The Beginner’s Guide to Tracking Emails

Email tracking is a key part of buyer’s journey — we’re sharing everything you need to know.

1. What Is Email Tracking?


When it comes to nurturing a relationship over time, few channels make it as easy to deliver a personal touch at scale as email does. Understanding how leads and contacts are interacting with your emails — starting with who opened that first message and who didn’t — is essential to knowing where relationship-building opportunities lie, and how to drive more sales.

Email tracking tells you who’s opening your emails and clicking on the links within, and who’s not. You’ll know when a recipient looks at a message multiple times, so you can send a follow-up. Tracking tools can also help make sure you don’t send repeat emails to customers who never open them at all.

Our beginner’s guide to tracking emails covers the nuts and bolts of what tracking is used for, how it works, and how it can benefit your business. We’ll also explore specific email tracking tools, focusing on how they help sales teams deliver the right content to prospects at the right time to create a better buyers’ journey.

What Is Email Tracking Used For?

Email tracking lets you keep tabs on who opened your messages, who clicked on something in a message, and who didn’t engage at all.

Your business needs revenue to grow and thrive. Sales drive revenue. How can email tracking help you close more deals? To paraphrase an old adage, in sales, as in life, timing is everything. Let’s look at a few examples of how email tracking can help you find the right time to engage with prospects and customers.

  • You land an introductory meeting with a prospect and send a follow-up email after the meeting. With email tracking, you’ll know if they opened the message, and which resources they clicked on.
  • You‘re about to close your first big deal. Hot on the heels of a great meeting with the CEO, you sent an updated proposal with the terms you discussed on the phone. How do you know if and when the CEO has reviewed the proposal? Email tracking can tell you.

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Basic examples, to be sure, but you get the idea. Nobody wants to be spammed with emails they’re not interested in, but sometimes messages fall through the cracks, or are read but not replied to for one reason or another. With email tracking, you know what’s being opened and clicked on, and what’s not. It’s like the difference between flying blind and getting real-time feedback to help you navigate as you go.

Email Tracking Metrics

Basic email tracking revolves around two key metrics: open rate and click-through rate (CTR).

Open rate is the percentage of recipients who click to open your email. At first, this number may fluctuate a bit wildly, but once it stabilizes, an open rate around 29% is considered good. Open rate isn’t an exact science, but it is a solid measure of the likelihood that your email is being read.

Click-through rate measures the number of unique clicks in an email divided by the number of emails successfully delivered. In other words, CTR tracks how many times recipients clicked through something in your message to learn more about it — clicking a “Learn More” button that takes them to resources on your company website is a good example. Good CTR rates are lower than most laypeople would expect — 5% or higher is considered a successful CTR.


29% open rate

is considered to be a good benchmark.

5% click-through rate (CTR)

is generally successful — a good CTR is lower than most expect.

These metrics are important as, taken together, they can give you a clear, high-level view of basic email performance.

  • Low open rates are usually an indicator that your emails aren’t catching eyes and sparking interest on your recipients’ end. Experiment with what you write in subject lines and when you send your emails to find combinations that nudge open rates up.
  • Low click-through rates may be a sign to rethink the types of assets you’re including in your emails, and how you position them. Remember, CTR rarely gets very high, as mentioned above, so set realistic expectations. That said, digging into the analytics may reveal insights as to which assets perform best, who they resonate with, and when in the buyer’s journey they are most useful.

2. How Does Email Tracking Work?

Most of today’s business email solutions offer some form of tracking. Email tracking capabilities are built into many CRMs, as well, Salesforce included. But before you hit send on your first trackable message, you — and your company — should do some pre-work to make sure you’re going about it the right way. Beyond the technical considerations, you’ll want to develop best practices for effectiveness and to preserve customer privacy.

Create Your Best Practices

First things first: Make sure that everyone on your sales team — and anyone else in your organization considering using the technology — understands your internal guidelines around email tracking. If your company doesn’t have established guidelines, now’s the time to draft them, before your first trackable email goes out.

A few key items to include:

  • Privacy Policy: Your company’s use of email tracking should be disclosed in your privacy policy. 
You should also make your use of tracking clear when a customer signs up to receive emails 
from you. And, make clear that the customer is able to opt-out of emails should they choose 
to. Transparency around customer privacy is good business, and it’s important to comply with 
any applicable laws and regulations that govern your organization.
  • When and How to Email: There’s a fine line between using email tracking to keep 
conversations flowing with interested prospects and customers, and putting them off because you overdid it. Take the time to establish best practices around the volume and frequency of your email outreach.

