As one of the earliest forms of digital marketing, email marketing continues to be one of the most effective marketing strategies today. In fact, 77% of marketers have seen an increase in email engagement over the last 12 months.
But email can also be a powerful relationship-building tool with your existing customers — especially converting one-time buyers into repeat customers.
Overall, email marketing is the process of creating and sending a targeted message to a contact or group of contacts and strengthening your relationship with them. Combined with other marketing initiatives, it can be a very powerful tool to grow your business.
To maximize the return on investment in any marketing campaign, it is critical that marketers track and optimize key performance indicators (KPIs). By understanding how customers interact with email campaigns and what KPIs most strongly correlate with successful outcomes, marketers can understand how well their email strategies are performing and make adjustments as needed.
In this article, we’ll discuss five of the most important email marketing KPIs so that you can optimize your campaigns for maximum success.
Table of contents
- Open Rate
- Click Rate
- Unsubscribe Rate
- Bounce Rate
- How to resolve high bounce rates?
- Marked as Spam Rate
- Additional Email Metrics to Track
- Email Marketing Benchmarks by Industry
- How to Track Email Marketing Metrics
- What is the Most Important Email Marketing Metric?
- Metrics for Email Marketing
Your email open rate is an incredibly important metric to track because it gives you a sense of the overall health of your email client account. It tells you whether or not your contacts are interested in and engaging with the emails you’re sending.
Your open rate is calculated by dividing the number of people who opened it by the number of people who received it.
Note: all email sends are considered, even those that end up in the spam or promotions folder. This is why list hygiene is so important!
What is a good open rate for email? A good open rate ranges from 17% to 21%, but it can often be much higher depending on the type of email that you are sending.
Triggered emails and autoresponders, have a higher open rate since the user is performing an action to receive that email. Since a contact is expecting the email, they are more likely to open it.
Broadcast email campaigns, or marketing emails, tend to have a lower open rate since they are not directly related to user actions and behaviors.
Email open rate directly impacts email deliverability – if a contact doesn’t open an email from a sender, the email service provider is going to start considering them spam. The more emails that end up in the spam folder, the lower your open rates will be.
The Impact of Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection (MPP) and Email Open Rates
In 2021, Apple released introduced a new privacy feature that guarantees Apple mail users more inaccessibility to personal data guaranteeing that their details are not handed over to advertisers or other companies. But what does this mean for email marketers? Inflated open rates due to non-verified opens (by default, a user that has MPP enabled will always show an email status as opened).
As a result, email open rates can be inflated and therefore have become a less reliable metric. If your email service provider allows you to filter out unverified opens, you can still see actual open rates. If not, the open rate should be considered a less important metric to measure with more focus on other values.
How Can You Improve Email Open Rate?
Email open rate is first largely dependent on your email making it to an email inbox and not the spam folder. Once an email is in the inbox, there are a few ways to help your email get noticed.
Optimize delivery time by leveraging predictive analytics with your email marketing platform. These analytics will use available contact data (such as IP address and location) along with historical information (when the contact traditionally opens their emails) to determine the best time to send the email for the most likely open.
Send consistent content. When contacts see consistent email messages, they are more likely to expect them and therefore open your emails.
Use catchy subject lines to get your active subscribers to start paying attention. Take advantage of the opportunity A/B test within your email platform and send the subject lines that perform the best with your audience.
Email click rates are an important metric to track because it identifies how a contact interacts with the email itself – by clicking links. After the open, clicks help an email marketer understand if there is interest in the content or an offer. Tracking click rates over time also allows marketers to understand if any changes they’ve made to their emails have positively or negatively impacted customer interactions.
There are two click rate metrics to track:
Click Through Rate (CTR) measures the ratio of the unique recipients that click on a link in your email over the total emails sent.
Click To Open Rate (CTOR) measures the ratio of unique recipients that click on a link after opening your email.
Because of the Apple Mail Privacy implications, CTOR is becoming a more dominant email metric to track as it is based on the open rate rather than total sends.
How Can You Improve Your Email Click Rate?
There are a few email design strategies that marketers can use to increase email click rates. The first is to create engaging and relevant content in the emails themselves. Creating emails with short and punchy headlines, eye-catching visuals, with engaging copy can all help draw customers’ attention and encourage them to click on links.
Additionally, strategically segmenting email lists by customer interests can also be very effective, as it allows marketers to send targeted messages with higher relevance for each customer. You can then monitor customer feedback and adjust campaigns accordingly is another great way to ensure that customers interact with emails more often.
