“Hey, Mike! I saw you opened my email twice. When can I expect an answer?”. You don’t want to hear that kinda question while chilling by a water cooler. Yet, with the abundance of tools for email tracking, most of your inbox is likely already tracked with sophisticated tools. Want to join the tracking party too? Check out our list of the best free email trackers!
- To track or not to track?
- How does email tracking work?
- Best free email tracking software platforms
- Limitations of email tracking
- Testing email tracking software with Mailtrap
To track or not to track?
Email tracking is hardly a new thing. It’s been penetrating our inboxes and sending back the (not necessarily desired) information for quite a few years now.
According to the 2018 Princeton University study, 70% of tested emails “contain resources categorized as trackers by popular tracking-protection lists”.
Another study from One More Company (OMC) released in 2017 indicated that 40,6% of the 1,5B+ emails checked contained tracking software.
Whether the true number is 40, 70 or anywhere in-between, it’s safe to assume tracking is nearly everywhere and more and more of it will be present in our lives. Even if we don’t realize it’s actually happening.
How does email tracking work?
There are various methods for tracking emails and various parameters people want to track. Email opens and clicks on links are amongst the most common ones. Some tools will also tell you which device a reader used to open your email, how long they spent reading it or what they did after clicking on your link.
There are three main ways to track emails.
Read Receipts are available with some email clients and allow for requesting a read receipt from an email recipient. It’s a non-intrusive way. Recipients need to either opt-in for sending such receipts in the client’s settings or confirm each receipt manually. Due to this, Read Receipts are not very reliable and, as such, have become rather rare these days.
Tracking Pixels are tiny, 1px x 1px transparent images attached automatically to emails. Each pixel is loaded with an individual tracking number. When an email (and a corresponding image) is opened, a message is counted as opened. Tracking Pixels are used by almost every email tracking software these days.
Trackable Links are links modified automatically with individual sets of characters. When such a link is clicked or tapped, a server logs such an event and is able to determine which particular links were clicked and by whom. With some tools, it’s able to also determine what happens next. Trackable links are also extremely common in our emails.
Best free email tracking software platforms
Below you’ll find a number of tools for tracking your emails. They all come on a free or a freemium model so you’ll be able to use each without any expenses. There’s also a number of tools that come with a free trial but to continue you need to upgrade to a paid plan. We don’t include them on this list. Only free stuff this time! 🙂
Mailtrack for Gmail
Mailtrack is a basic, free plugin for Gmail and Chrome. It lets you check if emails have been opened in a very visual way – with ticks. If an email was sent, you’ll see a single tick. Two of them mean an email was opened by the receiver.
On the free plan, you can send an unlimited number of emails. Each will, however, come with “Sent with Mailtrack” inserted into a signature. Annoying? You can upgrade to a premium plan available for $4.99 monthly or even $2.49 monthly when billed annually. The paid plan also comes with a set of statistics, such as the percentage of emails opened or links clicked. With this plan, you can also use a Mailtrack addon on Android devices.
Snov.io is a platform for cold emails. It comes with a bunch of features for finding and verifying emails. It also lets you set up pipelines, triggers, and automatically follow-up if no response is detected.
Email tracking comes with a standard set of tools for checking when recipients open emails and click on links. Desktop notifications are also available. Their free plan lets you track up to 50 emails/month. Paid plans start from $49/month.
Hubspot is a giant player in the sales and marketing markets. It offers all sorts of tools for marketing automation, social media, A/B testing, sales outreach and many others. To no surprise, it also comes with tools for tracking email open tracking and clicks.
This tool works with both Gmail and Outlook and can be added as a plugin. It offers real-time notifications as someone opens your emails and lets you look into this person’s opens history. You can also check what they click on in your emails to see what they may be interested in the most.
On the free plan, you can track up to 2,000 emails monthly. Premium tiers with unlimited emails and an abundance of other features are also available.
Boomerang for Gmail
Boomerang is another Chrome extension for Gmail. It’s great for opens and clicks tracking. It also comes with a set of tools for automating sales – scheduling emails, improving writing, returning emails to an inbox if there’s no response (thus the name, Boomerang).
Boomerang’s free plan is only good for very casual tracking (10 emails a month). Paid plans with no limitations start, however, from as little as $4.99/month. Android and iOS apps are available.
Streak is also a Chrome plugin for your Gmail account. Aside from tracking, it’s also great for monitoring pipelines, personalizing and scheduling emails. After all, they call themselves a “CRM for Gmail”.
The plugin adds an eye icon to each of your tracked emails. The icon turns green when an email gets opened. Same as with Hubspot, you can see the history of clicks and opens to gauge the interest of your leads. You can also see which devices your recipients use to open emails and where they’re located.
The free plan comes with an unlimited number of messages you can track. Upgrade for more additional features.
MixMax is a platform for email outreach. It offers tools for personalization, building workflows or scheduling meetings. On top of that, email tracking is also available.
MixMax informs you when an email is opened, it can also track the number of opens. On top of that, it can distinguish who opened an email even if you send it to a group of addresses.
A free plan is available which allows for tracking up to 100 emails per month. On this plan, a “Sent with MixMax” signature is also added to each email. Premium plans are available from $24/user/month.
