Everyone leaves… in the end
I am not being poetic, philosophical or even a romantic. It is just the way it is. Everyone will leave at some point. I’m talking about your website, of course. Your website visitors may close their browser/tab, hit the back arrow to go back to the site they came from, click on another bookmark of theirs, or just replace your website with another. But at one point or the other, every visitor will leave your website. Often, we do not have an insight into exactly what made someone leave, but at least for some of the users, we can get an idea of where they left for. Enter, stage right, outbound links. Links on your website that take a visitor somewhere off your site.
Businesses, and social networks in particular, have often tried to come up with mechanisms to reduce the site leaving behavior as much as possible. Back when Facebook was going full throttle on video content, you had a better chance of getting more organic visibility if you uploaded a native video as compared to linking to a youtube video. Same for other forms of content. Web links on the social network apps open up the webpage in in-app browsers instead of taking you off to your phone’s default browser. As a business, we want our visitors to spend as much time on our website as possible. But, it isn’t always true or even possible for most websites, and there would be frequent scenarios where you have consciously embedded an external link on your website. Some of these external/outbound links may belong to destinations where you are in control of the narrative, like your social media pages, your Trustpilot review page, your app store listing etc. Other links might be used to enhance the value and credibility of your own content (for example, when you link to a reputable study, research or survey to illustrate or back up the argument you are making), allowing users to explore resources that complement your own. And then there are links that are advertisements, links to partner websites and businesses, or products you are on the affiliate program for.
The point is, there are many reasons why you would want to include an external link on your website. Therefore, it makes sense that we talk a bit about these outbound links, and explore what they mean, and how they can possibly help your own business in making better decisions and understanding your users.
What makes understanding outbound links important?
There are a few different ways in which measuring and understanding outbound link clicks helps us get a better insight into our users’ behavior, and get a clearer understanding of their intent. While we may not know exactly what their thought process was at the time they made that click, or what their precise motivations were, identifying trends into outbound traffic patterns and popular destinations is fairly simple and quick.
Your Benne Analytics dashboard measures outbound link clicks, helping you measure user behavior, and essentially helping you get a more granular and accurate detail about your own visitors.
Consider a simple scenario. There are four different places on your blog where you have placed a link to your Twitter account. Getting a better sense of which of those links is sending the most visitors to your twitter profile will help you understand what makes a visitor want to check you out, and how you can leverage that understanding into strengthening your social presence, as well as drive conversations with your audience.
And then there are the parter and affiliate links. Tracking outbound links in this case helps you get a clearer view of how much traffic are you sending to your partners/affiliate products, and which of those links are most popular - and why. This understanding may prove crucial to set up an additional revenue stream, as well as into positioning yourself stronger when presenting yourself to a new partner for a lucrative collaboration.
Your analytics platform isn’t tracking outbound links for you as well as they should.
Look at your analytics dashboard. You will see how many outbound clicks are happening on your website, sure. You may also see which base urls are those clicks going out to. But that would be the extent of the information your analytics platform shares with you, despite the fact that they probably get a more detailed view of the user’s transition.
Google Analytics, in particular, is quite guilty of this. You can have Google Analytics improve how your outbound links are tracked and measured, but not using the out of the box dashboard you have access to. If you are interested in getting a better view of your outbound traffic, you would need to make some customizations to your tag manager, or at the very least use bulky plugins developed with an intent to do that for you. That’s quite the hassle.
(If you are using Google Analytics, I would recommend having a Google Analytics expert make those tag manager customizations for you instead of using plugins. The plugins approach, even though helpful, is bulky, and offers just a partial solution to the main problem at hand.)
Will you consider outbound link clicks as bounce?
Bounce rate. It is one of the primary analytics metrics all businesses keep an eye out for. A lower bounce rate is considered ideal since it indicates your visitors are engaging with your website, thereby increasing your odds of winning their business. We all notice bounce rates, as well as exit pages - the last page a visitor was on before they terminated their session. The termination could have been because they closed your website, or because they clicked on a link that took them off of your website - an outbound link.
Now, the question becomes - is it right to include these outbound clicks in the same bucket as bounces and exits? Probably not, right? After all, it was the intended user behavior, otherwise you would not have placed those links. These clicks are not signs of disinterest. If anything, they are signs of engagement. While the degree and level of engagement would be dependent on the type of outbound link that was clicked, it is an engagement irrespective of the type of link clicked.
So, it shouldn’t be counted as a bounce, or even an exit probably. And yet, most analytics tools - by default - count them as exits. The result? The bounce rate you have been so religiously following all these weeks, months and years - it is not entirely accurate.
Better outbound link tracking and measurement with Benne Analytics
Benne Analytics looks at outbound links not as mere click-aways from your website, but it also tries to help you understand user behavior and intent at the time of the click.
While a lot of outbound click measurement is enabled with our system by default, we also offer businesses a lot of flexibility in case they want to customise it to measure outbound traffic differently based on their business objectives.But even without any customizations, our plug-n-play outbound link tracking and measurement is powerful enough to help you make better decisions as far as your outbound link building strategy is concerned.
Of the many insights you will receive from Benne Analytics’ outbound link measurement, you would be able to get a better sense of:
- where users leave your website
- where do they leave to
- how long do they stay on your website and when do they leave
- cross-site contextual association
- efficacy of social presence
- performance of app links, storefront etc.
- off-site affiliates and partner links
Do you follow a framework to set up goals for your business? How do you go about the process? Let me know.
That’s it for today, see you tomorrow.
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