Email Marketing Metrics You Need to Optimize

© | Leszek Glasner

In this article, you will learn about 1) the basics of email marketing and its associated metrics and 2) a detailed analysis of the email marketing metrics (e.g. sending, opening, clicks, conversions).


Brief description of email marketing

Email marketing is a direct marketing technique that utilizes commercial emails as the preferred medium for  promotion of products and services to a group of existing and potential customers.

The emails sent are intended to perform the following primary objectives:

  1. Communicate valuable information about your product or service.
  2. Create new opportunities for business.
  3. Create brand awareness among potential customers and strengthen brand loyalty among existing customers.
  4. Initiate sales propositions.
  5. Forge strong and long-term business relationships with your clients.

Of course, all the information that your marketing department communicates to your target audience has to be accurate and relevant.

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Now, why is monitoring email marketing metrics so important?

Simply put, email is arguably THE most important marketing tool of this era.

Top management heavily relies on accurate data collected during the marketing exercise for future decision-making.

Therefore, it is vital that attention is paid to even the most minute of details like the email clients/applications used by the targeted customers.

What are email marketing metrics?

Email marketing metrics are standards of measurement of the engagement of a strategic business email.

These metrics can be represented in the form of a funnel with the input being marketing campaigns and the output being actual conversions.

The various interlinked steps of an email marketing campaign are as follows:

  • Sent
  • Received
  • Opened
  • Clicked
  • Conversions

At the very top of the email marketing campaign funnel is the list of recipients that are intended to be targeted. They are the email addresses of the current and potential customers. This list has to be carefully sorted and the non-relevant recipients duly filtered out before the emails are actually sent.

Equally important is the content of the emails. Quality over quantity should be the goal here – send emails that are relevant and data-driven, and prevent repetition at all costs.

The percentage of emails that are opened by the recipient depends on the category of the email itself – emails that deliver newsletters and announcements have a different open rate compared to emails that offer kickbacks for downloads.

Email conversion rate (or ECR) is a critical metric that allows you to infer how successful your emails have been in actually generating business. An ECR of 7% – 12% is the industry standard.

Some more learnings on email marketing tools, trends, and tactics.

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Email marketing metrics, as a collective lot, can be quite confusing to the uninitiated. Hence, we will simplify them by classifying them in order of their importance and purge the nonessential.

Sending and receiving the email

The metrics that require measuring

Delivery rate. As far as improving delivery rates is concerned, there are different approaches that different businesses employ. While many startups rely on the tried and tested conventional delivery methods, an increasing number of new businesses are sparing no costs as far as boosting their delivery rates is concerned.

Competitive email service providers are employed  and third-party agents are hired to enhance delivery rate. While all marketers agree that a delivery rate of 95% or more is desirable, a hard bounce rate of 20% or more is considered a failure of the employed system.

Inbox placement. Once the email has been successfully delivered to the intended receiver, the next most important metric is inbox placement.

This is basically a measure of whether your email has been placed at the proper inbox of the recipient or was screened out and placed in bulk mail folders or worse still, marked as spam.

There are different ways in which you can successfully route your business email to the inbox of the recipient.

The best way is to ensure click-through, i.e. get your recipient to click on at least one of your emails, so that all future emails from you hit their inbox.

Another way would be to improve your click-through statistics by elimination, i.e. eliminate all entries from your send-to list who have an identified history of not providing any click-through for your emails.

Spam percentage. Being labeled as spam is every email marketer’s nightmare, and rightly so. It is vital to convince your recipient’s email client that your emails are not spam.

There is a certain way to do this. Get on top of your spam score percentage – this is important. Peruse your email draft for keywords and links that will get you email listed as spam.

There are lists available online of email spam trigger words and you need to avoid those at all costs.

Complaint rate. While you ought to leave no stone unturned to make your marketing email as credible to the recipient as you intend it to be, you will have to deal with the veracity that your emails are never completely immune to being marked as spam.

