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Why Is My Email Tracking Wrong?
Why Is My Email Tracking Wrong?
Tim Hogwood avatar
Written by Tim Hogwood
Updated over a week ago

Email tracking is an incredibly useful tool. It allows you to know when and how to follow up with your contacts. SourceWhale's email tracking gives you the ability to know when your email was opened, and whether any links were clicked.

How Email Tracking Works

In order to track your emails, a tiny pixel image is added to the body of your email. When the pixel is loaded, our email tracking assumes your recipient has opened the email.

The Limitations of Email Tracking

Even though email tracking can be very useful and often gives you reliable data, there are times when it is not 100% reliable. Open tracking can be influenced by external factors which cause inaccuracies or inflation, such as:

  • Third-Party Integrations: Other tools may open and scan outbound messages for spam or for it's own reporting purposes. SourceWhale must be the only tool tracking.

  • Email Scanning by Spam Filters: If you send an email to a recipient who has email scanning set up (as many do), the spam filter itself may "open" the email during the security scanning process.

  • Forwarded Emails: Each forwarded view counts as an open, as the tracking pixel is sent along, potentially leading to inflated numbers.

  • Email Service Providers and IT Admin Scans: Outbound message scans by service providers(this is most often performed for new mailboxes) or IT admins can register as opens.

Here are some reasons you may get either a false negative or a false positive in your email tracking.

False Negative

  • Some email providers have a default setting that disables image loading when an email is opened. If your recipient's email client has disabled image loading, you won't be notified that they opened your email.

  • If your recipient has a tracking blocker or security system installed, the tracking (or even your email) may have been blocked.

False positive

  • An error can occur if the tracking pixel is rendered as part of an email preview. Your recipient may not have opened the email, but because the pixel was loaded for the preview, email tracking will consider the email opened.

  • If your recipient's inbox uses bots to scan your email multiple times, looking for malicious files or spam content. (Note: This will show as the email having been opened 10 or more times in succession)

  • If you send an email to a distribution list that multiple people have access to, or if your recipient forwards your email, you may see a lot of opens for one person.

How does SourceWhale minimise inflation in open tracking?

  • IP Address and User Agent Checks: Verification of IP addresses and user agents to discern genuine opens.

  • Time Interval Checks: Ignoring opens that occur too quickly after sending to reduce the likelihood of inflated or incorrect opens.

  • Bounce Handling: Deleting open events if an email bounces, ensuring accurate tracking.

A reason a bounced email might show as opened:

  • Depending on the recipient's email server, you could receive a false open when an email bounces. This happens when a recipient server bot opens the email to scan the email content but then rejects it due to spam or because the email address itself is not valid.

We advise our users to view open tracking as a long-term and scalable metric, acknowledging the possibility of false-positive opens and recommending the use of complementary metrics like click-through rates and time spent on emails for a more comprehensive analysis.

Stuck or need some help? Click on the chat icon at the bottom right-hand corner to connect with our support team! ๐Ÿ’ฌ

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