email tracking

Hi, I'm trying to find a way to track when and if my end-users open their emails (and if they've clicked through to the site), then record and report on that.  Can I do that using coldfusion mx and ms sql?  If so, do you any idea where I can find a tutorial on setting that up?
COwebmasterAsked:
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dgrafxCommented:
Google "pixel email tracking" and that will give you a lot of info on the subject - pros, cons, and how to.

Good Luck ...
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mrichmonCommented:
Basically all pixel tracking is, is that you place a small transparent image in an email message.  Then when the email is opened, if the email program also opens the picture(many do not nowadays) then your website receives a request to the url (source) of the image.  You count that as the email being opened.

Of course it doesn't work if the person has text only email, or if they have a email program that doesn't show images by default (more common nowadays due to spam and obscene images in emails)

Here is an article that describes what pixel tracking is:
http://www.marketleap.com/report/ml_report_34.htm

And one that gives some common advice:
http://www.tamingthebeast.net/articles5/email-open-rates.htm

However, once you do this you should consider explaining that you are doing this in your privacy policy
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COwebmasterAuthor Commented:
I guess that makes sense since you have to code an absolute path back to the image.  What else is there to use besides an image?  Can an email use a css file?
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mrichmonCommented:
You can use anything, then just monitor your log files for that file to be accessed.

However, if you want it in a database, then you need to use somehting that can take a page code address in it - like an image source - which you hack by putting  a non-image page then it writes the access to the database.  But you have to watch out becauase this causes a missing image - i.e. a red X - in some email clients.
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COwebmasterAuthor Commented:
It sounds like more hassle than its worth.  I'm hearing all these web companies offering it so I wanted to see if could do the same.
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dgrafxCommented:
To expand - If you do use an image and depending on email client settings - the email client may block this image preventing you from determining that the email was accessed.
Which is why this isn't a reliable solution.
I'm not sure of the latest methods to get around this - but go ahead and try your css file - I'd be interested in how that turned out.
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dgrafxCommented:
Yes sir!
They will ALL say they can do this, except for the honest ones that will tell you that it's only if email client is reading html and images are not blocked.
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COwebmasterAuthor Commented:
Very interesting.  darn spammers out there are making it harder for us.
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dgrafxCommented:
Yes they are.
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mrichmonCommented:
Yep.  You can do it.  It is a huge hassle and only so-so in terms of effectiveness, but companies just say they offer it without telling you results.

Additionally look carefully at the results for those who do give them.

The results should say that it is based on if supported, etc.  Otherwise you can't trust the numbers....
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digicidalCommented:
It's a far more honest method to simply notify the user that you would like to have them acknowledge the receipt of the email by clicking on a link to your site - in addition this get's them back to your site if you want to present them with additional info not included in the email.  By doing this you can not tell the people that merely opened your emails automatically, but you WILL be able to store in a database and therefore associate 'HOT' hits (i.e. people that not only opened your email, but READ it and took action based on what the message said).  

No matter what the method there is no completely accurate means of verifying that an individual has read your email without them taking some action - thankfully (since the spammers would know more than many people - myself included - want them to know).  However, if you know everyone that read your email and was willing to click a link to your website - then you are getting useful feedback from a 'live' user rather than merely finding out whose email client isn't blocking images.

Obviously if you give them a link then you can do anything on that page data-wise that you can anywhere else on your site. Cheers.
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COwebmasterAuthor Commented:
Thanks all!
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