Email Opens: What Are We Actually Measuring?

What we think we’re getting

What we’re actually getting

The problems with the tracking pixel

Opens are undercounted if

  • Images are disabled by default — Many email clients, including Outlook and Gmail, have images disabled by default. (You can tell because they’ll prompt you to “Display Images Below” or “Re-enable the blocked features.”) This becomes a problem for email marketers because the tracking pixel only loads if images are enabled. Users can open the message, read the textual content, and not show up as an open, if they never enable images.
  • Recipients opt for text-only emails — Some users choose to receive emails that contain only plain text. Because it’s an image, the tracking pixel can only be included in HTML emails. Opens from text-only recipients are another blind spot.

Opens are overcounted if

  • Images are enabled by default — Some users will opt to enable all images from a particular sender or enable all images in general. In this case, the email marketing software will register an open each time the user clicks the email, even if it only shows up in the preview pane. Likewise, a quick open and close to remove the “unread” status would also be counted as an open. Some email clients will also register opens while selecting the “Mark as Read” option.
  • The recipient has an autoresponder set up — Automatic replies — out-of-office emails and the like — will be counted as opens by some less advanced email marketing software.

What it all means

  • Did you know how email opens are measured?
  • How much of an impact do you think open inaccuracies have?
  • Do you have any special rules for working with opens and open rate?



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HIPB2B is a demand gen solution provider, utilizing content, email, and marketing automation to drive outcomes for marketing and technology clients