Let’s begin with a simple definition of a web beacon. It is an object embedded into an email, to determine if a user accessed the content sent. There are other names used for web beacons such as tracking pixel, invisible pixel, pixel tag, pel and clear gif.

Web beacons are often used in email marketing to determine which recipients open the email. Doing this allows digital marketers to see which recipients have viewed or interacted with the email they sent.

Email marketing tracking is not a perfect science, as tracking can be disabled by recipients who do not use HTML email clients, opting for text only emails. Some email preferences like turning off image display (while still using HTML), can also disable web beacons.

A web beacon is usually a transparent graphic image, often just a pixel that is placed unobtrusively in an email. When the HTML code for the web beacon points to a website to retrieve the image, it can also pass along important marketing information. This information can include the IP address, a time stamp, length of time the beacon was viewed, and the type of browser that retrieved the email. For many insurance agency email marketers, the most important metrics relate to the open rate, and the subsequent clicks that occurred in the email.

Web beacon options are included with most email marketing solutions, from the basic solutions to high-end integrated platforms. When you send out insurance agency email marketing campaigns, the marketing engine will offer an option to track the emails. If selected, a tiny web beacon will be placed on the bottom of your HTML email to detect opens.

Note that I said these would be on the bottom of HTML emails. If you are using text emails or multipart mime (the text portion of that email) the web beacon will not be used. This beacon is unique to each insurance email campaign that you send. When someone opens your email and the beacon is downloaded, they will register as an “open.” Automated replies, such as out-of-the-office messages, often do not download the beacon and as a result would not be counted as opens. This process can vary by email marketing provider.

Now that you know how web beacons help track your insurance email marketing campaigns, you can determine if your agency want to use this tracking. Open tracking is a fairly innocuous and unobtrusive way to determine email campaign efficacy and to fine tune the content for your audience.

Almost all email marketers do use open tracking, and find it helpful. Click tracking is considered somewhat more intrusive, and that is a decision each agency can evaluate based on their preferences. Some agencies offer tracking and cookie notifications on their site, when using these technologies.

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