BlogE-mail marketingWhat Counts As An Email Open?

What Counts As An Email Open?

An open is considered when the email contents have been viewed and/or a link has been clicked.

Depending on how you track your email marketing, an open may be recorded differently:

If you’re tracking by links (URLs), then one click equals one open. To count as an open, a recipient must visit the URL of your site at least once in the same browsing session (e.g., if they click on it once, exit their browser or use another tab).

They can return to it later but should not browse away from your site before returning to read different sections/content within the email. Note that even with only this method applied, there is still some debate about whether an “open” definition should be a view/click or a load (see below).

If you’re tracking views, then one read equals one open. This method allows recipients to scroll through the email without clicking on any links, without affecting the definition of an “open.”

If you’re tracking loads, then one load equals one open. With this method, emails loaded in the browser but never viewed are counted as opens (such as when someone uses their mouse to hover over an email link and decides not to click) or even when completely new tabs are opened by accident to your email.

Still, those where recipients browse away from after only loading it up once will be blank. So with this definition, more than just content has been viewed by recipients (no matter if they intended to or not), and it is the most generous definition of an “open” as far as email marketing goes.

To ensure that none of these counts against your open rates, there is a setting within some email platforms where you can exclude recipients who have opened via your site navigation before being sent to your email content (e.g., if they clicked on one of your social media posts).

Different emails may also count differently depending upon the campaign’s objective:

an email sent for lead generation will only need one click/view/load from a visitor to be counted as successful, whether the next step was submitting their contact information or purchasing something off another page (whereas for promotional reasons, this may not be enough).

How Are Email Opens Tracked?

Generally, an email is set to track itself, either by counting the links followed (requiring that individual recipients are tracked for all campaigns) or by tracking views and loads within the same browser as it tracks a customer’s browsing history.

Some email clients have this built-in, but if you’re using a third-party platform, you will need to set up custom tags to tell your email marketing software when a recipient has opened an email and on what page they did so.

When someone clicks on one of these tags, such as {opens}, a list is then sent back from your campaign management platform, which shows at what time the email was opened along with what URL was clicked (if applicable).

What Difference Does It Make Whether An Email Open Is Categorised As a View Or An Click?

Generally, if you’re tracking by views, the most generous definition of an “open” will be used. In contrast, if you are monitoring opens via links (URLs) and therefore allowing only one click per email to count as an open, then the definition of an open is more stringent.

This makes sense, after all: wouldn’t it mean that either recipient weren’t fully engaged with your content or they intended to click but for some reason didn’t? Or perhaps both?!

It also means that if you were counting by views instead, someone who had been on your site previously and clicked through to your email would still be trusted with this campaign’s operational goals. There won’t be any direct evidence, though, to suggest the reason why someone was opening your email in this instance.

Still, it does mean that you will have to make sure that all other pages/content on your website are mobile-friendly to maximize cross-device tracking. If an email is opened via a link by one device and its content is then viewed further on another soon after, that will be counted as two separate opens.

This isn’t ideal for tracking how different effective calls-to-action within your emails are either (such as whether people open them more or less if there’s a social media link present).

As well as these distinctions, keep in mind that some email clients may count multiple opens due to recipients being able to refresh their inboxes without opening the email again. This means that you should always analyze your data on an ongoing basis. As analyzed in blocks of time or averages, crucial trends may be overlooked, such as whether or not certain times are better to send emails than others.

These days, it is rare for someone to open an email and only see it once (unless it was promotional and had no interest anyway). However, when recipients do this, it still counts against whatever goal their interaction with the content has been set up for within their profile.

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What Affects Email Open Rates?

The percentage of email recipients who open your emails varies greatly depending on whether they expect it, so all things are equal. Within the same industry, open rates will be lower for senders with existing relationships.

The only exception to this is when someone has specifically opted-in to receive certain types of content from you (such as blog posts). After that, they may choose their own frequency of interests rather than follow a pre-determined schedule; but even then, this doesn’t necessarily mean that if they don’t read a specific one they never want to hear from you again, it just means that they chose not to engage with it at that time.

