Monday Technology Series

What goes behind Email Tracking?

As an Email Marketer, the things that matter the most are:

  • Target the right users
  • Create effective campaigns
  • Reduce unsubscription and spam complaints
  • Customer Acquisition and retention
  • Monitor and analyze how the email campaign has performed

Monitoring and analyzing how the email campaign has performed is as important as the other steps (or maybe much more important!!) because –

  • It tells you how effective your campaign really was.
  • It gives you a clear picture of how the users have reacted to a campaign i.e. how many of them actually opened it, clicked the links etc.
  • It acts as an input on the basis of which you can create future campaigns and target users accordingly.

But, how does this actually work? How do the email marketers get to know who has opened the email or who has performed some action? How are they tracking it?

The Beacons!

One of the commonly used ways to track emails is by using beacons or web beacons or email beacons. A beacon is an invisible object embedded in an email which allows to check if the user has accessed the email or not. A beacon can be used to check –

  • Who is reading the email?
  • When is the email being read?
  • and, from which computer?
  • Whether or not the email was read
  • Was it forwarded?
  • Were any of the links within an email clicked?

An Email Beacon or the beacon used in an email is usually a 1 x 1 pixel transparent GIF or PNG image or an image of the same color as that of a background of the email content.

How this works?

  • Suppose an email is sent to an email address It will contain an image of the URL When the email is opened or user reads the email, the image at this URL is requested.
  • The part of the URL after the question mark is ignored by the server so as to determine which file to send, but the complete URL is stored in the server’s log file.
  • As a result, the file bug.gif is sent and shown in the email reader; at the same time, the server stores the fact that the particular email sent to has been read. Using this system, an email marketer can send similar emails to a large number of addresses to check which ones are valid and read by the users.
  • Web beacons can also be used along with cookies.

Web beacons or beacons are commonly used by email marketers to track how their email campaign has been performing. This gives them a clear idea whether they should continue with the same strategy or re-engage users by creating another one. This helps them save time, money and effort on campaigns that may not be performing that well.

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