Several factors like the state of mind of the recipient at the time he receives your email, incessant spamming by other senders and such like will be at play to your disadvantage.

While you cannot entirely negate your complaint rate, you can, however, minimize it.

A good way to ensure a low complaint rate is to get your recipient to subscribe to your emails via a confirmation email. On the other hand, it is imperative that you avoid blackhat marketing methods.

For example, NEVER get your target customer to involuntarily subscribe to your emails via devious means such as “click-bait” links or buttons. In addition, it is never a good idea to flood your recipient with too many emails, because that will surely get you blacklisted.

Action rate over time slots. Once you have sent out a sufficient number of emails to your regular recipients, it becomes possible to monitor how your recipients are treating your emails.

Over time, you are able to deduce certain time slots when the action on your emails are the highest from your recipients’ side. Going forward, you can push such emails at those decided time slots in order to ascertain maximum recipient action.

Some interesting stats on email marketing.

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Where is optimization necessary?

There is a vast scope for optimizing multiple parameters in order to ascertain maximum throughput for your marketing emails.

First off is the visual interface of the email and the web pages and forms that link from it. It is important to note here that all links to websites and forms that you provide in your email should be perfectly functional and otherwise usable.

Color plays a vital role in determining the click rate – an email that is too flashy or vibrant or one that is too dull or bland will most likely be ignored, or worse, marked as spam.

The design of the forms also goes a long way into either convincing or discouraging the recipient. Keep the form structure simple yet sufficiently appealing.

Another important parameter is content placement. All content that seeks to explain your company’s goals and introduce your product or service should not be placed too far from the salutation – people usually do not have the time to read each and every word of your email and it is in your best interest to come to the point as early in your email as possible.

Also, the language used in your content should be simple and easily comprehensible. Do note that grammatical and spelling errors are an instant turn off and can do a great deal of damage to your credibility.

Some awesome learnings on email marketing metrics from our friends at Hubspot.

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Opening the email

The metrics that require measuring

Open rate. In simple terms, the open rate gives you an estimate of how many emails have been opened by the recipients in relation to the total number of emails received.

Several factors contribute to a high open rate, e.g. a convincing subject line and a favorable time of receipt of the email, among others.

  1. Device type: There has been a tremendous advancement in mobile technology over the last decade, which has enabled users to view and respond to emails on their mobile devices like cell phones and tablets. No wonder then that as things stand now, half of all emails are read on mobile devices. As such, it is important that you consider formatting your emails in such a way that they are equally readable on computers as well as on mobile devices. Time slots again play a vital role here. Do consider the fact that most emails that are sent just before or after usual work hours will most likely be read on a mobile device when the recipient is travelling to or from work.
  2. Email type: In the present day, there are several email clients available to users with which they can view and respond to emails. As such, it can and should be assumed that different recipients of your emails will be using different email clients to view them. This makes it mandatory that you use only those email templates that are displayed properly in all popular email client interfaces.

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Unsubscribe rate. Unsubscribe rate measures the percentage of recipients in your email list that have unsubscribed from your emails – the most common reason being disinterest.

However, there are many disinterested recipients that choose not to click through your emails without actually unsubscribing. As such, the unsubscribe rate isn’t a very accurate way of measuring addressees’ engagement with your emails.

Time spent viewing email. This is an effective tool to measure recipient engagement for your marketing emails. Tracking time spent by recipients in reading your emails conveys a clear picture about engagement that helps you understand how to strategize all future emails for content length and placement.

Of course, it is important to also understand that since there are different types of business emails, e.g. company announcements, blog newsletters or the ones containing kickback links, the time spent on each type of email is going to be different.

Bounce rate. Bounce rate is defined as the percentage of emails that have been undelivered or “bounced” with respect to the total number of emails sent. Bounces can be of two types:

  1. Hard bounce: Hard bounces occur when the recipients’ email addresses are no longer valid or totally non-existent. Hard bounces affect the delivery success rate of your emails and as such, all such email addresses should be immediately removed from your email list.
  2. Soft bounce: In case of soft bounces, the email addresses of the recipients are valid, but your emails will have still not been delivered because of server errors. Such addresses need not be deleted from your email list. You will just have to re-send emails to these addresses, or wait for the servers to do that for you.

