When Robots Read Your Email

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Are your email open rates mysteriously going up? Engagement flat or declining?

It’s not just you. It’s because robots are reading your email. Ok. Not really robots, and not really reading, either. What is happening is that email service providers like gmail and exchange are trying to create a faster, more relevant experience for their users. To do this, they are opening up emails to determine if they are spam, junk or important. They are pre-loading graphics and fetching links in emails in anticipation that they will be followed, getting them ready to quickly serve.

This is all great if you are the one getting email. It’s a nightmare if you are the one sending it! The caching and parsing generate a flurry of false opens and false visits, skewing statistics in several confusing and sometimes contradictory ways.

Not to worry though, we’ve got you covered. It took some time to track down the errant events, and some more time to identify the root causes, but we have done it and, starting in April, your email stats are going to even out. Starting April 1st, 2021 we are filtering out the mystery clicks from exchange and the immediate opens from gmail. If you see a decline in your stats, this is probably why.

If you are feeling particularly geeky, stick around and we’ll show how we did it.

Gmail has been triggering opens as soon as an email is received using this specific User Agent:

Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 10.0; Win64; x64) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/42.0.2311.135 Safari/537.36 Edge/12.246 Mozilla/5.0

After analyzing all the opens from the User Agent, we were able to attribute them all to a Google bot.

In addition, Exchange has been pre-caching links in emails immediately upon receiving the email, resulting in every link being clicked within seconds of delivery.

As of April 1st, we no longer count these phantom opens or immediate clicks. Your stats may go down a bit, but they will accurate.

Log into myHaley to take a look!

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