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Success With Email Metrics: 13 Essential Factors To Measure And Improve

By vivian on March 29, 2017

email metrics you should improve

Email marketing is the staple of any online business, but not every business gets it right. Because email marketing has such huge potential, it’s easy for you to enjoy some success and think that everything is going well. In fact, you could be missing out on 90% of that potential.

In order to be successful in any form of marketing, you must always go back to the data. The scientific method has given us every major technological advancement of the past two hundred years, and its principles are as important to more nebulous things like marketing. Results have to be observable, measurable and repeatable.

Guide in Becoming The Perfect Inbound Marketer

  • 10 must-have qualities of a perfect inbound marketer.
  • Proven examples on applying the best inbound marketing techniques.
  • Compact guide with less fluff!

Analyzing data gives you an idea of what effect your marketing is having, and enables you to see where it could be stronger to help you achieve your business goals.

But what data are we analysing? In this blog, I’m going to outline a series of factors across the two most important dimensions of email marketing: email metrics, and subscriber metrics.

Understanding, observing and measuring these statistics is the key to knowing what to improve to create more business. I’ll break each factor down according to what it is, how to measure it, and how to improve its performance.

What Email Statistics Should You Track? 

Measuring statistics of each email sent is important to improve email performance.
Measuring statistics of each email sent is important to improve email performance.

These stats deals with the rates related to each email sent. The values can be totaled up and averaged to get the rough idea of how your email marketing campaign are performing.

The following are a series of ‘rates’ that give you an idea as to the frequency of different occurrences, some we want to maximize and some we want to minimize. By doing so, we optimize our email campaigns for best success.

1. Open Rate

What is Email Open Rate?

The open rate is a percentage formed from the number of people that have opened the email out of all the recipients who were sent a copy. If you think about your own email, you’ll often delete a promotional email without reading it. You don’t want people doing this to your emails.

How do you measure it?

Most email marketing platforms include open-rate tracking as standard. It’s one of the fundamental building blocks of analytics, so if your platform doesn’t include it that’s an immediate red flag.

MailChimp goes one further and provides information on the benchmark open rates for a wide range of industries including B2B email open rates, so individuals can see how they are performing relative to others in their sphere. This will quickly give you a litmus as to how your campaigns are performing.

How do you improve it?

The open-rate is considered to be affected by three key factors, all of which you’ll want to nail in order to maximize open rates.

  • Subject Line – Your subject line is your first impression, so you need to make it as catchy and compelling as possible. In brief, you want to explain what people have to gain by opening the email.
  • Opening Line – a preview of your opening line is often shown along with your subject line, so this gives you a chance to summarize the content in an exciting way, and reinforce that need to click.
  • Delivery Time – sending your emails at 9am on a Monday morning is a sure way to see them underperform. People are busy and have more important things to prioritize. Different industries and different products have different optimal times, but you should experiment with mid-week afternoons to see when works best for you.

2. Click Through Rate (CTR)

click through rate is one of the main email metrics to improve
Your emails should lead the readers somewhere or get them to take action. This can be measured through click through rates.

What is Email CTR?

The Email Click Through Rate is the rate at which people click on links inside of an email. Broadly, if people are clicking links inside your emails, it means your content has convinced them to enquire further, which means you have gotten them out of their inbox and onto your website, a step closer to closing the deal.

How do you measure it?

As with open rate, click-through rate should be a standard measurement in your email client analytics. As with open rate, MailChimp offer industry standards against which to compare the average email click through rate. Similarly, the higher the numbers are, the better your emails are performing.

How do you improve it?

Optimizing for click-through rates is a little more nuanced than open-rates, but no less important. The key factors affecting your CTR are:

  • Content Flow – How your content flows will make all the difference to how it performs. If you think of your email as a story designed to create an action, all of your content should drive toward that action. It is a motivational tool.
  • Anchor Text – How the clickable text reads can make a big impact on the number of clicks. If it reads ‘get yours now!’ or ‘be one of the first’ you create an association between the action and the effect. If you simply say ‘click here’ or ‘buy here’, you’ll find it far less compelling.
  • Text Decoration and Emphasis – put simply, if your clickable text is buried in a large paragraph or looks too similar to the content around it, it will be missed more often. Make sure your clickable text stands out!

Check out more effective ways here that will help you improve your Email Click-through rate.  

