Disabled Email Tracking (And It's Fine!)

The ongoing conversation about privacy inspired me to disable email tracking in MailChimp for my new project (Intro CRM)

I've been sending mass email marketing campaigns since 2014 and used a few different services (phpList, MailChimp, Email Octopus, etc.) So, I've been used to tracking things like opens, clicks, and click-through rates.

You can read a detailed guide that I put together, using HEY (from Basecamp) as the test case for confirming that tracking wasn't activated:
Sending Privacy-Friendly Emails to HEY Users with MailChimp

How's it going so far?

... Fine!

If you read my post linked earlier, you see MailChimp doesn't make it easy to disable tracking. And then they really try to nudge you to use tracking later.

Anyway, instead I'm using audience size as an approximation for whether or not people are interested in what I'm talking about. And my audience is steadily growing!

I'm monitoring new subscribers, unsubscribes, net subscribers. I'm pairing this with using ReCAPTCHA and double opt-in to ensure a quality audience and reduce the likelihood of getting flagged for sending spam.

In the future, I envision using segmented lists to see how specific updates are doing relative to others to see what people are particularly interested in. I also want to run surveys in the emails to existing subscribers to ask what they're interested in.

I'm curious if others are using tracking on emails and if you'd consider not?

Have you disabled email tracking?
  1. Yes, and disabling tracking is working fine!
  2. Yes, but disabling tracking is not working.
  3. No, but open to disabling tracking.
  4. No, I need tracking.
  5. I don't know.
  1. 2

    That's a great move Harris, congrats! We've done the same for all our emails. Everything we could disable, we've disabled :)

    1. 1

      Oh hey! Love Plausible Analytics, big fan! ❤️

      1. 1

        Happy to hear that, thanks!

  2. 1

    How do you do reliable A&B testing to see what helps your message and tells the story you want to share?

    Most people don't even bother to unsubscribe, they can hit a button in MS and Gmail that auto sends to junk every time now, so how do you measure the success of your subject lines (which lead to people opening or just yeet delete) then the quality of your content.

    Capturing commitment at the start with double opt-in is fine to a point, what happens when that subscriber is a month old and is less interested, how do you monitor the engagement of your subscriber base?

    1. 1

      I think web traffic or CTAs like sign-ups for webinar, product demo, etc. should be good ways to approximate if people are following along.

      I've also seen people use surveys in emails. If you can get people to fill out a simple one-question survey, that's another way to see how many are engaged!

      There are definitely trade-offs, the question is whether you believe those trade-offs to be worthwhile (or not) for user privacy.

  3. 1

    Does disabling the tracking help with the overall improvement of deliverability?

    1. 1

      Speaking from an IT Background, no they don't.

      These things get filtered by most email servers as off by default, the user can choose to enable them to load images and graphical content.

      Careful setup of your domain name SPF/DKIM records will do so much more for deliverability but most email marketers just don't do that.

    2. 1

      That's a good question @TheWonderingZall. Actually, I did have a conversation with someone the other day who mentioned that corporate firewalls can (and do) block emails if certain behaviors are flagged like trackers. I am not certain of this, though.

      I've heard marketers argue the opposite, that you need tracking in order to "clean"/maintain your lists and make sure you're not sending to the wrong people who won't open, flag as spam, etc.

      But I think ReCAPTCHA and double opt-in prevent this upstream at the start. These things do lower your conversion rate, which I think that marketers would rather not do, so instead they use tracking to manage the problem downstream.

      1. 2

        Interesting. I use an invisible ReCAPTCHA and double opt-in for my newsletter.

        I’m an email octopus user, one my previous issues I sent out of my newsletter a few weeks ago, I tuned off link tracking and CTR, but kept tracking my opens, I didn’t see really any drastic drastic change.

        I think I might A/B test test this by turning off various combinations of trackers in the my next issue🙏🏻

        1. 1

          Keep me posted :) Love Email Octopus, hoping to migrate there. Used it in the past and liked it, but using MailChimp right now for simplicity because of how it integrates with WordPress at my current budget spend.

  4. 1

    Love this.

    I use Substack, the analytics are limited and it is just fine. I think it's one of the most privacy conscious option out there?

    1. 1

      That's a great question, I've not actually run a Substack so I don't know all the details of how their tracking works. This by way of reference is interesting, that it allows integrating tracking pixels for other platforms:

      Substack advertising analytics options (Facebook, Twitter, Google Analytics).

      Via Kevin Indig

      So my suspicion is that they do offer some types of tracking themselves too. I don't know if that's true, or if it can be enabled/disabled. But I'm interested in knowing!

      1. 1

        I'm using Substack for my newsletter and can confirm that they track opens and link clicks, so they're not any more privacy-friendly than any other ESP or newsletter service. And I don't think the tracking can be disabled as far as I'm aware.

      2. 1

        I will second @rosiesherry Rosie's answer...

  5. 1

    I basically disabled tracking because of some sort of error with my DNS. I actually enjoy knowing how many people click on my emails.

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