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Email tracking is used by many sales development professionals. When you send an email to a prospect, you can see if they’ve opened it – how neat is that?! When you’re trying to determine if an account is interested in your offering, email tracking can be a powerful tool, but it’s not without it’s issues and shouldn’t be seen as the be-all-end-all engagement metric for sales development.

The read receipt technology that email open tracking utilizes works by inserting a unique, transparent image into every email being tracked. This transparent image is hosted on the tracking platform’s server. In theory, every time the email is opened that invisible image gets requested by the computer opening the email. The image is then rendered in the email, and the email tracking platform then records an “open”… but it doesn’t work 100% of the time. Here’s what we’ve seen, and what you should be aware of it you rely on email tracking in your sales process:

Email Tracking Requires Auto-Loading Images in Email

In order to track opens, images must auto-load in a user’s email client. If the sender isn’t already in the recipient’s email contacts, their email client may be blocking images from rendering by default. Additionally, if a recipient views a tracked email as plain text, the tracking pixel never has a chance to fire. If you’re not seeing opens on your first email in your cadence, it could be due to images not auto-loading.

There Are Apps that Block Email Tracking

Popular tracking blockers like Ghostery and SmartPixel prevent email tracking pixels from firing altogether. If your prospects have these plugins installed, there’s no way you’re getting a read receipt. Bummer.

Email Previews Can Cause False Positives

If a prospect’s email client previews a portion of the email, it may render the image even if the user doesn’t open the email, sending your team a false positive. If you proceed with more follow ups at a higher frequency, and they didn’t even read your original email, they may just tune you out or send your emails straight to archive.

Open Tracking Doesn’t Work For Groups

If you send a tracked email to a group of people, you won’t be able to tell who opens it, just that someone opened it. That can make deciding on who to follow up with a guessing game instead of a data-driven venture.

Enterprise Security Watches For Link Tracking Redirects

If you’re sending links in your tracked emails, those rely on a unique url that redirects to the actual destination url to track a click. Enterprise firewalls and security services (like the popular OpenDNS from Cisco) have no tolerance for tracking links in emails that use redirects. They are sketchy from a security standpoint. Here’s an embarrassing email response I received from someone who works at an email tracking provider. This happened during an outreach campaign, and I was using a popular email tracking tool.

email tracking being blocked by openDNS
This was more than a little embarrassing.


Remember, if you’re using an email tracking tool to measure engagement, it’s a helpful service, but it’s not always correct. You will never get 100% accurate data from a third-party service you don’t control. Email tracking is great for seeing when a prospect is highly engaged. But, just because you aren’t getting read receipts doesn’t mean they aren’t interested. It’s easy for email tracking tools to report back inaccurate data and they shouldn’t be treated as gospel. If you really want to understand the in’s and out’s of your buyer’s we suggest using attachment tracking instead.