3. Unsubscribe Rate

lowering unsubscribe rate could be added to your list of marketing kpi
Unsubscribes is normal as long as you keep it low and find reason for unsubscribes and fix them.

What is Email Unsubscribe Rate?

The unsubscribe rate shows you how many people have unsubscribed from your email list as a consequence of an email you’ve sent. Because each email has the option to unsubscribe built in, it’s possible to see which emails have been particularly unpopular.

How do you measure it?

How to calculate unsubscribe rate is usually not a problem as this is one of the standard analytics included in most email packages. Similarly, you can compare it to industry standards. That said, you should experience a very low rate of unsubscribes – usually around 1%. If you are regularly above this figure, you’re in trouble.

How do you improve it?

Your aim should always be to minimize the number of unsubscribes you get. Doing so relies on several variables, all of which are best practices for email marketing anyway – it’s better to think of this as improving your marketing rather than reducing unsubscribes. That will happen as a consequence.

  • Deliver Valuable Content – The easiest way to prevent unsubscribing is to ensure your readers benefit from the content you deliver to their inbox. This means putting a focus on the difference it will make. Will readers by wiser, better equipped, happier?
  • Not So Spammy – You want to be sending a maximum of 1 to 3 emails per week. More than this and you’ll be seen more as an annoyance than a resource, and people will unsubscribe.
  • Meet Expectations – If your title promises something and your content doesn’t deliver, people will unsubscribe. Make sure you set expectations with your title and deliver them in the content.
  • Quality of Email – It’s easy to think this doesn’t matter when major newspapers have typos in their article titles, but good grammar and spelling are the minimum you should be aiming for. You can go further, by personalizing emails with Dear [NAME], but make sure it’s right. Fumbly errors like these will see you pay in audience numbers.

4. Bounce Rate

What is Email Bounce Rate?

Your bounce rate tells you the number of targeted recipients who are not receiving your emails. These can be categorized in one of two ways:

  • Soft Bounce – A soft bounce describes a temporary email receiving disruption, which can include a full inbox or an email server being temporarily down.
  • Hard Bounce – A hard bounce describes a permanent inability to receive emails, be it through a deleted or discontinued email account, or a mis-spelled or fake email address.

How do you measure it?

As with all our variables so far, a bounce rate tracker should be included in your email marketing platform and should be reported for each delivery individually.

How do you improve it?

Reducing your bounce rates is more about controlling the quality of your leads in the first place. There are several strategies to ensure you are only accruing the best quality leads:

  • Voluntary Subscribers – rather than purchasing email lists which could be full of junk, but in the hard yards and encourage people to sign up personally. Building live leads from voluntary subscribers is the surest way to know you are emailing people who really want to know more.
  • Confirmation – Making sure you have an email confirmation system set up can all but eliminate hard bounces, as people need to prove their email account is real to be added to the subscriber list.
  • Prune – When you are cultivating anything, you need to cut away the dead material to give room for new growth. Regularly identify dead emails and remove them from your list so you aren’t wasting your time.

5. Earning Per Click/Per Email

How much you earn on average per email tells a lot on how well your emails performance
How much you earn on average per email tells a lot on how well your emails are performing

What is Earning per Email?

This is one of the most important aspects of email performance. For any email that is driving toward sales, understanding your earnings per email is essential. It takes the total amount of sales made and compares it to the number of click-throughs from your emails and the total number of emails sent to give you an estimate.

How do you measure it?

Thankfully this feature is starting to be added to major email marketing tools, though it is almost always in the premium features of a freemium service like Mail Chimp. It tracks click-throughs and you can use a plug-in on the website to track sales, and combine the data. This allows you to see what effect your email is having on sales.

How do you improve it?

There are several steps you can take to improve your earnings per click, the biggest of which being:

  • Good Copywriting – You need to be able to concisely highlight the benefits of the product and motivate your audience to want it. Create a problem, solve it. Highlight a pain and relieve it. Create an ambition and fulfil it.
  • Good Products – The easiest way to make your emails sell more products is to make sure your products are good. That means useful, well manufactured, and priced appropriate to your audience’s budget.
  • Good Segmentation – You’d be surprised, but not all of your products are relevant to everyone. If you can identify segments within your audience for whom a particular product will be particularly useful, and market only to that segment, you will see better results than if you simply blanket everything.

