Apparently, the way event tracking tracking works in Analytics, and how it impacts bounce rate, is still not understood as widely as I expected it to be, and I’m not the only one to think that. So let me explain to you how bounce rate is influenced by (properly set up) event tracking, and how to do that setup.
How event tracking influences bounce rate
My buddy Avinash tweeted a link to a comment he left on a post that’s actually an interview with him on the Bruce Clay blog. In the comment he talks about for whom bounce rate is a good metric. Michael Gray, an “old time” SEO and affiliate, who apparently hasn’t learned much about analytics in all that time ( just kidding Michael ;) ), tweeted:
“As an affiliate or adsense publisher I want u to come and leave as quickly as possible how is that not a bounce.”
Let me state this very clearly: it is not a bounce. A bounce is a visit to your website that doesn’t result in a second pageview or a desired action. If you’re an affiliate, the outbound click might very well be your desired action. To be able to properly optimize your campaigns, you should track these outbound clicks. The “proper” way to do that is to either track them as pageviews, with the benefit of being able to tag them as goals but with the disadvantage of inflating pageviews, or as an event.
Or, as the Google Analytics documentation describes it:
“[...] a “bounce” is described as a single-page visit to your site. In Analytics, a bounce is calculated specifically as a session that triggers only a single GIF request, such as when a user comes to a single page on your website and then exits without causing any other request to the Analytics server for that session.”
So, if you track your outbound affiliate clicks as events they wouldn’t counted as a bounce. This way, these outbound clicks would be counted as a separate action, making the visit into a “non bounce” or, which is maybe a better name, an “engaged visit”. This is independent of whether you use Google Analytics or another package, you could for instance use Clicky, a very good alternative for those of you with tin foil hats.
How to implement event tracking for affiliate links
In the examples below I’ll assume you’ve properly hidden your affiliate links with a redirect:
For those of you who use Google Analytics and are not smart enough to use WordPress and my Google Analytics plugin, you should be tagging your outbound affiliate links in a way similar to this:
This example uses the asynchronous tracking method, if you want reliable tracking of outbound clicks like this, you should be using that, as it’s a lot more reliable than the old synchronous method.
<a class="clicky_log_outbound" href="/out/vps/"> VPS.net </a>
In conclusion: please don’t think you have a high bounce rate because you have an affiliate site. You have to tag your links properly, if you want to do serious analysis. The minute you do, you should be seeing these clicks appear in your analytics and your bounce rate go down, and you no longer have to claim visits that aren’t bounces as bounces.