Email Marketing Metrics You Need to Know

Email Marketing Metrics You Need to Know

Email marketing is a critical tool for growing and maintaining a business in today’s world. But if we’re going to build, maintain and grow our email lists, we need a solid understanding of email marketing metrics. Otherwise, we’re flying blind in a very competitive market.

Getting subscribers on your list is easy. Keeping them there and making money from your list isn’t quite as simple. You cannot simply go through the motions of list building and expect to do well if you ignore your email marketing metrics.

You go to the doctor, and he tells you your cholesterol is way too high. If you don’t correct the problem, you could die. Do you tell the doctor, “You know, thank you very much, but that’s just a number. I think I’ll be okay” or do you take what you’ve learned and make considerable lifestyle changes to improve your odds of survival?

Hopefully the latter.

Your email list may have high cholesterol, and you don’t even know it. It’s clearly important to know and understand each marketing metric and how each applies to your efforts in a very tangible way.

Why do we care about email marketing metrics?

Like anything else in business, we want to be able to quantify our efforts. Are we making progress, or are we wasting our time? How can we improve? Can we get better results?

If we know our stats, we can see how we’re doing and how we need to improve. If I think I’m doing great as a marketer, but only 1 percent of my subscriber base is bothering to read my emails, something is wrong. Looking at my stats, I can start to get a picture of why that might happen.

Are my messages not reaching my subscribers? Are they just not opening them? What’s going on?

Once I have a picture, I can develop a game plan to fix it.

Your metrics are like the vitals of your campaign. Is your email list healthy? Is it sick? What needs to happen to make sure it’s performing well and providing a strong return on your time and financial investment?

But email metrics can be word soup

But it can be hard to measure your campaigns if your eyes gloss over in the face of the word soup of email stats. Click through rate, open rate, bounce rate, etc. What do these mean, and are they important to you specifically?

Let’s take a look at a few of the most relevant marketing metrics you need to know.

1. Open rate

Your email open rate is the aptly named rate at which people open your emails. Often we like to assume that our subscribers are reading our emails. But are they?

Think about how many emails you receive daily. Do you always read them all? Of course not. Your subscribers, for one reason or another, may let your subscribers sit in their inboxes.

That sucks. Clearly not optimal.

What’s the point of writing emails people aren’t reading? There isn’t one, really?

A decent email open rate is a sign of a healthy email list.

If you send an email to 100 people, and 60 people open the message, your open rate is 60%. That’s excellent. Open rates will vary depending on your niche, time of day and subscriber engagement level.

2. Bounce rate

Bounces are great in a bounce house – not on your email list. An email bounce occurs when you send a message to an address that cannot accept your message. This can happen for several reasons.

Bounces are typically categorized into two types: hard bounces and soft bounces.

Imagine a phone call. You call a number with a message for George.

In the case of a Hard Bounce, the person on the other line might say, “There’s no one named George here,” and hang up. Or, your call may go unanswered. No person on the other end. No voicemail. Nada.

In the case of a Soft Bounce, you might hear something like, “George doesn’t want to talk to you.” *click*

In the first case, your call is rejected. You’ve called the wrong number. Stop asking for anyone named George at this number. In the second case, your call is still rejected, but you at least know you have the right address.

Both types of bounces are bad news for your email marketing metrics. Hard bounces are worse than soft bounces, however.

Just as we want only working phone numbers in our phone book, we want only working emails on our email list. If you repeatedly send messages to addresses that aren’t valid (hard bounce) or that refuse your email (soft bounce), your email service provider is going to raise an eyebrow and wonder if you actually had permission to email those addresses at all.

Incidentally, this metric is a strong argument against buying email lists.

In an ideal world, this metric should be a steady 0%.

3. Traffic

Traffic is the lifeblood of any Internet based company or marketing plan. Without it, your marketing efforts die. With it, you can build a brand or grow a business. We want our emails to play a major role in bringing traffic to our sites – making this one of the important email marketing metrics you need to consider.

Using a service or tool of your choice, you should be tracking visitors to your website. But how did these people find your site? Did they find your site in search results? Did they type your address into their address bar? Could they have come from a link in one of your emails?

It’s important to keep track of how much – or how little – traffic your emails generate for you. If your emails are bringing in quite a bit of traffic, study which messages are performing the best. Where are people clicking in your messages. Does one type of email bring more traffic than another?

By arming yourself with knowledge, you equip yourself to optimize your mailing strategy and maximize potential.

4. Click Through Rate

Do you ever feel like you’re talking to a brick wall? You might be if your email click through rate is low enough. This is the metric that tells us what percentage of people are clicking links in your emails. Each link in each email has its own click through rate to know and monitor.

A high CTR shows that people are interested in what you have to offer and are clicking your links. A low CTR tells us that people just don’t seem to be interested in the links you’re sending. There are several reasons that might be the case.

  • Your subscribers aren’t engaged
  • Your emails aren’t being read
  • Your content isn’t compelling anyone to click

Study your past emails. Does a certain type of email tend to perform better for your list than another type? Do your subscribers like teaching messages more than promotional emails? Are your best performing links at the beginning or end of your messages? Do people seem to be drawn to longer links or shorter?

