man reading an email in his hotel room
6 min

How Can I Tell If My Email Has Been Read?

Sending an important email and not receiving a response can be frustrating. You might wonder if the recipient even opened your message or if it got lost in their inbox. While there is no foolproof way to know for certain if an email has been read, there are a few methods you can try.

Requesting a Read Receipt

The most common way to check if someone has read your email is to request a read receipt. This feature is included in many email clients and sends you a notification when the recipient opens your message.

Requesting a Read Receipt in Outlook

To request a read receipt in Outlook:

  • Compose a new email.
  • Click the Options tab.
  • Under Tracking in the ribbon, tick the "Request a Read Receipt" box.
  • Send the email as usual.

If the recipient's email client supports read receipts, you'll receive a notification once they open your message.

Requesting a Read Receipt in Gmail

To request a read receipt in Gmail:

  • Open Gmail and click on "Compose" to start a new email.
  • In the compose window, click on the three vertical dots (More options) in the bottom right corner.
  • From the drop-down menu, select "Request read receipt."
  • Complete your email as usual and click "Send."

When the recipient opens your email, you will receive a notification confirming it has been read.

Note: The availability of this feature may depend on your Gmail account type (e.g., G Suite accounts) and the settings configured by your email administrator.

Limitations of Read Receipts

However, there are some downsides to using read receipts:

  • Many email clients block read receipts by default for privacy, so the recipient may never see the request.
  • Even if the recipient does read the message, they can decline to send a read receipt.
  • Read receipts only confirm the email was opened, not necessarily whether the contents were read or understood.

Read receipts can work, but they are not always reliable and require cooperation from the recipient.

Read receipts can work, but they are not always reliable and require cooperation from the recipient

Email Tracking

A more reliable approach is to use an email tracking extension or service.

These tools embed a tiny invisible image into your email's HTML code.

When the recipient opens the email, their email client downloads the tracking image from a server, allowing the service to log that the email was viewed.

Some popular email tracking tools include:

  • Mailtrack: A widely used Chrome extension for tracking Gmail emails. It offers a free version and reasonably priced paid plans.
  • SalesHandy: A popular free option for Gmail users offering unlimited email tracking and instant notifications. It also integrates with Outlook in its premium version.
  • Gmelius: A premium option for Gmail users providing robust email tracking and optimisation tools, including email scheduling and collaboration features.
  • Streak: A CRM-focused email tracking solution that integrates with Gmail and offers features such as lead tracking and pipeline management.
  • Mixmax: A Gmail-based productivity and sales engagement app with robust email tracking capabilities along with features like follow-up reminders and Salesforce integration.

For those with technical skills, you can skip third-party services and code a tracking image directly into the HTML of your email yourself.

Advantages of Email Tracking Extensions

These tools have several advantages:

  • They can work regardless of the recipient's email client settings.
  • They track email opens automatically without prompting the recipient.
  • Many provide additional analytics like the number of times opened and location data.
  • They can track emails forwarded to others.

The main downside is that they still can't guarantee the recipient actually read and understood the contents of the email. The tracking only confirms the message was displayed in their inbox.

Privacy changes by Apple, Google, and Yahoo make email tracking more challenging

Email Tracking Update

Email tracking using embedded HTML in emails has become more difficult to get reliable results from due to recent privacy changes made by email providers including Apple, Google, and Yahoo. For reliable email tracking for sensitive information, use a secure email solution such as Mailock.

Secure Email Solutions

Using secure email solutions is invaluable when you need to ensure your emails are read, particularly in sensitive or high-stakes scenarios.

Key features of secure email solutions:

  • End-to-End Encryption: Protects the content of your emails from unauthorised access by encrypting the message from the moment it leaves your outbox until it is decrypted by the recipient.
  • Detailed Tracking and Analytics: Provides data on when the email was opened, how often it was viewed and even where it was accessed. It can also track when attachments and links within the email were accessed, offering a comprehensive view of recipient engagement.
  • Secure Recipient Verification: Confirms the identity of the recipient through methods like digital signatures or multi-factor authentication, ensuring that only the intended recipient accessed the email contents and adding an extra layer of security.

While these services come with a cost, there are solutions that cater to infrequent users who may only need email tracking for specific situations.

For example, Mailock offers a dedicated free plan that allows for unlimited replies and five free sends a month.

Looking for a more comprehensive paid solution? We’ve compiled a comparison list of the top secure email services.

Secure email solutions can offer encryption, detailed tracking, and recipient verification

When Email Tracking Matters Most

For casual emails to friends and family, knowing if a message was read is not necessarily important.

But in the following business and professional contexts, having this data can be extremely valuable:

  • Sales: Knowing when a prospect opens your email allows you to follow up at the ideal time and avoid annoying them with redundant messages.
  • Email Marketing: Open tracking reveals your email's effectiveness and engagement levels.
  • Legal/Compliance: For sensitive information, having a record that a recipient viewed a message can be crucial to meet regulatory requirements.
  • Networking: When an unanswered email could mean a missed career opportunity, confirmation it was read provides closure.

Email tracking should be used ethically and not to harass or invade anyone's privacy. When used properly, it adds clarity to the status of important messages.

What to Do If You Receive No Response?

Even with email tracking, you might still find situations where your message was opened but not replied to. In these cases:

  • Wait a reasonable amount of time (e.g., 3-5 business days) in case the recipient was simply delayed in responding.
  • Send a polite follow-up email referencing your initial message and requesting a response.
  • If you have their phone number, try calling to discuss the matter directly.
  • Avoid sending multiple follow-ups as this can be seen as harassment.

If tracking shows the email likely wasn't even opened, your options are more limited:

  • Double-check that you have the correct email address.
  • See if the email was caught in their spam filter.
  • Resend the message in case it was an isolated delivery issue.
  • As a last resort, find an alternative contact method.

The bottom line is that while email tracking can provide useful data points, it doesn't guarantee a response—no technology can force someone to read your email or reply to it. Managing communication expectations and following up appropriately is still key.

In Summary

The most common way to know if an email has been read for marketing or sales purposes is to use an email tracking extension or service. However, these are never 100% reliable and not suitable for sensitive data.

For high-stakes scenarios where sensitive documents and data are being emailed, a secure email solution can verify recipient identity and confirm that your important information has been received.

Used properly, email tracking can help senders avoid wasted effort and comply with regulations while respecting recipients' time and privacy.

Deliver sensitive information securely with Mailock


Add and Request Read Receipts and Delivery Notifications in Outlook, Microsoft Support, 2024

Request a Read Receipt, Gmail Help, 2024

The Best Email Tracking Software, Kinsta, 2024

How Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection Impacts Email Marketing, Constant Contact, 2024

Guide to 2024 Email Deliverability Updates, Braze, 2024

Apple's Mail Privacy Changes, Postmark, 2022

The Best Secure Email Services for Business, Beyond Encryption, 2024

Reviewed By:

Sam Kendall, 12.06.24

Sabrina McClune, 12.06.24


Originally posted on 12 06 24
Last updated on July 4, 2024

Posted by: Sabrina McClune

Sabrina McClune, an expert researcher with an MA in Digital Marketing, was a finalist in the Women In Tech Awards 2022. She excels in conducting and compiling research for B2B tech companies. Sabrina enjoys reading fantasy novels and collecting special edition books.

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