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How opens are tracked

To know who's included in the open rate, it helps to understand how tracking works. When we send the HTML version of your mailing, it includes images (like your logo), that display when the recipient opens the email. There's an invisible image in the HTML mailing that doesn't display but which gets 'called' just like the real images. A person opens your email, and the mailing calls our server to request the images. Our server delivers the image and counts the email as having been opened. (Our methods are a bit more complex than this, but you get the idea.)

We can also track opens for anyone who receives the plaintext version of your mailing -- remember that we automatically deliver the HTML version whenever it can but has a plaintext version ready in case someone's email client isn't set up to receive HTML -- and visits at least one of the links you've included in the email.

So in short, two actions -- viewing the images in your email, or clicking through to your website using one of your mailing's links -- are trackable as opens.

What isn't trackable?

An opened mailing isn't trackable when someone receives the HTML version and has images disabled or receives the plaintext version then doesn't click any of the links. If someone downloads his or her emails and views them offline, opens and clicks are not trackable, nor are they trackable if you have tracking toggled off in the contact's record. In any case, the recipient could have received and read your email without showing up in your open numbers. Generally, this should be a small percentage, but it does serve as a reminder that your open rate is an approximate number, as best we (or anyone) can track.

What's normal?

Open and click-through rates can vary wildly based on your organization, your industry, the kind of mailings you send and the kind of audience you've got. Most industry reports place open rates between 15-25% for consumer-oriented mailings, but those numbers can vary by industry and all the other aforementioned factors. Our advice is to experiment with things like subject lines, message and frequency, and see how all of your response numbers stack up against the only benchmarks that truly matter -- yours.