Link tracking for document downloads or outbound links.

Hi Roland, We want to share a link to a document with various partners. What ability do we have to track clicks and visits?

[Edited for clarity and confidentiality.]

Brenda, New Jersey

Link tracking — for a document download or outbound URL — can be a bit complicated. Here are some options to get you started:

  1. If the file is hosted on YOUR website, you may be able to configure your Content Management System (CMS) to track document downloads and outbound links. In Google Analytics this is called Event Tracking.
    • You could install and configure a CMS plugin (e.g., “Google Analytics by Monster Insights” for WordPress).
    • Or you can add some code to send an Event trigger signal into Google AnalyticsHere’s more info about Google Analytics Event Tracking.
    • Another method is using Google Tag Manager — it’s more complicated to initially learn and setup correctly, but it will give you greater long term flexibility to track all sorts of events that occur on your website.
      Ultimately you may want to talk to your website developer to implement a reliable method that fits your specific event tracking needs. If set up correctly, the benefit is you may also be able to determine from GA reports which partner websites were able to send clicks to your website.
  2. If the file is hosted on someone else’s website,  you’ll need to use their Google Analytics to track the document downloads. Contact someone at that organization to make sure the document link will be tracked in their Google Analytics account. Their developer should be able to set up Google Analytics event tracking.
  3. An additional/alternative — add some variables to the end of the document URL that will pass some additional data into their Google Analytics. It will make the URL significantly longer but will help achieve what you want. (This is what we’d normally do to track advertising campaigns/sources/creative.) For example:

    You would replace “TBD” with a logical label for each parameter. Here’s a handy tool to create the URL for Google Analytics link tracking. Then each time the document download or outbound link is clicked, it should pass these labels into Google Analytics. Results would eventually be found under Google Analytics’ Acquisition > Campaign reports.

  4. Absolute fastest/simplest is you could use a URL shortener (i.e., or or to make a short version of the original URL and distribute that shortened URL wherever you want. Every time someone clicks on the shortened URL, it should be counted. Just make sure you are logged into the URL shortener account when creating the URL so you can log back in over time to check on the total link click stats.

I hope this helps get you started with link tracking.