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Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About HubSpot Email Tracking

Matthew Deal

Let’s discuss the basics of how HubSpot tracks emails.

HubSpot email tracking metrics are critical for understanding how effective your email is (or isn’t). Specifically, we’re talking about the big three:

  • Delivery Rate. The number of contacts that could simply have email delivered to their inbox. Emails that can’t be delivered could not have been delivered for a variety of reasons.
  • Open Rate. Metric used to gauge how effective the email is—emails with higher open rates are literally read more. Can also be a good sign of overall subscriber health and engagement.
  • Click-Through Rate. Another engagement metric used to describe how well your offer, pitch, whatever is resonating with your customer.

Email Types in HubSpot

Just a side note: there are different types of email on HubSpot (in terms of purpose)

  • Sales Emails
  • Marketing Emails
  • Transactional Emails
  • Customer Service/Service Hub Emails

In this particular case, we’re only concerned with the first two: marketing and sales emails. That’s because the context in which you’ll want to know opens and clicks are usually in a sales or marketing context.

Seeing Opens, Clicks and Other Engagement Metrics in HubSpot

While there is a slew of reporting options available in HubSpot, you’ll likely be looking at one of three places:

Contact Records and Activity

The easiest go-to place to figure out what is happening with a particular contact is on the contact record. Here you’ll also see whether contacts have opened a particular email, clicked on any links, etc.

Emails

Obviously, you’ll often want to review each individual email you send for performance by way of open rate or click-through rate. These metrics fluctuate based on a particular email send, time of day, offer, and well, everything else under the sun. 

Open and click metrics are available for all email types in HubSpot.

Open and click metrics are available for all email types in HubSpot.

Remember, there are effectively different types of emails that HubSpot’s platform uses, so you can get these metrics on everything from regular marketing emails to automated emails triggered by workflows.

Analysis

The email section of HubSpot also has a tab for Analysis, which gives you an easy way to aggregate all your email performance metrics into a single, unified chart. It gives you a quick-and-dirty look at open rates and click-through rates.

HubSpot’s email health tool will give you a basic breakdown of email performance over time.

HubSpot’s email health tool will give you a basic breakdown of email performance over time.

HubSpot Email Tracking Explained: Open Rates

HubSpot email tracking works similarly to most email tracking: the use of an invisible, single-pixel image. Here’s how it works:

  1. You send an email to your contacts in HubSpot.
  2. When your contact opens the email, they download that small image.
  3. HubSpot tracks that image download, which in turn counts as an email “open".

Generally speaking, this system works pretty well—you can be confident of using the data that HubSpot reports for open rate as compared to other email platforms you’ve used.

In reality, most email platforms use a similar system of single-pixel image downloads to determine open rates.

You can always see open rates and click-through rates for email.

You can always see open rates and click-through rates for email.

Open Rates Don’t Always Go According to Plan

The above scenario is how email tracking is intended work, but things don’t always go according to plan. HubSpot specifically cites a few situations where that tracking pixel (and thus HubSpot tracking) can become deactivated:

  • The recipient formats their email in plain text.
  • The recipient's email client doesn't automatically download images.
  • The recipient's corporate filter strips away all images for incoming emails.

Other situations (like aggressive spam filters that block images) could also cause issues, but, again, because most email service providers fundamentally use this method for open rate tracking — you can for sure have a reasonable amount of confidence in these numbers.

Why Open Rate Matters in HubSpot

You might be asking what the relevance of open rates are. The answer is that open rates are important on any email service provider: they tell how engaged (or not engaged) your contact is with your email.

Another important consideration is that people can’t click email links without opening the email. Opens (and by extension open rates) are, in a way, the basis for all your other engagement metrics.

In thinking about how to optimize your email in HubSpot, open rate is often determined by subject line. Want to improve your open rate? Start with A/B testing various subject lines to see if you can create a better result.

How HubSpot Tracks Clicks

Clicks are another important email engagement metric that likely matters to you. Again, remember you can’t have a click unless someone opens your email to begin with. In some ways, clicks can be seen as a deeper engagement metric—getting someone to open an email is an accomplishment, but getting them to click and go-to something is often the real goal.

HubSpot uses a different tracking method for measuring clicks.
 

HubSpot uses a different tracking method for measuring clicks.

Click and Click-Through Rates in HubSpot

While clicks are the number of people that clicked on any link in your email, click-through rate is simply the number of contacts that clicked on a link divided by the total contacts sent that email.

How HubSpot Click Tracking Works

Click tracking allows you to see individual clicks on various URLs in your email and works slightly different than how open rates work. Instead of downloading an image to measure, HubSpot will append a tracking string on the last portion of every unique URL in your email.

Keep in Mind: If you have multiple links to the same destination, HubSpot will often report those clicks according to the destination URL (versus where a user actually clicked).

Using the HubSpot Extension for Link Tracking

Side Note: HubSpot recommends using their browser extension to get the latest alerts on what emails are opened.

Not only is the extension a great way to log notes and other details about your contacts, but you can also do some testing for click tracking (but largely you can trust the default setup out of HubSpot).

Why Bother Tracking HubSpot Emails

There are a couple of reasons why you’d want to dig into these metrics in HubSpot and both will enable you to make more leads and closed won deals.

Improve Performance

Improving performance, whether it be on the sales or on the marketing side, is often a reason to pay attention to open rates and click rates.

While I’ve published a few posts on A/B testing that you can read here, I’ll save you the click: A/B testing is one of the best ways to incrementally improve performance over time.

Performance often measured by the big two: open rate and click-through rate.

Testing, even if it’s not A/B testing, is how you improve performance over time.

Improving HubSpot email performance comes down to how engaged your contacts are.

Improving HubSpot email performance comes down to how engaged your contacts are.

Insights Into Your Audience

Whether it’s a sales or marketing email, opens and clicks are the heart of email performance metrics for a reason. They translate the abstract idea of “engagement” into neat, reliable metrics that can be helpful for:

  • Knowing which of your contacts are engaged with your content
  • Knowing which proposals might turn into closed won deals
  • Learning how effective your emails are
  • Extrapolating which offers and messages resonate with your audience

Adjusting Your Marketing and Sales Program

The real power and purpose behind these metrics is to make a transformational shift in your marketing and sales operations. Some emails are more effective towards accomplishing your goals versus others.

However, especially at the start of your email marketing campaigns, the why in the sentence “why is this email better than others” is often ambiguous.

But some starting points do exist.

Time and Time of Day

Time and time of day are huge factors for open rates and click-through rates. Generally speaking, people avoid sending emails on the weekend for any type of demand generation or business-to-business marketing. Also, you wouldn’t want to send an email when your contacts would be least likely to open them, so avoiding hours when people are often sleeping is helpful.

Subject Line

Subject lines are a huge factor that affects open rates. Since subject lines orient the reader to what your email is about, it’s a huge factor for determining whether someone wants to read your email (or not).

Images, CTRs, and Links

The clickable elements in your email are, not surprisingly, a big factor for determining whether someone makes a click. I personally recommend making as many clickable elements as possible—the more physical space your links occupy, the likelihood that one of them will be clicked increases.

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