Gmail Read Receipt: The Invisible Alternative That Always Works

Gmail Read Receipt: The Invisible Alternative That Always Works

A Gmail read receipt is like a vampire — it can’t do its job unless it’s welcomed in.

Vampires have other doors to try, but your email doesn’t. It needs a “yes” from your recipient to get any insight.

It’s not an ideal system. But it’s also not your only option.

Enter — email tracking from Yesware.

Accessible as a Gmail extension, it’s the quickest, easiest way to see when your emails are being opened.

Below, we look at what Gmail read receipts are, how to request them, limitations, plus 12 ways that email tracking totally surpasses what a Gmail read receipt can do.

Here’s what we’ll cover: 

mailEmail tracking in your inboxReal-time engagement insights

What Is a Gmail Read Receipt?

A Gmail read receipt is a feature within G-Suite that allows users to request a read receipt from their recipients. If the recipient approves this request, the read receipt is then sent as an email with the time and date of when the email was opened.

The request looks like this:

Gmail read receipt request

Gmail read receipts are only available on Gmail accounts for work or school that are set up by an administrator.

How to Request a Read Receipt in Gmail

1. Click “Compose”

How to request a read receipt in Gmail: step 1

2. Type your email

3. At the bottom right of the compose window, click “More options”

How to request a read receipt in Gmail: step 2

4. Click “Request read receipt”

How to request a read receipt in Gmail: step 3

5. Send your email

Your recipient will receive this notification to either grant or deny the requested read receipt:

Gmail read receipt requested notification

Limitations of Gmail Read Receipts

Even Google states that you shouldn’t rely on Gmail read receipts to certify delivery. 

Read receipts don’t work in the following scenarios: 

  • The message is sent to a group mailing list or alias.
  • An admin restricts receipts for your organization or for specific users outside your organization.
  • The user doesn’t have a G-Suite account.
  • The recipient’s email program doesn’t sync in real-time.
  • The recipient marks your message as read using Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP) but doesn’t actually open the message.
  • The recipient’s non-IMAP mobile email app doesn’t support read receipts.

With these limitations, it’s safe to say that read recipients aren’t a reliable indication of whether your message has been read or not.

It’s also important to note that a Gmail read receipt requires action from your recipient. It puts the control in their hands and asks them to do something for you.

Here’s why that’s a problem:

  • You haven’t built any trust with your recipient yet and they have no incentive to lend you a hand raise (when cold emailing).
  • Gives off the wrong impression when you haven’t had the chance to communicate your message yet.
  • Gives recipients an out. As people, we want control of what we do and don’t share with others. When we’re in charge, we often opt for privacy.

Gmail Read Receipt Alternative: Email Tracking

What’s better than a Gmail read receipt? An invisible read receipt. Yesware’s Email Tracking does just that.


When you send an email with Yesware, we embed an invisible pixel at the end of your outgoing message. This way, when your message is opened, the tracking pixel loads and you’ll receive a notification letting you know.

The best part? Your recipient won’t see a thing. 

Unlike read receipts, our tracking pixel is completely invisible. So, you gain insights while your recipient has the same experience as they do with any other email.

12 Ways That Email Tracking Is Better than a Gmail Read Receipt

1. Email Tracking Requires No Additional Steps

Spend 60 seconds up-front to add the plug-in to your Gmail inbox. From there, tracking happens automatically.

You don’t need to set anything up, because the Compose box defaults to checking off the track option for you:

Gmail read receipt alternative: Email Tracking

Send your messages as-is, and they’ll all be tracked automatically.

2. View All Email Activity in One Place

Get real-time insights from your Activity Feed at the top of your Gmail inbox:

Invisible read receipt: Email tracking activity feed

Here, you can view all activities including email opens, link clicks, and attachment views.

Within the Activity Feed, you can click on a message to see the expanded message view where you see the full context of an email exchange:

Gmail read receipt alternative: Email Tracking

This information allows you to digest who your hottest leads are, where you should spend your time, and which messaging is most effective.

3. Get Insights Within Your Inbox and Email Threads

You can view email activity in other places throughout your inbox as well. Because the insights you need to do your job should live where you do your job. It’s that simple.

Use the tracking icons in your inbox/sent folders to see at a high glance who’s engaged.

When you see a blue eye icon next to a message, hover over it to see recent activity:

Invisible Gmail read receipt

If you’re in a thread, you can click on “Tracking” or the blue eye icon to see all tracked activity on a thread:

Invisible Email Tracking with Yesware

This is a great reference point when you’re replying to an email and want a better sense of past engagement on the thread.

So, no matter where you are in your inbox or what you’re doing, you will always have quick visibility into your email engagement.

4. Know How Interested Recipients Are With Link & Attachment Tracking

Email tracking goes beyond just letting you know when your email has been read.

Unlike a Gmail read receipt, email tracking shows exactly:
  1. When a link within your email is clicked
  2. When and for how long your attachments are being viewed (i.e. 5 seconds on the first page of your PDF, 2 seconds on the third page, etc.)

