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Goldenfire Productions Blog

How Email Opens Are Tracked and Reported

E-mailRecently as more and more email readers disable image downloading unless the user clicks to allow the images in your email message to be downloaded, open rates are under scrutiny again. The largest problem for email marketers and software developers of email applications is the lack of industry standards for email metrics.

 How open rates are measured: Your email technology automatically inserts html code that references an invisible (often referred to as a “clear” or “1×1”) tracking image in your email, usually at the bottom of the email.

 This image is hosted on a server, not embedded within the email as with your other email images. When a recipient opens the email, and images are not blocked, the image is called/pulled into the html message from the hosting server. As the image is pulled into the message, it is appended with a unique identifier that is associated to the receiving email address. That rendering of an image associated to an email address has been commonly referred to as an “open.”

 To register an open for your email message one of these scenarios has to take place: 

  • Images are not blocked when the recipient opens the email.
  • Images are not blocked when the recipient views the email in a preview pane (MS Outlook use to not block images).
  • A recipient scrolls through the inbox slowly enough to allow the tracking image to load, even though the email was not actually viewed in full or in the preview pane. (Again, no image blocking by the email client)
  • A recipient clicks on a link in a text email. Text based emails do not have a tracking pixel and rely only on tracked hyper links.
  • A recipient clicks on a link in an HTML email that is fully opened or in a preview plane, but images are blocked or disabled. (No image downloaded but the hyperlink is tracked.)
  • A recipient views an HTML email on an iPhone, iTouch or other mobile device that automatically renders HTML emails with images enabled.
  • A recipient clicks on a link on a text or HTML email on a mobile device that does not render images.

 

When an email is not opened is could be due to any of these senerios: 

  • Images are blocked when the recipient opens the email or views in a preview pane.
  • A recipient scrolls through the inbox so fast that the tracking image doesn’t have time to load. (Images did not have time to fully download, Dial up, mobile devices, or slower DSL customers my suffer here)
  • A recipient clicks on a link in a text email, but the service provider doesn’t track text links as opens. (Check with your service provider, and email set up if text links are tracked)
  • A recipient clicks on a link in an HTML email that is opened or viewed in the preview pane, but images are blocked or disabled. (Again, check with your service provider if unique clicks are tracked with open rates)
  • A recipient clicks on a link on a text or HTML email on a mobile device that does not render images. (Again, check with your service provider if unique clicks are tracked with open rates)
  • The HTML or text version is read on a BlackBerry or similar mobile device that does not render images.
  • An HTML email is viewed on a Blackberry and is later opened in Gmail (or other email service/client) with images blocked. The email has been opened and read twice, but no open has been counted.

What can be done?
Well the first item to check is that all your links are being tagged with tracking information. Secondly, get in touch with your email vendor to make sure you and your vendor are on the same page as to tracking opens rates. Understand how they are reporting and if clicks without tracking pixels count to the open rate.

 As members of the Email Experience Council and members of it’s Measurement accuracy roundtable try to define and introduce a new “render rate” for publishers and email applications to follow, we are stuck using the tools we have to try and capture the true open rates our marketing campaigns receive.

Our experience of coding for the various email applications and web based clients has us creating emails that are 90, live html text and less graphic in nature. We strive to place all text out side of graphic images so regardless if images are on or off, the end user can read your message and click your links.

We are still surprised at how many marketing campaigns still go out with a full marketing message hidden inside graphic images.

 

For help and planning of your email campaigns, contact us today for an email campaign review.