How to Track Your Email Performance with Apple’s Privacy Changes

Get Your Emails Delivered. Track Your Performance. Improve Customer Engagement.

Email newsletters and marketing are about to see a big change. The topic of privacy is continuing to shape how software and apps handle our personal and professional data. This is impacting data reporting on a variety of levels. If you’ve relied on open rates as an email performance metric, changes are coming that require a fresh approach.

What is happening with Apple’s new Mail privacy?

At last month’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), Apple announced significant advancements in privacy settings rolling out with iOS 15 and the new MacOS between September and November of this year. TechCrunch has a great summary sharing the details.

In short, Apple’s Mail app, a top email client for many of us, will grant users the ability to block email tracking. On the surface, not bad. Digging deeper, very bad. Rather than simply not reporting the data, Apple will flag the email as “opened” regardless of the recipient’s actions.

Email open rates as a performance metric have just been torpedoed.

Business2Community has a more in-depth review of the details.

Which Metrics Are Best?

If you can no longer trust your open rates, what can you trust?

Open rates have been a critical metric for many email marketers. Regretfully, it has always been a bit of a misleading one. Depending on how you triage your inbox, a recipient may open the email simply to delete it.

A more accurate email metric has been the click-to-open rate. This measures the percentage of people who open the email AND click a link.

Hard stop. If your opens cannot be trusted, then the click-to-open percentage cannot be trusted.

Enter a better metric: click-thru rate (CTR). This measures the percentage of total subscribers who clicked, not just the ones who opened.

Yes, the percentages of click-to-open vs. CTR are wildly different. According to Campaign Monitor’s annual benchmark report, the average click-to-open rate is about 14%. The average CTR is 2.6%.

It is time to start preparing management on what metrics are changing and what performance expectations should be.

Tracking Clicks and Traffic with Google Analytics

Like all good data, email performance should be verified by a second source. Google Analytics is highly recommended. Most email distribution platforms such as Constant Contact, Campaign Monitor, and MailChimp will flag click traffic as originating from a campaign or similar source.

tracking email clicks in google

Google Analytics allows you to sift through the inbound click traffic and identify the source. This is how you confirm your real CTR.

tracking email clicks in campaigns

Your Email Platform is Reporting More Clicks Than Analytics

This happens frequently when emailing larger businesses that have more secure phishing and virus protection. The email server will “pre-scan” one or all links in the email to ensure there is no malware or intrusion opportunities.

The good news is that it protects users from malicious email links, but the bad news is that the pre-scan shows up as clicks.

In addition to Google Analytics, you can configure Google Tag Manager to trigger an event when a site visitor spends more than a couple seconds when arriving from the link. Here’s how.

4 Ideas to Keep Your Subscribers Engaged

Email newsletters have found new life since the start of COVID. Your recipients are willing to read and willing to take action from your emails. What if your engagement is flat? Here are a couple ideas:

1. Make the Email About the Subscriber, Not You.

Don’t make it a product pitch. Provide information and ideas that are interesting to your subscribers. Even if it is links to websites other than yours. Demonstrate you’re aware of what’s happening in their world and what’s important to them.

2. Keep a Schedule

Weekly, Bi-weekly, monthly, quarterly… Make sure you are sending emails on a regular schedule. Keeping a consistent delivery schedule shows you’re organized and your connection to the subscriber is valued.

3. Prune Your List

Don’t get caught in a numbers trap. A bigger subscriber list does not mean a better subscriber list. Review your lists to see if there are any subscribers who don’t open anything. Check your auto-responders to see if any have retired, taken new positions, or are simply gone. By trimming out the dead branches, you’ll have a healthier (and more accurate) community.

4. Survey Your Subscribers

Do you know what your subscribers are interested in? Don’t ask your “gut,” ask your subscribers. Many email platforms support email surveys and if they don’t Survey Monkey is an excellent choice. Put together a short (5-10 questions?) survey and see what subscribers are most interested in.


The changes to Apple’s privacy will not be restricted to Apple for long. Getting ready for changes to email privacy will be crucial to maintaining accurate reporting.

By planning for this change and preparing your higher-ups for how the reporting data will be impacted will put you ahead of difficult questions. As a bonus, you’ll be making improvements that have been demonstrated to work.

Interested in other email marketing ideas? If you need help with getting your email marketing or newsletters better organized, on a regular schedule, and getting improved engagement, give Signalfire a shout.