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Why is the open tracking rate for emails inflated?
Why is the open tracking rate for emails inflated?
Amritanshu Anand avatar
Written by Amritanshu Anand
Updated over a week ago

There are various factors that can lead to the inflation of email open rates. Typically, when we observe an open rate approaching 100%, it is often due to certain programs that automatically open and view emails in order to identify and protect against spam.

We monitor email opens by incorporating an invisible tracking pixel into each email. This pixel sends a signal to our system whenever it is loaded, which registers as an open for that particular email. Since this signal is triggered when the pixel is loaded, it doesn't necessarily mean that the recipient has opened and read the email. There are several potential causes for these false-positive opens:

  1. Outgoing mail server filters: Your organization's IT administrators may have set up outgoing mail scans, and these scans can sometimes be counted as email opens. This occurs more frequently with emails containing hyperlinks or attachments, as security filters typically examine them for malicious content. This is often the reason for simultaneous openings of many emails, especially if they were sent to various recipients at different companies.

  2. Email Service Providers scanning outbound messages: Email Service Providers may perform random scanning on new mailboxes, those with recent increases in mailing activity (e.g., through automated messaging tools like Outreach), and those flagged for suspicious or spam-like behavior. These scans are temporary and cannot typically be disabled, as they are intended to prevent spammers from using their platform.

  3. Third-party integrations or browser extensions: Some third-party tools or browser extensions may automatically open and scan your outbound messages for spam or reporting purposes. Unfortunately, any email opening, even if it's performed by a scanning or tracking tool, will be registered as an open for that message. To ensure accurate open tracking data in Outreach, only our tool should be used for tracking, as other tools may generate false-positive results.

  4. Recipient spam filters: When sending emails to recipients who have email scanning in place, the spam filter may "open" the email as part of its security scanning process.

  5. Opening emails from the 'Sent' folder: If the sender opens an email from their Outlook or Gmail 'Sent' folder, the tracking pixel may load, leading to an open being registered. To review sent emails, it's recommended to open them within Outreach itself, not your email client, to avoid generating open notifications.

  6. Accidental copying of tracking pixels: A tracking pixel may inadvertently be copied from an email sent to one prospect and embedded elsewhere. This can occur when a sender copies content from a previously sent email to use in a new template or sequence. To prevent this, messages copied from previous interactions with a prospect should be pasted as plain text to remove the tracking pixel.

  7. CC/BCC'd recipients opening the email: If anyone, even if not the primary recipient, opens the email, it will trigger the tracking pixel and count as an open for the primary recipient.

  8. Opening bounced messages from your inbox: Although less common, if an email bounces and the sender opens the bounce notification, the entire email, including the tracking pixel, may be loaded, resulting in an open.

  9. Forwarding the email: When a recipient forwards your email to another person, each forward is counted as an open, as the tracking pixel is transmitted along with the email.

  10. Viewing in a preview pane: If anyone views the email by hovering over it in a preview pane, such as in Gmail, it can register as an open because the pixel can be rendered in that panel.

  11. Apple's Mail Privacy Protection Program: This program involves downloading outbound emails to Apple's servers, and the emails are loaded from these servers when the recipient opens them. This can trigger an open notification when the email is initially downloaded to Apple's servers. To accurately track these messages, you may need to disable this feature in your Apple device settings if your mailbox is connected to an Apple device.

The tracking technology we employ for email tracking is an industry standard and provides valuable insights. However, due to the potential for false-positive opens caused by spam filters and other mechanisms, it's best to use open tracking to identify trends at scale, rather than relying on it for 100% accuracy in determining whether a prospect has genuinely opened and read a specific email.

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