There has been an lot written about open rates in the past, but there are two posts that stand out to me. One was the EEC’s post on renaming open rate to render rate and Mark Brownlow’s excellent post on what open rate does and does not measure. I’ve also weighed in on the subject. The issue is still very confused.
If asked, most people will tell you that open rate is the number of emails that were opened by the recipient. The problem is that this isn’t actually true. Open rate is measured by the number of people that display an image in an email. Traditionally this has been a uniquely tagged 1×1 pixel, until some filters and mail clients stopped displaying 1×1 pixels. More recently, every image in an email is tagged, so opening one image would record as an open.
So open rate doesn’t actually tell a sender how many people opened and read an email. It really only records that an image in a particular email is loaded. It does not record when an email is opened. Some people don’t load images by default. Some people don’t load images at all, even when they open and actively read the text portion of the email.
Clearly, there are some uses for open rates. It can give a useful metric when comparing different forms of the same email (A/B testing) and when looking at user engagement over time. However, we have also recently seen that open rate is not predictive for click through rate.