numbers can mislead so keep email tracking on trackNumbers don’t lie but they can mislead, which is one more reason for making sure your email tracking is on track. If you’re not paying attention and digging deeper when something looks odd, you could be assuming your email marketing is going much better than it is…or much worse.

Here’s a story to illustrate our point…

We did a very small segmented mailing for a client (27 subscribers). Immediately upon pulling the email reporting, we noticed that there were 8 unique opens, and 338 total opens.


We dug into ExactTarget to check the email reporting see what happened. It turned out one of the subscribers had 314 opens. This indicated to us that the subscriber has some type of malware or virus on his computer that is repeatedly opening his email.

We decided to dig deeper. Further research with the same client indicated that in another send with an unusually high unique open to total open ratio had one subscriber who opened 45 times, and another who opened 42 times. What’s more, in this second example, they also had several link clicks that were .003 seconds apart, again indicating that malware is at play.

Unfortunately, alerting these subscribers to the malware is not something we can do. It would make them uncomfortable to find out we could track how many times they opened an email. Our job is to deliver compelling, relevant content. Telling them they have a virus on their computer is a job for a business like McAfee or one of the other anti-virus software companies.

But there is a takeaway here for us email marketers: Keep an eye on your email tracking data, and if something looks fishy, definitely dig a little deeper to figure out what happened. This applies whether it looks like good news (“Hey, great open rate!”) or bad news (“Hey, why so many bounces?”).

As far as what to do with the subscriber, all is not lost. If you absolutely needed to send to them, you could quarantine them and put them on their own list, so as to not jack up your email tracking. Alternatively, you could simply not send to them anymore and add them to a suppression list.

Either way, knowing something is amiss is much better than assuming all is well.

Published On: November 14th, 2013Categories: Email analytics

About the Author: Sharon

Sharon Ernst from is on a mission to improve the business and marketing writing skills of today’s workforce with her blog, newsletter and online classes. Her newest class on intermediate email copywriting covers 19 tips and techniques non-copywriters can put to use right away for better results. The class has real-life examples and before/after comparisons to make the lessons stick. Find her class at When she’s not busy helping employees, managers and marketers master their writing skills, she and her husband are busy raising pigs, cows, chickens and vegetables on their 20-acre farm.

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