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The Ultimate Email Tracking Guide

How many times have you sent an email and waited .... and waited ... and wondered what happened to it? We all have.

In the past, it was normal to have no idea what happened after we sent an email. Did our recipient receive it? Did it get lost in their inbox? Is it in their spam folder? Did they click on my links or open my attachments?

No one knew ... until now. Now, we have software that lets us know when someone opens your emails, clicks on any links, and views any attachments.

Email tracking gives us the power to build and maintain relationships in this exceedingly crowded, competitive inbox environment. That’s what this guide is all about: powering your inbox with email tracking to boost email efficiency and productivity.

Download Now: Email Marketing Planning Template 

Note: We've edited sections of this piece because readers rightly pointed out that we did not previously include enough content on how to use tools that track email opens responsibly. This is a rapidly evolving technology, so we’ll continue to update recommendations on this page as the field evolves. Feedback makes our content better, if you see advice or content that is outdated - write us at blogging@hubspot.com.



How does email tracking work?

Email tracking notifies you when any email you sent has been opened or clicked. Email tracking software places an invisible image pixel in your emails that can detect the exact time and date an email has been opened by a recipient.

We talk more about how to do this below, but first, let's discuss why email tracking is beneficial.

Know the second someone opens your email, send a perfectly timed follow-up, and  close deals faster than ever. Start tracking emails for free.

The Benefits of Email Tracking

1. Email tracking saves time.

No one wants to get multiple follow-up emails when they haven’t even opened the first one. Email tracking enables you to see whether your first email was interesting enough to your recipient to open. If they haven’t opened the first, they’re unlikely to open future follow-up emails, so you can and should stop there.  By preventing unnecessary follow-up emails, email tracking saves time both for the sales rep and the email recipient.  

Similarly, if you notice a contact is clicking on the links you sent and viewing a cover letter or a proposal that you attached, you know that you're currently at the top of their minds. Reaching out to them at that point, when they’re thinking about your proposal, makes that conversation much more relevant and timely. 

Keep reading for specific examples that demonstrate the power of tracking emails in action. 

2. Email tracking provides context.

Email tracking provides you with valuable insight into your email interactions with contacts, networks, customers, or prospects. You can use this insight to strengthen your outreach by catering to their specific relationship with you.

  • If you see that a contact has opened your email multiple times in one day, you can follow up while you're top-of-mind. 
  • If you included links or attachments in an email prior to a meeting, you can see if your contact has viewed them. 
  • If you sent a follow up email, you can determine if the recipient is reviewing what you sent.

CRM Email Tracking activity stream 

3. Email tracking provides unique insight.

Let’s face it, writing emails can be daunting and frustrating. It's easy to struggle with how to begin or what to say to fill in that white space.    

With SalesHub Email Tracking, you're provided with more than just valuable information about your contact’s engagement with your emails. You also get to see their professional history, details about their company, their Twitter feed and other social profiles, your email history with them, and any other information that they chose to share with you.

CRM EmailTracking provides unique insights

Now that you know the main benefits to using an email tracking software, let’s take a look at specific examples of how tracking emails can benefit your business.

Add email tracking to your inbox.

Learn when people open your emails and craft the perfectly timed response. Try our free email tracking tool and take the guesswork out of email follow up.

Add to Gmail

Add to Outlook

Add to Outlook


How Email Tracking has Helped Real Businesses


"Last year, I was positive we’d landed a contract with a huge eCommerce client. I thought we had the deal in the bag.   

After speaking for weeks, we sent our final proposal with a quote and the entire process mapped out. And what happened? Absolutely no response. Silence.   

Fast forward three months later: a notification pops up on my computer letting me know that eCommerce company just opened my email … and clicked the link to our proposal. Later that day, I get another notification alert that they’re reading our blog posts.      

The next morning, I get yet another notification. They’re reading the case studies on our website! So I sent a follow-up email, hoping that they were interested again. 

