Emails are the defacto medium of communication today.

I can throw statistics on how popular are emails in today’s world, but emails are used by everyone. Let’s move on.

But, even with all the popularity that emails have – one thing that frustrates me is that I cannot say for sure whether the emails have indeed reached the intended audience.

Yes, I know I have sent the email. If there is no response, I never know whether the email is read, acted upon, or moved to spam without reaching the reader.

One of the ways that the ol’ Outlook solves this is by using “read receipts”.

You can automatically get back notifications when the emails you sent are read by the audience. But that is Outlook, and who uses Outlook nowadays except for the corporate types?

There is a solution for the rest of mortals there – and it is called “Signals”. And yes, you can use it for free.


What are “Signals”?

Signals is a free to use product by HubSpot, which is known for really good internet marketing posts, and more perhaps importantly, for good internet marketing software.

HubSpot Signals Review know whether emails have reached reader


Simply put, Signals latch on to the email that you send, and keep track of who opened that email. It works for Outlook – desktop client or webclient, Gmail, and Apple mail. There is no support to any other clients, or for mobile email clients.

You can also schedule emails, and integrate Signals with HubSpot, Salesforce or other CRM solutions – more on that later.

Signals also provides you a  nice way to see all email open rate and link click rate.


How does it work?

Signals includes an invisible image to all the emails once installed. The size of the image is negligible, so will probably go undetected. But it is important point to remember – the whole concept works only if images are enabled on the destination.

The invisible image loads itself when the email is opened by reader – just as any other image would. This mechanism tracks the email as opened. If the reader has disabled downloading of images for any reason, you will not see any notification. Users can use any mail client as long as images get downloaded and displayed.

An alternative is to include a link in the email. Signals tracks the link clicks from your readers.


How to install and use Signals?

As a first step, install Signals as a Chrome extension. Although technically this is not required for every scenario, you are going to do this anyway – so why not do it now?

Next, sign up for Signals, confirm your email, and you are all set to use Signals.

You need to install Signals on your mail client for it to start tracking your emails. As of date it supports the following clients –

  1. Outlook web access, or Outlook via
  2. Outlook client on Windows
  3. Gmail
  4. Emails on
  5. Apple Mail

For any of the web clients (= use email over internet through a browser), the Chrome extension is all you need. You would need to download additional software for Outlook and Apple mail clients.

After you install the extension, you will start seeing some additional buttons in your email client.

enable hubspot signals for tracking emails how Signals works


You can choose to enable or disable tracking for each email.

You also have a couple of other useful options –

  1. You can schedule emails (ignore some options in the diagram, those are from my other email extensions)
  2. You can create email templates that automatically merge. For example, you can create a template for welcoming a person to the program like this –
    Dear <name>,
    Welcome to our program..Add this to a template, and give it a good name. Later when you create a new mail, populate the ‘To’ field, and select the same template, you will see the below in the email body –
    Dear John Doe,
    Welcome to our program..
  3. You can either select to track in real-time, or schedule the email (not both)


How and when to use Signals?

If you are a small business owner, entrepreneur, or just emailing a lot of people in your daily basis using any of the earlier mentioned tools, Signals is just the right product for you.

By using Signals you can –

  1. You can track whether your emails are opened and any links clicked in real-time. You will get a notification from Chrome, or you can track the activity stream at
    when to use HubSpot Signals real-time notification of emails

  2. View simple analytics of how many users opened your email, and how many clicked the links
    hubspot signals when and how to use signals
  3. Integrate your Twitter or LinkedIn accounts using Zapier to receive real-time desktop notifications when something happens on your social media sites – enabled through Zapier

  4. Integrate your CRM tools like Zoho CRM, SugarCRM or using Zapier


Signals does not support any clients other than those mentioned in the above list. So, if you are the type who sends all your emails from your phone, or you cannot live without Yahoo mail – either change your life style or refrain using this wonderful tool.

Signals is intended for personal communications, and does not support mail tracking for mass emails sent through AWeber, MailChimp etc.

In my personal tests Signals gave me mixed results –

  1. Signals worked perfectly fine for emails sent from Gmail (or Outlook) and the destination mail addresses are on popular email platforms
  2. Signals could detect that “someone” opened emails when they were sent to company email addresses that are behind the firewall. I did get a lot of false positives though – Signals continued to report an ancient email as opened though that was long dead

Signals is “read receipts” super charged. You can do so many more things than simply tracking of emails – it simply gets under your skin after a while.



HubSpot provided Signals for free – you will get up to 200 notifications for that cost. You would have to pay $10 per month for anything more.

If you are looking at making sense of how this tool fits in your day-to-day work, get started today. You will loose no money, but learn about something new that can possibly lessen the extent of confusion that the email creates.

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