Currently, marketers are dealing with the data privacy changes that email providers and platforms are rolling out, which is affecting open rates, geolocation, and more. 

There has been an increasing concern recently around something called NHI, or Non Human Interaction. I have spoken to some marketers about this and they were concerned about how this affects their analytics. 

First off, let’s discuss what NHI is and how it affects email marketing. In a nutshell, NHIs are the result of security tools being used by the recipient. These tools will analyze every URL contained within the email to determine if the destinations are safe or a threat. Since most URLs in marketing mail contain a tracking mechanism these are registered as clicks in a message’s statistics. The filter is checking the email for anything that might deem the email unsecure or dangerous. 

It is understandable why this is happening. Even in the last year, there have been numerous data breaches where data was stolen or a company was infected with ransomware. This can cost a lot of money and a huge loss in productivity. 

“Victims of ransomware attacks paid some $350 million in ransoms in 2020, according to Chainalysis, a firm that tracks cryptocurrency. Those who don’t pay can spend millions of dollars rebuilding their computer infrastructure.” – CNN

Some of these filters, which can include hardware and software, may register an open, while at times, it may not. You can often see inflated opens or clicks for an email recipient. I have seen one send where the click reporting showed thousands of clicks for one email for one subscriber! 

If you look closely, the interaction, or NHI, normally happens right around the same time the email is sent. You will see an email sent at 2:03PM and the opens and clicks happen at 2:03PM or maybe 2:04PM. You will also see numerous actions with the same timestamp. Either it was the filter or the subscriber has a really fast finger to click on the emails or links!

This now raises the question of what can be done about NHI and email reporting?

The short answer is very little. One of the biggest reasons this happens is because of IP/Domain Reputation. I have previously mentioned that email deliverability is heavily weighted on domain reputation. This is something that is unique to the sender, where the IP can change, so there is little weight placed on the IP address. If there are issues with the IP address (blacklist or blocklist), the email will normally be blocked before hitting the filters. 

If a sender has a low domain reputation, the likelihood of their emails being scanned and showing NHI results is higher, and the email might even go to spam. The goal to combat NHI and the dreaded spam folder is to ensure that you improve your domain reputation

If you are only worried about the elevated opens and clicks in your reporting, you can simply look at the unique open and click rate. Sure, this will include some recipients that have registered as an open or click without doing so, but gives you a slightly better picture. 

You could also export the reporting data and remove those that seem to be NHI actions, but you might also throw away some valid interactions. There is no perfect science to combating NHI noise in email data. 

While there’s no way to fully prevent NHIs, improving domain reputation by following best practices can help limit your exposure to NHIs and keep your data as accurate as possible.

For more detailed information, this is a good read from the Messaging, Malware, Mobile, Anti-Abuse Working Group (M3AAWG), which Moz Group (iContact, Campaigner and Kicbox) is a member.


  • Hank Hoffmeier

    Hank is an author, speaker, podcast host and Sr. Manager of Marketing Operations at Kickbox, a Ziff Davis company. With a passion for all things digital and social, combined with more than 25 years of experience in sales and marketing, he has been dubbed the Digital Marketing Infotainer because he makes marketing fun and successful.