A Basic Introduction to Email Marketing Metrics


Successful email campaigns are hard to achieve. Having launched my share of them, I maintain that a successful email campaign is about 90% adherence to best practices and 10% dabbling in the Dark Arts.

But even if you’re in the know about email best practices, you might still be at a loss when it comes to measuring the success of a campaign. How do you start? What do you look for? And where do you look for it?

Basics of Email Metrics

These days, almost all third-party email platforms offer email campaign metrics to help you measure the success of your efforts. They also offer some really cool tools that let you compare email campaign results side-by-side, test subject lines, and fine-tune audience segmentation.

Some platforms have more robust metrics than others, and even then, you might have to pay extra to get access to them. However, most at least offer the basics: sent vs. received, open rate, and click-through rate.

Sent vs. Received

Hopefully, you know exactly how many recipients should be receiving your words of wisdom. If you notice that the number of messages received is lower than the number of messages sent, check and make sure you’re doing everything you can to keep your e-news from setting off spam filters.

These filters are like bouncers at a nightclub. Too many spam triggers, and your email is turned away at the door, or “bounced,” and left to wander cyberspace alone for all eternity. (Sad violin music.) Do what you can to keep this from happening. The more messages received, the more chance of success your campaign has.

If an email address shows up on your bounced list again and again — despite your best efforts to keep your messages spam-trigger free — you might think about cutting it from your recipient list. It’s either a bad email (i.e., they typed it in wrong), or the owner’s spam filter is set at such a sensitive level that you’ll never get through.


Open Rate

Open rate used to be all the rage when it came to measuring the success of email campaigns, but it’s fallen out of fashion, and with good reason. When you send out an email campaign, your message usually includes a call to action — a link to click on, an event to register for, a related blog post to read, etc. But if someone opened your email and didn’t do any of those things, it’s hard to call it successful.

So how do open rates matter? Well, they’re definitely useful in A/B subject line tests. They’re also useful for testing audience segmentation, and sizing your business up against industry benchmarks, if that’s your bag. Bottom line: Keep an eye on open rates, but remember that they’re not the end-all, be-all of email marketing success.

10_commandments_emarketingLooking for email marketing best practices?

Read my 10 Commandments of Email Marketing.


Click-Through Rate

If email metrics were a horse race, this would be the pony you’d want to put all your money on. Click-through rate is just what it sounds like…it’s the number of people who followed your call to action by clicking on a link in your message. It’s hard proof that your message was not only opened and read, but that people found it compelling enough to interact with.

Be warned: Click-through rate is rarely more than a fraction of the open rate. But don’t let that discourage you. The key here is to examine what people clicked on, and what their motivations may have been to click on it. You can also track click-through rates over time. If your click-through rate is consistently trending upward, you’re on the right track.


Quick Note: Google Analytics

This might not be immediately apparent since it’s not built into your email metrics, but analyzing your site visits on Google Analytics is another great way to evaluate the success of an email campaign. They’re especially useful for catching rogue recipients who didn’t utilize the traditional calls to action you threw out there, and instead went straight to the source: your website. (Weird, right? But to each their own.)

If you have Google Analytics integrated into your website, simply compare your site visits on a normal day to your site visits on a day when an email campaign has been sent out. The traffic directed to your site from click-throughs will be reflected there of course, but chances are if you subtract those interactions, you’ll still find higher than average visits to your site. Do some digging, and you can usually figure out how they ended up there.

What other email campaign metrics are you mystified by? Let me know!



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