Tracking email opens and clicks are two of the most common and useful metrics to track because of the information they can tell you.
It’s useful to know whether someone has opened your email because it tells you that your subject line was sufficiently compelling (and that your recipient is at least somewhat available). And it’s useful to know whether someone has clicked the link in your email, because it’s a sign that your message was useful in achieving your goals.
So, how do you track email opens and clicks?
Table of Contents
- Use Cases: Email Marketing vs. Everyday Email
- Tracking Email Opens and Clicks
- Tracking Email Opens in Gmail
- Tracking Email Opens in Outlook
- Getting Deeper Email Analytics
Use Cases: Email Marketing vs. Everyday Email
There are two main types of people looking to obtain this information:
- Salespeople and marketers
- Everyday emailers
Salespeople and marketers are typically emailing many people at once, either in the form of an email blast or in the form of personalized email outreach campaigns.
Either way, these people generally want to track many metrics related to email engagement—not just opens and clicks, though opens and clicks may be two of the most important metrics. Additionally, they’ll need to track metrics for many emails, sometimes with many different lists and senders.
Because of this, most email marketers and salespeople will want to use a third-party email tracking tool to gather and report on these data.
The other type of person is what we’ll call an “everyday emailer.” They’re not sending thousands of emails to sales prospects, nor are they looking to achieve a specific result.
Instead, they want to know whether their recipients are receiving, opening, and engaging with their emails for practical purposes. For example, they might be a project manager who wants to know when their client receives their message.
These people can generally make do with smaller, less robust tools.
Tracking Email Opens and Clicks
As a salesperson or marketer, your best bet for tracking opens and clicks is using a dedicated email tracking tool. If you’re already using an email management platform, this functionality will most likely be built in.
For example, one of the most popular email management platforms is Mailchimp, in part because it offers a free version. With it, you’ll be able to create emails based on templates (or from scratch), collect and manage email addresses as part of segmented lists, send email blasts as part of your campaign, and most importantly, track your results.
Part of this email tracking includes reporting on key performance indicators (KPIs) like open rates and click rates. Just make sure you test your email before sending it to the masses, so you can ensure the accuracy of these statistics when they start rolling in.
Most modern email management platforms and marketing tools function in a similar way.
We’ve compiled a list of the 21 most popular and most important email marketing tools available to salespeople and marketers, and it includes a comparison of top players like Mailchimp, Constant Contact, Campaign Monitor, Get Response, and more.
Nearly all of them feature robust email tracking tools, allowing you to not only create and send emails, but track their opens, click rates, and dozens of other metrics. Give several of these platforms a try (since many of them offer a free trial), and see which ones work best for your needs.
Tracking Email Opens in Gmail
If you’re interested in tracking email opens and clicks in Gmail, you have a few options.
Tracking email opens using Google Analytics
We’ve got a whole guide on how to use Google Analytics to track email opens.
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.
Tracking 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 and clicks using a third-party app
The simplest solution is to use a third-party tool. You have many options here; we’ve got a giant list of Gmail apps, add-ons, and extensions you can review, and many of them offer functionality that allows you to track clicks, opens, and other email metrics.
We’ll call out one especially effective tool here: Boomerang. Boomerang adds several nice features to Gmail, including the ability to set automatic reminders, get follow-ups for messages, and of course, track email opens and clicks.
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.
Getting Deeper Email Analytics
If you’re interested in learning more about your email habits, you’ll need to study more than just email open rates and clicks. You’ll want to learn about your average email response rate, the number of emails you’re sending and receiving, your top senders and recipients, and more.
You can do all of that, with the help of interactive data visuals, by using EmailAnalytics. In a matter of minutes, you can integrate your Gmail account and get a better grasp of your daily habits. Sign up for a free trial today, and find out how you can improve!
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, and co-host of the podcast The Entrepreneur Cast.