Gmelius is a platform for email collaboration. It allows teams to interact with emails without leaving a Gmail inbox. It also comes with various automations, templates, and notifications (for Slack and mobile).
Email tracking lets you check opens and clicks. It also sends notifications whenever a message is opened. As with MixMax, you can also distinguish interactions from different recipients included in the same message.
A free plan is available and it allows you to track link opens without any limits. With paid plans (starting from $9/user/month) you can also track clicks and access many other related features.
Mailalert is a free email tracker, without any limitations! It’s a simple Chrome plugin for Gmail that tracks emails and clicks. It also offers real-time notifications as someone interacts with your emails.
Right now, it’s free to use without any limits. The founders are working on additional features that may at some point be available for a fee. But email tracking is supposed to stay free, forever!
Hunter.io is a handy platform for finding an email address from a given domain. On top of their standard offering, they offer a plugin for email tracking.
MailTracker, because that’s what it’s called, only offers tracking of email opens. While limited in features, its clear benefit is that it’s free to use, without any limitations — you don’t even have to register!
SalesHandy is a popular tool for email tracking and scheduling. It integrates with both Google and Microsoft email platforms and lets you build templates, schedule emails and auto follow up.
A free plan is available with unlimited email tracking. Note, however, that Outlook support is excluded from the list of free features. For this and many others, you’ll need to upgrade to one of the paid plans (starting from $7/user/month).
Bananatag is yet another platform for sending emails, available for Gmail and Outlook. It focuses on designing emails with its drag&drop builder. It also comes with analytics and surveys you can insert into emails (to, for example, let employees assess a newsletter).
A free plan is available but only allows you to track 5 emails/day.
MailChimp made it to the list too as it also tracks emails and can be used extensively without a fee. MailChimp is one of the top platforms for sending mass emails. With its sister company, Mandrill, it’s also capable of handling transactional emails.
Email tracking in MailChimp comes down to aggregated charts of opens and clicks. On a free plan, you can have up to 2,000 contacts, with no limitations placed on the number of emails sent to each.
Benchmark is another powerful platform for email marketing. It’s great for building beautiful templates, sending mass campaigns and executing automations. It probably has everything you need to run email campaigns.
It also comes with a full set of tools for tracking and improving your performance. On top of standard stats about email opens, clicks or bounces, you can also A/B test different content and preview your emails before they’re sent. Benchmark also comes with a generous free plan that allows for up to 2,000 contacts or 14,000 emails sent on a monthly basis.
GMass is a tool mainly used to personalize emails with a method called Mail Merge. This Gmail plugin also comes with a number of other features, such as scheduling and automatic follow-ups.
To no surprise, it also tracks email opens and sends. A free plan covers up to 50 emails sent per day. For more, you’ll need to upgrade to one of the paid plans starting from $8.95/month.
Google Analytics might not be the most commonly mentioned in the context of email tracking. After all – it’s a web tracking platform after all. But there’s more to it than you’ll read in many tutorials.
Google Analytics can be also used for tracking clicks as well as email opens.The first one offers advanced insights into what your recipients click on and where they navigate later on. The latter, though, is quite limited and a bit tricky to set up. You can track if the email was opened but you won’t know if a recipient keeps coming back. You also won’t be able to use GA with web-based email clients, such as Gmail.
Tracking emails with Google Analytics is free so, despite its limitations, it might be worth your attention. Probably you should consider using it alongside other tools for email tracking. And even more likely, you should read our detailed article to tracking emails with Google Analytics.
Limitations of email tracking
Before you start tracking your emails, you should be aware of several limitations that might impact your results.
Nearly all platforms we mentioned attach a tiny, invisible pixel for the purpose of tracking email opens. This pixel is treated as an image. Some email clients block images from being displayed by default. Some others (rather old ones) are simply not capable of displaying HTML emails and will opt for plain text, stripping all attached images. In both of these cases, an email open might not be recorded as a tracking pixel won’t be loaded.
Also while forwarding emails, some clients may strip them of images. While a tracking software will report an initial open, an email may be circulating around a company network without any further reports.
In other news, Outlook users can also cause some discrepancies. When new emails arrive, they’ll end up in Outlook’s preview pane. At this time, a tracking pixel can be downloaded even though a recipient won’t even glimpse on a message.
Finally, some users might be just blocking tracking pixels from loading in the first place in attempts to protect their privacy. While their use is not widespread, such plugins are easily available on the web.
By all means, don’t give up on email tracking because of these limitations. Just keep in mind that regardless of the software you use, the results may not always be 100% accurate.
Testing email tracking software with Mailtrap
Once you set things up, you will probably want to check if it really works. The obvious approach may be to send a bunch of emails to your colleagues and compare the results with their actual behaviour.
You can also use Mailtrap for these purposes, without worrying about all the limitations we just mentioned. Mailtrap will automatically load tracking pixels the moment you open emails. This will give you precise insights into opens and clicks of your test campaign.
But Mailtrap is much more than that. It’s an environment for testing emails. Thousands of companies route their emails to Mailtrap inboxes to inspect them before they’re sent to real users. This way, they can verify if the right number of emails are sent in the first place, if they come with the right content and if they’re likely to bypass spam filters.
This gives them peace of mind that the emails they send to the real users are just as they envisioned. Try Mailtrap for free today too and never spam customers by mistake again!