Email tracking can serve a variety of important functions in your organization. Depending on which tools you use and how you use them, you can use email tracking apps to:
- Determine your team’s workload (and rebalance it)
- Identify unproductive patterns in your own work
- Analyze your sales efforts to see which strategies are most effective
- Track email opens and clicks
However, despite being one of the most popular email clients in the world, Gmail doesn’t offer any built-in tools designed to help you track email patterns within your organization.
So, what is email tracking, and how can you implement it?
Table of Contents
- What is Email Tracking?
- How does Email Tracking Work?
- 7 Best Email Tracking Apps for Gmail
- Tracking Email Opens Using Google Analytics
- Tracking Email Opens Using Gmail Read Receipts
- Tracking Email Opens in Outlook
- Email Tracking for Productivity: 7 Essential Metrics
What is Email Tracking?
Email tracking is the process of monitoring actions taken on sent emails. The most common metrics tracked are email opens and email clicks. Most email tracking tools report on dates & times of events captured, and some report location as well.
How does Email Tracking Work?
- Open tracking: Email tracking apps automatically place a 1-pixel, invisible image in your outbound emails. When the recipient opens your email, their email client calls the server where the tracking pixel is located in order to load the image. The server logs the exact moment this call occurs, which is the moment the recipient opened the email.
- Click tracking: Link click tracking works similarly. Links in emails are automatically changed to a tracking URL that redirects the user to the intended location. When the redirect occurs, the server records the event as a click.
7 Best Email Tracking Apps for Gmail
Using a third-party app is by far the easiest way to get started with email tracking in Gmail. These apps each track your emails in Gmail, in one way or another, and many of them offer secondary benefits as well.
RightInbox is an all-in-one Gmail productivity plugin. Along with email open tracking and click tracking, it also gives you easy options to schedule emails to send later, reminders on un-answered emails, recurring emails, sequences, signatures, templates, and much more. It’s reasonably priced at $7.95/month, and easy to learn and use.
SalesHandy is a free email tracking app that empowers you to track and schedule unlimited emails in Gmail. There is no branded email signature at the end of the email, which isn’t true for most other tools. SalesHandy sends a real-time desktop notification for every email open and links click. Along with this, you can create and save up to 5 email templates that can be used to send similar emails quickly and easily.
Mailtrack is a simple app that functions as a plugin for Chrome. It’s free and easy to use, but it only has one core feature: tracking when your emails are opened and clicked. With it, you’ll receive a checkmark next to any email you’ve sent, and an additional checkmark beside it when your email is opened.
There’s also a pro version that removes the Mailtrack signature and offers reminders and daily reporting.
Vocus.io is an email tracking tool that offers various features and some unique benefits. It tracks email opens and link clicks, so you know whether your message has been received or not. It also allows you to create a sequence of soft reminders and follow up emails which you can schedule to be sent as the right time until you get a response. It also helps find email addresses and is one of our top-rated email lookup tools.
Another tool designed to help salespeople manage a Gmail account, Yesware integrates with Gmail as an extension to help you track what happens to your emails after you send them. You’ll get to measure and report on factors like email open and reply rates, attachment opens, and even pageviews of your presentations.
MixMax bills itself as a Gmail-based productivity app, and it delivers on that promise. With it, you’ll be able to track who opens your emails (and when), and follow up with those people efficiently thanks to automatic reminders. There’s also a handful of other features, like creating polls and surveys, integrating with SalesForce, and setting your emails to send later, so you can use Gmail even more productively.
Streak sort of works as a CRM for Gmail, allowing you to manage your contacts, support requests, and email all at the same time. It tracks when and how your emails were opened, making it an ideal tracking tool for salespeople, and comes with extra features like sorting emails by what type of response they’ve generated and integrating with the sidebar in Gmail.
Our own namesake (#shamelessplug) isn’t like the other email tracking apps on this list. Rather than tracking opens and clicks, EmailAnalytics is an email activity monitoring app for teams.
With it, you’ll get to view a full analysis of important email metrics like how many emails you’ve sent or received, average email response time, who your top senders and recipients are, and what your busiest email times are.