Three weeks later, we closed the deal — worth more than $100,000."

Mack McGee 
Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer 
SC&H Group 

"Email tracking has completely flipped the world of prospecting upside down for me.

Recently, I've been focusing my prospecting efforts on the top 25 financial services companies in the U.S. — a 'title happy' industry where it's difficult to decipher if a VP has responsibility for a specific branch or at the corporate level.

Based on the information I sourced online, I started my campaign on each account by sending emails to the five to seven individuals who looked to be a good fit for our product and had VP titles. By day two, after sending roughly 50 tracked emails with HubSpot Sales, I noticed that three of my emails had been opened 10+ times — a sure sign they've been forwarded between colleagues — and decided to focus my calling efforts on these accounts.

After a number of attempts that day — one in the morning and two in the afternoon — I had connected with two of the three prospects from whom I saw activity, and had two meetings set with Senior VPs at a top five brokerage firm and insurance company. Without HubSpot Sales, my email tracking tool of choice, it typically takes me weeks to breakthrough to the right people!"

Bryan Tucker
Regional Manager

"I've been nurturing a lead for about three months now, and my main contact has been the company's Business Development Director.

Recently, my HubSpot Sales stream was showing that he was opening the initial emails from three months ago. This indicated to me that he was looking for a reference point for when we began working together.

Because he has been a "hero" for us (a huge advocate for bringing us into his organization), I knew that his reference point inquiry showed he was getting frustrated with the time it was taking his own company to make a decision and move forward.

So I reached out and asked if there was anything I could do to move the process along. Now, I have a meeting booked with the CEO of the company to discuss moving forward."

Josh Harcus
Director of Channel

How to Track an Email

Sending a tracked email is simple. We're going to review how to track an email using our product, SalesHub, which involves four easy steps.

1. Establish company guidelines on email tracking practices.

Technology like email tracking can be used to improve the customer experience, but it must be used responsibly.  Set some guardrails with your team about how and when to reach out to a recipient after you have received a read-notification. 

It’s also a good idea to define proper use of email tracking tools in your company’s privacy policy and disclose when people sign up for email subscriptions that email tracking notifications are in use. These conversations and standards should be established before you start using email tracking and re-examined continually to ensure you’re creating a good customer experience.  

2. Install an email tracking app.

There are a few different email tracking tools on the market today. In SalesHub, you'll get live notifications when someone opens or clicks your emails. You'll also get real-time updates on when and how many times a contact opens your email.

Oh, and it's free.

Click here to install the free SalesHub extension and start tracking your emails today.

3. Compose an email.

Start typing away.

Sometimes that’s easier said than done ... which is why we created a contact profile feature (in the example below) within our email tracking tool so you can see information about who you’re emailing, such as company information, open deals, and a timeline of communication. This provides valuable context that can help kickstart your messages and make them more meaningful. You can also open the contact profile in the HubSpot CRM for a full view.

example of email tracking software 

4. Check the "Track" box.

At this stage, every email tracking tool works a little differently. With SalesHub, tracked emails are signified by a checkbox that will appear in your Gmail or Outlook toolbar once you download the tool. Most tools will reflect a similar checkbox or indicator that allows you to choose which emails to track. Make sure that a recipient has opted-in to getting emails from your company before you email them or use email tracking. 

email tracking guide checkbox to track the message

That’s it! With four quick steps, you receive the power of knowing what happens after you send an email. 

And since we're already talking about easy-to-use email tracking software, let's review some free options next to give you an idea about the various options you may want to experiment with. 

Add email tracking to your inbox.

Learn when people open your emails and craft the perfectly timed response. Try our free email tracking tool and take the guesswork out of email follow up.

Add to Gmail

Add to Outlook

Add to Outlook

And since we're already talking about easy-to-use email tracking software, let's review some free options next to give you an idea about the various options you may want to experiment with.