You can track PDFs, PPTs, DOCX, CSV, MP4 files, and more. Simply add your attachment using the blue paper clip icon in your compose window:

Track email attachments in Gmail

After you send, you can see who’s looking at your presentation (and for how long) by clicking “View Report” in Email Tracking.

Reporting shows:

  1. How many people accessed the presentation
  2. The total number of views it received
  3. The average time spent viewing

You can also see how long it’s been since each person viewed and their completion rate:

Attachment tracking report

The data puts hard numbers on what works, so you can improve your message by focusing on what’s working.

5. Receive Real-Time Desktop Notifications

You can set up notifications so that you’re notified whenever prospects open and read emails or click on links.

The moment a Yesware user’s email is opened, we send an instant desktop notification letting them know.

Email open notification

Bottom line: You don’t need to have Gmail open; you’ll see the push notification wherever you are on your computer. Every notification shows the subject line of the email that’s been opened and the recipient’s name

6. Know Every Time Your Email Is Opened in Gmail without Recipient Knowing

A Gmail read receipt only reveals the first time your email is opened. That doesn’t give you the full story.

Email tracking flags each open (and reopen) so you can better gauge their interest.

The bottom line: Why stay in the dark wondering whether your messages are being opened? With email tracking, you can turn on the lights and see their engagement in real-time.

Take it from this G2 Crowd user:

In the past, I would send an email and it would disappear into a black hole. I wouldn’t know if it was received, opened, or viewed. Now I have visibility into how my audience is interacting with my email, which allows me time to communicate better (I don’t want to pester), and if I haven’t received a response but I know that the recipient is viewing my email, it could be a cue to try a different approach.

Click here to set up email tracking in your inbox.

7. Track All Email Templates and Campaigns

Yesware’s email tracking goes a step further and breaks down all tracking for your templates and campaigns. See open, reply, and connect rates for all shared content.

Find your most effective, highest-converting campaigns and templates in your Reporting Dashboards, accessible from your Gmail inbox.

Email campaigns tracking

You can also view the success rates of all of your email templates so you know what’s working, what needs improvements, and what templates to share with your teammates for continued success.

Email templates tracking

8. Know When Your Recipient Is on the Move or Your Email Is Being Forwarded

Location information can change your entire perspective on a sent email.

Take it from this Yesware user who sent an email to a client in New York: 

Last week, I had sent out an email to a client as a follow up. It included a presentation on one of our new products. I got the notification that he’d opened the email, and I got the notification that he had looked at the presentation, which was awesome. He’s in New York, and it said he opened it in New York.

Almost immediately after that, I got notifications that the attachment was being opened but in Atlanta, and by multiple people. I could tell that, because the client’s headquarters is in Atlanta, he had forwarded it to his leadership team, and there’s no way I would have gotten that information if it wasn’t for Yesware.

Not only does email tracking show you forward to headquarters, but it also tips you off when your recipient is on vacation or has just returned.

This way, if you’re waiting on a time-sensitive answer, an overdue deliverable, or a contract sign-off, you’ll stay up to date on their whereabouts.

9. See What Devices They’re Reading On (So You Know Where to Reach Out)

If you call a desk phone and no one’s there, did you really call at all?

Email tracking shows you what device they’re on (desktop vs. mobile) so you know whether to follow up via computer or cell phone.

Gmail read receipt alternative: Email Tracking

10. Schedule Self-Reminders Based on Reply Tracking

With Reminders, you can add a note to yourself so you can have the right context handy when you need it. 

At a designated time, a reminder pops up in your inbox, flagging future you to follow up at the right time.

Set reminders in Gmail

Why does following up matter? About 90% of emails that get replies do so within the same day.

When you remember to follow up the next day, your chances of a reply rate rise to 21%.

11. Put Follow-Ups Entirely on Autopilot, So They Send to Recipients Based on Engagement

If you already know what you want to write in your follow-up email, you can automate your entire email sequence.

Because email tracking logs opens and replies, you can set any secondary stages to send to those who haven’t opened your first email or those who haven’t replied.

It’s called Campaigns.

Gmail Campaigns: Automate Follow Ups

You write your messages upfront and then schedule it with send criteria for when you want it to go out.

The best part?

You can schedule each stage to go out to multiple people at once, scaling the output of your writing. Users simply upload a CSV file (or Salesforce list) as their recipient list and include merge fields in the email body that personalize to each person.

See who opened, clicked, or replied to emails in the Yesware Campaigns module.

12. Send Opens and Replies to CRM Automatically (So You Don’t Have to Each Time)

Four of the sweetest words in the English language: No more data entry.

Email tracking collects recipient engagement and auto-syncs it to CRM.

No more setting aside hours out of your day. Start pushing emails, calls, and meetings to the correct Salesforce record in real-time without any customization work.

What’s Next?

Sign up for Yesware for free to see first-hand how email tracking changes the game.

This guide was updated on February 16, 2024.

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