One of the basic claims of many bulk email platforms is the ability to track when the email is opened, which they call the number of “opens.” They usually do this by adding tracking codes or transparent images that are tied to the recipient’s email address. The Maestro system on campus does not have this feature activated, which is probably a good thing. At the same time, we have not been able to gauge how many of our readers open the Texas A&M Today newsletter when they receive it.
Even those platforms that do keep record of “opens” do not always make this available to your Google Analytics. Not a requirement, but it is convenient to have all of the information in one place when you start to look at your site usage.
By adding campaign tracking codes to links in the email, we were able to see that many of our news stories became popular just because they were featured in the email newsletter. But until now, we couldn’t tell how many people open this email newsletter when they receive it.
We recently built a method within Google Tag Manager that does allow us to track when (but not by whom) our emails are opened… at least if we define “open” as opening the mail and downloading images. Using the Google Analytics Measurement Protocol, we created an “image” (really just a URL) that stores an Event Category of “email,” an Event Action of “open,” and the title of the news story as the Event Label. This works because the email thinks it’s a real image and tries to download it, sending the information to Google Analytics.
Our analytics show that recent issues of the Texas A&M Today newsletter were opened by more than 20,000 people the first day they were sent, 3,000 the next day, and 1,000 the third day.
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