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I saw some people saying their newsletter has X open-rate. How can I know this thing?

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up vote 8 down vote accepted

The technique used to work out if an email has been opened or not is to put a tracker image with a unique identifier in the request URL so your server can log that the email has been at least viewed. This image is normally just a 1x1px square that is invisible to the end user. The src of the image will be something like tracker.php?user_id=1312, then on your server, tracker.php takes that user_id string and can mark that user as opening that email.

However, any figure you gain from from technique can't be taken expclicitly, there are a number of factors that can lead to both an over-estimate and under-underestimate:

  • Most email clients ask you to download images purely for this reason
  • Users may open the email but not read it
  • Users may not receive the HTML version
  • Images may be pre-fetched by virus scanners and scanned
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This technique is also called webbug, and is used a lot by spammers to harvest email addresses, that's why most email clients block this images. – martinstoeckli Dec 6 '12 at 8:16
It won't harvest email addresses, but it will validate that an existing email address receives email. Email clients block images to prevent spammers from validating email addresses. – Stephen Ostermiller Jan 14 '15 at 14:31

Are you using Google Analytics? Then you can use http://support.google.com/analytics/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=1033863 custom campaigns. Here you have an http://support.google.com/analytics/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=1033867 URL Builder.

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The information presented at these links seem to track users who have specifically clicked on a link within an email. Can this technique be used to determine how many users actually opened the email to begin with? – w3dk Dec 5 '12 at 14:25
Sorry. If you only want to know who opened it then no. – Louis Dec 5 '12 at 15:56

This depends on how you distribute your newsletters, are you using client software or an online service provided by your hosting provider like phplist, or a service such as mailchimp which offer stats like open rates as standard.

the image tracker solution already mentioned is a preferred solution of mine.

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Probably the easiest way is MailChimp.

  • Nice UI/UX
  • Pretty good stats for open rate, Clicks, unsibscribe etc
  • You can also link it up to google.
  • And it is FREE

Have been using it for the last 6 months. Only complaint is that the template editor is a bit tricky at the start.

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