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I hope that this question is reliable as I guess all webmasters send out emails of one sort of another.

I read a while back that gmail has started downloading all pictures attached to emails. As far as I understand, this totally ruins any email tracking technology, which tries to measure how many percent of users that looked at their emails, since the way they measured this was to see how many percent of people that downloaded the attached images. Is it correct that it is impossible to track whether a gmail user has looked at an email? Is it also true for the other large providers like Microsoft and Yahoo? If so, then there really is no point in buying tracking services for email campaigns at all, am I right? I do understand that one can still reliably track which links were clicked.

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Mailchimp's blog post on this is very good.

A brief summary: Gmail rapidly downloads and then proxies the image as soon as you load the email, so Gmail's change will not prevent image tracking. In addition, the numbers will in fact be more accurate, because every user will now have images turned on by default.

Edit: In addition, see the bottom of the Google support article on enabling images.

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As someone who built and maintains a newsletter sending system, I can tell you there is no real good way to get reliable statistics for opening, reading, etc...

What you can get is whether or not the email images were downloaded. Most people would consider this an open.

To do this, you insert a tracking image. If the image was loaded, the email was opened. Of course, we all know that that isn't truly accurate. If you are a trusted sender and Google downloads your images automatically, that doesn't mean the email was read/opened. Also, if you have built your email correctly without the need for images, someone could potentially read your entire email without loading the images, and without triggering an open.

This seems to be the best we have though. Best to not build your business model on the opening of emails and just use the numbers from them as a trend or guide.

2

Opening an email is not an indicator of engagement in my opinion. I open hundreds of emails each day when I am bored in traffic or in the line at the grocery store.

Honestly, the best way to track the effectiveness of any email campaign is with a strong Call To Action that takes readers to a landing page. Include a campaign tracking code within your link and use those numbers as they are pretty reliable. After all, those are the people you are after.

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Almost all mail clients and email providers strip images out of emails specifically because they are used to track users. Tracking emails is going to be inaccurate at best.

But, they can be useful if you know the approximate percentage of users who do view images in emails. Then you can extrapolate the number actual number of views you do get and get a (still fuzzy but more) accurate picture of how many people viewed your emails. Ask the service provider how they determine how successful a campaign is and if they factor image stripping into their reporting.

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