1. HubSpot

HubSpot is known for its powerful sales platform, and email tracking capability comes with its suite of free sales tools. With HubSpot email tracking, you'll be able to tell when a lead opens an email, clicks a link, or downloads an attachment.

These actions can also be viewed in the CRM on the contact record's activity stream, which includes other activities such as website page views. In addition, you can get desktop notifications for real-time activity updates, allowing you to respond when your organization is top of mind. This software works with Gmail, Outlook, and Office365. 

2. Mailtrack

Mailtrack is a Google Chrome extension that integrates with your Gmail inbox to add green checkmarks within the interface once emails are opened. Mailtrack also provides desktop notifications, and there is no limit to the number of emails you can track. 

3. Streak

Another Gmail add-on, Streak provides a handy sidebar with a visual activity log of email opens, view times, and even the geographical location where the recipient viewed the message. You can also use Streak to sort your messages by recent views (to know which prospects are the warmest) or isolate your email sends that are still awaiting a reply (so you know who to follow up with).

4. Mailtracker by Hunter.io

Mailtracker allows you to track how many times the email was opened, when, and with what device. Hunter.io promises that this extension will always be free and will never add a logo or other identifier to your emails. 

5. Intelliverse Email Tracker

This email tracker can come as a plugin for Microsoft Outlook or as a Chrome extension for Gmail. It provides information on when and where the email was opened as the device details, all within your inbox. It will track unlimited emails and provide real-time notifications. 

6. SalesHandy

SalesHandy provides email open notifications and activity tracking for up to 15 of your most recent records. Email tracking is completely free and unlimited for Gmail users, but you can upgrade to a paid plan to access the Outlook add-in. 

7. Mailalert

Mailalert is a Google Chrome extension that offers unlimited tracking with no branding or logos attached to the emails. Unlike some of the options on this list, it offers click tracking completely free. It also includes real-time notifications/push alerts to help you achieve more agile response times.

HubSpot's email tracking tool is free. Start tracking email opens today.

Get Started Free

How to Use Your Tracked Emails to Grow Your Business

You set up tracked emails. Now what?

We hear it all the time: What do I first say to someone who opens my email?  What are good ways to reach out? What do I say second? Should I send an email? Should I call? 

As with the answer to everything: It depends. Everyone uses these notifications differently. Here are some use cases that we recommend.

Start a relevant conversation. 

The whole point of email intelligence tools is to help you make your content and timing more relevant to recipients. Canned emails aren’t just impersonal, they’re also less effective.  Use what you know about the recipients’ business and history of interactions with your company to target your content. If that first email isn’t opened, stop there. No one needs an inbox cluttered with follow-up emails if they haven’t opened the first. 

Follow up with additional context.

Use the notifications to better understand when you need to follow up with additional context. Let’s say a contact clicked on a link about company culture — perhaps you can reach out with additional information on that topic.

A personalized touch never hurts, and a prospect may appreciate that you've anticipated their needs or interests.

Prune your email list.

If you notice a contact hasn't opened any of your recent emails, remove them from your mailing list, or reach out one last time with a simple one-click option to unsubscribe if they wish to do so.

Do nothing ... it's just nice to know.

Some users don’t take any action post-email open or click. The notification simply gives them the comfort of knowing their contact is engaging with them, and that there is no need to send a bothersome follow up email.

Make this judgement call based on your overall relationship with a contact. If you've chatted with them before or know they have all the information they need, simply leave them alone.

Grow Better With Email Tracking

In the past, there was a lot of uncertainty around emailing. But with email tracking software, there doesn't have to be. Email tracking can help you know exactly when your prospects open your emails and when to follow up.

Email tracking benefits both businesses and customers. With email tracking, businesses can navigate their inbox productively, communicate effectively, and ultimately build and maintain meaningful relationships. Customers can engage with emails without anticipating multiple follow-up emails or calls. This is why we built SalesHub — to empower both sides of the email marketing process and help businesses grow better.



Editor's note: This post was originally published in November, 2015 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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