One of the best things about email marketing is that almost every aspect of it is measurable—opens, clicks, conversions, forwards, complaints, bounces, unsubscribes, you name it.
In fact, there are so many potential points of data you can track that it can be overwhelming. So, it’s important to establish which metrics truly matter as the most basic of levels to understand how your email marketing program is performing.
Before we get into the truly meaty metrics, let’s talk about Open Rate.
I’m not saying opens aren’t important—they are, to an extent. But open rate is an unreliable metric at best. Most email service providers (ESPs) don’t register an “open” unless a tracking pixel image is loaded. Typically, these pixels are located at the bottom of a message, meaning if images don’t load, or a recipient is viewing in the Preview Pane, or any other reason why the pixel wouldn’t generate, you miss the open.
Open rate is a metric you brag about to your CEO if it’s high. That said, you still need to watch open rates for spikes—particularly spikes downward. These downward spikes could indicate delivery issues.
But email marketing is about so much more than whether someone opened the email. It’s about actions (or inaction)—and the metrics that can track them. Let’s take a look:
Click-through Rate (CTR)
We’re not quite to the point in our technological lives where you can do everything you would on a website inside an email—meaning making purchases, etc. Therefore, a click-through to your website is still a crucial component to a successful email marketing campaign.
The equation for tracking this metric is:
CTR = Number of Unique Clicks / number of emails delivered x 100
CTR shows you how successful your call(s) to action is. Benchmarks for this rate vary by industry and by ESP.
Improve your CTR
Establish a specific goal for each campaign and make your requisite call to action easy to find and act upon. Too many links could overwhelm openers, create confusion and friction, and ultimately reduce click-throughs. (It seems counterintuitive, I know, but more options means less choices.)
Essentially, your conversion rate measures how successful you are at getting subscribers to complete your desired action. Your definition of a “conversion” will vary by email. It could be a purchase, a resource download, or even as simple as a click (though I hope you’d be a bit more sophisticated than that).
Your measurement would be:
Conversion Rate = Number of Conversions /number of emails delivered x 100
Obviously, an email without a conversion metric of some kind likely won’t be very successful (unless that’s not the goal of your program). A proper definition of your conversion in each email campaign becomes critical.
You can also look at conversion rate in two other ways:
1. Total conversions on day of send
This takes a broader look at the desired conversions from all channels on the day you send your email campaign. Why does this matter? Attribution models are imperfect at best, and if your conversion can easily be completed simply by seeing the email in the inbox (subject line only), you may not be able to attribute conversions directly. If you notice a giant upward spike in purchases (for example) on send day, you’ll know that your email campaign played a major role.
2. Conversion-to-Click Rate
This metric can come in handy in evaluating the effectiveness of your landing page(s) from the email. For example, your overall conversion rate could be somewhat low, but your conversion rate post-click could be pretty high, meaning your landing page is working, but your email needs work. If your click-to-conversion rate is kind of low, then you need to work on your landing pages.
The equation would be:
CTC = Number of Conversions/Number of Unique Clicks x 100
Improve your Conversion Rate
- Write to-the-point CTAs, make them visible, and direct the traffic to a dedicated landing page on your website.
- Segment your email list to divide subscribers based on specific criteria.
- Personalize your email content, sending relevant messaging to each subscriber.
- Send cart abandonment emails to lure the prospects who need that extra push to convert.
Bounce rate refers to the percentage of emails sent but no delivered to the mailbox compared to the total send.
BR = Number of Bounces/Total Number of Sent x 100
The reason for bounces can range from unavailable ISP server to sending emails to non-existent email addresses. Whatever the reason may (and there are 100s), a high bounce rate is bad news.
High bounce rates can be detrimental to deliverability overall. And even the best campaigns can’t be successful if they don’t make it to the inbox.
Tips to reduce Bounce Rate
- Maintain list hygiene. Pruning your list at times helps reduce bounces and improve overall deliverability.
- If necessary, employ a double opt-in process for your email sign-up.
- Monitor email delivery and watch for spikes. Monitor your sender reputation as well (particularly if you’re sending on a dedicated IP).
Unsubscribe Rate and Spam Complaint Rate
The unsubscribe rate tells you how many users have unsubscribed to your emails compared to the total delivered number.
UR = Number of Unsubs/Total Number of Delivered x 100
Obviously, the lower this number is, the better, but unsubscribes are 1) unavoidable, and 2) better than spam complaints. If you really need a number, Mailjet says anything below 0.5% is considered to be good. If your rate is higher, you need to take a look right away.
Spam complaint rate, on the other hand, tells you how many recipients have sent your emails to their spam folder.
SCR = Number of Complains/Total Number of Delivered x 100
Both of these numbers basically tell you whether your emails are wanted by your subscribers. Here’s how you can reduce unsubscribes (and spam complaints).
Email Forwarding and Sharing Rate
Word of mouth is still the strongest channel for marketing—and knowing how often your email is being forwarded and/or shared on social media is important.
Email Sharing & Forwarding Rate = total number of forwards and shares / total number of emails delivered (not opened)
Forwarding or sharing is a kind of referral. Referrals are one of the best ways to capture new subscribers and customers. So, by monitoring this metric you can actually find out how your campaign is contributing towards increasing your referrals.
Tips to increase Forwarding/ Sharing Rate
- Place social sharing buttons in all your emails.
- Offer referral incentives in your email.
Return on Investment
At the end of the day, this is the metric that matters most, right? Did the campaign make money? Seems simple enough.
ROI = total revenue / total spend x 100
ROI can be calculated at the individual campaign level or extend to the channel as a whole to give you that big picture view. It’s a key metric to which all your efforts to improve the aforementioned metrics play in terms of email marketing program success.
Tips to increase ROI
- Send relevant emails that contain value for your subscribers.
- Segment your list to derive learnings that allow you to create better content.
- Use urgency to encourage conversions.
- Automate your emails where possible to reduce costs.
Keeping track of your key performance metrics is crucial to ensuring email marketing program success. And again, these are just a few top-ish-level metrics that you should be tracking. You can get more granular than this, dive into the weeds of geo-demographic data, etc.
What key metrics are you tracking?