Given that all the candidates’ emails are HTML-based (ie: they aren’t plain text, so they have color, photos, etc), they can use coded links to communicate to their tracking systems what I do when I read their email.
This doesn’t mean that they can see you as you read your email of course, and largely, they don’t care person by person which link you click on in the email.
However, they DO (or should) care across the group which links work and which don’t.
So here’s a breakdown of the tracking and testing capabilities I’ve found in their emails…
John McCain campaign: Early on in the email series, there were no tracking or testing links. The last few emails I’ve received have had unique codes on each link.
Hillary Clinton campaign: Google Adwords parameters are on most, but not all, links.Â Unfortunately, the same tracking code is typically on every link in the email, so they are not testing to see which link is getting people interested enough to click.
Barack Obama campaign: Almost all links have tracking code and the codes are unique for each link. They can tell whether you are clicking the first contribute link, the last one, or the contribute button. Hopefully they are using this information to improve their emails.
Interestingly enough, I never received an email from the Romney campaign, even though I signed up several days before they quit.
For the same reasons I’ve noted above, your links in emails or on pages should have some sort of tracking (like Google AdWords) on them so that you can see what motivates people to look at the next page, to buy, or to subscribe. Test, test, test and then take action on the results. And keep testing.