How Email Open Rates are Tracked: Understanding The Behind-the-Scenes Mechanics

How Email Open Rates are Tracked: Understanding The Behind-the-Scenes Mechanics

Ever wondered how your emails magically report back on who's opened them? If you don't know how this happens you could be misinterpreting your email campaign success! Understand the true mechanics of tracking email open rates before your strategy goes astray.

In email marketing the "email open rate" is a widely used key performance indicator. It seems handy and is easy to understand.

But by understanding how this metric is tracked you'll understand that this metric is flawed.

What is Email Open Rate?

The metric email open rate represents the percentage of recipients who opened an email campaign compared to the total number of emails delivered.

Open Rate = (Number of Emails Opened / Number of Emails Delivered) x 100

In theory, this gives you insights into how compelling and relevant your

  • email subject lines and
  • send times

are to your subscribers.

I said in theory, because the email open rate metric is flawed and not really reliable.

How are Email Open Rates Tracked?

Email itself—as a technology—has no means of tracking if or when an email was opened by the recipient. Thus, email marketers needed a trick to make this metric trackable.

Meet The Invisible Pixel Technique
The method used by email marketing platforms, including Mautic, to track open rates is the invisible pixel or beacon.

Here's how it works:

  • When you send out an email, a tiny, transparent image (often just 1x1 pixel) is embedded within.
  • Once a recipient opens the email, this pixel is downloaded from the server.
  • The server then logs this download as an 'open', allowing the platform to track and report it.
Illustration of how email open rates are being tracked
How Mautic tracks email open rates

Why Is There Controversy Around Pixel Tracking?

Some users consider pixel tracking an invasion of privacy. As a result, email clients implemented features that block these tracking. This makes open rate metrics less accurate.

While email open rates provide(d) valuable insights, they one of many metrics. Email marketers should, therefore, consider using other or at least multiple metrics in combination to gauge the success of an email campaign.

Are you looking to optimize your email marketing strategies further? Dive deep into the world of Mautic with Audienture and unlock advanced strategies, tips, and tricks to elevate your campaigns.