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How To Track Email Opens With Google Analytics

Google AnalyticsGoogle Analytics (GA) is traditionally used to track customer use and engagement on a website, but it can also be used to track the opens of an email.

The usual methods of utilizing GA’s javascript code do not work in email clients. However, GA also includes event tracking which can be used through an embedded image pixel within the email body itself.

You may also find some benefits to using GA over most email service provider (ESP) tracking. It provides great system information like real time tracking, browser and operating system details, demographic information including location, and will even tie in nicely with your web reports.

Let’s take a look at how you can begin to use Event Tracking within your emails.

What You’ll Need

You’ll need to make sure you have your Google Analytics Tracking ID available for integration. You can choose from the following options to select a Tracking ID:

  • If you don’t have an ID yet, just create an account.
  • If you already have an account, but would like to setup a new ID for tracking, follow these directions.
  • You can also use event tracking within a particular account you already manage.

How To Embed

Detailed instructions of how to use Event Tracking within Google Analytics can be found here, but here is an overview:

At the top level, Event Tracking is done through embedding an image tag within the HTML of your email. This will look like:

Code Sample

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The URL of the image contains all the information necessary for Google Analytics to understand what account you’re using, what email campaign you’re sending, and which user is opening your email. Here’s what a completed URL might look like:

http://www.google-analytics.com/collect?v=1&tid=UA-12345678-1&cid=CLIENT_ID_NUMBER&t=event&ec=email&ea=open&el=recipient_id&cs=newsletter&cm=email&cn=Campaign_Name

Now let’s look how you can break down this URL:

URL Component Explanation
v=1 Protocol version within Google Analytics
tid=UA-12345678-1 Your Google Analytics Tracking ID
cid=CLIENT_ID_NUMBER A systematic tracking ID for the customer
t=event Tells Google Analytics this is an Event Hit Type
ec=email The Event Category helps segment various events
ea=open The Event Action helps specify exactly what happened
el=recipient_id Event Label specifies a unique identification for this recipient
cs=newsletter Campaign Source allows segmentation of campaign types
cm=email Campaign Medium could segment social vs. email, etc.
cn=Campaign_Name Campaign Name identifies the campaign to you

Note: Ensure all variables are URL encoded to allow for special characters.  Additionally, do not use personally identifiable information directly within your tracking, use ID’s to match this information up to your records later to stay within GA Terms of Service.

How To Use Your Results

The Event Tracking results are available within GA within minutes. Below are some examples of where you can see reports within GA.

Real Time Specifics:

GA events

This report shows the tracking for opens of the email we sent. We can see just how long it takes for people to start opening the message after the send goes out. With this information, we can compare it to past sends and see if people are opening it faster or slower, which helps us determine if the subject of the message is enticing enough.

Also, we can see what times of the day get the most opens and plan our sending schedule around that information.

Location Specifics:

GA location

While this is a very basic example, the map shows where in the world people are opening the message we sent. This can help you determine who your most active audience is and if you should start tailoring your content towards different nations. If you have access to a translation service, this would also be helpful to determine what languages would be beneficial to add to your marketing content.

Key Takeaways

This overview just skims the surface of what you are able to track with GA, a great way to drill down into specific intricacies within your sends and adds just another layer of monitoring. Bonus? It’s completely free so there really is no reason why you shouldn’t start using it today.


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Whois: Mike Veilleux

Mike Veilleux is the Director of Product Management for Dyn, a cloud-based Internet Performance company that helps companies monitor, control, and optimize online infrastructure for an exceptional end-user experience. Follow Mike on Twitter: @MikeVeilleux and @Dyn.