5 Critical Email Marketing Metrics to Help Measure & Improve Your Campaigns

Email Marketing continues to be a key element in any business’ marketing toolkit. But you can’t just send out emails and hope that they work, you need to take the time to measure the individual email marketing metrics, which will help you determine what is – and what isn’t – working within your email campaigns.

Here are 5 of the most critical measurements that drive the success of an Email marketing campaign, and the key drivers behind them.


Critical eMail Marketing Metrics: Open Rates
Critical Email Marketing Metrics #1:
Email Open Rates


What it is:

Open Rates simply measure the number of people who opened and viewed the content of your email campaign or newsletter against the number of people who received the email.

It’s one of the most critical email marketing metrics because it’s the very first step in the email marketing funnel.

What are the key drivers: 

The open rate is driven mostly by how the email appears inside the user’s inbox. If you don’t have the right elements when it comes to delivery, subject line, snippet, and more; you can lose the email marketing battle before the potential customer even OPENS the email to read the details.

What should you aim for:

According recent email marketing metrics averages from MailChimp and ConstantContact average email open rates in the US can range from 10.17% to 28.46%, depending on the industry. Niche industries, including Hobby sites which tend to have a far more engaged audience, have higher open rates than broader consumer markets such as Health & Beauty products. Open rates can also vary greatly by device, with computers and mobile phones leading the charge and tablets lagging quite far behind.

If your open rates are below 15 – 20%, you should take a look at some of the key areas to find out why your emails are not being opened and test ways to fix it.

Here are a few tips from the experts in email marketing on increasing email open rates: 

  1. When it comes to subject lines, boring works best. When you write your subject line, don’t sell what’s inside—tell what’s inside. Read MailChimp’s study on writing effective subject lines and Constant Contacts’ article on 12 Subject Line Tweaks to help improve your open rate.
  2. If you want people to open your emails, you have to get past their spam filters first. And the best way to avoid spam filters is to learn how they work from the experts at MailChimp.
  3. Sometimes it’s not about WHAT you send, but WHEN you send it. Read The surprisingly best times to send your email marketing campaigns from the experts at VerticalResponse.
  4. Check out ConstantContact’s 5 Simple Strategies to Improve Your Email Open Rates

One final piece of advice, just because a subscriber did not OPEN your email, does not mean that they did not SEE your email. Customers can often be bombarded with email campaigns, particularly around specific holidays or events. Sometimes your email will slip through the cracks and go unnoticed, other times the customer may react to it without even bothering to open the email, and there is always the distinct probability that your customer saw your email but purposefully decided not to open it.


Critical eMail Marketing Metrics: Click-Through Rates

Critical Email Marketing Metrics #2:
Email Click-Through Rates


What it is:

Click-through rates measures the number of people who react to your email marketing campaign by clicking on one or more of the links inside the email. This email marketing metric be measured in a few different ways.

Unique Clicks vs Total Clicks: Unique clicks measures the total number of PEOPLE who click on email campaign links. This number can increase if a user clicks on more than one link inside an email campaign, or if the same user opens and clicks on an email again at some point in the future.

Compared to Total Emails Delivered vs Total Emails Opened: Some companies will measure the clicks based on how many emails were sent and delivered. This provides an easier way to forecast the estimated impact of a campaign based on the  size of the email list. Other companies look at the Click Through Rate as a step in the funnel and only count it against those who took the first stop – opening the email. I prefer the latter as well, as it gives you a better way to isolate the individual elements on the campaign.

What are the key drivers: 

The click through rate is primarily driven by the targeting, the content, and the design design of your email, and how relevant it is to the customer you are targeting. Have you segmented your list correctly? Is the content appealing and easy to consume? Are you using appropriate personalized messaging to make the email relevant and customized to the reader? Do you have the right call-to-action with the right sense of urgency?

What should you aim for:

Based on industry email marketing metrics benchmarks, aim for a unique Click-through rate (based on opens) in the 2 – 4% range. The total click through rate (including those who click multiple times) should be higher, and is a good indication of engagement with your current and potential customers.

Here are a few tips from the experts in email marketing on increasing click-through rates: 

  1. ConstantContact did a great article on segmentation titled Get the Right Message to the Right People with Click Segmentation
  2. Take a look at Hubspot’s post on 11 Sure-Fire Ways to Increase Email Click-Through Rates for some great tips on how to increase clicks from email marketing campaigns.
  3. Kissmetrics also put together a great article on 14 Simple Tweaks to Improve Your Email Click-Through Metrics

One final piece of advice, just because users don’t click doesn’t mean they didn’t take action. For example, if you include a contact phone number within your email, make sure you include the call stats your consideration of click-through rate success. A bigger phone number may reduce click-through rates, but increase total sales – so it’s important to maintain that balance.


Critical eMail Marketing Metrics: Conversion & Response Rates

Critical Email Marketing Metrics #3:
Email Conversion / Response Rates


What it is:

Conversion Rates (also known as Response Rates) get down the final end-goal of an email campaign, how many leads and/or sales did the email campaign drive. As with the Click-through rates, this can also be measured in two ways:

Based on Clicks: A true “Conversion Rate” that will tell you how many users who clicked on the email campaign ended up converting.

Based on Emails Sent: More of a traditional Direct Mail Response Rate, this measures the total success of the campaign based on how many people it was sent to.

Both email marketing metrics have value. One will tell you about how the overall campaign is doing from start to finish, the other will tell you if you have potential issues in this final, critical step in the conversion path.

