10 Email Marketing Metrics

By , Published October 31, 2014

There are a LOT of questions about email marketing metrics, trends, and overall “how to improve” your email program.

So let’s take a moment to look at 10 Important Email Marketing Metrics that you need to be paying careful attention to:

Deliverability Metrics

Let’s start by looking at deliverability metrics.

1. # of Messages Sent

“Messages Sent” is just that! How many email messages were actually sent out of your email software. This should include the net number after stripping out people in your suppression list, unsubscribes, bounces, complaints, etc.

This is the final number of emails that should have actually gone out and, hopefully, to your subscribers’ inbox.

The ONLY way to increase this metric is to build your list. And more importantly, it’s important to build your list with quality subscribers that want to hear what you have to say!

2. Messages Delivered/Email Deliverability

There is a big misunderstanding with regard to “Email Deliverability”. When you look in your email client, and see a statistic of 99% deliverability, most assume that means that their emails are getting to the inbox.

However, deliverability by definition, is what percentage of emails weren’t rejected from the server to which you are sending. In other words, it’s just simply the number of messages the ISPs ACCEPTED and did “something” with.

3. Bounces / Bounce Rate

This is the number of emails that the ISP rejected. This is the opposite of “Deliverability.”.

ISPs may “bounce” or reject your message for any number of reasons. Some of the more common ones include:

  • Bad addresses/high unknown addresses. You need to look at list hygiene if this is a problem.
  • High number of complaints (you need to look at your messaging if this is a problem).
  • IP or domain on a blacklist or otherwise rejected by the ISP (you need to DEAL with this!).
  • Spam/message content in general
  • Technical-related issues
  • Full mailboxes

The next set of metrics we need to look at are engagement metrics…

Engagement Metrics:

Engagement metrics are becoming more and more important. The ISPs (Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, etc.) are using this information to determine where your email is going to land (i.e. the inbox, the spam folder or to rejected altogether).

4. Open Rate

This is the percentage of people that actually opened your email message.

Within most email clients, this will be displayed as a percentage of messages sent. However, to get the TRUE open rate, you need to know how many messages were actually delivered. So you’d need to back out any bounces and calculate your open rate from THAT.

If your deliverability rate is low, you may make incorrect assumptions about a subject line or an overall campaign if you simply see “low opens” from a single campaign.

Assuming that deliverability is not an issue, you’ll want to work on your email open rates.

To improve open rates, consider targeting your messaging more tightly, run re-engagement campaigns quarterly, at a minimum and maintain good list hygiene at all times.

5. Click Through Rate

Many email clients will measure the click through rate as a percentage of total messages sent. The reason for this is that not all subscribers will have images turned on, so it’s not uncommon to have people click a link who haven’t triggered an open.

Having said that, it’s also good to measure clicks against opens since the number should be reasonably in line and this will tell you a lot about message content, call to action, etc.

This will show you overall trends and will give you a better picture of what is going on with your actual message content. For instance, if you’re getting a 25% open rates and only 5% click through rates, there’s a big disconnect between your subject lines and your message copy OR your message copy and your call to action.

6. Unsubscribe Rate

We have some customers who focus WAY too much on their unsubscribe rate! The truth is… if you’re doing any kind of effective marketing, you’re going to have unsubscribes. The key is to keep an eye on this and use it as a tool to find out what types of campaigns (or what specific autoresponder messages) cause people to unsubscribe.

For example, I used to run a real estate investor list. I often introduced “related” streams of income. However, in one promotion, my unsubscribe rate was 3 times that of any other campaign. This was a clear indicator that that type of promotion did not resonate with that audience at all.

You should use this as a tool to adjust your messaging from time to time.

8. Complaint Rate

The complaint rate is the percentage of people that click the “spam” button in their email client.

In many cases, this is just easier for subscribers to use this option rather than go through your email and find the unsubscribe link.

They either don’t realize or they don’t care that it’s hurting your overall reputation!

ISPs have little wiggle room on what they determine is an acceptable complaint rate. If you exceed there limits, they’ll:

  • Send your email to the spam folder, since their users are basically telling them your emails are “spam”;
  • Throttle the rate at which they accept your messages;
  • or even block the emails altogether, causing them to bounce.

It’s important to keep your complaints to a minimum, far below any published acceptable rates.

Miscellaneous Metrics:

The following metrics are additional things that the ISPs are looking at and have some impact on what’s going on with your email.

9. Read Rate

This is just as it sounds. The ISPs are able to see whether or not someone is actually reading your message. (i.e. scrolling down the email, click links, forwarding, etc). So, just because someone opens an email doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re truly interested. They could simply be opening to unsubscribe or delete the message quickly.

10. This is Not Spam

I’m certain that at one time or another you’ve checked your spam folder only to find emails that were SUPPOSED to be in your inbox. As such, you clicked on the link that says “This is not Spam” or “Move to Inbox”. This is a positive mark on your reputation because the ISPs are seeing that people WANT to receive your emails.

They’re taking specific steps to tell the ISP that your email is NOT spam.

While this is not something you can see in your email metrics, it’s something ISPs are definitely taking into account.

Ultimately, when it comes to looking at your email metrics, the numbers aren’t always black and white. There are a lot of moving pieces at play and you need to look at everything in context. Too many times, people have just one piece of the puzzle and make poor decisions based on the fact that they haven’t looked at the whole picture to see where the real problem (or the big win) lies.


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