E-mail tracking made easy

How many email messages were actually read? How many readers followed links? You don’t need any sophisticated tool in order to obtain this valuable information: learn how to use your website logs and report system to realize a good email tracking system that works in any kind of email.


How many people read my mail?

All e-mail tracking systems use the same technique: they insert into the email message body a transparent one-pixel image pointing to a .GIF file on a server; when one of your recipients opens the email message, the invisible image is pulled from the server, generating a logged event that shows when the message was opened.

This technique is easily replicable on any website: insert into the email body a transparent one-pixel image, pointing to a file on your server; after sending your mailing, browse your site stats and see how many unique visitors downloaded that particular file. This will tell you how many receivers actually opened and read the email message.
This method is not perfect: it will underestimate the number of receivers since some people do not allow their e-mail client to download files from online servers; but it is as accurate as any commercial tracking system.


Setup email tracking Step by step:

For each mailing:

  • create a transparent one-pixel .gif image and upload it on your web server. Remember that each mailing should have its own image file: as an example, you can name each .gif file after the mailing’s date: 20060910.gif, 20060911.gif and so on.
  • After finishing composing the message, insert the picture at the bottom (enter its full Url as the image path: i.e. http://www.mywebsite.com/tracking/20060910.gif)
  • Send your mailing
  • After some time, browse your site stats and see how many people (unique visitors) downloaded the image (20060910.gif in our example).


How many people click on email links?

Knowing how many people read your mail is important; but what you probably really want to know is your mailing’s effectiveness: did your recipients positively responded to your message? Did they follow the links you suggested?

Once again, you can simply use your website stats to obtain this information with a simple trick: don’t send “generic” links, but prepare a custom web page for each mailing. You don’t need to actually write new content: if your site has a page named products.htm, make a copy of it and name it products20060910.htm, and put this “custom” link (not the “original” page) in the message. Your website stats will tell you how many unique visitors followed that link: since the only way of reaching that page will be from your mailing (of course you must not put any links to this page on your website!), this is the magic number telling you how many of your recipients clicked on your link.