What are the key drivers: 

The user’s online experience. If the click-to-conversion rate is below expectations, there might be issues with the conversion funnel. Email respondents should convert fairly well, because they’ve almost been “pre-qualified” through the earlier steps of opening and then clicking on the email campaign itself. If too many of these folks fall out of the conversion funnel, that could mean that the usability on the landing page or the website itself needs to be reviewed and improved.

Another conversion driver, however, is the the information inside the email itself. If conversion rate is low, it could mean that you drove the wrong kind of clicks or enticed the wrong kind of potential customer to click. For example, if you created a “hyped” click path (e.g. “Claim Your Free Prize” or “See How You Can Win Millions”) you could drive a high click-through rate, but it will be from people who had no intention of converting. Alternatively, this could also mean that the product/price/promotion as it is presented within the email (e.g. OUR BIGGEST SALE EVER!!!) is not fulfilled as expected when they get to the page (e.g. 5% Off Select Items).

What should you aim for:

This is probably the most challenging metric to put a benchmark or target against, as it can vary so greatly based on the type of email, the conversion goal, the segmentation, creative type, the list size, etc.

Plus, this is where you can set targets based on the customers that you are reaching and the revenue that you are seeking. Make sure you don’t set the target too high (unless you are mailing less than 10 people, the changes of EVER having a conversion rate of 50% or higher are pretty slim), or too low (you need to determine if the campaign itself is worth the effort if your conversion rate target is less than 1%).

Here are a few tips from the experts in email marketing on increasing conversion rates: 

  1. Keep reading for 7 ways you can improve the conversion rate of your email marketing.
  2. Checkout BigCommerce’s BIG list of 31 Ecommerce Email Marketing Tips to 5x Your Conversion Rates


Critical eMail Marketing Metrics: Bounce Rates

Critical Email Marketing Metrics #4:
Email Hard and Soft Bounce Rates


What it is:

When an email bounces, it means that it can’t be delivered to the intended email address. Unfortunately, it’s a fact of email marketing life that people change email addresses, frequently. Bounces are usually referred to as being Hard Bounces (usually permanent) or Soft Bounces (usually temporary).

Hard bounces typically mean that the email address you have in your list is no longer valid. These should be immediately suppressed from future mailings (if your email platform does not do this for you automatically).

Soft bounces are typically temporary delivery issues, which could include the recipients mailbox being temporarily full (perhaps they went on vacation and haven’t checked their email for a week or two), or there could be a temporary server error. However, after repeated Soft Bounces, many email marketing platforms automatically convert that email address into a Hard Bounce.

What are the key drivers: 

List management and maintenance are critical to maintain a low bounce rate on your campaigns. Too many hard bounces is usually a tell-tale sign of a stale email list. Make sure you keep in touch with your subscribers at least once a quarter, so that valid email addresses can remain active on your lists and outdated email address can be removed before they pile up.

What should you aim for:

There is no way to avoid email bounces entirely, but with proper list management you should be able to keep your hard and soft bounce rates under 1%. If you’re seeing bounce rates above the 2% industry standard, you must take action to clean up your list immediately or you could risk damage to your email sending reputation which will further degrade the deliverability of future email campaigns.

Here are a few tips from the experts in email marketing on decreasing hard and soft bounce rates: 

  1. CampaignMonitor created a great piece on the differences between hard and soft bounces, why they occur, and how to prevent and resolve issues with high bounce rates in their Making Sense of Email Bounce Rates article.
  2. VerticalResponse, Email Delivery and You – A Handy Guide
  3. Understanding, Managing, and Removing Bounces from the email marketing experts at ConstantContact

Critical eMail Marketing Metrics: Unsbuscribe Rates

Critical Email Marketing Metrics #5:
Email List Unsubscribe & Abuse Rates


What it is:

Although most marketers – including myself – measure these two email marketing metrics independently, they really connect back to the same issue: the recipient did not connect to the material or your company in a positive way.

Unsubscribe rates simply mean the number of people who decided to opt-out of receiving future emails from you.

Abuse Report Rates take that one step further in that the customer believes that what you have sent them is SPAM that needs to be reported.

What are the key drivers: 

Relevance, Recognition, and Recurrence are three key drivers behind Unsub and Abuse rates.

  • Do you show that you “recognize” and know the customer through personalization?
  • Will the user “recognize” you… is your company clearly present in the email address, from name, and/or subject line (if needed)
  • Is the content, offer, product “relevant” enough to the customer that – even if they don’t convert – they are willing to allow you to continue sending future messages
  • How often are you emailing your list? High Unsubscribe rates can often be an indication that you are mailing them too often (and therefore they have become annoyed by the frequency of your emails. High Abuse rates can often be an indication that you are mailing them too seldom (and therefore they have forgotten about giving you permissions in the first place)

What should you aim for:

You want to do your best to keep unsubscribe rates as low as possible (in the 0.25% range or lower), because once a user has unsubscribed you’ve lost the ability to market to them in the future.

When it comes to Abuse Report rates, those should be even lower (in the 0.025% range or lower), because too many Abuse Reports can damage your overall email campaign delivery rates.

Here are a few tips from the experts in email marketing on decreasing unsubscribe and abuse report rates: 

  1. Huffington Post did a great article last year on 10 Ways To Reduce Newsletter Unsubscribe Rates
  2. Read 9 Ways to Dramatically Reduce Email Unsubscribe Rates from Hubspot for additional insights

By constantly reviewing and monitoring these critical email marketing metrics, you can continually optimize your campaigns to improve open rates, click-through rates, conversion rates while decreasing bounce rates, unsubscribe rates and abuse reports.

Given the pure power of email marketing, the more you can do to improve your relevancy and connectivity with your audience, the better campaigns you can create… which will lead to more revenue for your company.



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