6. Delivery Rate

What is Email Delivery Rate?

Delivery rate tracks the percentage of all emails successfully sent out, irrespective of whether or not they are received. This should be 100% of course, but in actual fact it rarely is. That said, major email marketing service providers like Aweber average a 99% rate, which is actually far better than desktop-based software.

How do you measure it?

Delivery rate is not commonly shown by email marketing service providers (possibly to manage customer expectation). Fortunately however, you can independently track how your service provider is performing by using a third party email analytics software like ReturnPath.

How do you improve it?

Delivery rates depend primarily on the reputation of the delivery server. When choosing a provider, always remember to:

  • Use a reputable email marketing service provider – Aweber and MailChimp are used by thousands of businesses, and for good reason. There are others, but if you want a shortlist, there it is.
  • Manage Scores – If you’re sending through your own server, it will be rated with a spam score, unsubscribe score and complaint score (we’ll talk more about this soon). By reducing these, you’ll increase your successful delivery rate.

7. Inbox Placement

What is Inbox Placement?

Most inboxes now have strata to help their users filter through the messages they receive. These can include low and high priority mailboxes, spam mailboxes, as well as inboxes for promotions and social media.

How can you measure it?

Most email providers will show you the final destination of your email, so you can see which inboxes your mail is being delivered to, and compare the proportions. You should always aim for as many of your emails as possible to be delivered to the primary inbox, preferably with high priority.

How can you improve it?

In order to maximize the amount of emails landing in the primary inbox, you can enact a few different strategies:

  • Lower Your Spam Score – Your spam score is determined by a spam filter that is looking for certain things. The higher the score, the more likely your email is spam. Usually this is scored from 0-10, and you want to be under 5 at a minimum. 3.5 preferably.
  • Request Whitelisting – By directly asking your users to whitelist you, you can ensure your emails don’t go into spam, which will improve your server ratings considerably and make it more likely for your emails to be accepted by other inboxes. Wait But Why has a good example of a friendly request.
whitelist request can be among the ways you can improve your email performance
Sometimes asking politely is all you need to get your email performance improved.

8. Complaint and Abuse Rate

What is Email Complaint?

The complaint or abuse rate describes how many people are reporting your email as spam. This is different to an spam detection algorithm assigning your email as spam and is treated much more seriously. If your emails generate complains, you jeopardize your reputation and by extension, your delivery rate.

How do you measure it?

Fortunately, because complaint rates are treated so seriously, every major email client will make it easy for you to find it. There are also industry benchmarks as with other variables, so you know when you’re performing better or worse than the average.

How do you improve it?

You can reduce your complaint rate in a number of ways, and it’s worth trying to do as many of these as possible:

  • Make Unsubscribing Easy – It might seem unpalatable at first glance, but making it easier to unsubscribe means those who aren’t interested will be far less likely to issue a full complaint. If people want to unsubscribe and can’t, they will be angry.
  • Space Out – Don’t send emails too frequently. We touched on this earlier, but one of the fastest ways to annoy people is to inundate them with content. It feels less like adding value and more like nagging.
  • Never Duplicate – If people see the same email more than once, they are going to see straight through your attempts to market to them and this will anger them.
  • Stay Relevant – Some people, in a rush for content, will think about stretching their topic areas to give them something to write about. If anything you send feels anything less than 100% relevant, you increase your chances of receiving a complaint.
  • Email Quality – We touched on this already, but grammar and spelling, good personalization, choosing the right part of your audience, and committing to best practices is the surest way to minimize your complaints.

9. Forward Rate

What is Forward Rate?

This describes the rate at which people forwarded your emails to their own lists.

How do you measure it?

Forward rate tracking is a less commonly produced metric with service provides, but there are those that do. Alternatively, you can put a tracked-forward link in your email, which will show when it has been clicked from an inbox you haven’t sent it to. Benchmark Email will do this for you.

How do you improve it?

Unlike many of the things on this list, where our primary aim has been damage limitation, forward rate improvement can yield seriously positive results for your business. As such, it’s something you should nurture.

  • Incentivize – You can create promotions centered on forwarding, including freebies or discount codes for those who have forwarded the email, discounts for those who bulk-buy with a friend, and more. This will action people to send your email on to other people who may be interested.
  • Team Messages – If you create messages that require the participation of multiple parties in order to be actioned, you can turn your audience into recruiters, which will increase your forward rate.
  • Shareables – if you use your email to share typically viral content more commonly seen on social media, you’ll increase the chances of people forwarding it to friends. Helpful tips, novel content, rare information and more can achieve this effect.

