Has this ever happened to you?
You send out an important email, expecting to hear back quickly. But...time passes, and nothing. After a while, you start to wonder whether your recipient ever read the email. There's no way to tell if an email has been read, or is there?
Fortunately, there are actually two ways to tell whether an email has been opened and read:
- Request a return receipt
- Use an email tracking tool
In this article, we'll discuss both methods of tracking email. We'll list some of the pros and cons of using return receipt messages or an email tracking tool. You'll also find out how to check if someone read your email using common email services. Finally, we'll provide you with a brief overview of seven popular email tracking tools.
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Now let's get into today's tutorial, and learn multiple ways to help you know when someone has opened and read your important emails. First, we'll look at using email return receipts:
The Pros and Cons of Return Receipt and Email Tracking
Finding out whether someone has opened and read your email may seem like something you'd like to use all the time. After all, aren't you curious? Email tracking tools are also popular with sales professionals.
But whether you use your email system's return receipt feature or an add-on tool, there are some drawbacks. First, let's look at some drawbacks to using native email return receipt capability:
- In most email platforms, a recipient can opt out of sending a return receipt—so there's no guarantee that you'll get a receipt even though you requested one.
- Not all mail clients support the return receipt feature. If you happen to use an email service that doesn't offer return receipt you'll need to use an app instead.
The following drawbacks apply to using either a native email return receipt feature or an email tracking tool:
- If the return receipt message goes to the Spam folder, your recipient will never have the chance to let you know they received it.
- Also, some recipients may be offended by an email return receipt request. They may view email tracking as an invasion of their privacy.
Return receipt requests and email tracking do not work for every situation. There are some circumstances, however, when an email return request might be appropriate. It's especially well suited for urgent messages or messages when you must know whether your message was received. For example:
- You just sent someone a time-sensitive proposal through email. You'll probably want to make sure that the message was received before the offer expires.
- You're a hiring manager trying to fill an open position. You just offered the slot to your top candidate and you want to make sure that they received your offer.
- You need to schedule a last-minute emergency meeting. You need to know who has opened the meeting invite and who you need to call so that you can tell them about the meeting.
For instances like these, return receipt messages and email tracking can be a valuable tool for your business. You can probably think of your own examples when you might need to find out whether someone has opened an email you sent. Just remember the drawbacks. If you decide you do want to send out return receipt request or to use an email tracking tool, make sure the situation warrants it.
Request a Return Receipt Through Your Email (In Outlook & Gmail)
The first way to discover whether someone has opened your email is by you requesting a return receipt through your email service. In this section, we'll look at how the return receipt feature works in Microsoft Outlook and then we'll examine how it works in GSuite Gmail. First, let's look at Outlook:
How to Tell If Someone Read Your Email in Outlook
Outlook provides two different options for requesting a return receipt:
- Receipt when delivered
- Receipt when read
With the first option, you receive a notification when an email has been delivered to the recipient. Of course, just because the message is delivered doesn't mean it was read. The message may sit unopened in someone's email inbox and you wouldn't know.
Which brings us to the next return receipt option in Outlook. With the second option, your recipient is prompted to send a notification when they open the email.
If you decide to use the return receipt feature in Outlook, click Options on the Main Menu as you're composing your message. A sub-menu with various options appears:
To request a delivery receipt when your message is sent, click the checkbox to the left of Request a Delivery Receipt. To request a receipt when your message is opened, click the checkbox to the left of the Request a Read Receipt option. You can select both options if you wish.
Now, send your message as usual. If you selected Request a Read Receipt, the recipient will be prompted to send a notification when they open your message. If they respond Yes to the prompt, you'll receive a read receipt—a short message to let you know that your original message was read.
You can also use Tracking options to automate how Outlook handles message receipts for outgoing and incoming messages. For helpful tips on how to better manage your Outlook inbox, study our tutorial:
Now let's see how GSuite email handles return receipts:
How to Tell If Someone Read Your Email in Gmail
The free version of Gmail does not include the return receipt feature. The feature is, however, available through GSuite. To use the return receipt feature in GSuite Gmail, you first must enable it.
To activate the return receipt feature, go the your GSuite Admin Console. Select Apps > GSuite > Settings for Gmail > Advanced settings. The Advanced Settings screen displays. Use the scroll bar on the right of the screen to scroll down to the Email Read Receipts option:
Click the toggle button to the left of Allow email read receipts to be sent to all addresses in my organization as well as the following email addresses. When this option is turned on, users in your organization can request and return email receipts.
Note: If you're not the administrator of your GSuite, you'll not be able to turn this feature on yourself. Ask your GSuite administrator to turn it on for you.
