Email links are showing they've been clicked but I don't think so

Starting around the beginning of the year, I noticed some users “seem” to be clicking every link in an email blast at exactly the same minute per the Recent Activity view on the Dashboard. Usually, if I see a contact click multiple links they vary by a minute or two.

We have an email signature that includes a quick link to our blog, linked in page, webinars page, events page, etc. No one ever clicks all the links. I am seeing 7 clicks at exactly the same minute. Weird. For some users, it happens on any email they open. In some cases, it seems to happen for users in certain companies. Sometimes, it happens randomly…even happening for one of my own gmail addresses. The number of contacts showing this behavior is increasing.

Infusionsoft thinks that email links are being “inspected” by recipients’ email systems/spam filters. IS said there may be something about looking at an email on a mobile device and downloading images that triggers this.

IS says it can’t tell the difference between a real click and these potential inspection clicks. This seems like a big problem, not just for IS, but for all the products like IS and the businesses that use them. It isn’t great for users who only want relevant emails where relevant is determined by clicks/tags that are interpreted as interest.

I don’t pretend to understand what’s going on but it is new and it is having a negative impact on the value of using IS. IS is looking into this more.

For us this is causing several inter-related problems and undermining the power of using IS for web automation, lead scoring, segmenting emails, etc.

We use web automation to track when contacts visit each of our web pages and to apply a tag (and sometimes a note or task) when a page is visited. These “fake” clicks are triggering the web automation processes to apply tags for each page visited.

We don’t currently use web automation tags to trigger campaigns but we do use them to segment email blasts which has a similar effect. Contacts getting the “wrong” emails because of erroneous clicks making us think they are interested in what they click. Not good for them or us.

Many of these tags being erroneously applied increase the leadscore of the contact. Thus we think we have a hot lead only to find out they aren’t.

We’re hosting a big event and trying to use the clicks/tags to discern how to segment our list of who is interested and who to follow up with via email campaigns and phone calls.

We’ve had several occasions where our sales staff, and even our owner, interpreted these erroneous tags as real activity and were surprised and embarrassed when they followed up with people who weren’t really interested in the event. This is also causing us to waste time following up on these “hot” leads.

My questions…

  1. Is anyone else noticing this?
  2. Do you have any additional insight as to what is happening and why?
  3. Any ideas about how to deal with this? Can you think of a way to cull fake clicks/tags out from real ones?
  4. Have you identified other ways these fake clicks are skewing your data and affecting your business? I’d like to stay ahead of the curve.

I hope I clearly communicated what’s happening. Happy to provide more info if I haven’t. Thank you in advance for you insight.

CC @Mark_Penney - know anything about this?

Hi @Nora_Callahan and thanks for the callout @Greg_Jenkins

Unfortunately what you are experiencing is very likely to be what some email providers and ISPs have recently started doing with incoming emails… clicking every link. In some cases that includes the unsubscribe link :frowning:

This is going to be a huge problem for all of us if it becomes widespread. Hopefully the M/ISPs wil realise that it’s counter-productive but I am not holding my breath on that one.

What is happening is that they are going through every link to see where they lead, looking for blacklisted URLs/sites, viruses, phising sites, scams, etc. Anything that might be something that points toward the mail not being what they want on their network. The idea is a good one, the problem is that it doesn’t take into account how all of us using email marketing and automation systems use links as a way of tracking things and triggering automation.

It’s possible that they wont care, as it’s not their business model. But they are also using the same systems, so I am hoping that sense will prevail.

This will also have an impact on engagement tracking. If they click links then it looks like they are engaged, so we are not going to unusbscribe them or delete them, and it makes our job pretty much impossible on that front.

So this isn’t an answer on how we deal with this, it’s just an acknowledgement that it is a known (and relatively new) issue that we have to wait and see what happens.

Infusionsoft an all the other marketing and automation systems are going to be super hot on this in the coming months I predict. Unfortunately that doesn’t mean the ISPs will care, or change their behaviour until their users start complaining.

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Wow, @Mark_Penney, I had no idea…thanks for the great explanation. Do you have any idea which ISP’s are practicing this?

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Thanks @Mark_Penney. I don’t blame the M/ISPs for inspecting links.

Let’s hope they figure out how to let us know a link was inspected vs. clicked.

I am seeing similar issue more and more. When I call a person who has supposedly clicked on a link in my email and when I DO get through to them, they tell me they have never heard of my company and that they have never clicked on a link in my email. A few people even told me they don’t remember even seeing my email.

I am super skeptic and have been burned by “marketing or email automation companies” like MailChimp where they don’t even deliver emails into the inbox.