*** NOTE: ALL INFORMATION IS ACCURATE AT DATE OF PUBLISHING ***
I consider myself to be a marketer. In a previous life, I ran the marketing department for a software company. I’ve also owned my own business a few times and used various marketing tools over the years. I’d long given up having trust in reviewing open rates for an email. Consider how you might look through your own emails. While some may have the reading pane turned off and double click to open an email, I believe the vast majority will be scrolling through email on their phone, or will click through emails that open each time in the reading pane of their chosen email client. Each time they go past your email, that’s an Open. So to me, Opens aren’t what we REALLY want to know, and that’s did someone actually read it. That would be next level creepy though right? Having something that scans your eyes scanning an email? Well what about clicks, surely that’s something we can trust in?
Apparently not always. Recently I was working with a client using the Dynamics 365 Marketing App. I love the app, I have fun every time I work on a project and get to help implement it and show other marketers how to get the best out of it. The client sent their first Customer Journey, exciting! They started to see clicks on the button that went to their Contact Us page, which was even more exciting! Then looking at the insights for the website, not a single page visited was linked to a Contact record.
Not sure about others, and maybe it’s imposter syndrome, but I always question myself first when there is an issue. Do I fully understand the functionality, and did I miss any steps. I was wracking my brains to figure out what might cause this. With many marketing software options that are tied to some kind of CRM system, if a person receives an email and clicks on a link, that’s a tracked link, with a corresponding website visit that links back to their record. It’s a really powerful way to then analyse and take informed action.
I reached out to someone at Microsoft to first have them clarify my understanding was correct. It was, phew! I know how to do my job. What I found out is something I hadn’t ever known or thought about before, but once I understood it made sense, sadly.
Consider an organisation trying to keep it’s data, customers and employees safe. Emails come into their server and then goes to the inbox of the appropriate recipients. Those emails are then read by that ‘human’ who can then decide to click on links within the email. Great! However, when those services (such as Barracuda and Mimecast) check the contents of emails, they are scanning links, and in essence mimicking clicking on the link so they can check where they go. They will be making sure there aren’t any malicious links that could cause damage to the internal infrastructure at that company.
While this makes good business sense for an organisation, it’s often impossible for someone who makes the marketing software you are using to put steps in place or to know when it’s the human clicking the link versus the security scanning software doing this. Sigh. There goes the confidence level on the clicks on our marketing emails.
While it’s because of seeing this occur while working with this app, this is NOT a Microsoft thing. After doing more research, apparently, this has been a ‘thing’ for some time. This whole email scanner link clicking thing has been something new for me, and I wanted to dig in to understand more. I checked several other marketing platforms and found the following, all referencing known issues or abnormalities that can occur which tie back to these scanners.
- MailChimp: Troubleshooting Click Tracking (mailchimp.com)
- ClickDimensions: One Recipient Has How Many Clicks at The Same Time? | ClickDimensions Blog
- Convertkit: Why are my emails being automatically opened or clicked? | ConvertKit Help Center (intercom.help)
- HubSpot: Solved: HubSpot Community – Are Bots Affecting Your Email? – HubSpot Community
Companies like Microsoft can routinely identify new ip addresses where the clicks are coming from that could be from a different scanning software. However, some of them are so clever that it looks as close as possible to human interactions so not all bots would ever be filtered out. Hopefully we continue to get closer so that a click is really a click, and things like Click Rates and Click Through Rates will be more accurate and trusted.
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