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  1. #1
    SitePoint Evangelist hessodreamy's Avatar
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    Tracking clicks from email

    How are people going about tracking clicks from mail outs? ie what are you putting in the url to refer to a particular user or email address?

    I'm wanting to track the email address that originated the click (but not a customer reference).

    I'm uneasy about passing the email address in plain form in the url even if it's not in the text itself - it seems like advertising the fact that they're being tracked. Or is this just me that doesn't think that's a good idea?

    I've looked at various ways of encoding or obfuscating the email address. If you md5 it you get a nice neat string but its a pain if you want to match it up with the database records, as you would have to md5 the database entries, which is none too efficient. I've tried encrypting using various ciphers, the the strings just look so messy.

    Any thoughts?

  2. #2
    SitePoint Evangelist cronsrcs's Avatar
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    I havent done this as yet, but was thinking about it earlier.

    i would append a random unique id (eg a hash) to the end of the link that you provide the user in the email....Then store a database table with these unique ids with the user_id against it....It should be a simple task to perform a select statement to get the user's name and unique ID....You would also have a tbl of "clickthroughs" which stored the unique_id, and newlsetter ID..That way you could track the users that clicked through from each newsletter etc etc

    Just a thought anyway...
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  3. #3
    SitePoint Evangelist hessodreamy's Avatar
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    yeah, but it does necessitate storing a hash table. Which isn't a big deal i guess...

  4. #4
    SitePoint Evangelist cronsrcs's Avatar
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    no - i wouldnt see that as an issue....Does anyone else have an alternate suggestion?
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  5. #5
    SitePoint Guru MikeBigg's Avatar
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    You could encrypt the email address then place it in the URL in a similar fashion to the hash that cronsrcs suggests, then decrypt it when they click on the link.

    Other points:
    o Have you considered the impact that users forwarding emails may have on the stats you collect?

    o I would be interested in the ratio of open to clicks. You might consider trying to track when the emails are opened, too.

    Mike

  6. #6
    SitePoint Evangelist cronsrcs's Avatar
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    Mike,

    just out of interest, how would you go about tracking when an email was opened?

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  7. #7
    Non-Member I87's Avatar
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    you could always put an image that tracks when it's opened (a dynamic one that's 1x1px)

  8. #8
    SitePoint Evangelist hessodreamy's Avatar
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    It's worth mentioning with that method, though, that the opening will not be tracked if it's being read in text-only format, or if internet images is disabled by the email client (the default for many clients)

  9. #9
    Non-Member I87's Avatar
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    yeah but that's the only way to do it without JS enabled/embeds allowed.

  10. #10
    SitePoint Evangelist hessodreamy's Avatar
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    Mike, that's an interesting point about forwarding emails. It is to be considered, but I don't suppose there's a way of differentiating as to who clicked the link? (question)

    The method of 2-way encryption would be ideal, but anything I've looked at resulted in such ugly, ugly strings that I didn't want to include it in the url. Can you suggest a method/algorithm?

  11. #11
    SitePoint Guru MikeBigg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hessodreamy View Post
    Mike, that's an interesting point about forwarding emails. It is to be considered, but I don't suppose there's a way of differentiating as to who clicked the link? (question)
    I can't think of anything fool proof. You may get some idea from checking the refering domain (if there is one), but it won't handle hotmail users forwarding to hiotmail users, not, I suspect Outlook users.

    The method of 2-way encryption would be ideal, but anything I've looked at resulted in such ugly, ugly strings that I didn't want to include it in the url. Can you suggest a method/algorithm?
    I like the PC1 algorithm - the output is all lowercase letters rather than a mixture of case and numbers. You can find more info here:

    http://membres.lycos.fr/pc1/

    Mike

  12. #12
    SitePoint Guru MikeBigg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cronsrcs View Post
    Mike,

    just out of interest, how would you go about tracking when an email was opened?
    The usual way, as I87 suggests, is to use an embedded image which uses a custom url in the same way as the links.

    However, many email clients (including web based clients) are wise to this and don't display images. Other objects can be used instead, eg a sound file (silent).

    It is worth taking a look at http://www.readnotify.com/ to see how they track emails (or you can just send your emails through their service and get all the stats you want from there).

    Mike

  13. #13
    SitePoint Evangelist hessodreamy's Avatar
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    I like the PC1 algorithm - the output is all lowercase letters rather than a mixture of case and numbers. You can find more info here:

    http://membres.lycos.fr/pc1/
    Yeah that sounds good. Would I need to compile the source code to use it for php?

  14. #14
    SitePoint Guru MikeBigg's Avatar
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    yes you would - or use a php version.

    I have it in PHP - PM me if you're interested.

    Mike


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