Finally, you can increase your email click rate by leveraging a variety of link types throughout the design of your email.
Types of links include:
A naked link is when you display the entire link in an email. Naked links call out the obvious; there is a link, and it’s there to be clicked. In the example below, you can see how I used a naked link in a recent campaign.
A text link is a link or URL that is behind the text. It’s recognizable because it will usually display as blue, underlined text that is formatted differently from the rest of the copy. A text link is not as obvious as a naked link.
Buttons create a more obvious visual link method. A button can be visually attractive and eye-catching because it breaks up the text on the page. Buttons perform best when they contain a clear CTA and are formatted in bold colors that stand out from the rest of the email copy.
Images within your email campaigns will provide additional visual interest while promoting the next action that a user may otherwise bypass. When leveraging images for links, you will want to include a clear CTA on the image so your readers know to click for more information.
Videos are an interactive component that entices a reader to click to watch.
In most email editors, you can embed a YouTube or Vimeo video that can be clicked to view. Videos create additional visual interest and interactivity in your email campaigns and will help readers take the next action.
Apply the Rule of Three
The rule of three recommends using a variety of link types, up to three, in each email. A variety of link types will help you catch the eye of different readers and how they process the next action of an email.
Links do not have to only be in the body of your message – they can also be used within the header and footer of your campaign.
The following example includes an image, button, and text link.
Add More Contrast to Your Colors
According to Opt-In Monster, we know that a more prominent, eye-catching call-to-action results in more conversions. Therefore, any color change that increases the visibility of your call-to-action should increase your conversions.
Use a tool such as Coolors.co to update your color palette creating specific email links and button colors. WebAIM is a free tool that will allow you to input your brand colors and test for accessibility.
Example of a color palette with strong contrast to use in a campaign.
Keep a CTA Above and Below the Fold
A CTA that is visible upon first glance (above the fold) as well as after a scroll (below the fold) will benefit your email click rates.
In this example from Elizabeth Rider, she includes both a video and button link, above the fold (bonus: it even worked on mobile view!) as well as below the fold text links.
Example of a video and button link in an email.
Test Every Link
The last recommendation to create more clickable campaigns is to test and make sure every link works.
It’s common to rush through testing – we all have a lot on our plates. However, the impact of not testing can cause far greater problems than the little time spent ensuring your links are working.
Before sending out any email marketing campaign, send yourself a test to verify that every link is functioning as expected. Use an email account specifically designed for testing that is different from your TO address. Test in an incognito browser window so that you are not logged in to any of the systems you may be linking.
Email unsubscribe rates are a critical metric to track, as they indicate how your campaigns are being received by the audience. If your unsubscribe rate is high, it means that users aren’t interested in what you’re sending them, and you may need to tailor your content or reevaluate the targeting of your emails. On the other hand, if your unsubscribe rate is low, it means that users are engaged with what you’re sending and willing to stay on your list. Keeping an eye on these metrics can help ensure you’re presenting content that appeals to the right audience and drives interest.
Reduce Unsubscribes with an Email Preferences Form
Introducing an email preferences form will help reduce your list of unsubscribes because it will give your contacts more ability to select which emails and when they want to receive from you.
Your email subscription form may ask for specific information, such as what topics they want to learn about or how frequently they want communications from your brand.
Make sure that the placement of the form is prominent and easily accessible within your emails. It should be located near the bottom of your email, along with your sender information.
Email bounce rates measure the percentage of emails that weren’t delivered to recipients due to an issue with the recipient’s mailbox or email server. These issues could be anything from a full inbox, a mistyped address, or a server being down. Bounce rates can help indicate if there are technical problems with your campaigns that need attention. Keeping an eye on bounces and working to reduce them is important as it can help ensure that your messages are being delivered properly and reaching the right people in a timely manner.
What is an email soft bounce?
A soft bounce occurs when an email is blocked from being delivered due to a temporary issue (e.g., the recipient’s mailbox is full or their server is down). Soft bounces are typically not permanent and may be resolved over time. Most email service providers will continue to deliver an email to a recipient multiple times for a soft bounce.
What is an email hard bounce?
Hard bounces are considered more serious than soft bounces, which occur when an email is returned to the sender because the recipient’s email address is invalid or doesn’t exist. This can happen for a variety of reasons, such as a typo in the email address or a spam trap.
It’s important to keep an eye on the number of hard bounces you receive, as they can negatively impact your email deliverability and reputation as a sender. So, if you’re experiencing a high number of hard bounces, it’s time to take a closer look at your email list and make some necessary updates.
