You may have seen the latest batch of announcements from Apple about the privacy changes they are making to their software, including this one:
In the Mail app, Mail Privacy Protection stops senders from using invisible pixels to collect information about the user. The new feature helps users prevent senders from knowing when they open an email, and masks their IP address so it can’t be linked to other online activity or used to determine their location.
We’ve all known forever that open rates are not rock-solid data anyway. But this further signals that relying on open rates is not the greatest way to judge whether your email marketing is working or not.
So what should you be thinking about now?
You might want to focus more on click-through rates. These are tracked differently than opens because the person actually leaves the email program to go somewhere on the web, which can be tracked in different ways, including your website’s analytics.
That in turn means that you should make sure that the sites you are linking to — especially your own — are rendering well on a mobile device. That’s old advice, but I think this makes it all the more important.
It also means that you should step up your UTM game. That’s the code you add to the end of links to help Google Analytics and other website software figure out and categorize which emails are sending people to which pages on your website.
We’ve advocated for quite a while that you really focus on email engagement rates rather than open rates anyway. Email engagement is noted when someone opens or clicks, so while those numbers will still be affected, the impact shouldn’t be quite as big, assuming you are giving people plenty of things to click on . . . which is the next point.
It’s time to think through the links you include. Think about how and when you put everything people need to know in the email body so no clicks are required and when you do the quick summaries or teasers that require a click to get the full details. I think there are situations where you still want to do both, but I recommend adding more opportunities to click now than you may have before.
You might also want to get more creative with our calls to action, so again, you have more for people to click on.
This is all part of a larger trend to stop tracking so much individual behavior online, including Google’s deprecation of cookies. Overall, as a human being, I absolutely support that. As a marketing professional, it upends some of the tools we’ve been using. But that doesn’t really bother me — we just have to find better ways to work.
For example, nothing is stopping you from collecting better data about people already on your mailing lists through surveys or polls. You just have to ensure that your databases are up to tracking that information.
We know all of this is complicated and too much for many nonprofit comms folks to dive into. We’ll do our best to continue to explain it in plain language and to share what we think it means for the way you do your work. Keep reading!