Once the Read Receipt capability is activated, simply type your email as usual. When you've finished, click the down arrow in the lower right corner to display a popup menu:
Click the Request read receipt option from the popup menu. When you're ready, click the Send button to send your email as usual. Your recipient will be prompted to send a receipt when they open the message.
If you're not familiar with GSuite, you can learn how to get started with this tutorial:
Request a Return Receipt Through an Email Tracking Add-On or Extension
As you've just learned, using a native email return receipt feature may not be the most dependable method of telling whether your message was received. However, if you only occasionally need to find out whether your email was read, it's probably enough.
But, maybe you need a more reliable way of finding out if your email recipients read the messages you send to them. Or, maybe you're worried about how your return receipt request will be perceived.
There's a way around those worries. There are number of extensions that provide a reliable email tracking functionality. Often, the tracking feature works without your recipient even realizing that your messages are being tracked.
In this section, we'll look at a seven popular email tracking tools:
Note: Some tools had a free version available. Be aware that some (but not all) free versions automatically appended a "sent with [company name]" phrase to emails sent using that tool. Also note that some of these tools include more than email tracking, but since the focus of this article is on email tracking that's also the focus of these overviews.
Tool 1. ContactMonkey
Not only can you find out who's opening your email messages, you can also track who's clicking on any links within the messages. Use ContactMonkey with your Outlook or Gmail email system. This tool integrates with the popular CRM tool, SalesForce.
A notification displays on your desktop each time a message is opened or a link is clicked. ContactMonkey also includes a dashboard with email stats and analytics.
Tool 2. HubSpot Sales
HubSpot Sales includes an email tracker. The email tracking aspect of the tool instantly lets you know when an email is opened, when the email recipient clicks on a link, or when they open an attachment. You can also see whether the email was revisited (opened again)
Choose how you receive notifications of read emails. View them from HubSpot Sales, your browser, your desktop, or your CRM. HubSpot Sales works with Gmail, GSuite, Outlook, or Office 365 for Windows.
Tool 3. MailTrack
MailTrack is an extension for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera
that works with Google and Gmail inboxes to track sent messages.
You can see at
a glance whether an email message was received and whether it was opened.
Opened email messages have a double check in your Sent mail folder. Click on
the checkmarks to learn when and how your message was opened.
Tool 4. MixMax
MixMax lets you to see whether your email was opened, when it was opened, and how many times an email was opened. If the message was sent to a group, you can see which group members opened the message.
The app includes a wide variety of sales tools, such as the ability to schedule meetings, in addition to the ability to track email. This tool works with Gmail and Google Inbox. The tool also integrates with the CRM, Salesforce.
Tool 5. Streak
Streak works as a CRM from within Gmail. Its email tracking
abilities are included as part of its email power tools. This tool provides you
with a chart of your message views.
The interface includes a list of each time the message was read and what type of device the recipient used to read the message. You can also use Streak to learn about the email recipient's neighborhood.
Tool 6. ToutApp
ToutApp is designed as a sales tool that includes email tracking features. The tool works with both Gmail and Outlook. The tool also integrates your phone system. The interface shows where, when, and how often recipients engage with sent emails. ToutApp even lets you know if an email has been forwarded.
This app is built to be used by a team, so also includes
many team features.
Tool 7. Yesware
Yesware works with a wide variety of email system including:
Gmail, GSuite, and Office 365.
You'll get an alert each time one of your sent emails is opened. You can see where, when, and what device the email was opened with. You can also tell whether your recipient viewed email attachments or whether they replied to a message. You can even find out what IP address the recipient used to open the email.
In this article, you've learned how to know if someone
opened your email. We've discussed the advantages and disadvantages of using
return receipt features or email tracking to know if your email has been read.
You've also learned how to tell if your email has been read in GSuite Gmail and how to check if and email has been read in Outlook as well. Finally, we've provided you with a brief overview of seven of the most popular email tracking applications and tools.
If you need to know if your email has been read, you know how to find out.
More Great Email Tutorials and Resources
If you rely heavily on email for your business, you may want to review our series on Writing Effective Business Emails, such as these helpful posts:
- WritingHow to Write Clear and Professional EmailsDavid Masters
- CommunicationWhy Writing Email Is a Skill—and Why Learning It MattersDavid Masters
Also, for tips on how to manage your email
inbox better, download our free eBook: The
Ultimate Guide to Inbox Zero Mastery. Keep on top of your most important messages and level-up your email productivity.
How do you keep on top of your most important messages? Do you check if someone has opened and read your emails? If so, what's your favorite approach or tool? Let us know in the comments.