A solid click through rate is in the neighborhood of 10-15%. Higher is obviously better. This too will vary by industry.

5. Conversion Rate

While your email click through rate is a measure of how many people click the links in your messages, your conversion rate is a measure of how many people click a link and then take an action – like making a purchase.

Click throughs are good and important – but if we want to make money, we need our subscribers to do something, like buying something.

How many people bought that affiliate product you promoted in last week’s email campaign? How many bought through a link in your email?

How many people signed up for my new course through the link in my last email? How many clicked but didn’t sign up?

A higher conversion rate shows a better return on your investment, and it shows that your subscribers are active and engaged.

6. Unsubscribe Rate

Nobody loves to think about this email marketing metric. Email isn’t all sunshine and roses. People can and do unsubscribe from email lists pretty regularly. While we actually do want some people to unsubscribe, we still want to ensure our lists grow. It’s important to keep tabs on your unsubscribe rate. How often are people unsubscribing? Can you spot any sort of pattern?

Are you losing more and more subscribers with each email you send? If so, that’s an indication something is wrong.

On the flip side, if you only have the occasional unsubscribe, you’re in good shape…probably. That’s assuming people are actually opening your emails.

If you know why people tend to unsubscribe from email lists, you can preemptively work to ensure their needs are met and that they stay happy – hopefully keeping that once-future-unsubscriber on your list and engaged.

7. Spam Complaint Rate

Nobody likes spam – especially not that canned depression masquerading as a lunch meat. Your subscribers hate it. If they think you don’t have permission to email them, you can bet they will report you.

“Wait! They signed up! I’m not sending spam!” you protest. It doesn’t matter. If they think it’s spam, they’ll report it. For one reason or another, you get reported. Not cool.

While this is irritating – even maddening – it’s also potentially dangerous for your email marketing efforts. Your email provider cares deeply about the quality of the email lists housed in its system. If your provider believes you are sending spam, you can bet your account will be deactivated and blocked faster than you can say, “No no no wait!”

Make sure your subscribers know exactly how they got on your list and give them an easy way to unsubscribe.

8. Deliverability

Are your emails getting to your subscribers? If you’re like most marketers, you’ll be tempted to answer that question with a hearty “of course they are!” But how do you know? The thing is, we can’t assume our emails are actually being delivered. Sometimes they are lost in cyberspace for one reason or another or are caught in an overzealous spam filter.

Email deliverability is an important metric for email marketing. No one likes talking to a crowd who can’t hear. It’s wasted time and energy.

If your deliverability is low, you might as well be shouting into a great void. Your message will never reach the ears (or eyes) you need it to reach. To use another analogy (if you can’t tell I love analogies), a low deliverability rate makes your list about as effective as a water pot with holes. Useless.

It’s in your best interest to do everything you can to improve your email deliverability rates. One great way is to avoid words that are known to trigger spam filters.

9. Domain Open Rate

Chances are your subscribers are using one of the many popular email providers – like Gmail,, etc. It’s helpful to be able to see the open rate for each respective domain. This helps us diagnose potential problems.

For example, if my open rate is great on most systems, but my subscribers using Gmail rarely if ever open my messages, I know I have a problem with Gmail. Is my email blacklisted? Am I getting caught in their spam filters?

I can’t correct an error if I don’t know about it. Email marketing metrics help us detect and correct problems like this before they get out of hand.

Email marketing metrics help us get better

Doctors urge periodic checkups and health screenings. Why? So we know where we stand health-wise. If my cholesterol is high, my liver function low, or my heart struggling to keep up, I want to know. It’s important for me to keep track of my health metrics so I can keep myself healthy.

Email marketing metrics help us gauge the health of our email lists. Are we making good use of our time and resources? Or, do we have work to do to start making money? Are our subscribers listening, or are they disinterested and disengaged? Your metrics will tell you.

Some marketers like to think they don’t need to worry about their stats. ”Just keep building that list and keep sending emails.” You’ll make money, right? Not necessarily. More subscribers do not bring in more money if they aren’t receiving, opening, or clicking links in your messages. And how can you know whether they are or not without stats?

Don’t fly blind. No sane pilot would dare to fly his aircraft without looking at his instruments. What’s his altitude? Speed? Where’s the ground? If he doesn’t know these things, he won’t make it back. If you ignore the instruments of your email marketing machine, you won’t fare any better.

Great email marketing metrics = a healthy list

Do you remember the analogy of the doctor and the high cholesterol? If you don’t have your cholesterol checked, yours could be high – whether you know it or not. You could be at risk for a heart attack, stroke or other cardiac event. Scary!

But if you know your numbers, you can correct them. If your doctor tells you your cholesterol is way too high, you have a chance to lower it before it kills you.

Email marketing stats are the same. Our email lists may be hemorrhaging. Their cholesterol may be high. Something could be horribly wrong. If we don’t diligently check our numbers, we’re putting our lists – and our subscribers – at risk.

On the contrary, we need learn and understand each of the important email marketing metrics to protect our businesses and our readers from irreparable damage.