Many other factors affect open rates, including timing, email frequency, the type of content included (images, social media links, etc.), and the reputation and relationship you have with your recipients.

How Do I Check My Email Open Rate?

You can easily track your email open rates within your email management platform dashboard, where you’ll see a graph showing you the number of opens against the number of emails sent in a set period (such as total opens and unlimited emails for all recipients, or opens for just those who opted-in). It is also possible to use links tracked within your content that direct back to this page, which allow you to check any collected data via an additional column on each campaign’s overview screen.

As well as being able to monitor these stats yourself, it may be worth considering using tools that will make sure non-viewed content isn’t sent out again automatically before close dates, such as MailChimp’s ‘unsubscribe if not opened’ option to see whether people have been engaging with your email content in one way or another.

This is a good idea for those who send out large volumes of email at regular intervals even if they don’t use automated broadcast services such as Aweber, Mail Chimp, and Campaign Monitor due to the overall costs involved and the toll on resources.

As well as being able to track how many opens you’ve had against each campaign, you may also be able to compare it to other industry standards by looking up what open rate should be expected within a specified number of days from sending (such as comparing it to average email marketing statistics).

This can help identify possible issues that may not be readily apparent through analyzing stats alone, especially when compared alongside metrics like your clickthrough rate and the number of people who have opened your email content but not clicked through to anywhere else.

How Will This Affect My Email Marketing Plan?

Knowing that some of your recipients haven’t yet opened any of your emails can help you decide whether it is worth sending out additional content or taking other actions instead, as there is no point in continuing if they don’t want to engage at all (or are already getting everything they need from another source).

As well as being able to check these statistics on an ongoing basis during campaigns, you’ll be able to use them retrospectively for comparison purposes, too, such as comparing those who didn’t open a specific campaign against others sent around the same period finding out why.

The data can also help know when to send out follow-up emails, which can help ensure those who haven’t yet engaged get a second chance by getting more information about you or your service through an introductory email newsletter.

Although this is less of an issue with direct sales email campaigns as recipients usually expect them, they don’t fall into the same category of unopened emails from a relationship perspective. They might assume it’s spam unless they remember what was sent why.

As well as being able to assess whether individuals have opened any of your emails upon a set point in time, there are other ways that you may be able to predict how many opens you will receive in the future based on earlier activity; such as comparing them against past email marketing statistics across several platforms to make an educated guess about their opening habits.

For example, you could look at whether they read through previous emails. How many of the links in them they clicked on can help give you an idea of what type of subject line description would be most helpful in getting their attention and other factors such as what periods are most likely to prompt opens.

It can also contribute towards suggesting when you should send out your next campaign or follow-up email if that’s what your content has been designed explicitly for; such as by gauging at which point in between certain days and times the highest levels of engagement tend to occur (such as before lunch, during working hours or after work).

This data type can be stored in a separate performance management system that keeps track of more than opens and clicks, such as PiQero’s Digital Marketing Hub, specifically designed to analyze email marketing statistics.

This way, you can gain access to a dashboard with critical insights at a glance, including some of the information mentioned above, such as open email trends against target customers and channels, along with other vital metrics like clickthrough rate and campaign ROI.

How Do I Know If My Recipients Don’t Want To Engage?

There are several ways to find out why your recipients aren’t opening any of your emails (after all, you wouldn’t need to check their stats if they were!), but one way is through your open rates. This can indicate to the sender whether or not someone has opened any of your emails without checking their email provider directly (which could be risky if, for example, they have blocked email tracking).


You can read about the specifics on how to check your email marketing stats in my other blog posts about email marketing. Thank you for reading, remember to share this article if you found this helpful!

A data-driven professional with more than 10 years of experience in digital marketing, SEO, PPC, automation, and so on. Privately tea lover, gamer, tech nerd, and traveler. I love writing about marketing!

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