Google Analytics is often used for tracking visits to web pages and mobile apps but did you know that Google’s Analytics service can also be used for tracking your outgoing email messages in Gmail. You can add the Google Analytics tracking code to your Gmail messages and you’ll instantly know if your email message has been seen or opened by the recipient.

This is like getting a read receipt for your email messages but instead of cluttering your inbox with read-receipts, the email open activity is automatically logged as an event in your Google Analytics.

Updated (04/09/14) — The tracking code now supports Universal Analytics as well the classic version of Google Analytics in case you haven’t migrated your profile yet.

Know When People Open Your Email with Google Analytics

The idea is simple. We’ll insert the Analytics tracking image to our outgoing email message. When the recipient opens the message, the image file will download on their computer and the “visit” will be logged (video demo) in your Analytics. And since Google Analytics supports real-time reporting, you’ll see instant activity in the Analytics dashboard when an email is opened or read.

Here’s how you can add the Analytics tracking code to your Gmail messages:

  1. Go to your Gmail and compose a new email message. You can also include attachments and inline images in your message. Once the message is ready, let it stay in your Drafts folder and do not hit the Send button.
  2. Open this Google sheet and choose the Initialize option under the Email Tracker menu. This is a one-time requirement as you’ll have to authorize the sheet to send your Gmail messages with the tracking image included.
  3. Once the script is authorized, choose Email Tracker -> Send Mail, select your Gmail draft from the drop-down, enter your Google Analytics Profile ID* and hit the Send button. Your mail will now get delivered to the recipient(s).

When the recipient opens your email message, the event will be logged in your Google Analytics.

Tracking Gmail Opens in Google Analytics

Here’s how you can track the email open activity in your Analytics report.

Open Google Analytics and choose Events under the Standard Reports group. There you should see new events with the category Email Open as people open your Gmail messages. You can click the category to see the email address of the recipients who have seen your email and also the subject line of the message that they have just read.

Open Gmail Tracking

Know when people open your Gmail messages with Analytics (video)

[*] The Google Analytics profile ID looks something like UA-xxxx-yy and you can easily find this ID in your Analytics Dashboard (Admin -> Property Settings -> Tracking ID). It will be a good idea if you create a separate web property in Google Analytics for tracking Gmail messages.

Internally, when you send an email through the Google Sheet, it inserts the tracking image to your Gmail message with the help of a Google Script. This tracking image is a 1×1 pixel transparent gif that will not be visible in the message body.

Also see: Track Email Clicks with Google Analytics

The tracking method will obviously not work if the recipient has disabled image downloading but now that Gmail auto-downloads images after caching, email open events are more likely to get tracked..

Analytics tracking is also included in the premium edition of Mail Merge. URL shorteners, like goo.gl, can also help you know if your message has been read.