I want to create a PDF document using Google Docs/Drive that includes links, but without Google tracking clicks on those links.

Downloading a Google Drive document (File > Download as) in any other format (docx, odt, rtf, txt, html) behaves as expected: if I insert a link to http://cnn.com, the link in the downloaded document is to http://cnn.com.

Downloading as PDF mangles the link to add Google tracking: http://cnn.com becomes http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fcnn.com&sa=D&sntz=1&usg=<tracking_token> which displays "Redirecting you to http://cnn.com" and then sends you along. I assume that Google does this to track users' behavior. It's not as if a direct link wouldn't work for some technical reason.

Google does the same thing for links in publicly visible (but not editable) documents on Google Drive like this one.1 While still distasteful, that seems less obnoxious because they're still hosting the document and their presence is obvious to any viewers. If I'm on page on a google.com domain, it's not (as) surprising that they track links from that page. If I'm looking at a PDF from my Aunt Louise2 with a link to a video on vimeo.com of funny cats,3 I don't expect clicking that link to involve Google in any way.4

Try downloading that document in some non-PDF format and note how the links are now direct instead of going through Google. Is it a coincidence that this is only done for the format that's the most difficult to edit after downloading?

So, having gotten all hot and bothered, did I just miss an option somewhere in Docs' preferences that turns off this non-feature?

Is there an easy way to disable this tracking?

Some subpar solutions I'm looking to improve on:

  • Downloading in some other format and converting that to PDF.
    → Rejected for destroying formatting.
  • Manually editing the PDF file to fix the links.
    → Rejected because... yuck. (Though automating this would be a fine solution.)
  • Accepting that Google knows literally everything that I do online and that this is such an esoteric thing that there's no sense worrying about it.
    → :-(

1. Not my document, just the first public one that I found.
2. Not her real name.
3. Aunt Louise has only partially accepted the modern world. She uses email, but only to send PDF copies of letters she's written.
4. Except that in actual practice the video will be on YouTube and Google will know what I'm looking at regardless.

4 Answers 4


Yes, you can!

File -> Email as an attachment -> Attach as PDF

Then add your own email address to email the file to yourself. The PDF attached to the email will have direct links for both inline hyperlinks and plain URLs without any unwanted Google tracking.

  • this works, but the PDF formatting isn't quite the same as the Download (and it's ~100k smaller). I thought I found gold until I discovered how it mangled my page breaks in return for getting rid of the tracking crud. :(
    – user59988
    Commented Oct 5, 2014 at 22:11

This actually happens in all formats that I've tried (not just PDF). I can't offer a ready-made solution for generating the PDF format. But I did solve this for HTML.

Programmatically, you would need to parse the (HTML) document and rewrite the href attribute while URLdecoding the true link which is after the ?q= part.

The code here is PHP from the Html2Wiki extension which deals with this problem

            if (strpos(${$attribute}, 'google.com/url?q=')) {
                $matches = array();
                if (preg_match('#url\?q=([^&]*)#', ${$attribute}, $matches)) {
                    ${$attribute} = urldecode($matches[1]);
            } else {

I just discovered that undesirable and unannounced tracking of my links and I found your post by looking for people in the same case. I found out that if you don't use the linking function in google drive (just right click your link and "remove"), the exported pdf features clickable links as well, direct ones, not tracked by Google.

  • 1
    I think this is a feature of the PDF software, unrelated to Google Docs. If I have a textual link like this in a document, removing the link turns it into regular text. If I have the entire link written out: http://cnn.com, then some PDF viewing software will make that a (direct) clickable link, but others treat it as plain text. So this could be a solution in some cases, but it's hard to control what software someone else uses to open your documents.
    – blahdiblah
    Commented Apr 17, 2013 at 21:46

The best solution to your problem is using a browser plugin called Ghostery.Please see the image below screenshot. It is available for Mozilla and Chrome

.enter image description here

  • 1
    How is that going to help here?
    – ale
    Commented Aug 23, 2014 at 19:54
  • @AlE. This will work for the first download. If you download first the source of the download is tied to the link and thus this will go on for other PDF's. If you block tracking, the links cannot be further be tracked from other PDF's.
    – Javageek
    Commented Aug 24, 2014 at 14:27

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.