List Statistics

Other than just the email rates, you should also analyze your subscriber list for growth, or lack of it.
Other than just the email rates, you should also analyze your subscriber list for growth, or lack of it.

Now we’ve covered all the major rates that affect the success of your individual emails, it’s time to take a broader, more strategic view. This means cultivating not just each email, but your audience as a whole. To do this, you need to pay attention to the list statistics. These will give you the information you need to grow your business.

10. Subscriber Growth Rate

What is Subscriber Growth Rate?

This keeps track of how many new subscribers are added on a daily, weekly or monthly basis depending on your tracking.

How do you measure it?

Growth rate is another of the standard stats you’ll find from most email client providers.

How do you improve it?

Improving your growth rate is mostly dependent on your creating more ‘inlets’ for users to subscribe through:

  • Opt-Ins – Make sure there are subscribe forms on your website home page and landing pages – even on your Facebook page.
  • Subscriber Freebies – incentivize people to sign up to increase your numbers.
  • Contests – A competition to win something is a great way to get lots of subscribers while only having to reward one or two.
  • Variety – not every incentive will work on everyone, so vary them regularly to maximize uptake.

11. Churn Rate / Subscriber Size

What is Email Churn Rate?

Churn Rate is the number of net growth of subscribers, after deducting your unsubscribes. As such, it’s a valuable measure of how your audience is really growing in response to your marketing efforts. This is reflected by your final subscriber size.

How do you measure it?

Subscriber size is a simple measure included in all clients. Churn rate may be included by some, but is easily discovered by simply deducting your unsubscribes from your new subscribers for the month to give you an adjusted growth rate.

How do you improve it?

The bigger your subscriber list, the valuable and the more costly it is. To ensure you get maximum ROI, you want to:

  • Increasing new subscriptions – See the tips above
  • Reduce unsubscribe rate – Again, we have covered this in an earlier section
  • Clean up dead emails – This too. See, by following best practices, your problems start to solve themselves!

12. Traffic To Subscriber Conversion Rate

What is it?

Most subscribers will come from people visiting your site. Email marketing conversion rate is calculated based on the number of people subscribing compared to the total traffic on your site

If you have traffic analytics on your site, you can see how many of the total visitors you have converted into subscribers.

How do you measure it?

You can compare the numbers directly or you can use email conversion rate formula of individual opt-in forms.

How do you improve it?

Most of the methodologies we’ve already covered in other areas. As a reminder, these are:

  • Subscribe forms on the website
  • Subscriber Incentives
  • Contests
  • Variety

13. Return on Investment (ROI)

What is it?

ROI is how much money you’re getting back from the investment you make in email marketing. Take the amount of revenue generated by emails, subtract the cost of paying for your email provider, the time spent writing emails and managing them, and that’s your ROI.

How do you measure it?

Many email marketing platforms have “Set Goals” which allows you to track purchases made by email subscribers to deliver a good reflection of your ROI on a campaign by campaign basis. You can compound this data yourself for quarterly reports and so forth to get a longer-term view.

How can you improve it?

By following every single piece of advice I’ve given you so far in this article, and by paying particular attention to increasing your earnings per click rate and minimizing your running costs by clearing our dead or disengaged emails. Make every subscriber count.

Optimize Your Email Performance

You now have all the major Email Marketing KPIs, a definition of what they are, how you can track them, and what you can do to improve them. All that remains is to go forth and do it for real. If it feels overwhelming, don’t worry: start with a few most relevant to your current business objectives and build from there.

Any KPIs you think we’ve missed? Throw them in the comments below! Similarly, if you have any strategies for improvement we haven’t mentioned here, be sure to put them in the comments section so everyone can benefit!

Related Links:

Guide in Becoming The Perfect Inbound Marketer

  • 10 must-have qualities of a perfect inbound marketer.
  • Proven examples on applying the best inbound marketing techniques.
  • Compact guide with less fluff!

Updated: 19 July 2024


About Vivian

Vivian is an anthropologist lost in the world of digital marketing. She has an interest in learning about the science of marketing and the creativity that businesses use to transform themselves into purple cows.

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