deliverability
Last Update
Dec 9
2020
Reading Time
7 min.

Custom tracking domain guide (for email, engagement & more)

lemlist team

If you know what you're doing, this will take you approximately 44 seconds to set it up.

However, if you're new to all of this, no need to worry.

This article will show you, in a step-by-step fashion, how to fire up one simple thing that has an enormous impact on your email deliverability.

What is a tracking domain?

A tracking domain is a URL used in analytics to track email opens and link clicks in your outreach campaigns.

Its job is to collect these data points in a safe way, without compromising your email deliverability.

Why is custom domain tracking important?

When you're sending cold emails, you want to know how many people opened, clicked, and replied to your email. By analyzing these metrics, you're able to identify which email campaigns are working and which aren't.

To show these stats, email automation tools insert tracking pixels and change URLs in their system.

For example, they add a small 1x1 pixel that triggers every time this email gets opened.

Believe it or not, most of the emails in your inbox have that pixel. You can check it by opening “Show original” mode in Gmail:

custom tracking domain

Find “img” tag with this parameter height=3D”1" width=3D”1. It's usually at the bottom of the script:

custom tracking domain

All these have an impact on your email deliverability and whether your prospects will actually see your emails or not.

How does a custom tracking domain impact deliverability?

Tracking pixel affects your deliverability in two ways. As a result, they put you in some serious spam danger:

  • the URL for links and pixels don't match your email sender domain

Say your domain is donuts.com and you use lemlist as your cold email tool.

For Google, it's not clear why you have your own custom domain, but then send emails with a custom domain like "lemlist.com". In other words, they should be the same.

In a minute, I'll show you how to set that up real quick in lemlist.

  • default tracking domains are shared among many users

Your email deliverability is also affected by other senders who use default tracking. Typically, email automation tools have thousands of users that are grouped across the same domains.

To simplify things, say 10 users are divided into groups of 2 across five domains. So you and I end up sharing a domain. But imagine I'm a spammer who overuses the tool and doesn't follow the rules of the game.

Google starts associating every link I send with spam, thus affecting the reputation of my domain. My domain is also your domain, so you suffer too. Lower deliverability and the never-ending battle with spam for both of us.

Of course, the best email automation tools are controlling these things and don't let people be spammers.

For example, lemlist has a rigorous way of isolating spammers, while our sending algorithm itself doesn't allow spammers to overuse the tool and send blasts.

However, you should do yourself this favor. Customize tracking links and pixels by setting up your custom tracking domain.

Put it this way, if you're earning enough money to live on your own, why would you want to have a roommate?

On top of that, if you customize tracking links and pixels that are included in your emails, it'll be an additional "➕" to your sender score and it'll improve your deliverability too.

For example, here are the results from one of the lemlisters - Hans from Leadaro Agency:

How to set up a custom tracking domain

Step #1: Go to the Settings of your lemlist app

[ ] Log into your lemlist account or start 2-weeks free trial

[ ] From the home dashboard, go to the 'Account Settings

[ ] If you work alone or as a part of a team where all members have the same domain, then you can set up your CTD from the section Team Settings -> Team configuration

[ ] If your teammates have different domains, each user will have to create a CTD from the User section.


[ ] Enter your domain (domain of the email address you previously linked with lemlist account) and click Check

lemlist will automatically generate the info you need to complete your Custom Tracking Domain set-up:

The "Host" name can vary from a user to another. So you may end up with "trail" or "route" or "lemtrail" according to their "availability".

Keep these 3 values and you're ready to move onto the next step!

Step #2: Create a sub-domain with info lemlist generated for you

To create a sub-domain, you need to go to your domain provider and edit your domain's DNS (Domain Name Service) records.

To do that, you may need administrator access (if you don't know how to do it, the easiest way is to ask your dev team for help).

Once you got access to your domain provider:

[ ] go to the "DNS" section

[ ] click on the domain you want to add a sub-domain

FYI: Each domain provider has its own interface, that's why you may not have the exact same "field names" as below. We'll cover the most common ones.

[ ] once you are on the "DNS" section of your domain, choose to create a new entry
[ ] complete the 3 fields with info lemlist generated for you:

-> the "TYPE" field: Select "CNAME".

-> the "NAME" or "HOST" field: Refer to the name lemlist generated, it can be "trail", "route" or "lemtrail"

-> the "HOSTNAME" or "VALUE" or "POINTS TO" field: Type "custom.lemlist.com." (leave the final dot if accepted, if not remove it)

[ ] go back to your lemlist settings and add your custom tracking domain that should look like trail.yourdomain.com

Pro tips:

-> For those using Cloudflare: when setting up your CNAME record, set it to DNS proxy only by clicking on the orange cloud at the end of your DNS line (the default is set to http and DNS).

-> If your domain is “yahoo.com”, then your custom tracking domain - full domain - should be “track.yahoo.com”.

If you need a tutorial for a specific domain provider, here are some our lemlist users tested out & recommend:

Step #3: Go back to your lemlist app

[ ] Click on"Setup my tracking domain"

lemlist will check your DNS records and make sure everything looks good.

It takes up to 72 hours before your DNS record get distributed around the Internet.

In the meantime, you can also check with host support if they see in their backend any issuess as lemlist can't check their backend.

Step #4: Test your new domain

Once you've finished the setup, you can double-check if everything works smoothly.

[ ] Go to your browser

[ ] Copy-paste your domain

[ ] Check if it displays the message below:

If yes - you're good to go!

If not - there's an issue in your configuration and your tracking domain won't work.

We advise you to repeat setup with your dev team, following our tutorials, or the video below:

P.S. It's not possible to use the same custom tracking domain in separated teams for security reasons. If not set under the "Team" section - which will be used by the whole team, you can't set the same custom tracking domain under the "User" section!

Here's what to do to create as many different Cnames as teams you have:

You probably created the actual one using the subdomain "trail" to make your CTD look like trail.yourdomain.com. So now, you can follow the creation process of a new CNAME again, but simply use another subdomain. It could be "lemtrail", "route", "blabla", etc.

Key takeaways

We've written a lot about deliverability in our previous articles. Therefore, it's always better to go through the important stuff again:

lemlist team
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