All answers provided by Markus Diersbock

Question: Google Analytics Site Overlay Not Counting Outbound Links

From: slappymarsden
Date: Thu, 3 Jan 2008 16:02:05 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Tracking exit links and site overlay

I have the new tracking code installed on my website and there is one particular page that I am very interested in tracking. it has been hit over 100 times and has many exit link[s] to other sites.

The site overlay shows no clicks on any of these links and I was wondering if there was a way to tell if I have it set up properly.

It just strikes as being odd that with over 100 hits that the site overlay shows that none of the exit links have been clicked on.

Any help appreciated.


Before I can answer your question, we'll need some background as to how Google Analytics (formally Urchin) tracks visitors on your site.

Within the Site Overlay interface, the term "click" is misleading. The Google Analytics javascript snippet executed on your page, is transmitting to Google each time that page is loaded. The Google Analytics engine can conclude that a click was made, but it actually isn't tracking the "clicks" itself. Therefore, the only way to natively track the outbound click would be if your tracking code were also on the landing page of the external site -- which wouldn't be possible, if you didn't own the site.

Let's break it down with a real world example:

If Bill sees his friend Bob in a parking lot, and later, Bill sees Bob inside a store, Bill can clearly assume that Bob walked through a door to get inside. And to support your assumption, you can ask him where he just came from, and he would say, "The parking lot".

In this case, the "click" comes from combining the time of the first "sighting" with the time of the second, and the verbal response is the "referring" location.

Likewise, Google Analytics doesn't record the actual click, but deduces it occurred by the recording of the originating page view, the succeeding page view, and the additional referring information:

Time Stamp: xx/xx/xxxx 08:00:00 PM
Page: PageA.htm

Time Stamp: xx/xx/xxxx 08:00:10 PM
Page: PageB.htm
Referrer: PageA.htm

The Overlay, for PageA.htm, shows 1 Click for the PageB.htm link.

You can verify this, by creating a page with 2 identical links to the same landing page, but click on only one of the links -- the overlay will show that BOTH links were clicked.

PageB.htm - Clicks=1
PageB.htm - Clicks=1

It would be more accurate for the Overlay to display:

PageB.htm - Views=1
PageB.htm - Views=1

And in another twist, if the destination url has a different querystring both pages will NOT get the same click total:

PageB.htm?item=1 - Clicks=1
PageB.htm?item=2 - Clicks=0

PageB.htm?item=1 - Clicks=1
PageB.htm?item=1 - Clicks=1

Google Analytics Site Overlay's use of the word "clicks" is misleading, but once you're used to its quirks, the tool is invaluable.

The following is a post detailing a JavaScript hack to get Google Analytics to record a pseudo outbound page view, but be aware this may fail in a future update to ga.js.

And another method using jQuery.

Notice: You are free to use any information on this page for personal purposes. Information on this page cannot be reproduced outside of this website without the affixed copyright notice (at the bottom of the page) or the written permission of SwingNote, LLC.