Churn rate. Churn rate is arguably THE most important metric to measure email opening. It basically measures the actual health of your email list on a yearend basis by adjusting for the loss of subscribers through unsubscribing, hard and soft bounces and complaints.

The churn rate thus paints a clear picture of the percentage of audience you are losing each year and how many new subscribers you would need to target in order to maintain the size of your email list.

Email sharing/forwarding rate. Also known as referral rate, this metric measures the percentage of emails sent that your recipients have forwarded to other recipients.

Referral is an excellent means to grow your subscriber list without actually taking the pains to dig up new email addresses, because your recipients are doing that job for you! Content placement and depth go a long way in effecting referral rates.

Where is optimization necessary?

The parameters of optimization are:

  • Call to action (CTA box) – this is the most important metric that requires optimization, because it routes your recipient to where the “action” is.
  • Headline/subject lines: Follow tradition and keep subject lines to the point without trying to make a hard sell. Do include your company name on the subject line so as to make yourself instantly recognizable.
  • Length of email – is it optimal?
  • What comprises the visible content?
  • What colors make the cut on a CTA box?
  • Layout of the email.
  • Choice of salutations for introduction and address.
  • How hyperlinks are presented.
  • Choice of words – this is important. Avoid using spam words in any part of the email so as to evade a possible spam indicator.

Clicks on your website/landing page

The metrics that require measuring

Click Through Rate (CTR). This is one of the most effective measures of email engagement. CTR is the percentage of clicks that your emails received with respect to the total number of emails sent.

Let’s face it, it is a difficult task to get recipients to click on emails, so if you have managed to get one or two clicks for every ten emails sent, you have done a pretty decent job!

Click rates. Click rate is a measure of the total number of recipients who clicked on your email message or on any links therein, in relation to the total number of recipients in your email list.

Click rates can be broadly classified based on two parameters:

  • By number of links in the message
  • By industry

Where is optimization necessary?

The parameters of optimization are:

  • Design of the registration form
  • Placement of strategic content
  • Choice of colors used
  • Language options available
  • Overall usability of the website

Converting your audience: How to get the visitors to come back?

The metrics that require measuring

Conversion rate. The primary objective of a business mail is to convince the recipient to take favorable action on your email, i.e. do what your email sought to influence them to do.

Favorable action may imply buying a product, subscribing to a newsletter or a blog  or just downloading a pdf by clicking on the download link.

While a conversion is a definitive win for your marketing effort, the highest importance should be placed on the call-to-action box on your email, because that’s what ultimately drives the conversion through.

Number of new leads generated. Growing new leads should be a planned outcome of your marketing campaign. To achieve this end, your emails should be formatted in such a way that they incorporate a suitable method of lead capture and encourage your recipient to fill out certain (lead capture) forms in order to access content.

Email marketing ROI. Return on investment is an important metric of any marketing initiative. You can determine your ROI by putting in place a system of grading whereby you grade leads that are likely to generate sales as an outcome of your marketing effort.

Do remember, however, that there is a marked difference between projected sales volume and actual sales volume and all projections do not always translate to real time sales figures.

Earning per click/per email. Although this metric is seldom considered for evaluation, it does serve its purpose in determining the overall success of an email campaign, in terms of the income it generates for your company.

Reports can be pulled out with the help of your email service provider that will help you track the status of your campaign and what specific actions are generating revenue and what actions are not.

Where is optimization necessary?

You just cannot afford to take it easy with the audience you have “converted”. You have to optimize your communication path with your new leads in order to retain your audience.

The way to user retention is email. Make sure that you keep in touch with your subscribers by sending them updates, newsletters and additional content periodically.

Remember, a sales pitch only takes you that far – it is the healthy stream of communication that will keep your subscribers interested in your product or services.

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