Tracking Email Opens Using Google Analytics
We’ve got a whole guide on how to use Google Analytics to track email opens. Though I wouldn’t recommend it when you could just use one of the third-party apps above and save yourself a bunch of time and frustration 😉
After setting up Google Analytics, you can create a trackable URL, which you can then embed into an image in your email. From there, you’ll be able to track when people open your email. You can also set up custom URLs to track when people are visiting your site—and see where they’re coming from.
EmailAnalytics Visualizes Your Team's Email Activity
- 35-50% of sales go to the first-responding vendor.
- Following up within an hour increases your chances of success by 7x.
- Salespeople spend an average of 13 hours per week on email.
Tracking Email Opens Using Gmail Read Receipts
You can also request a Gmail read receipt, but only if you have a work or school account (ie, G Suite). The Gmail read receipt option is not available for users of the free version of Gmail.
See our guide to Gmail read receipts for an overview on how to set them up.
Tracking Email Opens in Outlook
If you use Outlook, you’ll need a different sort of tool to track email opens and clicks.
The most convenient option here is to enable read receipts. Here’s how to set them up:
- With a message open, click Options.
- Then, in the Tracking group, you can click Request a Delivery Receipt or Request a Read Receipt (or both).
A delivery receipt will tell you the message was delivered successfully. A read receipt will tell you that your recipient has opened your message; however, note that this is in the control of the recipient, and they may choose not to send you a read receipt when they open the email.
Note that there is no built-in functionality to track email clicks. For that, you can use the same Google Analytics trick I mentioned in the previous section.
Again, there are several third-party tools that can help you track email opens, clicks, and other metrics in Outlook, but we’ll call out one in particular: Yesware. Yesware gives you notifications whenever your sent emails are opened or clicked.
Email Tracking for Productivity: 7 Essential Metrics
Email tracking is evolving to include more metrics than just opens and clicks. Using EmailAnalytics, it’s possible to visualize and track many more email metrics, such as the ones below:
1. Emails sent and received.
Measuring the number of emails you send and receive tells you how your workload increases or decreases over time. If you measure this stat for your employees and teammates, you can quickly determine who’s falling behind and who’s overloaded with work, so you can rebalance your workloads appropriately.
2. Email response time.
The quicker your average email response time is, the better (in general). Interested leads will be more likely to continue the conversation with you, and your internal team will get the information they need faster as well. Unfortunately, there’s no way to track your average email response time in Gmail; you’ll need a separate email tracking tool.
3. Emails by label.
You’ll also want to track how many emails you’re getting in each of several categories, and how many emails you have in each section of your inbox (such as inbox, trash, or various labels).
4. Popular times and days.
Ideally, you’ll learn how your email traffic volume changes over time, both in terms of time of day and day of week. You might find that Monday mornings open the floodgates for email, making it virtually impossible to do anything else, while Friday afternoons are a bit of a lull. With this knowledge, you can optimize your workflow to take advantage of the least active times (and avoid scheduling things for your busiest times).
5. Top senders and recipients.
It’s also good to learn who your most common senders and recipients are. You may find that some people in your network of contacts require more interaction than others. If you have a problematic client or teammate, you can talk to them about their ongoing email habits, and hopefully reduce your workload.
6. Hourly traffic breakdown.
What time of day does the bulk of your work happen? See your activity graph over the course of 24-hours. Here’s mine, below! Looks like I am most productive around 9am, with a slow drop-off throughout the rest of the day.
7. Team email tracking.
If you’re managing a team, or if you’re one of several collaborators working together, you’ll benefit from tracking the email habits of everyone on the team—not just yourself. It provides the transparency necessary to balance your team’s workload, while providing insight into issues that could compromise your team’s performance.
Understanding these email tracking metrics will make you not just a better emailer, but also a more productive professional—assuming you can take action based on the insights you find.
You can get all these metrics, and more, by using EmailAnalytics. Sign up for a free trial today, and see your email stats in seconds!
Jayson is a long-time columnist for Forbes, Entrepreneur, BusinessInsider, Inc.com, and various other major media publications, where he has authored over 1,000 articles since 2012, covering technology, marketing, and entrepreneurship. He keynoted the 2013 MarketingProfs University, and won the “Entrepreneur Blogger of the Year” award in 2015 from the Oxford Center for Entrepreneurs. In 2010, he founded a marketing agency that appeared on the Inc. 5000 before selling it in January of 2019, and he is now the CEO of EmailAnalytics.