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Term of the week: what exactly is an email open?

An email open, as the name suggests, is a record of how many times your email was opened/viewed.

How are opens tracked?

Within each email is a hidden tracking pixel, when images are downloaded in the message it is recognised as being opened.

Depending on your email client, images are downloaded differently. More often than not the recipient will have to manually download them. However, if they have whitelisted the sender, sometimes the email client downloads images automatically. Email clients that have a preview page, such as Outlook, will then load these images every time which can lead to multiple ‘opens’ from one email.

You should be aware then, that if a subscriber opens an email but doesn’t download the images, your reports will not register that open.

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  • Jacqueline Pumphrey

    Presumably if a user opens an email, doesn’t download the images, but chooses to view the message in a web browser, that counts as an open?

    Also can I clarify that if people are just scanning the email in their Outlook preview window, this doesn’t count as an open?


    • Peter Rylands

      Hi Jacqueline!
      Yes, you’re right. If a user doesn’t download the images but clicks on a link in the email, it will count as an open.

      As for Outlook, if pictures are automatically downloaded then viewing an email in the preview window will count as an open. Otherwise it will require interaction to accept pictures or clicking on a link to register as such.

      Hope that helps,