Guidelines may vary from team to team and account to account, but it’s a good idea to educate any salespeople using email tracking on the potential pitfalls of sending too many emails, or even just replying too quickly when that “read” receipt notification pops up on your end. Getting a follow-up note immediately after opening a sales email can feel a little unsettling to some customers, so consider building a delay into your response timeline. This goes for both manually written messages and automated campaigns.


Check the Box Before You Hit Send

The actual process of sending trackable emails is simple in most, if not all, tools that support it. Most often, it comes down to checking a box to enable tracking, whether in each individual email you send, or as a setting that applies to all emails in a particular campaign. Many tracking tools that work with existing email services like Gmail and Outlook add a tracking setting/checkbox to their user interface, usually in the toolbar.

As stated above in the privacy section, be sure your recipients have opted-in to receiving emails from your organization before you start sending them.

Monitor Your Dashboard and Act on the Insights

Once your emails are sent out, tracking data will start to populate your analytics dashboard. Depending on your specific needs, you might check in on the data regularly or set up alerts to notify you when certain thresholds are met (for example, open rates drop below a baseline). From there you can decide what course to take, including setting up automated actions like sending follow-up emails.


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3. How Does Email Tracking Benefit Businesses?

Email tracking brings a variety of benefits to businesses who use it. Let’s take a look at four key ways it can help.


Successful businesses are built on strong relationships. Email tracking helps your business grow by adding a little extra intelligence to your relationship-building efforts. Knowing who’s opened your emails and clicked through the content inside gives you core insights into what your customers are interested in.

From there, you can focus efforts on building connections with those customers through follow-up emails and content offerings that align with their interests. Tracking click-throughs on specific pieces of content inside of your emails gives you more granular insights into what topics and types of content catch whose eyes, and when. All this data is invaluable when it comes to personalizing prospect interactions and delivering value to customers.


Email tracking can be a huge time saver for you and your customers. With tracking, you can see whether or not a recipient opened your emails, and if they clicked on any of the links in the messages themselves. Most of the time, when somebody doesn’t open your first email, they’re not going to be interested in follow-ups, either. Avoid sending emails to people who aren’t interested, and you save your team valuable time and resources. You save would-be recipients the hassle of dealing with unwanted mail, too.

On the flip side, when tracking shows that a recipient has opened your message and clicked through one or more links inside, that’s a pretty good indicator of interest. With tracking, you can create timely follow-ups for highly interested prospects, which helps your sales teams make the best use of their time.


Email tracking is an easy and powerful way for sales managers to bring accountability to their teams. Data captured via email tracking can keep sales managers abreast of which activities their team members are completing, and the effectiveness of that outreach. Tracking can also help identify emails to use for documenting customer conversations and collecting information for future reference and reporting.


Another benefit of email tracking lies in its organizational benefits. Sales reps, in particular, can use tracking to keep on top of customer communications. They can also make relevant metrics and conversations available to their colleagues who help them close deals, including teammates across solution engineering, sales ops, finance, and more. At a high level, data collected via email tracking can be a boon to reporting, and for keeping teams focused on the right work to align with their goals.


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4. Email Tracking Tools


Salesforce’s integrated email tracking tools have everything you need to get up and running with sending, tracking, and gathering actionable data from your email efforts. With Sales Cloud and Salesforce Inbox, everyone in your organization can have visibility into email tracking data on the same screen as other key business information. This makes the whole process easier, from setting up tracking to using the data to inform new email strategies.


A few of Salesforce’s features will immediately benefit your business and allow you to:

  • Reach out to prospects and customers at the perfect time. Enable your sales reps to see when emails are opened and links are clicked, helping them to follow up right when the recipient is most engaged.
  • Improve visibility into interactions across your entire team. Sync contacts, calendar events, and email communications in one centralized location.
  • Control privacy and access. Manage how email and calendar activities are shared with your team to ensure that only the right activity is shared and only with the right people.

5. Conclusion


Email tracking is a powerful addition to any sales professional’s toolkit. Knowing which prospects opened and engaged with your emails, and who didn’t show any interest, points the way toward more targeted, effective communications going forward. Why waste time and resources on messaging that’s never seen, or never even reaches its intended recipients? With email tracking, you’ll always know when messages are delivered, opened, and acted upon.

Learn more about how Salesforce supports email tracking and about activity management that integrates with the tools you already use.


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