How to resolve high bounce rates?
Leveraging an email double opt in will help ensure your list grows with real email addresses. Using this process requires each new contact to verify their email address, before being moved to a live list.
Additionally, you can implement a hidden “honey pot” field on your forms that, if data is entered, the contact is immediately unsubscribed. Because honey pot fields can only be seen by bots, it’s an easy to way filter out spam contacts.
Finally, a CAPTCHA field on your opt in forms will help reduce spam contacts because it will require verification before submitting the form.
If you are still receiving high bounce rates on your emails, using a tool such as Clearout.io to verify email addresses on your list, will help you clear out addresses that can not be verified.
Marked as Spam Rate
Email spam rate metrics help measure the effectiveness of an email campaign by determining the number of emails classified as spam complaints versus those successfully delivered to a recipient’s inbox. This information can provide valuable insight into the reach and impact of a campaign as email spam filters are becoming increasingly sensitive and sophisticated.
By analyzing spam rate metrics, email marketers can adjust their tactics to reduce the risk of having their messages marked as spam complaints and increase the likelihood of delivering their desired message to the intended audience.
This includes optimizing the content, layout, and sending frequency of emails, as well as properly managing their email lists to ensure they are targeting the right audience. Furthermore, maintaining a low spam rate is also critical in improving deliverability rates, which can, in turn, help enhance the overall success of a campaign.
How to Monitor Email Spam Rates
Most email service providers include a spam rate metric on your campaign metrics. This will report when a contact provides feedback that an email is spam (usually in the subscription settings). Additionally, you can use a service such as Google Postmaster to monitor spam reports from a specific platform.
Additional Email Metrics to Track
Email List Growth Rate
Your email list growth rate will help you understand how quickly or slowly your email list is growing, and you can use this data to adjust your email marketing campaign for better results.
As part of the email list growth rate, you want to track: average contact growth per day, the difference in the last 30 days, unsubscribed in the last 30 days, active list total (total list size), engaged list total (total of engaged contacts) and the % of change month over month.
Email Sharing & Forwarding Rate
Email forwarding rate provides insight into how many subscribers are actually interested in your content and how often they forward your messages to others. It measures the percentage of forwarded emails with respect to the total number of emails delivered, and a higher email forwarding rate indicates that your content is engaging and shareable.
Email forwarding rate can also help you identify potential brand ambassadors who can spread the word about your business to their networks. Therefore, it’s important to track and improve your email forwarding rate to increase the reach and impact of your email marketing efforts.
Email conversion rate will help you measure the amount of revenue generated from each marketing email. To improve conversion rate, businesses need to be strategic about every aspect of their email campaigns, from the subject line to call-to-action buttons. A well-crafted email that speaks to the reader’s motivations and needs can lead to higher open rates, engagement, and ultimately, more sales. However, it’s important to avoid bombarding subscribers with too many emails, as this can lead to unsubscribes and decreased conversion rate. To find the sweet spot for conversion rate, businesses should experiment with different email strategies and track their results.
Email Marketing Benchmarks by Industry
While this article provides a baseline for metrics for email marketing, you may want to verify it against your industry benchmarks.
Here is a list of resources that provide specific benchmarks by industry:
How to Track Email Marketing Metrics
An email marketing dashboard is critical to maintaining transparency and awareness of how your email marketing is performing. Your email marketing dashboard should contain all data on the overall performance of your email marketing initiatives.
What is the Most Important Email Marketing Metric?
Tracking a variety of email marketing metrics will help you evaluate your email marketing campaigns and make improvements. Conversion or revenue generated may be considered the most important metric as it impacts the bottom line of your business. However, engagement metrics are equally important as they drive conversions. In most cases, improvement to click rate will drive a high conversion rate. As does improvement to bounces will increase your email deliverability.
Keeping a consistent email marketing strategy in place, along with a metric dashboard, will help you view your email metrics and make key strategic decisions.
Metrics for Email Marketing
Optimizing these 5 email marketing metrics is an essential step in becoming a successful email marketer, both to protect your reputation and increase engagement. As a result, monitoring and testing should be an ongoing effort and should be properly tracked and documented. This can help you identify any problems that could potentially arise with your campaigns, as well as uncover valuable insights into the conversations that take place between you and your subscribers. Additionally, it will ensure the health of your emails over time. With open rate, click rate, unsubscribe rate, bounce rate, and spam rate carefully monitored, improved results are sure to follow!