Email Marketing

How Does Email Tracking Work On Gmail and Outlook?

How does email tracking work? If you have been wondering about the same, you have come to the right place.

Email tracking has become an increasingly popular tool for businesses looking to track their campaigns and measure the effectiveness of their outreach. But what exactly is email tracking, and how does it work?

In this blog post, we'll cover the basics of email tracking for both Outlook and Gmail users, so you can make sure your messages are seen (and read!).

Let's get started!

How Does Email Tracking Work in General?

Email tracking is a technology that enables email senders to track when their messages have been opened and read by recipients.

By understanding when a message has been opened or viewed, senders can gain insight into how their contacts are engaging with their emails.

One of the most common methods of email tracking is to use an invisible image pixel or a ‘web beacon.’ This is a tiny graphic with 1×1 pixel dimension that is embedded in an HTML code within the email.

When the email is opened, the tracking pixels send a signal back to the server which can be used to track how many people have viewed the page or email.

Given the tiny size of the pixel, it remains invisible to the email recipients. They can be designed to be fully or partly transparent, or can even be camouflaged in the website's background.

This is just a simple way of explaining how email tracking works. Sophisticated email tracking software uses a combination of tactics and tools to provide unique insight into how recipients engage with your emails:

Image via Yesware

For instance, marketers use UTM (Urchin Traffic Monitor) codes to track the performance of links in your email marketing campaigns.

By attaching a unique UTM code to each link in your email, you can track how many people click on each link and where they came from.

When you add UTM parameters to a link in your email, it will look something like this:

You can then use Google Analytics or another analytics tool to see how many people clicked on that link.

Now, let’s see how to create an email tracking pixel in Gmail and Outlook.

What Information Do Tracking Pixels Collect?

Depending on the tool you use for email tracking, the pixels can collect information on:

  • Email open rates
  • The number of clicks
  • Email responses
  • The number of emails marked as spam
  • The location where the recipient opened the email
  • Delivery status notification
  • The device used by the recipient to open the email
  • The time the email was opened
  • How long the email recipient engaged with your email
  • The number of email forwards

Email tracking pixels, however, do not gather sensitive information of the recipient such as their bank details, exact location, or private browsing history.

How to Create an Email Tracking Pixel in Gmail

To start, create a new image file that will serve as your tracking pixel. This can be done in any image editing software such as Paint Shop Pro, Photoshop, or Paint.

Image via Paint

  • Click on ‘new image’ and set the size to 1 x 1 pixel.
  • Choose the “Transparent” option for the background.
  • Save the tracking image with a relevant file name based on the email campaign. For instance, if your email campaign is about ‘Christmas offers,’ you can name the file “Christmasoffers.”
  • If tracking several email campaigns, save the files with different names.
  • Create the marketing email and place the image at the bottom of the email by using the image insert function. You will need to add the HTML image tag <img src=”Pixel image URL”>

You can also use Google Analytics to create a HTML tracking code.

However, Gmail does not support direct pasting of HTML pixel code in its body or email compose window.  You can instead use Chrome Developer tools to do this. Right click on the Gmail compose window and click on ‘Inspect.’

Image via Gmass

On the right side, a pane will then open up showing the HTML of the Gmail Compose box. Select the highlighted editable portion of the code and paste your custom HTML code to add your tracking code.

How to Create an Email Tracking Pixel in Outlook

It is easy to embed a tracking pixel in Outlook.

  • Open Outlook and compose a new email
  • Right-click on the email or choose the “Save as” option under ‘File’

Image via Microsoft

  • Save the file as HTML by selecting the option from ‘Save as type’
  • Use a text editor to open the saved HTML file
  • Go to the “</body>” tag
  • Place your tracking pixel above this tag
  • Save the file and drag it into Outlook
  • Your email now contains the tracking pixel

Doing these manually for every email marketing campaign can be a time-consuming and tedious task.

This is where email tracking software comes in.

How Does Email Tracking Work When Using Email Tracking Software?

There are many email tracking software you can use to track email open rate, time of open, number of clicks, and so on.

Many are available as Chrome extensions or as easy-to-install apps. Once you install and enable tracking, the software automatically starts tracking all your email campaigns.

For instance, Docsify is an email tracking software that allows you to easily track emails. You can enable or disable tracking for each email by going to the Admin Panel or clicking on the Docsify icon below the email compose window.

Image via Docsify

The software gives you real-time notifications whenever an email has been opened or when a recipient clicks on links or views attachments.

The Benefits of Email Tracking

Email tracking can be a useful tool for a range of users, from individuals to businesses.

For instance, it helps you track your email open and click-through rates and compare it with the industry benchmark:

Image via Campaign Monitor

In addition, open rates can tell you if:

  • The email subject line is compelling
  • The email made it to the recipient’s inbox
  • You targeted the right customer segment
  • If your header text is engaging

Additionally, email tracking can be used to help businesses identify customers who open the email or show interest by clicking on links, and send them follow up emails.

With the email tracking feature, marketers can know the best time to send emails and personalize their campaigns to maximize ROI.

The Drawbacks of Email Tracking

Although email tracking offers a range of benefits, there are also some potential drawbacks.

As mentioned previously, email tracking is often done without the recipient’s knowledge or consent, which can lead to a feeling of invasion of privacy.

Also, email tracking can often be inaccurate. This is because it relies on web beacons which can be blocked by the recipient or the tracking software can count previews as opens.

They can also be delayed by an overloaded email tracking server or end up in the spam folder.

How to Prevent Email Tracking

If you’d prefer to avoid email tracking, there are a few steps you can take to stop it.

In Gmail, go to ‘All settings,’ and go to the Images section. Choose ‘Ask before displaying external images,’ to disable email tracking pixels.

Image via Gmail

In Outlook Client or Microsoft Office 365, you can go to the Automatic Download section and select ‘Don’t download pictures automatically in standard HTML email messages.”

Image via The Windows Club


Q1. How can someone track my email?

A. Marketers can track your emails to see if messages are opened or links within the message are clicked. They do this by using a technology known as email tracking which works by inserting a small code into the email body.

Q2. How can you tell if someone is using an email tracker?

A. It can be difficult to make out if someone is using an email tracker. Other than blocking external images on Gmail and Outlook, you can install tools such as PixelBlock or Ugly Email to automatically block email tracking.

Q3. Do emails get tracked?

A. Yes, emails can get tracked by marketers or worse, hackers.

Q4. Can you track a person with an email?

A. Yes, email tracking services allow you to monitor when and how a person interacts with an email.

Q5. How do I know if someone received my email?

A. In Outlook, you can request a read receipt which tells you when someone receives or has read your email.

You can also use email tracking software to check if someone has received your emails.

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Final Thoughts

We hope you now have the answer to your question, “How does email tracking work?”

Understanding email tracking in Outlook and Gmail is essential for any marketer or business owner who wants to get the most out of their emails.

With this guide, you should now have a much better understanding of how email tracking works and why it's important to incorporate it into your digital marketing strategy.

Of course, a well-rounded email marketing strategy will include creating engaging email campaigns, automating drip campaigns, and campaign monitoring. Our email marketing services encompass all these and more to help you ace your email campaign.

Gaurav Sharma

Gaurav Sharma is the Founder and CEO of Attrock, a results-driven digital marketing company. Grew an agency from 5-figure to 7-figure revenue in just two years | 10X leads | 2.8X conversions | 300K organic monthly traffic | 5K keywords on page 1. He also contributes to top publications like HuffPost, Adweek, Business2Community, TechCrunch, and more.

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