast.
Google Analytics for WordPress
To get started with the Google Analyticator WordPress Plug-in or the Google Analytics Plug-in by Yoast, first create a Google Analytics account. A Google Analytics account is essentially a Google account with Google Analytics configured to monitor your selected site or sites.
You have the option to create a Standard account or an Enterprise Google Analytics account. For most site owners, the standard account is sufficient. You can always upgrade your account to take advantage of the additional tools provided with the Enterprise account.
Note that if you already have a Google account for other services, such as Gmail or Google+, you can sign in to configure Google Analytics with this Google ID.
Create a Google Account
To create a Google Analytics account, navigate to the Google Analytics site. Click the “Create an Account” button in the top right corner. You are redirected to yet another log-in page. Click the red “Sign Up” button in the top right corner. The form to create a new Google account opens.
You are required to enter an email address, create and re-enter a password, designate your country, provide your birth date, verify the Captcha characters and agree to the Terms of Service by checking the appropriate box.
After you have completed the form, click the “Create My Account” button. The next page will require that you verify your information to create your account. Google verifies your account either by sending an SMS message to a cell phone or by providing an automated telephone call.
Select the radio button next to your preferred option and click the “Send Verification Code” button. The code is provided via the method you select. Enter the code into the respective “Verification Code” input box on the Google page.
Google will also verify your email address. Once you have enter the SMS or phone verification code, an email is sent to the email address you provided when creating your account. You must log into this email account and click the provided link to verify your email address.
Once you have verified your email address, your Google Analytics account is now active.
Configure Google Analytics
Log into Google Analytics if you are not already logged in through creating a Google account. Navigate to Google Analytics and click “Sign In.” Now, you are ready to configure Google Analytics.
Believe it or not, you have to click the “Sign Up” button to create yet another account for Google Analytics. You will need to enter the information about your website upon creating the Google Analytics account. Be sure to have your URL handy.
When you click the “Sign Up” button, a form will open. Type the “Account Name” for your Google Analytics account. In the “Website URL” box, click the “Select One” option to show a dropdown list. Select the “http://” or “https://” option and then type the URL to your WordPress (or other) website.
In the “Time Zone” section, select your country. In the dropdown box to the right of the country box, select your time zone. In the “Industry Category” section, click the dropdown box and select the industry entry that most closely represents the industry for your WordPress (or other) website.
Deselect any of the “Data Sharing” options that you do not wish to have. Note that these options are checked by default. Check the checkbox to indicate that you agree to the “Terms of Service” and then click the “Create Account” button. Your Google Analytics account is created.
On the home page of your newly created Google Analytics account, you will see a “Tracking ID.” This ID number is the identifier that you will use to enable the analysis tool to track the statistics for your site.
This Tracking ID is used not only for website analysis, but also for tracking Android and other mobile apps.
You will also see several other options available in the left navigation panel of your Google Analytics account home page. Examine all possibilities to see how to best utilize some of the features offered by Google Analytics for your site.
You are now ready to install the Google Analyticator WordPress Plug-in or the Google Analytics Plug-in by Yoast to your WordPress site.
Install and Configure the Google Analytics WordPress Plug-ins
Download the Google Analyticator plug-in and save the ZIP file to your hard drive. To use the Google Analytics Plug-in by Yoast, download this plug-in and install the selected plug-in to your WordPress deployment.
Open the “Settings” page for the plug-in you have installed and enter the Google Analytics Tracking ID number. Enable the option to “Track Outbound Links and Downloads.” This will be the metrics that you will use to track the outbound links from your site.
Depending on the traffic to your site, you will be able to see outbound link clicks, hits and traffic in your Google Analytics dashboard within a short time.
Alternatives to Google Analytics
Redirection is a handy WordPress plug-in tool that may be configured to track your outbound links without using Google Analytics. This tool allows you to check your outbound links statistics from within your WordPress deployment. However, for a more in-depth analysis of site traffic, the Google Analytics tool is usually preferred.
The most useful feature of Redirection is that you may create shortened or standardized URLs for outbound links. Users who utilize affiliate links find this feature very convenient. To track outbound links, create a redirection for each link using the Redirector plug-in.
Download and install the plug-in. Open the Settings page. Click the “Add Redirection” button to configure a new redirection for an outbound URL. Type a source URL (an alias for your outbound link) into the “Source URL” input box.
Type or copy and paste the original target URL into the “Target URL” input box. Click the “Add Redirection” button.
The outbound link is reconfigured to use a shortened, standardized URL. However, the best part is that now Redirection tracks the statistics for this URL in an easy to use interface that is available right from your WordPress platform.
Just access the Redirector Settings page and view the Basic Statistics from within this page. Redirection tracks number of hits and the date of last access.
Clicky is another statistical tool that is available as a WordPress plug-in and allows users to track outbound links from within their WordPress deployment. However, Clicky is similar to using Google Analytics. You must create an account on GetClicky.com.
You are provided with a Site ID, a Site Key and a Site Admin key. With these keys, you will use the Clicky plugin to track your outbound link statistics.
You will install the Clicky WordPress plug-in to your WordPress deployment and configure your plug-in with the Clicky account settings and keys. The advantage of Clicky over Google Analytics is that some analytic tools are available from within the WordPress deployment.
Many WordPress site and blog owners need to track their outbound links. Fortunately, there are WordPress plug-ins that enable WordPress site owners to perform such tasks.
Depending on the level of analysis required, you can select Google Analytics, along with corresponding plug-ins, to provide in-depth statistics, or for a simplified display of basic outbound statistics from within the WordPress platform, a tool such as Redirection is sufficient.
3. Simple URLs
Simple URLs is a WordPress plug-in that neatly tracks your outbound links from inside the WordPress platform. Simple URL allows the WordPress site administrator to create shortened versions of each outbound URL, similar to the functionality of Redirection.
The Simple URL plug-in provides a summary of outbound links and basic statistics regarding the number of clicks on the URLs from within the Setting page of the plug-in.
This plug-in provides the convenience of a centralized method of changing outbound links from within the plug-in if the destination changes. The site administrator simply edits the long URL in the Simple URL Settings page and all outbound links are immediately updated.
WP-Click-Tracker is a WordPress plug-in that provides advanced statistics for outbound links. The plug-in scans to find all outbound links and then lists clicks by hour, day or total and unique clicks for each link. Outbound links are organized per post or page.
A nice feature of this plug-in is that only links that are actually clicked are-listed in the statistics summary.
5. Outbound Click Tracker Plug-in
6. Outbound Link Manager Plug-in
The Outbound Link Manager Plug-in receives accolades from reviewers stating that this plug-in is the most powerful and accurate outbound link tracking plug-in available. The plug-in will scan the entire WordPress site and find all outbound links.
The tool then lists each link and allows the site adminstrator to add or remove “NoFollow” code, edit the link or remove the link from the analysis.
A great feature of the Outbound Link Manager is that instead of listing only the links that have been clicked, this tool lists all outbound links. The downside of the tool is that it does not provide click statistics. This tool merely allows the site administrator to manage the outbound links.
WordPress is a great platform for managing content for blogs and beyond. Tools that help the site administrator track outbound links extend functionality and further enhance the benefits of using the platform.
WordPress site owners and administrators may track outbound links to monitor affiliate programs or simply for statistical purposes. Outbound links may be tracked with thorough analytical tools, such as Google Analytics, or these links may be tracked from within the platform with useful and innovative plug-ins.
How and what do you use to track your outbound links internally? Share with us in the comments below.